As the weather in Australia starts to warm up, with lockdown restrictions lifted and summer party vibes in the air, it can be enormously challenging as a sober person to not start romanticizing about alcohol. In fact, our students are often sharing with us how this time of year is the most triggering and hardest time to get through.
A few weeks ago I went for a walk with a friend along St. Kilda Beach Boulevard. Although still in lockdown, some restrictions had just lifted and the sun was shining.Masked-up people were out and about having picnics, with the sound of music and laughter drifting through the air, and of course, wine glasses and beer bottles clinking as Melbournians celebrated being able to catch up with one another again.
I have been sober for nearly three years and I am so proud and excited to be coming up to this big milestone. I rarely think about drinking and just feel so grateful that it no longer takes up any space in my life anymore. I have built the most incredible life in sobriety and truly feel free. Nonetheless, on this sunny Spring day, as we passed by the happy people celebrating with full wine glasses, and one of my old favourite beach side drinking haunts, (which happened to be serving takeaway margaritas – my old favourite drink!!) my sneaky Wine Witch Luella came back from the dead and croaked: “Oh wouldn’t that be so nice! To sit in the sun and drink margaritas, such a shame you will never get to do this – how dull’. OK WTAF just happened and where did she come from? I thought she was dead!
Thankfully, I am so rock-solid in my sobriety and my toolkit is overflowing so I am always ready for her. I quickly pulled out my favourite tool ‘Play the Tape Forward’ to remind myself that I wouldn’t be able to sit in the sun and enjoy a single Margarita. One was never enough. In fact, two, three, even four wouldn’t cut the mustard. The most likely scenario would be me drinking way too much, behaving in a way I deeply regretted, buying more booze on the way home, blacking out followed by 12 days of horrid anxiety (also highly likely occurrences include but not limited to: drunken calls and texts, bruises, a Maccas run and getting banned from Uber.)
The fading affect bias (FAB) is the culprit for us romanticizing about drinking. FAB is a psychological phenomenon in which memories associated with negative emotions tend to be forgotten more quickly than those associated with positive emotions.
So FAB had caused me to momentarily forget all of the reasons alcohol had no place in my life, and instead romanticise about a scenario that didn’t exist. My Wine Witch had fabricated a scenario to try and trick me into drinking. Thankfully, I only needed to play the tape forward for a short moment to completely forget about this ridiculous idea. But this experience caught me by surprise, and made me realise that romanticizing can be such a dangerous tactic that the Wine Witch pulls, especially at this time of year so it is vital to understand this concept more deeply, and be over-prepared for when this happens.
To support you with this, below I share four ways to help you annihilate your romanticizing thoughts about drinking and enjoy the social Spring and Summer months, without feeling like you are missing out.
1. Know that it’s normal to romanticise about drinking, but understand it’s not based on a real concept
The definition of romanticizing is: deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is. Memorise this! And as soon as it starts happening in your mind, shower yourself with compassion and forgive your Wine Witch for trying to trick you into believing a fantasy.
Place your right hand on your heart and say to yourself “It’s normal for me to be romanticising about drinking however romanticising is not based on a realistic scenario. I forgive [insert your Wine Witch’s name] for trying to trick me and choose to focus on reality instead of fantasy.” Then use the Play the Tape Forward tool to go through in detail the most likely scenario.
2. Compile your list of all of the incredible gifts sobriety has given you
This is a powerful exercise for you no matter where you are in your sober journey. What has sobriety given you and how has your life changed as a result of no longer drinking alcohol? For me, I have been able to get to know my true self and heal wounds and trauma that I had been masking my whole life. I have been able to define my values and needs and then create a life based around them. I have become a more patient and present mum. I have co-founded a business that I am so passionate about. I have lost nearly 20kg and become the fittest, healthiest version of myself to date. I have manifested more than I could have imagined and know there is so much more to come.
What about you? Take some time to reflect and journal about all of these incredible things that being sober has brought to your life. Perhaps you’re still at the beginning of your journey so they may be simpler, such as feeling great, sleeping well, sparkling eyes and less anxiety. No matter how impactful the changes and gifts sobriety has given you, would it ever be worth losing or jeopardising these?
3. Disassociate Fun & Alcohol (They DO NOT go hand in hand)
Since we can remember, society, the media, advertising and even our own families and social circles have conditioned us to believe that alcohol plays many important roles in our life. It’s our comfort when we are commisterating; it’s our ‘dutch courage’ to get through nerve-wracking situations; it’s our social lubricant and our elixir to increase enjoyment when we socialise and party. Have you ever questioned these beliefs that we have been conditioned to accept? If not, I invite you to write out these beliefs and then question whether or not they are really true for you. For instance, your current belief around socialising and alcohol may be: I cannot have fun, relax or enjoy partying without alcohol. When you dig a little deeper into this belief, does it really feel true for you? Alcohol actually gives us a buzz or high that is short lived and artificial. While intoxicated, you are more likely to end up in situations that aren’t truly serving you (such as blurting your entire life story warts and all out to the new receptionist at work who you only met a week ago – CRINGE!). Is that really truly fun? And is drinking really relaxing? The anaesthetising effects of drinking actually force our brain to release a bunch of stress hormones that disrupt your sleep, meaning you end up more wound up after drinking than before.
Take some time to write out all of your current beliefs around alcohol and fun / socialising / partying, then challenge them one by one, then re-write them into new beliefs that are actually true for you right now.
You may even like to write these new beliefs down on a piece of white paper with a black sharpie and place them in a prominent place like your bathroom mirror to help imprint them in your brain!
4. Memorise & always have your WHY nearby
Your WHY is a clear statement about why you choose to no longer drink alcohol. My WHY was “I choose to no longer drink alcohol because it is holding me back from living my fullest life & achieving my dreams”. I wrote this at the front of my journal and also on a little card that I carried in my wallet with me. If I ever started to romanticise about alcohol, my WHY would quickly remind me of the importance of not drinking, which always overroad a moment of being tormented by the Wine Witch.
What is your WHY for quitting? Take a moment to carefully craft your WHY statement and keep it on you at all times.
In summary, romanticising about drinking alcohol is not based on reality. That’s not to say that it doesn’t feel uncomfortable when it occurs, which is totally normal! Be super compassionate with yourself and use the above mentioned tools to get through the moment. When you come out the other side, you will take learnings from the experience and be stronger in your sobriety.
A supportive sober-curious community is also an important element of feeling supported, so when you have moments of romanticising, you can lean into the community and be immediately lifted up. We have a fabulous FREE Facebook Community over here.