Everyone has at least one habit that feels so much like second nature that you may not even notice you’re doing it.
Drinking and regular alcohol consumption is one common activity in particular that most people engage in to take the edge off a long day, celebrate a special occasion, or commune during a social setting. But for some, this casual act can have a negative impact on their daily motivations, producing a dependency that may no longer be manageable.
Hitting the pause button on your boozy endeavors could give your body the reset and rest from those fruity cocktails — and there’s no better time than the top of the year to kick those new habits into gear.
Dry January, a 30-day challenge where people abstain from consuming alcohol for the entire month of January, ushered in a time to take new leaps into better habits to improve one’s wellness overall. It's the time of year to swap out your usual night out for a cozy night in with a cup of tea that has proven to offer major benefits like an improvement in mental health, boosting your mood and energy levels, weight loss, financial savings, and getting better sleep.
Sipping your worries away may seem like an effective way to cope with the pressures of our daily lives, but can gradually exacerbate underlying depression and anxiety. Taking time away from cocktails and glasses of wine can help put your true needs and desires to drink into the right perspective to ask yourself: do I need this or do I want this?
Now that Dry January has come to an end and our social lives are defrosting, you might be ready to discover the joys of sober socializing on your own terms. And to help, we’ve tapped Khadi Oluwatoyin, founder of Sober Black Girls Club, for insight on how to take your Dry January habits and turn them into a lifestyle you can ‘cheers’ to.
After graduating from law school in 2018, Khadi noticed a drastic change in her drinking consumption. “Even though my basic needs were being met, I was unhappy,” she shares with xoNecole. “Nothing felt good enough. I drank to numb my feelings until I decided to see a therapist in 2019.”
Through therapy, she discovered that she was dealing with depression and had been using alcohol to self-medicate. “My therapist advised me to stop drinking as alcohol exacerbates depression, but at that point, I couldn't stop,” she recalls. “I had become dependent on it.”
Khadi’s time in therapy gave her insight into the root causes of her drinking which served as a coping tool for her depression, low self-esteem, and her hyper-focus on high achievements and accolades. “I took pride in working multiple jobs and holding multiple positions all while tackling a rigorous course load. I had no concept of rest, play, or self-care,” she shares.
“Working as a new attorney and no longer being wrapped up in the busy life as a student, my sense of identity was shaken when I entered the 9-5 workforce,” Khadi adds. “I felt lost, and the amount of free time I now had made me extremely uneasy. I drank to escape the uncomfortable feeling.”
Armed with this new awareness, Khadi was inspired to put the bottle down and get real about the experiences that led her to believe that her worth was dependent on her productivity, fueling her need to overdrink.
Since then, Khadi shares that her life has seen many improvements following her commitment to a sober lifestyle, with the biggest change being in her self-image and outlook on life. “Sobriety has changed the way I think about myself and others. It has shown me the importance of authenticity and self-compassion,” she says.
Today, Khadi finds her self-worth in spending time with friends, dancing, taking on new hobbies, traveling, and walking in her purpose. With her online platform, Sober Black Girls Club, Khadi aims to support other women like her to consider the beauty in sober living and form a sense of connectedness outside of consuming alcohol.
While taking a step back from drinking cold turkey can be challenging within itself, it’s important to know that any change starts with small steps and giving grace to yourself when you feel like you’ve come up short of your goal. Seeking professional help before attempting to quit on your own, reaching out to your community, and finding the right tools is always the best place to start. But if you need the extra push, here’s what Khadi advises:
Strategies for Sobriety: Tips to activate in order to maintain a sober lifestyle:
“Practice self-care like never before and find like-minded community. Meditation is common among those who practice sobriety, but you can also engage in self-care by taking warm showers before bed and journaling at the end of the day. It is also vital for people practicing sobriety, especially early on, to find a community of support. Community is essential for enjoying sobriety, rediscovering who you are, and connecting with others who understand what you are experiencing.”
How to manage cravings or resist being triggered by a desire to drink:
“The ‘4 D’s’ method — delay, distract, destress, and decatastrophize — is a classic common way to beat cravings. Since cravings rise and fall like waves, if you can delay a slip or relapse for 20 minutes you will generally find that cravings dissipate on their own.
“Cravings pass quicker when you engage in an activity for a few minutes. Destress, by taking deep breaths can keep you calm and rational when cravings hit. And decatastrophize by challenging false, catastrophic thoughts and reframing them into more accurate ones.”
Advice to those looking to take the leap into their journey toward sobriety:
“There is no such thing as failure. Courage, gentleness, and love will help you overcome any obstacle. Find a community that aligns with your goals and values. Understand that there is no one size fits all approach to getting sober, and that sobriety is an addition, not subtraction, to your life.”
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