The most essential tool I use is counting my drinks, which I do with an online tracker. If I enter zero drinks, the number shows up in green. Three drinks or fewer (“moderate” numbers) show up in blue. Anything over that shows up in red, which stings a bit more than you might expect.
Every Friday, I plan for zero drinks. This is because Fridays are my toughest day of the week. Not just because “it’s the weekend, I deserve a drink” kicks in (although there’s that), but because I have a specific commitment on Fridays that involves late nights, lots of social triggers, high stress, and a drive home when my energy and inhibitory control are at an all-time low.
For the better part of a year, I drove home via a liquor store, where I would pick up a 3-liter box of wine to “help me unwind.” Then I’d go home, drink glasses of wine like they were lemonade, and eventually stagger off to bed. Saturday mornings were kind of miserable, because although my total alcohol consumption was often lower than “normal,” I accomplished it in a very short time frame. I’d been a daily drinker for a long time, so I rarely got hangovers anymore…until my Friday nights got to be so busy, and then my Saturdays started getting really icky. In a roundabout way, this became one strong motivation to change my behavior (eventually!).
These days, I do not drink on Fridays. No swinging by the liquor store, even when I want to. The first Friday on my 30+, my urge to follow old habits was so strong that I actually left my wallet at home, just so that I couldn’t buy wine, and I still just barely made it through the night without heading out again. These days, Fridays are a lot easier.
When I look at all those green zeroes entered on my Friday nights, I think of them as little green traffic lights. Instead of my weekends starting off with exhaustion, hangovers, and self-recrimination, my Saturday mornings are full of energy. A green light is permission to go forward, and by sticking to abstinence for my Friday nights, I give myself permission to go forward with a great weekend. It’s a different kind of treat than wine used to be. A better kind of treat, obviously, but I also understand that it may not always feel better in the moment.
Saturday mornings, though, always feel better now.