As well as drinking to oblivion, a lot of us drink/drank as a reward. We drink/drank because we were happy or sad, bored, had survived an hour/day/week at work, got a promotion or got dumped. Any excuse.
Being rewarded starts very early on in life and therefore is cemented in our brains by adulthood.
Before Soberdom, I would reward myself with food, alcohol and cigarettes. I remember being a member of the gym in the past and the minute I’d finished, would have a cigarette ‘to celebrate’. Oh the irony!
Friday night has always been treat night for me. After all, I’d worked hard for 5 whole days. I deserved to get smashed.
Imagine the excitement as a binge drinker, two whole days and nights off work, lots of time to sleep (badly), chill & drink. I would go to the shop on the way home, buy cigarettes, at least two bottles of wine (6 if there was an offer on) and a nice fattening ready meal that I intended to eat to ‘line my stomach’. I would also have gin on standby, just in case.
Once stocked up, and if I was staying in, I’d get home as soon as possible. The first thing I’d do is pour a glass of lukewarm wine (the bottle would then go in the freezer) and have a cigarette whilst hanging out the window of my flat. Beautiful. Then I’d have another cigarette straight away. The weekend had begun.
Even as I write this, I’m cringing. Drinking lukewarm wine in absolute desperation to get the party (for one) started. And chain smoking! I literally couldn’t get enough. I chose to ‘reward’ myself with two things that were slowly killing me. It seems ridiculous now but at the time it was the best thing ever. Or so I thought.
Once the initial euphoria was over and I settled down in front of the TV, my brain would start. It didn’t really matter if I’d had a good week or bad, alcohol made me feel depressed. Which led me to drink and smoke more. The reward to myself had now transformed into a cycle of misery.
Friday (treat) night subsequently became my trigger night when I stopped drinking. How was I supposed to reward myself now? What was the point in working hard all week when there was nothing to look forward to at the end of it? I’d stopped smoking and stopped drinking. What was left? Oh yeah, food. Oh, and of course Elderflower.
And so I changed my Friday night. I would still stop at the shop but I would buy food that took me a while to prepare. And I’d buy something nice to drink. I would cook whilst listening to music or a Podcast and I’d take my time. In the first few months, I’d read self help books and go to bed early, just so that I didn’t dwell on what I thought I was missing.
After several weeks of doing this, the trigger started to lessen. Instead, I would get excited about what I was going to cook or what new drinks I could try. I actually started to look forward to an early night, to recharge my batteries, and to a hangover free Saturday.
Now, 5 months on, I barely think about having a drink. And I definitely don’t think about smoking. The urge to binge has diminished as I become happier with who I am. The need to ‘fill the void’ is more likely to be with chocolate or ice cream once in a while now, rather than every weekend without fail. My reward is a hangover free weekend, lots of good quality sleep and no sign of the usual Friday night misery.
Have a great sober Friday!