This month, I wrote:
My September goal is to continue to stay within recommended alcohol intake ranges for most of the month, which for me means following the Moderation Management guidelines. For women, that means 0-4 drinking occasions per week, 0-3 drinks on any occasion, and 0-9 drinks in any week.
For the last week of September, I will be traveling and spending six nights with a group who are mostly heavy drinkers. At the moment, my tentative plan is to join them in a nightly drink, but restrict myself to 1-2 drinks, with a cap of 9 for the week (in other words, drinking more frequently than the MM limits recommend, but sticking within overall numerical limits). But I will think about it more closely as the dates approach and revise my plan. Learning to plan for unusual circumstances and novel situations is a skill I would like to work on, so this will be an opportunity to do so.
In September, I had 43 drinks overall, spread over 15 occasions. Three of those days were “red” (i.e. I drank beyond moderate limits, which is to say I had more than three drinks in a single day). Notably, all three involved “trigger” drinking, where specific stress emotions helped fuel a decision to binge.
Overall, September was a surprisingly stressful month. Several unexpected events and emergencies helped throw my plans off track, so I am reminding myself to celebrate the fact that I didn’t binge-drink in response to most of those days. In September, I practiced a few brand-new situations with great success. For instance, I stayed at a roadside motel by myself en route to various meetings, and successfully resisted the urge to numb the boredom/loneliness/fidgets with wine; I abstained during several intense social events, and moderated successfully during others; etc..
August and September helped me understand how much my new habits rely on structure and familiar routines, and how much more challenging I find them to maintain when circumstances fluctuate (not a surprise, really), especially when a new situation is accompanied by negative emotions. Habits depend largely on situational cues, which makes following them feel easy in familiar surroundings…and then the amount of effort involved in transitioning them to a new situation can be downright shocking. It really is just a matter of planning and careful effort, and so I hope I can keep building my habits until they are easier to practice across the board.
October is looking like a return to normal routines, in that my plans do not include much in the way of travel, stressful events, or other challenges. I suppose life will continue to throw surprises my way, but it’s easier to deal with unexpected events in familiar surroundings too. So my October goal is to follow the Moderation Management guidelines for low-risk drinking ranges, and my expectation is that this should be more manageable than it was in August & September. For women, that means 0-4 drinking occasions per week, 0-3 drinks on any occasion, and 0-9 drinks in any week.
As a last note, I was a little surprised to find myself unwilling to sit down and write this post. Since making significant changes to my drinking habits last January, I am drinking less than 10% as much as I used to…a huge improvement! But in focusing on a fairly narrowly-defined range of behavior (most challengingly, the goal of never having more than three drinks in one go), I have consistently fallen just a bit short of my goals for the past couple of months. I dislike writing about falling short, for various reasons, including the fact that it usually means writing a lot more about drinking than I actually prefer (hard to tell, I expect, but drinking is not really my focus here!). Overall, falling short tends to nibble away at my motivation.
So if October does not conform to expectations, and if I find myself again falling a bit short, I think I need to re-organize my plan so that I am once again building on successes. That could mean several different things, but it’s worth noting now in case being prepared helps.