Each October, many people challenge themselves to ditch alcohol as part of Sober October or 'Stoptober' initiatives.
But while participating in such challenges may seem simple, particularly for those who are looking to drink less, Sandra Parker of Just The Tonic Coaching (justthetoniccoaching.com) is adamant that these programmes simply don't work.
"Put simply, Stoptober doesn't deal with the reason you want alcohol in the first place. So, when you simply remove alcohol the thoughts and emotions you were numbing out from come rushing to the surface. This feels very uncomfortable," she commented. "It reinforces the belief that life is miserable without alcohol, you will feel deprived and either give in and drink or slog it out to the bitter end, summoning superhuman levels of willpower, rejoicing when the month is over and embracing 'can't remember November' to compensate."
Lack of preparation
It's not always wise to go cold turkey, especially without the guidance of professionals.
"If you are serious about making a long-term change it is necessary to work on the reasons why you are drinking first and then take a break from alcohol," the expert continued. "It is a bit like trying to run a marathon without doing any training. When I work with clients we spend two months working on their mindset before I ask them to take a break from alcohol. This allows people to build the tool and techniques required to deal with their emotions, handle peer pressure, and then take a break from alcohol feeling confident rather than deprived."
"Forcing yourself to cut out alcohol completely for one month makes it seem more desirable, like some kind of forbidden treat, which is why many people doing Stoptober plan lots of drinking events in November," added Sandra. "It is an overly simplistic approach which focuses only on the short term and can give people a false sense of comfort that if they somehow make it until the end of the month without drinking, they have succeeded and are therefore OK to drink excessively for the rest of the year."
What you should do instead?
If you struggle and feel really deprived whenever you try not to drink the good news is that you are not alone and there is a solution.
"Consider the underlying reason for your reliance on alcohol and what emotions you are trying to avoid or create," she explained. "For example, are you drinking to stop worrying about your job or your relationship, or are you using it to try to reduce social anxiety and create confidence on a night out? Facing the underlying problem is not easy but it is necessary to break a dependency on alcohol."
If you are really feeling stuck in a rut, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional for their recommendations on ditching booze.