We know you will be experiencing some challenging situations, many of these are easily predictable. The premise here is that since you know about many of the situations that will trouble you in advance, proactively developing strategies to deal with those will greatly reduce the possibility of a slip. The situations are as different as people and their experiences. You must get actively involved in this step and tailor your strategic development to fit your specific situation.
The most obvious examples of potentially troubling situations will be anywhere you used to drink. If you were hanging out at taverns, you’ll need to replace that time with something new, preferably where you’re not surrounded by alcohol.
Yes eventually you’ll most likely be able to return to the bar setting and be comfortable while not drinking. That’s expecting too much in the beginning. How long will the beginning be? It varies. You will know as you get really comfortable in sobriety.
To give you an idea, of the people I worked with, anywhere from three months to two years passed until different people got comfortable. As I’ve said before, to the extent that you apply this program, it’s been my experience that you can shorten this time span.
As you identify the situations that will be challenging for you, and decide which ones you will be avoiding completely, you must assign specific things to do with your new-found time. In the beginning for me, the toughest time was at home alone with idle time. I actually found it pretty easy not to drink in bars. I had leveraged myself to the point where being in a bar only clarified why I didn’t want to drink. Please note that most of the people in my study group found it very difficult to hang out in bars initially. If that’s the case for you, don’t torture yourself. Skip the bar scene wherever possible and find a new activity.
The strategy to deal with the permanence issue is a cliché, but one that you should take to heart. And that is, “one day at a time.”
Don’t think in terms of quitting forever if you find that thought overwhelming. All you have to concern yourself with is today. If that seems too difficult, then just take it hourly. If that’s too much, then take it minute by minute. If that’s too much then just don’t drink right now.
You will eventually string together several hours and days and weeks, but don’t think about it that way in the beginning. Just concern yourself with stopping the physical action of lifting a drink to your mouth right now. I know you can do that. Of course the real challenge is addressing all of the feelings you’ll be having as a result of that behavior change, and that is what the 4 Step Fastrack is all about. Work this program and create a new life for yourself.
One of my earliest strategies was to design a specific course for a walk or a jog that was easily accessible from my apartment. When the urge to drink crept in, I promised myself that I’d hit my pre designed lakefront course for a vigorous 2 mile walk.
In the early going, there were quite a few days when I would go for four or five walks. I certainly didn’t think I could do it forever and I felt like a basket case leaving for my “survival walks” five times a day, but I knew I could abstain for that day if I did that, so that’s all I concerned myself with.
Incidentally, I lost 30 pounds in the first six months (240 to 210) while eating like a horse. It was the best I’d felt in many years and I learned to really love those walks. It’s important to design replacement activities that you enjoy, possibly new things you’ve never done before. Treat yourself to some cool activities whenever possible. This does not have to be a struggle, if you get involved and creative about your strategic development.
Prepare yourself for well-meaning but insensitive questions from friends and family.
A really good example: Why did you stop drinking?
Usually asked in the most inappropriate places. Develop your answer now and keep it brief. A long winded explanation of your being a recovering alcoholic is best saved for the closest friends you talked to you as a part of quandary admission. As you progress into sobriety, it is not unusual to get kind of excited about getting your life back. Not everyone shares or understands your excitement. Be aware of the things you divulge about yourself in casual conversation.
You will probably experience being in the company of drinkers who will make negative judgments about your non drinking endeavor. These small confrontations, if not planned for, can easily get you into old habitual thought patterns that will make you uncomfortable at best, or vulnerable to drinking at worse.
Design quick and simple responses to insensitive questions.
As an example, after going through many different versions, I eventually arrived at, “I just feel a lot better,” and as an answer to “Why don’t you drink.”
I have longer versions involving medical reasons for very close friends (not stuff I care to share in casual conversation).
Plan your quick answers to the following questions:
- Why did you stop drinking?
- What happened that made you stop drinking?
- Are you an alcoholic?
- You mean you NEVER drink? Why?
- Do you not drink because you can’t or because you don’t want to?
- Do you go to AA?
- What d’ya think you’re better than me?
- Are you a drug addict too?
- Is it hard to quit drinking?
- Why can’t you drink?
- “I just feel a lot better.”
- “Nothing, I just decided to give it a try.”
- “Not that I know of.” Side step this one with humor, if possible.
- “I hadn’t really thought of it like that, but if that’s the way it works out, that’s OK.”
- “I just decided to stop for a while.”
- “What’s AA?”
- “Without question.” Just kidding, say what you’re comfortable with.
- “Not that I know of.” Same as #3.
- “It’s actually turned out to be not that big of a deal.”
- “I just thought I’d feel better if I got on the wagon for awhile.”
You get the general idea. Although you’re doing a great thing, don’t expect people to be on your side or to have any understanding of or appreciation for what you are doing. Proactively design exactly what you’ll say conversationally in answering these questions.
Make your answers NON CONFRONTATIONAL.
Your goal is to keep things brief and to move on while not flagging yourself as a recovering alcoholic. You don’t need the stigma attached to this label at this point.
It is amazing how much tension this one strategy will diffuse.
This strategy involves designing new reward habits. Often, this involves a much less obvious challenge. Here we acknowledge that some of your drinking occurred as a reward when things went well.
Design your reward replacement now or you may find yourself struggling when things are going really well. This strategy led me to pursue the sport of windsurfing. Kind of unrealistic since I was broke, but it worked out really well. (You’ll probably be amazed at how much extra money you have when you quit drinking.)
Make a list of different ways to pat yourself on the back. Pick a favorite non-alcoholic drink and stock up, you’ll be downing a lot of this. While we’re on non-alcoholic drinks, don’t consume non-alcoholic beers. First of all, they do have alcohol, albeit a bunch less than regular beer. Even if they were truly alcohol free, they’re part of the whole dynamic you are trying to separate yourself from.
Since you have gotten to the point where you’re reading the Fastrack, you probably drank to get drunk, not because of the refreshing nature of your drinks.
Tasting beer that doesn’t get you drunk is a little dangerous, most likely creating a rush of feelings that won’t help your sobriety.
Any type of physical activity that replaces your former drinking time will supercharge your overall health level. Think about this. You probably used to sit relatively motionless and ingest large amounts of a toxin. If you just stopped that behavior and did nothing, you’d be far better off. When you replace that time with any kind of physical activity your body will appreciate the change, and you’ll feel a lot better, faster. It’s a good idea to consult with your physician before undertaking any new athletic activity.
You might consider visiting coffee shops. I never understood the coffee shop concept when I was drinking. I now find an occasional visit for some Java kind of fun.
Another one for me has been reading, which I pretty much stopped when it was no longer a requirement. At the ripe old age of 34 I discovered the great pleasure of sitting down with a book of my choice.
I found volunteering at a homeless shelter to be a profoundly rewarding experience. Pick a cause and donate a little of your time.
Develop a list of 10 reward habits and try them all out until you settle in with your favorite ones.
You will be installing these in your schedule to replace the time left vacant by not drinking. It is not unusual for even extremely busy people to suddenly find extra time they never knew they had, once they stop drinking. Don’t let the idle time work against you, use it to your advantage.
Diffuse a wide variety of troubling situations by preparing for them in advance. Developing new reward habits will be a critical part of anyone’s personal strategic development. This step gets you actively involved in the design of your new life.
I like the way Dr.Peele puts it in his incredibly detailed book
“Overcoming addiction is a matter not just of ceasing to do something, but of re-orienting your life to follow a new path.”
The preceding report is intentionally brief. There is a tremendous amount of rhetoric flying around in the recovery treatment community, much of it at odds with the 4 Step Fastrack.
Rather than engaging in lengthy debates, I sought to supply a concise set of strategies. The Fastrack is a framework for you to work from.
The resulting strategies and notes you generate as you read this report will provide you with the tools needed to attain sobriety.
These tools are excellent but it is up to you to use them.
Success in this endeavor will ultimately be related to your level of commitment.
For reading materials to compliment the 4 Step Fastrack, both for the individual trying to stop drinking and the loved ones trying to help them, visit The Reading Room.