An alcohol cleanse is a low pressure way to not only examine how substances may be negatively impacting your life, but also a great way to explore the benefits of sobriety without the long-term commitment. While I recommend doing it for 30 to 40 days to reap real benefits, CBS's #14Days On The Wagon challenge - a call for America to experience life without alcohol for 14 days (October 6 - 19) while learning about addiction and recovery from the experts - is a perfect opportunity to try an alcohol cleanse in the company of a societal movement.
If you are interested in taking up the challenge, are thinking about planning your own alcohol cleanse, or are already in sobriety and just looking for ways to fortify non-drinking you, here are 10 tips to help you make the most of the experience.
1. Stop drinking in your mind first. The best way to make anything a success is to see it in your minds eye, and see it as enjoyable. Starting today, and every day through the cleanse, set aside a few minutes a day envisioning non-drinking you. Romanticize the shit out of it. You drinking tea, you looking fresh, you in control, you sans the hangovers, you running through fields with boundless energy. It's especially important to walk through the normal times of day or night you drink. What does your Friday look like? What about when you get home from work? What about brunch? Inventory it ALL and replace it with a filmstrip of happy clean and sober you. This vision practice doesn't need to be extensive, but it is imperative that you start telling your subconscious mind "this is what we're doing" so all of you is on board.
2. Write your future self a letter. Another great way to get your subconscious on board is to write a letter to future you, offering congratulations, releasing any fears or tensions you have about what you're about to embark upon. Taking 10 to 15 minutes to envision what you want from the experience and to tell your future self allows you to not only shape your future, but allows future you to appreciate the experience in a little more color. Because memories aren't always accurate, and because sometimes it takes a little bit of a reminder to remember where we were, and see where we have come. FutureMe.org is a free service that allows you to do just this, via email.
3. Create your own personal mantra. Final subconscious trick, give yourself a daily dose of positive self talk by creating a personal mantra. Your mantra can be anything you want, so long as it is positive, easy to recite, and holds your intention. Way back when I was still smoking more pot than I will ever care to admit, was a sideshow of imbalance, felt incredibly weak, a raging asshole with a life that seemed nearly intolerable, I wrote the mantra "I am calm, clean, balanced, and strong, and I am on a path to living a life beyond my wildest dreams," and that took hold and manifested. There was indeed a lot of work that went in to achieve all that, but it kept me moving towards what I was going after. Your mantra can be anything you want it to be. Maybe it's abundant. Maybe it's clean. Maybe it's happy. Maybe it's all of that. Whatever you dream to manifest, write it down, and recite it daily, as much as you can. Put it on post-its. Take a picture of it and save it to your phone screen.
4. Quantify the TIME, CALORIES, and MONEY you'll save.
CALORIES. If you have even just one glass of wine a night (most of us have more), that alone is nearly 1,000 calories a week. If it's a pint of beer a night, now we're talking closer to 1,500. And sugary drinks? That's closer to 300 per concoction or some 2,000 calories a week, or the equivalent of 3.5 Burger King Whoppers. Regardless of how much or how little you drink the fact remains that you stand to save a ton of calories. To calculate just how much you stand to save over the course of your cleanse, you can use the Drink Aware Alcohol Calculator. Just determine on average how many drinks you have a week, and for the #14Days cleanse, double that amount, pop them into the calculator, and TADA, you get your calorie savings.
MONEY. I've saved almost $18,000 not drinking, smoking cigarettes, or smoking pot in the course of 18 months. Substances are an investment of our money because not only are they alone expensive, but so too are the things that accompany their use. Cab fare, cover charges, hangover food, Gatorade, cigarettes, dumb purchases…and so on. To figure out how much money you are going to save, add up on average how much you spend per week on drinking and double the amount. Chances are it's more than a massage or a fancy pair of jeans.
TIME. Last but certainly not least, do a rough estimate of how much time you spend drinking. Be wildly creative here. Do you hang out a bar or pub? What about traveling to and from? What about lost sleep or lost productivity nursing a hangover? Or just sheer time wasted alone at home with a glass of wine? Even add in the time you spend feeling like shit - because time feeling like shit? That's time wasted. Add it up and then repurpose it. Maybe those hours become time at the yoga studio, time on that art project or that book you haven't gotten to. Maybe it's more time with your kids, or even more sleep. Whatever it is, time not wasted drinking is time to invest in you. And time, well, that's truly our only resource.
5. Start a meditation practice TODAY. Meditation is an absolute necessity in any attempt to ditch alcohol, be it for a short term trial or long term commitment. It strengthens the part of our brains that get overthrown by our habitual consumptive behaviors, it gives us relief from the anxiety that can drive us to drink, and most importantly, it gives us that transcendental experience - that escape from reality - that we often seek in alcohol. If you already have a meditation practice, this is a great time to commit to using it daily - especially during the times you normally crave or use alcohol. If you don't have one, check out my piece on How To Meditate: 6 Tips For Beginners.
6. Start a Toolkit. Alcohol is an easily accessible, cheap and quick tool to alleviate our anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fear-based thoughts. The problem with using it for this purpose leaves us more vulnerable to abuse and addiction, and worsens the issues we are trying to escape. Your alcohol cleanse is great way to start incorporating new, healthier coping mechanisms. I encourage you to start your own toolkit of healthy coping mechanisms, and to kick you off here are a few simple easy practices you can grab instead of a drink.
- Take 10 deep breaths.
- Learn the Calm Heart Meditation and practice it for 3 minutes at a time, as needed
- Carry essential oils. Lavender, peppermint, geranium, orange blossom, and frankincense all work wonders on alcohol cravings and relaxing the nervous system immediately. Just take a few drops of pure essential oil, rub it into your palms, inhale deeply and you've got a quick fix.
- Carry chamomile, peppermint, or kava teabags.
- Carry GABA Calm lozenges and pop one under your tongue.
- Learn R.A.I.N. - Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-Attachment.
7. Get creative and try something new. Whether it's starting a craft project or a new craft altogether, dancing in the mornings, picking up a musical instrument, going to a new kind of yoga class or a new ANYTHING class, or just buying a set of watercolors at the drugstore and painting on printer paper - use this time to pick up a new creative outlet. Go nuts and have fun.
8. Employ extreme self care. Take all that money you are saving and get a massage. Try out acupuncture. Buy a fancy bath salt or candle or herbal tea and romance yourself in the bath. Eat super healthy foods, get plenty of rest. Go to a yoga class. Try this Yoga Nidra video on yogaglo. Basically, do anything that pampers your body, calms your nervous system, and feeds your soul.
9. Make failure your friend. This, like anything else in life, is just you trying your best. Whatever happens, keep an open mind, and if you end up not making the entire commitment DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. Failure is a normal, beautiful part of life. I tried many many times to stop habitual and yes addictive habits, and the only way I ended up succeeding was that I failed enough times to learn what worked and didn’t. The only way we learn is through experience. That's it. We have to be willing to love ourselves through it and nurture ourselves no matter what. Everything happens as it is meant to, and you are exactly where you need to be.
10. Investigate. Taking a break from intoxicants is an incredibly great way to get to know the real you better. Make the most of this by being a kind observer and witness. Keep a journal, note the times that tend to be harder than others, and most importantly, keep record of all the POSITIVE impacts. Knowing ourselves better allows us to give ourselves what we need. And HAVE FUN!