Many of us are tired of this whole COVID situation. Life is harder for everyone and many people are pushed over the edge emotionally with this. For those struggling with alcoholism or substance use issues, staying sober is much more difficult. The potential for relapse is higher.

If you are one of those people, don’t beat yourself up. Remember, relapse is part of the cycle. Chastising or shaming yourself will only make you worse and feed your your addiction. Remember, you have gotten clean and sober in the past and you can do it again. Look back at how you did it in the past.

How to tell if you are drinking too much

You may be surprised at what is considered moderate, heavy or binge drinking. This especially holds true if most of your friends and family drink on a regular basis. Your sense of where the boundaries lie may be skewed.

Moderate drinking

The US Dept. of Health and Human Services and US Dept. of Agriculture considers you a moderate drinker if you are female and have 1 drink per day. For men it is 2 drinks per day.

Heavy drinking

For men it is 4 drinks in any day.

Women who have 3 drinks a day are considered heavy drinkers.

Binge drinking

Women who have 4 or more drinks over a few hour time span are considered binge drinkers. Binge drinking for men is 5 or more drinks in that same time period.

Ways to stay sober

Has your drinking gotten out of control? Perhaps you don’t think so, but others are making comments. Here are some suggestions to help you slow down or get sober.

Alcohol diary

Have you ever kept track of your daily drinking? Perhaps you lose track and aren’t even aware of how much you drink. You can look online for an app to keep track, or you can simply write down what you drank, how many ounces you drank, and the time of day.

Measure your alcohol

According to the national institute of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, the standard for one drink is:

12 oz. of beer (about 5% alcohol)

5 oz. of wine (about 12% alcohol)

1.5 oz. of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol)

If the alcohol content is higher, then the number of oz. would decrease in order to determine what constitutes one drink.

HALT

This is an acronym for common triggers of substance or alcohol use. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. So be aware when those times come. Theses things happen in all of our lives, and for those struggling, it may be even harder to stay sober.

Drink something else to help you stay sober

You may want to try out some of the non alcoholic beers, wine or spirits. Sometimes it’s just the comfort or habit of having that glass in your hand. Instead of the gin and tonic can you have carbonated lime water with a slice of lime? Perhaps add sprite to your wine to make a spritzer as a way to lower alcohol content. Or add more mixer into your drink.

Another suggestion is to have a drink of water or soft drink in between alcoholic beverages. This can help you cut back until you can get sober.

Reach out to others

Some may consider this a sign of weakness and are reluctant to ask for help. The opposite is true. Reaching out to others is a sign of strength. Remember the definition of courage is doing something that you are afraid of.

Isolation is one of the worst things you can do when struggling. Who can you call? Is there someone you can spend some time with, whether it is over some sort of video platform or in person? I’m guessing there is someone out there for you, who can help you through your difficult time.

Urge surf

Have you heard of this term before? It basically means to ride the wave of the urge. Just like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes they are gentle ripples that we barely notice. What do you do about those big huge ones that come at you? You can get knocked over, or you can ride the top of it. Those waves will eventually calm down. They say the average urge lasts for 20-30 minutes. Just know it will ease up.

Structure

Many people with substance use disorders don’t know how they will get through the day. Having structure is a road map for doing do. You don’t have to have any big plans. It can be as simple as get up, brush teeth, and take a shower.

Would it be helpful the day or a few days before, to put things on your calendar? Perhaps you will walk during the day, run an errand, have a doctors appointment, phone a friend, play a game, read, do something creative. This is another tip that can help you stay sober.

Set a time for drinking if you aren’t trying to get sober

Can you make it for later in the day or evening? Perhaps you will feel good about yourself if you wait at least till 5:00 to have your first drink. If you can’t do that, then pick a time. Then each day make it 30-60 minutes later.

Accountability partner

Is there someone who can keep you accountable? If you share your goals with someone else, you are more likely to stick with it. This may be a friend, family member or AA/NA sponsor.

For those who do not like the 12-step program there is also Smart Recovery, which is more psychological and behavioral in its approach.

Celebrate your successes

If you do anything on this list, or your own list you are successful. Any step forward is a success towards remaining sober. Focus on your successes vs. slip ups. Remember one day at a time, and oftentimes it’s 2 steps forward, one step back.

These are just a few suggestions. If you have trouble cutting back or stopping on your own help is out there for you. It may be a friend, family member, therapist, sponsor, group or treatment center. The choice is yours.

If this is something I can help you with, please give me a call at 713-304-6554.

Take care,

Debbie