You’ve made the brave decision to give up drinking. Whether it’s to have a break or you’ve had enough and this is for the long-term, Day 1 can be both exciting and daunting. Yes, you’re making a great decision for yourself, but you’ll also have to prepare for some challenges ahead. Try to remember that nothing worth doing is easy. Here’s our advice on how to get through that crucial first day and get Day 1 under your belt.
Day 1 is just a day!
The most important piece of advice we’ve ever heard about tackling Day 1 is that it’s just a day! Better than that, it is not even a full 24-hour period. If you were drinking the day before, it’s likely that you’ll have woken up later than normal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – you’re already well into Day 1. You’ll be asleep for some of it, you’ll be busy eating, showering, working, and being distracted by normal everyday tasks. Soon it will be bedtime again, and you’ll have Day 1 well and truly under your belt. We’re not being flippant – break down the day in small, manageable chunks, and you can overcome the overwhelm. You don’t need to struggle through every minute of the day, just tackle the moments that you find difficult. Take it hour by hour if you need to – you’ve got this.
Day 1: waking up
If it’s your first day without a drink, it’s likely that you’re going to wake up with a hangover. You’ve probably woken up saying ‘I’m never going to drink again!’, but anxiety, dread, and guilt aren’t the best bedfellows when you’re trying to motivate yourself.
The first thing to do is to drink a large glass of water – you’re probably dehydrated. The second thing to do is to forget about it all. Banish those dreaded anxieties from your morning as they’re just taking up space in your brain. You’re going to need that space to exert your willpower later on when you’re feeling a bit better. The morning is just a time for taking care of the basics; shower, drink water, eat a light breakfast if you can, and rest. Make time to feel more physically comfortable and, depending on how much you drank yesterday, sober up – everything else can wait until later on.
Day 1: after lunch
We’re not going to tell you to eat some kale and everything will be better. Eat that burger or cheese toastie if you want. Only you know what will help you to feel better. Yes, good nutrition will help you to feel better, especially as your body will be detoxing from the alcohol. Right now, though, you’re saving your willpower for giving up alcohol, so don’t worry about trying to overhaul too much at once.
Now you’re ready to make a plan for the rest of the day. What this looks like will be different for each person. A normal day for you might usually include a beer at lunchtime and a bottle of wine at 7 pm. For others, wine o’clock may have crept in earlier and earlier into the day during the lockdown. The important thing here is to be honest with yourself: when do you start thinking about alcohol during the day, and when do you start to action those cravings?
Once you’ve truthfully pinpointed the times you’re likely to drink, you can create your Day 1 plan and put it into action.
Your Day 1 plan
It’s important to remember that cravings aren’t going to kill you. They’re unpleasant but expected, especially if you’ve been a heavy drinker in the past. Cravings often pop up at a time when you would drink out of habit, such as wine o’clock. Having a solid plan for when these alcohol moments, whether habitual or physical, come around during your day can help them to pass without you giving in. Cravings often last about half an hour at most, by which time you’ll have moved on. Some things you can do during the time you would normally drink include:
- Find something else to drink. On Day 1, you should definitely drink water – if you’ve been drinking the day before then you’ll be dehydrated and your body’s check engine light will be flashing. The brain can’t always determine what’s wrong so unless you fix the dehydration, you’ll keep feeling anxious.
You can also help yourself by having some alcohol-free drinks in the house, but if your decision to stop drinking today wasn’t planned ahead, then this might be something to consider exploring over the next few days instead. Whatever you choose to drink – tea, hot chocolate, juice – make is something really nice so that you’re giving your brain a little dopamine hit without straying from your goal.
- Find something else to do. If you’d normally go to the pub at 5 pm, then why not go for a run instead? Rather than stare longingly at the fridge in the evening, why not go for a walk in nature, or visit a beach? Fresh air will help you to feel better, and 30 minutes later, the craving will have passed. Plan what you can do for several half-hour slots and you’re covered for the rest of the day.
- Find someone to talk to. Talking helps a lot, so if you’re struggling to make plans, plan to chat to someone instead. Call an old friend for that long overdue catch-up. Visit that chatty Aunt who will definitely natter through that half an hour. Get coffee with a close friend for a few hours and tell them how you’re feeling. But maybe skip anyone who is normally a drinking buddy for today – don’t be led into temptation!
If you need someone to talk to, don’t forget that there’s an active online community at your fingertips at Club Soda. There will be others online also doing Day 1, as well as those who have gotten through Day 1, who will be happy to chat. Make sure you’re part of our supportive, understanding Facebook community and don’t be afraid of saying ‘Hi, I’m on Day 1’. We’re all here for you.
First-day withdrawal symptoms
Be gentle with yourself. In the first days of being alcohol-free, your body will be eliminating toxins and your dopamine stores – what makes you happy and have that buzz – will be on empty. This might mean that you feel low, anxious, snappy, nauseous, and tired today. That’s all completely normal, just go with it. Drink water, nap, have a bath, take a walk…do what makes you happy for now.
If you’re experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms, then it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor. Extreme withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, confusion, shaking, hallucinations, or seizures. If you’re physically dependent on alcohol, it can be dangerous to stop drinking suddenly, and it’s safer to cut down slowly over time. While it’s rare to experience these things on one day off from booze, if you do find yourself suffering from these alcohol withdrawal traits, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately.
Day 1: the rest of the day
Once you’ve made your backup plans for Day 1, carry on with your day as if it’s any other day. Yes, forget about Day 1 altogether. Focusing on effort means that your willpower is being eaten up when you don’t really need it. Willpower is finite, so save it for putting into place your well-thought-out tactics for getting through alcohol moments if and when you need them.
Planning is so important for a successful first day without alcohol. Having a firm plan in place eliminates any panic or anxiety that arises from being caught off guard by situations or cravings. Any negative thoughts that might arise about whether or not you can succeed can be banished straight away. You have your plan, so be gone, horrible thoughts!
Planning is also important because you cannot just wish yourself sober. Making the decision to stop drinking is one thing, but intentions alone aren’t enough. Lasting change happens when you recognise the obstacles that could trip your intentions up, and you plan to overcome them.
For more inspiration on getting through Day 1, take a look at this video of a live Facebook Q&A recorded by Club Soda founders Dru Jaeger and Laura Willoughby on how to start changing your drinking. We’re rooting for you!