One of the first questions I ask new clients is, “What is your short term goal and what is your long term goal?” THEN I immediately follow up with, “If you don’t have an answer, that’s okay.” Some people are very clear on exactly what they want to do and some are still figuring it out, both are perfectly fine. I don’t believe that you have to be so confident in your decision on day one or day one hundred that you make the commitment, to never drink again, ever. There are definitely people that disagree with me on this, which I get… In my experience, the same thing that works for one person is not going to work for everyone, including a goal. I wrote about my personal goal after Dry January 2020 here in more detail.
To be clear, I am not saying it is a good idea to just float around and wrestle with the decision day by day. I am all for a goal, but a goal that you feel like you can be successful in and you feel comfortable committing to. If you have completed Dry January, maybe make your next goal for 30 more days, then around day 20 adjust your goal to 60 more days. Let the length get longer as you feel comfortable and confident. BUT before you reach the end of your goal, set a new one or re evaluate. Don’t get to day 30 at 8pm and have to make a game time decision, check in a week before your goal is going to end and make a decision.
When people ask me to work with them on moderation, I am very honest that I will try to support them in any goal they set, but moderation did not work for me. I think you need a full year off of drinking before you can truly get enough space to try to make a decision about moderation. I know that seems like a long time but you have probably been drinking a long time and the true change/ shift will not happen in four alcohol free days a week. I am absolutely not implying that reducing your drinking is a worthless endeavor! I think that is fantastic and if you can decide to only drink one drink a week on Saturday night and stick with it long term AND you feel good about that, then go for it. I tried that route over and over and over and made new drinking guidelines for myself monthly or weekly. There was always a reason why I deserved a drink on a Tuesday and then was back to where I started. I believe this is because I wasn’t doing any other work, I was just white knuckling it until Friday night each week. The beauty in doing work around alcohol is the mindset shift from “I can’t drink”/”I don’t get to drink” to “I want more than alcohol could ever pretend to give me.”
So, I guess my answer to the question is, it is up to you. You are the one that knows. You don’t need me to tell you what your intuition is leading you to. You might not be in a place right now that you can you even hear your intuition, so start small and build. Your recovery/sobriety/alcohol free life does not have to look like mine, your friends, your boss at work with three DUIs, it is yours. It is your precious gift that you get to give yourself and maybe one day share with the rest of us.
One of my favorite mantras I heard first from Holly Whitaker several years ago is, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” And you are. You are exactly where you are supposed to be, but you are not stuck here.
Tomorrow is my last Beyond Dry January Q/A post! I will be listing resources and ideas for next steps while answering question #4: Do I have to do this alone?