A message from Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer
Boozhoo! How is your "Sober (or Sober-er) for October" challenge going? There have been some really awesome posts so far; it's great seeing how many community members are up for the challenge! Many of the physicians and staff in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) are committing to be "Sober/er in October" as well.
Personally, I made the decision to remove alcohol from my life in April 2015 – that's about 1260 days ago! And my health has been the better for it. Each individual has their own reasons for using alcohol: socially/recreationally, to unwind, to pair with and enhance their meals, to give themselves a treat – and in some cases, as a way to not feel the way they are feeling. Like some of the other contributors to this month-long challenge, I choose not to drink alcohol to maintain my health and wellness, but I definitely don't judge or make assumptions about my family members, friends and coworkers who do choose to drink.
One of the most helpful ways to not drink or to cut down on drinking this October is to develop accountability: don't be afraid to let the people around you know that you are trying to be Sober/er for October! If people know, they will support you and may even join in the challenge!
Whenever I go to a social occasion, I make sure I go with someone who knows that I am not drinking. I also give myself permission to leave early if I start to feel uncomfortable or tempted. As soon as I arrive at an event, I ask for a beverage – usually sparkling water with lime or club soda with a splash of cranberry juice – and make sure to have something in my hand the entire time. You'd be surprised at how many people do not drink alcohol and how many restaurants and bars now have "non-alcoholic/mocktail" choices, some of which are mixes of herbs, fruits and spices and are really delicious! When I order a drink at a restaurant, I always have my partner or friend taste it first; sometimes bartenders can be busy or forgetful and may mistakenly splash something alcoholic into the glass.
One thing you might consider if you are simply trying to cut back on the amount you are drinking this month is to alternate drinking an alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic one. Stock your fridge with lots of non-alcoholic beverages – sparkling low-calorie flavoured waters are great. You don't want to replace alcohol with unhealthy, high-calorie, high-sugar beverages such as regular pop. It takes a bit of preparation, but keeping a pitcher of water in your fridge with some cut-up fruit is a great habit to develop. Try lemons, limes, oranges, cucumber – be creative! Not centering social activities around drinking is another way to not drink or cut back: get your friends together and go for a hike, or try playing games that are new or familiar. I recently played a game of charades with friends in recovery and I can honestly say I laughed so hard and had so much fun.
One of the best things about being sober/er is waking up each morning with a clear head, feeling rested and ready to start my day. If you are participating in Sober/er for October, please share your tips in the comments below and let us in the OCMO how you are doing! It's so important for ALL of us to increase our comfort level in talking about alcohol – and to support and meet each other where we're at, without judgement.
Wishing you all good health,
Dr. Nel Wieman
Find out more about the Sober for October challenge here.