If you’re off the drink for January, bear these points in mind

‘Some moments are glorious. Other moments suck rocks. But this is worth doing. And you’ll soon see why’, says Belle Robertson

If you’re off the drink for January, you have company. Estimates suggest that as many as one in four people stop drinking for the month.

Getting through it is a psychological game if only because, as time goes on, your mind will conjure up reasons to fall off the wagon.

But bearing the following points in mind could get you through.

1) What will you do instead of drinking? Work out when you are most likely to miss a drink. For some people, it’s what they designate as “wine o’clock” when they can get stuck into the first glass of wine. What could you do instead that’s engaging enough to keep the drink off your mind?


2) Practice the art of “urge surfing”. This means allowing cravings, or temptations to put it more nicely, to come and go in their own time while you get on with something else. Usually, cravings rise and fall in about 20 minutes. Sidestepping the “will I, won’t I?” and letting the craving pass in its own time can be easier than arguing with it.

3) Have one or two thoughts you can repeat to deflect temptation. This could be a phrase like, “If it’s no good without alcohol, it’s no good.” Phrases like this can interrupt the temptation and reduce the energy that’s going into it. Also, this thought is true.

4) Beware of the “I am the only one” lie. Are you the only person in the world who is not drinking tonight? Are you the only person on this sunny beach who isn’t having beers all day?

No you’re not. Lots of people everywhere are not drinking today or tonight and hardly any of them even have to think about it. It’s Wolfie – a name given to cravings by Belle Robertson, of whom more below – who is telling you the lie that you are missing the party.

In the previous point, I mentioned using a phrase to deflect you from temptation. When you are feeling very alone in not drinking on a particular occasion, a phrase like “One of a crowd” can help you to remember that an awful lot of people don’t need to drink at times like these.

5) Think of yourself as going through a series of what are sometimes called “sober firsts”. If it’s a long time since you had family and friends over without you drinking, see that as a “sober first” and view it as an achievement. The same might apply to not drinking after a work meeting or when you go to a match. All do-able and all achievements.

6) Be skeptical of what’s termed euphoric recall. This happens when Wolfie tells you that every time you had a drink you felt absolutely wonderful. Orchestras played and angels danced. The dreariest, dullest pub seems, in memory, like a palace of infinite pleasures.

It’s not true. There were no orchestras or dancing angels – it was all just normal life.

7) Check out a website called Tired of Thinking About Drinking. It’s run by Belle Robertson who has been sober for over 10 years, who has a sense of humour and lightness about her writings and who invented, so far as I know, Wolfie. You can sign up for her daily support email.

As an overall approach, I would recommend an attitude of self-compassion. Remembering that you’re doing this month as an act of friendship towards yourself, helps you to keep going when the going gets tough. And if you do fall off the wagon, you’ll find it easier to resume your alcohol-free month if you approach yourself as a friend and not as a sort of harsh critic.

I’ll end with these words from Belle Robertson’s account of the first 30 days and which apply whether you’re doing this for a month or hoping to do it for good: “Some moments are glorious. Other moments suck rocks. But this is worth doing. And you’ll soon see why.”

  • Padraig O’Morain (Instagram, Twitter: @padraigomorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Kindfulness - a guide to self compassion; his daily mindfulness reminder is available free by email (pomorain@yahoo.com).