Avoid alcohol

Know your triggers and high risk situations

I'm stating the bleedin' obvious here, but: avoid alcohol.

Supply management - don't let it near you

Make sure you haven't any in the house 'for guests' or 'for cooking'. If anyone else in your home wants to drink, I'm sure they'd agree not to have any in the house. You might not believe that you'll be tempted by it, but please, trust me: it's not worth the risk.

You must look ahead and think about any situations where you might come across drink, or be offered it. If you can, tell people you're not drinking, or stick with someone who knows you're not drinking who can look out for you.

If you decide to go somewhere where there'll be people drinking, don't feel self-conscious about not drinking yourself. If you want a handy excuse, say you're driving, or that you're on antibiotics.

I know some people like to be defiant, and will go to the pub every day to ostentatiously drink orange juice. That strategy sometimes works with particularly stubborn and wilful people, but I'd counsel against it.

Demand management - don't let yourself want it

Plan each hour, day, week and month with things to occupy you mentally and physically. Make sure you don't leave a vacuum where cravings can flourish. Make sure you always know what you're going to be doing in the immediate future, so that you don't leave too much of a void in your day, and so that you can avoid situations that you might find difficult.

Things that might trip you up

There are lots of different things that can lead you to crave a drink and then to relapse. Here's a few common ones. You'll need to learn to look out for anything that might lead you down this perilous path.

Be aware of your drinking triggers

One of the best pieces of advice for preventing cravings is from AA: Don't get:

Research suggests that the 3 most common things associated with relapse are:

  1. Feeling low
  2. Arguments
  3. Social pressure

Oh Fuck it!

It's remarkable how many people, when they describe a relapse, report how they were feeling fed up, or stressed, or bored, and thought to themselves: 'oh, fuck it!'.

The F moment can appear suddenly. All I can do is to warn you to look out for it.

Complacency and arrogance

Don't get complacent or even arrogant about your success. In particular, don't persuade yourself that you're now able to control your drinking. This is a particularly invidious trap that it's easy to walk straight into.

I mean, imagine if your house was on fire, and after the fire brigade put it out for you, and you'd repaired and rebuilt everything, would you ever think - 'oh go on, I'll just set fire to the corner of the sofa'?

The return of feelings

It can be very hard to tolerate the inevitable minor disappointments and major setbacks of everyday life if you've been used to blocking them out with drink. A huge task for you is to learn how to live with everyday moods and feelings, and to tolerate them and overcome them without drink. Once you've got the hang of feeling things 'in the raw' again, you'll be a long way down the road to recovery.