Tribe Sober member, Lynn, kindly put this helpful worksheet together – to help anyone on their way to an alcohol-free life.
(Transtheoretical Model: Prochaska, DiClemente & Norcross)
Changing your health behaviours (such as ditching the drink) can be difficult but NOT IMPOSSIBLE. We all go through different stages when changing our behaviour and if we have the right tools to move through each of these stages then we are much more likely to succeed in changing our behaviour.
We may have different goals (e.g. successfully completing the Sober Spring Challenge or staying alcohol-free) and be in different stages of change. Being able to identify which stage you are in and having a plan for moving through the stages makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to maintain your alcohol-free life ?
In each of the stages, we need a toolkit i.e. different types of support, tools and resources to help us move to the next stage and to stay in the maintenance stage.
How can I move to the maintenance stage and make sure that I stay there?
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, AND PLAN SOME MORE!!
- Task 1: Identify the stage of change you’re in at the moment
- Task 2: Plan what you need to do to move to the next stage and the next stage and …. until you have reached the maintenance stage
- If you’re already in the maintenance stage then put together a plan to assist you to stay in this stage and to think about how you would handle a lapse/relapse
- As you might move back and forth through the different stages, you may want to plan what you would do for the earlier stages as, if you move to a previous stage, it’ll be much easier to get back on track if you already have a plan in place
Below is a brief description of each of the stages and some suggestions for your toolkit.
Create a plan by selecting the tools you think will work best for you. You can also add your own ideas.
Tips: Be creative with your plan and make sure it’s easily accessible or visible. Keep adding to your plan as you discover new resources. Share your plan with the group so we can benefit from each other’s wisdom and experience. Be compassionate and patient with yourself as change can be tough. Add in a reward system – you deserve it!
Stage 1: Precontemplation stage
You have no intention of quitting drinking or you don’t believe that you can or should. You are in this stage if you don’t think that you have a problem or you think that you can successfully moderate your alcohol intake. Alternatively, you may not know that that drinking is harming your health or how beneficial living an alcohol-free life can be.
Toolkit: Start becoming sober curious and start listening to your instinct / what that little voice in your head is telling you about your drinking
Connection: Keep an open mind about what others are telling you about your drinking; connect to groups such as Tribe Sober, connect with others via the Tribe Sober platforms e.g. WhatsApp group, Facebook Live and Zoom Café
Knowledge: Find out more about alcohol and its effects on your health and wellbeing e.g. look for articles online, listen to podcasts and Facebook live, read quit lit.
Observe: Take note of the positive changes you see in others who have ditched the drink and who are thriving in their alcohol-free life.
Stage 2: Contemplation stage
You are in this stage if you are aware that you have a problem with alcohol and are thinking about ditching the drink (but you haven’t made any efforts to do this yet).
This is an important stage as becoming aware that you have a problem or can’t successfully moderate your drinking is a huge step. Many people find it difficult to move from wanting to quit to actually quitting. You may have been in this stage for many years or have suddenly realised that you want to quit drinking. With good planning and support, you CAN move into the next stage.
Toolkit: Move toward making the decision to ditch the drink
Observation: Take note of your drinking behaviour and the negative effects it’s having on your health and other areas of your life. You may want too to keep a log or a journal e.g. How much you are drinking? What do you feel like the next day? How is alcohol negatively affecting your life? What are your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about alcohol?
Connection: Connect with others on the different Tribe Sober platforms. You’ll find that many of us aren’t able to moderate our drinking and that this isn’t anything to feel ashamed or guilty about. Sharing your story and listening to other people’s stories can be powerful and seeing that change is possible will help you to realise that you too can change.
Knowledge: Find out more about what to expect when you quit drinking and the amazing domino effect that doing this can have on other areas of your life e.g. look for articles online, listen to podcasts and Facebook live, read quit lit.
Change your mindset: Move from ‘I should quit drinking’ to ‘ I want to quit drinking. Complete Lucy’s Why Exercise to help you find your WHY.
Commitment: Make the decision to quit drinking and set a realistic goal e.g. try one of the Tribe Sober challenges or decide that you want to stay alcohol free.
Stage 3: Preparation stage
Now that you’ve decided to ditch the drink and have set a realistic goal, it’s a good idea to do some preparation. In the previous stage, you would have discovered that the first few days, and even a few weeks, can be difficult as your body and mind adapt (and protests) to no longer getting the alcohol it’s used to getting. Don’t worry too much though as it does get easier and planning ahead will help.
Toolkit: Practical steps to take
- Set a quit date. Print your tracker. Download an app to count your sober days, get motivational messages and see how much money you are saving e.g. ‘I am Sober’
- Attend a workshop and/or book a coaching session
- Make an appointment to see your doctor if you’re worried about experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about vitamins you can take
- Know your triggers: Write a list of things that are likely to trigger cravings
- Coping with cravings: Write a list of things that you can do when you experience a craving e.g. wait for 20-minutes, go for a walk, listen to music, drink an alcohol-free drink, do something creative, reach out
- Stock up on alcohol-free drinks or other alternatives e.g. sparkling water, herbal tea
- You may crave sugar so stock up on some sweet snacks (ideally healthy ones)
- Write a blacklist (list of all the things you regret doing when drinking). You’ll need it for the next stage
- Decide what you will tell people if they ask you why you aren’t drinking and how to respond to people who are pushy
- Buy another journal – you’ll need it ?
Some people prefer to move straight into the action stage. If this is you, then you can incorporate some of this planning into your plan for the action stage.
Remember to keep connecting with others and carry on gaining as much knowledge as you can
Stage 4: Action stage
This is the stage where you have changed your behaviour i.e. ditched the drink ?? Well done!!
Everyone’s experience of this stage (the early days of being alcohol-free) will be different.
Toolkit: Keep connected, look after yourself, use your tools and add to them if needed
Connection: Keep connected with the Tribe Sober members on the different platforms and to family/friends who are supportive. Social support is very valuable in this stage as it can help you to stay motivated, get advice, support and encouragement, and to be accountable (e.g. by sharing your tracker). It’s important to reach out to others if you feel lonely or the cravings are intense.
Self-care: Take it one hour/day/week at a time. Look after yourself and give yourself what you need (except alcohol). E.g. if you’re tired have a nap, if you’re hungry eat something if you’re anxious to do something relaxing such as deep breathing, meditating, having a hot bath, listening to music. If you’re bored do something e.g. a new or creative activity.
Tools: Keeping track of your progress on your tracker, journal writing, reading your blacklist, playing the movie forward (think about what will happen and how you’ll feel if you do have a drink), using your coping with cravings list, update your toolkit if needed, reward yourself. In the early days, it’s a good idea to avoid situations/people that are strong triggers.
Knowledge: Keep listening to podcasts, Facebook Live and reading quit lit. You can find a list of recommended books on Tribe Sober’s members’ area.
Stage 5: Maintenance stage
In this stage, you’re working on staying alcohol-free and resisting the temptation to drink again. There’s no set amount of time that needs to pass before you move into this stage. However, research shows that it takes 66 days to create a new neural pathway so, it’s likely to be sometime after that. You should notice a change in your mindset, a feeling that ‘you’ve got this’ and that you don’t want to go back to drinking again.
This stage isn’t only about staying sober but also about personal growth and moving toward thriving in your alcohol-free life. To do this you will need to develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your relationship with alcohol and other issues in your life that you need to address.
Toolkit: Resisting temptation, tools to help you thrive in your alcohol-free life
Resisting temptation: Read your blacklist, play the movie forward, have alcohol-free alternatives available, plan ahead for situations where you know there will be alcohol available or that you strongly associate with drinking, keeping your tracker up to date, and share it on the group to stay accountable. Get the support of a sober buddy.
Changing your relationship with alcohol: Identifying and overturning your limiting beliefs about alcohol, celebrating your sober firsts (e.g. the first time you had lunch with a friend, went to a wedding or went on holiday and didn’t drink), writing your goodbye to alcohol letter.
Knowledge: Keep listening to podcasts, Facebook Live and reading quit lit. There’s always something to learn.
New activities: Now that you’re alcohol-free, you’ll have more time (and money) and you’ll be feeling more focused and clear-headed. This is a good time to start a new activity/hobby/project/venture.
Personal growth: You may find that new thoughts and feelings emerge for you (particularly if you were using alcohol to numb your inner world) or that you become aware of issues that you need to deal with (e.g. unresolved trauma, relationship and family problems, problems at work). Journal writing can be helpful for understanding and expressing these thoughts and feelings. However, you may also want to consider seeing a psychologist, counsellor, or life coach if you feel this will be beneficial for you. On the Tribe Sober website members area, you’ll find the contact details for a nutritionist, yoga instructor, hypnotherapist, happy brain coach, root cause therapist, and art therapist.
Paying it forward: 1) Staying connected on the different Tribe Sober platforms will be beneficial for you. However, it is also beneficial to the other group members. Sharing your story, progress and achievements can be inspiring to members who are thinking about quitting, signing up for a challenge or who are struggling to get to this stage. You can also provide valuable advice based upon your own experience of, and struggles with, ditching the drink and staying sober. 2) Consider becoming a sober buddy.
A relapse is where you return to your old drinking behaviour. A lapse is where you slip up once after a sober stretch and then go straight back to being alcohol-free again.
If you experience a relapse or lapse it’s important to view it as a learning experience (not a failure). Don’t be hard on yourself and make a plan to quit drinking again. It’s also important to reach out to others for support and advice.
If you can identify what triggered the relapse/lapse then you can work out a plan on how to deal with that situation/event/feeling in the future so that it doesn’t trigger another relapse/lapse.