Boozy to Butterfly

Dry July: Good or Bad?

June 29, 2021 Episode 16
Boozy to Butterfly
Dry July: Good or Bad?
Chapters
Boozy to Butterfly
Dry July: Good or Bad?
Jun 29, 2021 Episode 16

What's with all these sober holidays? At first it was Dry January and then Sober October and now it's Dry July and Sober September, too! Join Emily this week as she talks about whether or not she find these sober holidays helpful on the journey to stop overdrinking. She also shares three mental pillars to adopt IF you decide to partake in one of these sober holidays.

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to https://thisbrainofmine.com/stopoverdrinking to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

What's with all these sober holidays? At first it was Dry January and then Sober October and now it's Dry July and Sober September, too! Join Emily this week as she talks about whether or not she find these sober holidays helpful on the journey to stop overdrinking. She also shares three mental pillars to adopt IF you decide to partake in one of these sober holidays.

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to https://thisbrainofmine.com/stopoverdrinking to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Episode 16: Dry July: Good or Bad?

Hello and welcome to episode 16 where I’m going to talk about Dry July and whether it’s a good or bad decision to participate in as an overdrinker. I did a Facebook live on Dry January back in December 2020 sharing similar opinions so I thought it appropriate to dedicate a podcast episode to the topic. If you aren’t familiar with my Facebook page, it’s This Brain of Mine and I have a private Facebook group called the Sober Candor Community where you can join and be amongst people coping with the same strife and difficulty to stop overdrinking. It’s completely private and any posts you like comment on or share in the group will not be seen by others on Facebook unless they are also in the group. So that’s something pretty cool from Facebook is these private groups.

But let’s talk about Dry July and more importantly the concept of taking a break from drinking for a 30-day challenge. I am going to share what I’ll call 3 mental pillars to adopt if you’re going to participate in this sober holiday. But in case you haven’t listened to any of my other episodes, I want to start with my lifestyle and I refer to myself as a former drinker. 

So, I live a sober-ish life meaning I don’t drink and if I do it’s far and few between. I may have a sip or a drink once or twice a year but that’s about it. I’m so indifferent to alcohol now in my life due to the way I quit drinking which was through education and mindfulness practices. I’m a big believer that the way you quit drinking or cutback is directly linked to your experience as a sober person or former drinker. 

You can love a sober life and a life with less alcohol if you navigate that journey from an empowered mindset. If the journey makes you feel bad about yourself, the remedy isn’t the right one for you. Unfortunately, the struggle with alcohol is interwoven with disempowering labels and misleading and false information. And this creates a mindset of fear, scarcity, and low self-confidence and self-worth which works against you on your journey.

The reason I am talking about this in relation to Dry July is because mindset is at the center of all success or perceived failure. Mindset also directly feeds into your desire to try again or veer down the other path, waiting for your “rock bottom” moment. And from rock bottom you have a much higher hill to climb and part of you may never recover to feeling confident and whole. Checkout podcast episode 13 for more on the whole concept of rock bottom.

When people decide to hop on the Dry July or Dry January or Sober October train, I get concerned the wrong audience may look at this as an opportunity to collaboratively take a break from drinking and then have a bad experience thus polluting the wonderful life that exists without alcohol, even if it’s just intermittent drinking. I get concerned that people who struggle through these sober holidays judge themselves harshly and may start accepting self-defeating labels which actually exacerbates the drinking and manifests a bigger struggle with alcohol.

So let me talk about some mental pillars that you can adopt when doing a sober holiday in order to not take your results so seriously and keep the benefits in perspective which is less drinking whether you make it through 1, 2, or 30 dry days. So let me share what I’ll call three mental pillars to establish for Dry July to make sure that you’re not negatively impacting your perception of sober living or the mental anguish that often ensues when we cutback drinking.

One thing I want you to think about is how serious are you going to take Dry July? Are you fully committing and really giving it your all or is it just a little test that you’re toying with to see how difficult it may be for you to take a 30-day break? Because if you think you’re fully committing but you’re really not and you don’t succeed, it’s not fair to then make it mean something about you or your ability to take a break from drinking.

So the first mental pillar is to take it lightly. You can make a sober holiday mean a lot more than it really does. Sober holidays are part of the sober movement which started in the UK. The holidays are growing to include multiple months and often times these are adopted for fund raising efforts for non-profits and charities.

So taking it lightly will help ensure you’re not creating that mental negative chatter that often corresponds to removing or eliminating alcohol from your life, even if it’s temporary. When we have a drink urge or desire, which is totally natural, we often immediately start thinking we might have a drinking problem. Or when we give into that desire or attend a social engagement and decide to drink, it’s also not a sign that there’s something wrong with you but that’s what the self-critic will immediately present to your cognitive brain and more often than not, you believe it.

It’s difficult to half-heartedly jump on the band wagon of the sober movement or Dry July when you’re not really committed or certain about what outcome you want and then expect positive results. If you put forth zero or little effort with the expectation that it’s going to be super easy or that you know it’s going to be hard and fold at the first feeling of a drink urge, you’re highly unlikely to succeed at 30 days of sobriety or even 5 days of sobriety. You may not succeed to the level that you thought you could or would and this has to be kept in perspective of the actual amount of effort you put in. 

What I don’t want to happen is for you to make this mean something negative about you, that you can’t live or love a sober life because you couldn’t even make it through Dry July. So take it lightly and make it fun and understand that you might need support and that’s okay. You can always find my current free workshops at thisbrainofmine.com/workshop. Or, you might need to join a group like my Sober Candor Facebook group to share your wins and lessons. Quitting drinking doesn’t have to be difficult but it will be if you overestimate your ability to take a break and then proceed with harsh, negative self-criticism about your inability to succeed.

On days or nights when you might have heightened drink urges, pay attention to that negative self-talk and remember it’s just your primitive cave woman brain acting like a toddler. Your success or perceived failure has no bearing on YOU as a person. Success or failure with Dry July or any sober holiday is really meaningless so watch the way you’re speaking to yourself and be curious about it rather than believing the rhetoric your brain is producing because it’s not getting what it wants from a habitual behavioral perspective.

You are a perfectly imperfect person and you’re supposed to be that way. You’re normal because you’re not normal. So keep Dry July in perspective.

The second mental pillar is ensuring your brain’s not bored. Overdrinking takes a lot of time and consumes a great deal of mental space. Find a passion or a hobby or an interest of any kind to keep your brain online. It’s when your brain goes offline that it wants to revert to old habits and overdrinking. I’m not telling you to find a passion or hobby to distract yourself from urges and desire but to keep your cognitive brain engaged in life. 

So with these sober holidays, you’re quitting cold turkey and immediately removing a hard-wired habit from your brain and it’s not going to be happy about it. Now I think quitting anything cold turkey is the easiest way to create change but it’s not the same for everyone. And if you’re really drinking a significant amount, watch for withdrawal symptoms and talk to your doctor. 

But your brain likes routines and repetitive behavior so it can learn your behaviors and automate them. Your brain is the original AI machine only it’s not artificial. So keep in mind, when you remove this programmed behavior from your brain, it’s not going to be happy and that’s where desire and urges come into play. Your brain is going to send you a cue that you’re not completing an action that it expects and that cue is a drink urge or desire. 

The best thing you can do with a drink urge it to just let it happen. Just let it be there and don’t resist it or distract from it. So don’t find a passion or hobby to escape urges but find them to fill the time normally spent overdrinking. Your brain is very consumed by overdrinking from the pre-planning, purchasing, where you’re going to go, who you’re going to drink with, are you going to drink alone, how long you’ll be offline when drinking, the hangover you may get or the fog the next day, etc. That’s a lot of time spent that will be left open so I encourage you to use this new gift of cognitive brain power.

So it’s great if you can reignite an old passion or find a new one to keep your brain interested in what a life looks like without alcohol. Because the reality is when you’re not drinking, you’re going to have a greater cognitive ability. So the more you can keep your cognitive brain online and engaged, the less downtime you’ll have to let your habitual brain tell you that a life without alcohol is boring. 

Your brain really loves to be useful and it wants to be put to work, the cognitive brain that is….the cave woman brain wants to preserve energy so she doesn’t like to think. And I don’t like to compare humans to dogs but I’m going to compare the human brain to a dog for an example here. 

If you’ve ever had a dog you know that the dog will get bored if it’s not exercised or you’re not playing with it enough. The dog wants to be put to work and as humans we’re always thinking who wants to work but dogs actually want to work. When they’re neglected or ignored, they’ll tear up a shoe, or whine, or bark, or get anxiety, or nag you because they want a job, they want something to do. This is the same with your cognitive brain, like the saying idle hands are the devil’s playground. When your cognitive brain is idle, you let your primitive brain take over and her job is to keep you alive and keep you efficient which means she doesn’t want change, she doesn’t want to learn new things, and she wants more routine behavior. 

But when you drink less, you’re gaining the cognitive brain as a superpower so feed it with things that interest you. Use your curiosity as a beacon to find passions and interests. What you focus on and spend your time on is what interests you. Take this as an opportunity to invest in you whether it’s an online course, YouTube or Apple university, Google education, podcasts, Pinterest, Facebook groups, whatever sounds interesting to you. You can find so many things for free but also easily take that money you’re saving from not drinking and put it into an online course and still be far ahead.

Take this opportunity with a clear mind, to find out more about who you are and what interests you. There’s literally an online course for anything you can imagine and there’s no better time than a dry month to use your mind for something other than worry and anxiety. You may not have another opportunity like a sober holiday month for awhile because what usually happens is the drinking resumes following a sober month just as heightened or more so than it was before the sober month. 

So really take this time to deep dive on what you like and don’t like and what resources are available to you to keep your cognitive brain engaged and loving life during any and all dry days you accomplish.

The third pillar is noticing the benefits of drinking less or noticing what you gain by drinking less and celebrating every win, even if it’s just pouring that drink a little later in the day than you normally would. Your brain is not automatically conditioned to see the positive things in life or the little wins so you have to consciously choose to do this. 

The benefits will be many and plentiful so you might actually want to keep a list of any positives you notice when you forego drinking. So not only are you going to likely lose a few pounds, your skin is going to clear up, your brain will function better, your sleep will eventually get a little better, in addition to saving money, and having the cognitive ability to learn new passions, all your organs and bodily functions and that second brain in the gut are going to be so happy that you’re not putting this toxin in your body as much. You also may notice less conflict because of that increased cognitive ability to think things through from more than just your perspective.

So really consider creating a list to make sure that your mind is focusing on all the good things and remembering the good things. And celebrate the wins no matter how small. Every time you succeed at allowing an urge to go unanswered or forego that drink, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Even if it’s just allowing one urge at first and then drinking after the second urge, that first allowance is a win. It’s a win because now your using awareness. Now you’re using your CEO brain to be in charge with just one win.

A common tool in the life coaching biz is using a cute little urge jar. You can find a cute jar or decorate one and fill it with beads, or money, or coins as you successfully overcome a drink urge. It may feel like you’re not making progress as you allow the desire to drink pass, but when you see an urge jar filling up, you can visually see the progress you’ve made. Some people say it takes about 50 urges to decondition your brain from the desire to drink but it varies widely. And if you’re using dollars or coins, you can take that money and buy yourself something as a reward.

By rewarding yourself, you’re ensuring that your cognitive brain is in charge and you’re using your consciousness to prove that you can do hard things because we always quickly forget successes. It’s important to remember your successes because it’s your proof that you CAN do things that at one time you thought you couldn’t do. 

And the more often you’re reminding yourself that “hey, I’m succeeding at something that at one time I didn’t think I could do and now I’m doing it,” and that yes, you overcame something, it helps your cognitive brain see that yes, you were scared but you can move forward and succeed anyway with fear present and overcome it. You can move forward in fear because you’ve overcome it in the past.

It simply helps you take action and see results rather than freezing in fear which is the typical response as a human. So list those benefits and the things you see as a gain from drinking less and review the list. Review the list when it feels hard. 

What I think is important to take away from sober holidays is that they are meaningless but can be a good opportunity to make some healthy lifestyle changes even if it’s just a few more dry days than you would normally have in a month. It provides you awareness that living without alcohol or drinking less is possible and part of a growing collective movement that alcohol has no value. So if you join Dry July, take it lightly, find a passion, and celebrate your wins and document the benefits. If you feel unprepared and find it too difficult, so what, use it as a lesson that you’re not ready yet and you have a few more tools and skills to build before tackling sobriety on a large scale.