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Another Tool for Your Recovery Toolkit

A friend of mine is struggling with a pattern that may be familiar to some readers: weekend benders. I have heard that a binge pattern is the hardest drinking behaviour to stop because it does not respond as well to routine or counting days.

It can also be hard to sustain motivation in between weekends or irregular triggers, and motivation is closely linked to willingness. Motivation refers to the reasons why we want to get and stay sober, whereas willingness is the commitment to do whatever is required to achieve sobriety.

A binge drinker who is motivated by work performance will likely find that alcohol is easy to resist during the work week, but things become unpredictable on days off.  A single mother who is able to abstain from drinking around her children may succumb to the trigger of loneliness when the children are away with the other parent. Some people develop a pattern of drinking on the weekend as a social crutch: they’ve simply forgotten how to socialize any other way or are uncomfortable being their “real” self around others.

This can be confusing, and a binge drinker may wonder, “Why am I able to control my drinking all week but then lose it on the weekend?”

I have received thousands and thousands of emails during the four years since I started this blog, and some patterns are emerging in the experiences that readers relate. What seems to consistently happen for people who stumble, relapse, indulge, or simply give up on attempts to live alcohol-free is that they find they have limits to their willingness.

There may be partial willingness and combined with the mid-week motivation, these two things are enough to sustain temporary “control” over alcohol. Partial willingness might be doing whatever is within a comfort zone while complete willingness means doing whatever it takes, including finding new motivation to stay sober when the usual motivating factor is absent.

Motivation can be external or internal. Showing up for work or being present for the children are external motivators. When the external motivators are gone, we need to have internal motivation to carry us through. This can be a desire to feel better, be more authentic, or live to our greatest potential.

Then comes the willingness – complete willingness to do whatever it takes to get there. Maybe that means joining a recovery program, maybe it means opening up to a doctor or spouse. If there are limits to what a person is willing to do in order to get sober, the addicted mind can always find an excuse to drink.

I encouraged my friend to try this exercise over the weekend, and I ask you to try it as well. Find a string of beads – it can be anything but preferable something you like. Hold the beads in your hands, touching them one by one. For each bead, say this sentence out loud: “I am worth whatever it takes to have freedom, peace and joy.”

You may feel silly while you do this, but try it anyway. It will only take a few minutes – you can go into the bathroom and turn on the fan or the tap so no one will hear you. Better yet, sit outside in the sunshine if you have space that will allow it. Do it Friday, Saturday and Sunday; at least once a day. Yes, you will be repeating this sentence dozens of times over, and yes, say the whole thing out loud (a whisper is fine). “I am worth whatever it takes to have freedom, peace and joy.”

Showing off my new mala beads with dear friends Dawn and Taryn from SheRecovers.I have been doing similar exercises using a “mala” or prayer beads (here I am (left) wearing the beautiful new “She Recovers” malas made by Taryn Strong of Taryn Strong Yoga for Recovery (pictured right) , along with Dr. Dawn Nickel of She Recovers (centre). The malas will be available soon at www.sherecovers.co.)

Whether you think of it as prayer, mantras, or simple “brain training” (as I prefer), this practice can be a powerful tool in your recovery toolbox.

I encourage you to give it a whirl this weekend and comment here with your feedback. I also invite you to share your thoughts on willingness, motivation, and binge drinking.

Happy Friday, Team UnPickled. Let’s all help one another make it a great weekend!

PS also check out http://www.malamomma.com for beautiful malas!

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on June 5, 2015, in Getting Sober, How I Did It, Insights and Lessons, Long Term Recovery, Pathways to Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. This post is exactly what I needed today! I’m struggling so much with finding that inner peace and strength to keep plugging along. I will absolutely be trying this this weekend.

    Like

  2. Time and the Bottle

    This post is about me… Drinking on the weekend because I need to perform during the week. I hate how I feel after binge drinking, how I feel about myself (not even talking about hangovers), and yet I come back to the same dark and sad place. Thank you for posting this.

    Like

  3. Your blog has helped me so much. Ive tried to quit many times but always on my own. This time I am all in. I have found a great group of women in recovery meetings, this blog and listen to The Bubble Hour podcast to and from work most mornings. I can not thank you enough! The topics you cover have made me realize I am not alone in all of this. I have taken something from each blog post and each podcast and been able to apply it to my daily life. I will have 5 months on Wednesday. This is the first time I have posted but I plan on sharing much more.
    This particular topic hit close to home this weekend. It was a difficult one for me. I really did romanticize that drink. I wanted that glass of wine on the deck with friends. But I’m so much wiser now. I know that I need to think that all the way through. Its not a pretty little glass of wine for me. Its the several glasses I need before I get there, the bottle or more while I’m there and whatever else when everyone leaves. Then not remembering any of it anyway. Sounds like a great time! I think not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Melissa,
      I like your post. I have 5 months on Thursday! Congrats!

      I too have been having a difficult time now that the weather is nice on the weekends. I guess I haven’t had a sober summer in over a decade now though. Same thing as you- I would drink a bottle of wine before meeting up with friends so that the 2 or 3 glasses in front of others seemed normal. Now, I’m realizing that no one I’m friends with thinks about drinking as compulsively as I used to. It’s liberating to not be sneaking, lying, or hungover!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cool: the way you express yourself as well as the five months. “That pretty little glass of wine” has lost its allure and power. Sorry pal. “You’re officially a lightweight.” I’m fairly sure it will somehow, sometime rear its ugly side again, but as a weak tease, not a possibility and never a threat, even though I’ll forever be on watch.

      I treasure my sobriety too much now and protecting it is so utterly and irrevocably important that not drinking is just plain easy now. Maybe it’s just a glorious stage but I think not. I sense the same conviction in you and therefore loved reading your little drink journey into blackout city. Thanks.

      Easy Rider

      Like

  4. I too am at the ‘only on weekends’ point and on Friday I drank like I had been lost in the desert for 30 years. I downed ye ole box ‘o wine (500ml) in about an hour. Felt like crap the next day of course. Am starting to tell myself the answer is beer not wine, cuz of the alcohol content, etc. Weasled off one hook and on to another. That’s not my only problem though. As I come out of the fog, I am struggling with depression because of the way I neglected my boys and for not ‘being there’ as a parent. The alcohol numbs me to this fact and I think I still drink to ignore this. We are still loving to each other but I can see how this has affected them and damaged their character as they tell half-truths to us and live only marginally to their potential. What have I done and how do i cope? Can I make reparations? Let this be a lesson to all ‘partying moms’. Like every other party, when it’s over,there’s lots to clean up. I will try the brain-training thing this weekend. Promise.

    Like

  5. Untipsyteacher

    I used to be a binger drinker, too!
    It’s so hard for binge drinkers to think they have a problem.
    Now that I am sober, I am so much happier.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Untipsyteacher

    Me too!
    I was a binge drinker.
    Some people in my family are too.
    It’s hard for binge drinkers to think they have a problem.
    But now that I have stopped, I am so much happier.
    I have some male beads and I love them!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    • How do you use your mala, Wendy? Do you have a favourite mantra, prayer or meditation? Do you have your own way of using them? I find mine to be soothing even just to wear – the weight of it feels so nice and then the precious stone start to warm up. It’s so special!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Untipsyteacher

        I love the weight, too!
        My favorite mantra is “I am”, or “I am at peace.”
        But mostly I just wear them and feel a bit more grounded!
        I picked colors that make me feel strong and at peace.
        xo
        Wendy

        Like

      • Hi UnPickled, your blogs are fantastic and inspirational, I have recently started a blog on my journey to sobriety & success and am enjoying reading other people’s take on sobriety and learning the different tricks that different people use.

        Like

  7. The Good Witch Lollipop

    Reblogged this on I Started Trying to Please Me.

    Like

  8. I love the idea of repeating a mala to help keep me present and also remind myself I’m worth it. Thank you Jean, you’ve helped so many. Your calm, reassuring voice on the Bubble Hour is like listening to an old friend.

    Like

  9. I spent today at a large outdoor party where there was plenty of alcohol. It was a beautiful day, a perfect opportunity for me to ruin my sobriety with some wine and food and wine and wine and wine. I was always a wino by choice.

    I knew very few people amongst this very large affair. I could have busted my sobriety in relative anonymity. But I was never even tempted. And while exposure to so much opportunity made me think about my past drinking, it just re-emphasized to me that I’m not a drinker anymore. I stared at some full glasses of amber wine in the beautiful reflective sunlight and felt relieved I wouldn’t have to restrict myself to just two. Because if I were drinking I would have wanted more. Who’s kidding who? Playing the drinking game takes all the fun out of it. What’s fun about control?

    At one point I said to myself, “Why would I drink alcohol today. What would cause me to do such a thing? Why did I ever interrupt perfect days like this with drinking anyway? Why?

    So, while my motivation, willingness and commitment (I’m all in) weren’t tested in the least today, it was interesting to sit back and honestly answer myself, reaffirming with myself that the only reason I would have ever drank on a carefree weekend day like today was to get buzzed, maybe drunk – to alter my reality. And that would have ruined everything and led to heartbreak, again.

    instead, I focused on people, sounds, beauty, good food, relaxation, amazing weather, whatever came my way. That was enough. For so many years, it wasn’t. But now…it’s so much better this way. So much easier, clearer and real.

    Easy Rider

    Liked by 5 people

    • Easy Rider, a big thank you to you for sharing your journey. I have learned a lot from your posts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Easy Rider, hi. I’m recently sober (79 days), and a solid part of my recovery program is reading this blog, and others, and trying to learn from the insightful comments from folks like you. I was recently thinking about abstinence and moderation – I know I can’t moderate, so I abstain. Your words, however, add something fundamental to my simplistic equation: “Why would I drink alcohol today? What would cause me to do such a thing? Why did I ever interrupt perfect days like this with drinking anyway?” Why, indeed. I drank, I got hammered. Perfect days weren’t more perfect, and lousy days weren’t less lousy. Your focus on “people, sounds, beauty, good food, relaxation, amazing weather, whatever came [your] way”, is mindfulness I’d like to try and copy. Appreciate you sharing your story. Thanks, Al.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Al,

        Well, we’re very close – today is day 90 for me. I’m up early getting ready for a busy day.

        I don’t know who it as who said it, but it rings very true to me. An alcoholic can either attempt to control his drinking, or drink to have fun, but not both. Being honest with myself, that’s been true for me. I’ve spent the last several years trying to drink like a normal person. Oh, I succeeded many times with controlled drinking. Probably even fooled a few people. But inevitably, I would lapse into out-of-control episodes that bewildered, demoralized and jeopardized me.

        Thank God, something clicked in my head and I realized I was really ready to stop pretending I could drink like a normal person. The game was over. I have fully accepted that and no longer desire alcohol in the least. I’m so grateful for this change in myself. I work every day to think hard about the wonderful benefits of simple sobriety and coming to this blog is a great way to keep myself focused on my new alcohol free life.

        Not having to worry about hurting my life any more, especially my relationships, with alcohol is such a blessing. In my heart, I can’t see myself ever turning back. Drinking just isn’t an option anymore. No matter what. There’s no payoff. I’m not giving up anything. I’m just accepting life on life’s terms and as a result, a whole new world has opened up to me. It’s just great to be free!

        Good luck with your blog Al and especially your sobriety. Thanks for sharing.

        Easy Rider

        Liked by 3 people

        • I’m with you, Easy Rider, all the way – it IS great to be free. In these early days of my sobriety, I’m amazed at how many of the stories ring true to my own history. The honesty I’ve found in others in recovery, and the honesty I’m experiencing with (and within) myself, is unbelievably invigorating and liberating. LONG overdue. Thanks again, Al.

          Like

  10. My binges were every night and all weekend. I held down a job, paid my bills, was not in trouble legally…….I had no soul. I entered rehab and had no idea how I was going to stay sober once they released me back into the real world – I had willingness but no tools . One class changed my life. The instructor began by saying you only need 3 things to stay sober: Honesty, humility and desire. I did a mental check, and realized I had those things…..my first set of tools to start me down the road. Since then, I have added to the arsenal by being incredibly lucky to run across an article or blog (this one) that gives me what I need at exactly the right time.

    Thank you!

    Like

    • Thank yo for sharing this, Jane. Funny how the simplest of words can lead us to such great changes.You are an inspiration!

      Like

      • Thanks! I have had a lot of help and support along the way, and want anyone suffering from addiction to know there is always hope. Drop the excuses and truly commit. Scarey? Hell yes. My biggest regret is not doing it decades earlier, my kids deserved better.

        Like

  11. This post is awesome! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you so very much for this. I absolutely LOVE this suggestion as us folks in early sobriety can feel a lot of loathing, bashing ourselves, feeling we AREN’t WORTHY so who gives a shit, just have another drink. I think getting home work assignments like this helps ME personally so so much. I love your blog, it has truly been a lifeline and I am so happy every time I see a new post .Thank you so much for this. Have a great weekend. I plan on having a happy, sober, fun-filled weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post! I love this. Going to try it today 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s a powerful and evocative mantra. It’s so hard to break away from deeply ingrained behaviours. It’s important to remember that discomfort is temporary while having strategies to counter it, while its present, helps enormously.Thank you 🙂

    Like

  15. I completely relate to the binging stories. The cycles of vowing to stop the behaviour as you are so sick and tired of how you feel in the aftermath, yet you repeat the cycle all over again. I too tried writing to myself, changing drinks, weeks off and occasional months off all to no avail. Eventually I would find myself feeling horrific some Sunday or other chastising myself for once again feeling like this while panicking about what I had or hadn’t done the night before. This time feels different, this blog and the other links it has provided has given me genuine resources to keep up my motivation and quit drinking for good. I’ve not drank in 13 days and I’m feeling strong. It not only feels right to finally stop drinking but utterly possible.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. WOW I’ve just discovered your blog and it’s an absolute treasure of inspiration to help me along the way. I am glad to meet you on here and receive your insights. have a great weekend ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you are here. There are no accidents – we are often given what we need just at the right time. Good for you to have recognized the need to live differently. Please post with any questions, comments, or updates about your experiences. There are so many amazing people who give feedback to one another in the comments here. My posts are really just to spark the discussion. Then the conversation starts and it is so enlightening!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This is so interesting as I am currently noticing times when I drink to much. Thank you for your advice and tips. x

    Liked by 1 person

  18. amymaywebster

    Beautiful! What a great idea. Thanks Jean!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I was a binge drinker.
    I would swear I was not going to drink so much every Monday. By Friday I would “forget” just how awful I felt and drink.
    I had a job. I exercised. I must be ok….right?
    I tried lots of things. I wrote myself letters. I changed up my drinks. I booked myself in early morning spin classes.
    Nothing worked until I finally said, out loud, I need a break. My souls is dying living like this. I am so unhappy.

    And so I quit drinking.
    It started as a one year thing, but I have decided it is an indefinite change. Life is too awesome without the hangovers, regrets and shame. I like it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You took the words right out of my mouth! I HATED how I felt the morning after but for the longest time couldn’t seem to stop. I quit Christmas day last year and life is just so much better without beer/wine/cocktail goggles. I’m finally comfortable with myself in social situations now x

      Liked by 3 people

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