How To Show Self-Compassion For The Past, Present & Future You

Experiencing strong emotional reactions when faced with the reality of our past is only human. When we begin to change our relationship with alcohol, reflecting on the past can be an especially complicated process. What do we do when intense emotions like shame, guilt and low self-esteem arise? How do we develop self compassion for the person we were in the past when, despite our best intentions, we may have been less than our best selves? While the effects of past experiences are real and valid, our present selves are also full of opportunity, and capable of great change. I often work with my patients on processing the past to arrive at a place of forgiveness. I hope with these insights, you’ll begin to cultivate a deep compassion for every part of yourself: your past, who you are now, and the strong, authentic person you are becoming.

The True Nature Of Compassion 

When we begin changing our relationship with alcohol, we might be told to have compassion for ourselves. But what does that really mean?

Although the term compassion is often used broadly, it’s actually a very complex concept. Put in the simplest terms, compassion means having a strong sense of someone’s suffering and tangibly expressing love for that person. How might we come to practice this process with the people in our lives, including ourselves, as we work to change our relationship with alcohol?

Understanding the effects of alcohol provides an important perspective. 

person and sky

Alcohol Inhibits Our Most Compassionate Selves

It’s important to remember that alcohol use disorder is a medical condition. AUD is characterized by drinking more than you want, for longer than you want. When we fall on the spectrum of AUD, or otherwise develop unhealthy drinking behavior, we may not be able to recognize it’s harmful effects. 

Alcohol is a sedative, and our brains can develop a chemical dependence on it. We are unable to access our true emotions, especially feelings of guilt and shame. This often makes us unable to authentically reflect on how we feel about our drinking behavior, and its impact on our loved ones. Alcohol can become our go-to form of self care, instead of other means of self soothing, growth, and healing. 

Managing your drinking through quarantine

Managing your drinking can be especially challenging during times of heightened stress and isolation. Join the discussion about how to moderate your drinking or stay sober through quarantine.
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Two Keys To Unlocking Self-Compassion

Processing Emotions With Kindness and Support

Once we embark on a journey toward  sobriety or moderation, the veil of alcohol is lifted and we can begin to look back on our past behavior with fresh eyes. As I’ve come to know through my patients, this can be an incredibly overwhelming experience, and we have to be kind to ourselves in the process. With grace, we can say, “if I had not been inebriated, I would not have done these things”. We can understand our behavior didn’t come from our truest self, or the authentic person we are now becoming. In self-reflection the content of our internal dialogue becomes critically important, and must include statements of self-compassion. Remind yourself that change really is possible. Recognize and understand that if you’re willing to reach out, you have all the support necessary to make a change. 

Person and lake

One of the most effective ways to process feelings and cultivate compassion is to engage in the work of recovery with others, such as in specialized alcohol therapy and therapist-moderated alcohol support groups. Evidence-based treatment, like medication to stop drinking, is proven to help people reach their goals for a life without or with less alcohol. 

Repairing Relationships With Ourselves and Others

With the help of a support system and Care Team, we can unravel the harm imposed by our drinking and take action with a new perspective. A great place to begin is repairing relationships harmed by our past drinking behavior.

This is a useful exercise because it helps us face all of the uncomfortable emotions (that may have kept us drinking) from a rational perspective. Take account of what harm might have been done, and what steps can be taken to restore trust. Self-compassion in this case requires action and a willingness to face what we may have previously been unable to see. Being vulnerable with our feelings can provide great relief. We start to heal from shame and guilt and hold more space for love and forgiveness within ourselves. Anytime we are willing to say “I am sorry” we can find relief, and heal from the impact alcohol use disorder had on our relationships with others and ourselves. 

couple holding hands

Compassion can be a hard concept to fully grasp, and especially difficult to cultivate when we are first experiencing sobriety or moderation. Through peer support, specialized care, and a clearer understanding of how alcohol was affecting us, we can begin to develop healthier relationships. Addressing any harm done is an effective way to heal our past selves, harness the power of our present selves, and honor the values of the person we are becoming. Most importantly, we must remember that we are human and deserving of compassion: then, now, and always.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

How To Tell Your Family You’re Not Drinking During a Holiday

Making the choice to change your drinking is an incredibly meaningful step, and one to be proud of. Perhaps because of family dynamics or our culture surrounding alcohol, you may feel hesitant to share your decision with your loved ones. Taking a step back to think about how we all have different relationships with alcohol may help you start the  conversation. With time and authentic communication, you will be able to share, and even celebrate, your path with your loved ones. Remember, your decision to change your drinking is your own, and regardless of anyone’s perception of your choice, there are always resources and a supportive community to turn to. We’re here for you.

Reflect On Where You Are  

Connecting with family and friends through holiday rituals is often a treasured experience. However, the combination of increased temptation to drink, and the potential of facing questions about your drinking can naturally begin to attach anxiety to these events. Assess where you are with yourself, and if you’re ready to put your goals into practice in a holiday setting. Our resources ‘How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much’? and My Family Gets Drunk During The Holidays, Now What?’ may help you in your reflection. Taking space away could be the best way to maintain your goals and nurture your mental health. There is nothing wrong with putting your wellbeing first. The holidays may also present a special opportunity to share how you’re cultivating a new relationship with alcohol with those close to you. Fostering a mutual understanding may take time and vulnerability, but choosing to open up is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and others. 

Understand We All Have Different Relationships With Alcohol 

Drinking alcoholic beverages is a habit. And humans like their habits. Consider what your habits and routines bring to your life. Often a sense of comfort and security accompany our closely held routines and this increases the importance of them. How alcohol shows up as a habit is different for everybody. Some people can naturally develop a healthy relationship with alcohol, and may not initially understand reasons for abstaining or purposefully moderating. Other people, especially those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol themselves, may respond negatively to the notion of cutting back. Perhaps you too have felt this way in the past. It might be worthwhile to reflect on why they might react that way. Understanding another’s perspective can help create distance from the possibility of criticism. Others’ reactions often have more to do with themselves than with you. 

Managing your drinking through quarantine

Managing your drinking can be especially challenging during times of heightened stress and isolation. Join the discussion about how to moderate your drinking or stay sober through quarantine.
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You’re on a mission to change your life, and it likely means a lot to you that others will support and grasp the significance of the change. The more we let others in, the better they will understand why we’ve made the choices that we have. That process may take time, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Join one of our therapist-moderated alcohol support groups to connect with others who can relate to your experience. There are lots of questions about drinking less this holiday, and our community can provide first-hand answers. 

holiday dinner table

Prepare For The Conversation 

Think about what you want to say ahead of time. You’ll feel more prepared and confident. Starting  the conversation might sound like this: “I’ve decided to change my drinking behavior. I’m doing this for my health and also because I want to rebuild my self confidence and learn to fully love myself again. I’m asking for your support, not necessarily your approval, but if you want to offer that that would mean a lot to me. I know you must have lots of questions and I will answer them the best way I know how. I’ll join you in holiday celebrations, but I won’t be drinking alcohol.” It doesn’t hurt to practice this on your own until you have confidence in your statement. Consider what you genuinely want them to know. Whatever words feel natural are the right ones. Find a calm time to have the conversation, before the festivities kick off. 

Then … have the talk! Here are more tactical therapist tips about how to navigate this important conversation. 

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself what you are ready to share with your family, and if you can be around holiday drinking. The best solution however, might be honesty. Hold tight to your values about sobriety or moderation, and deflect any criticisms or debate. No matter who you share it with, changing your relationship with alcohol is a major point of pride, that is well worth taking the time to rejoice in.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

winter berries

How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much?

winter berries

Let’s face it; the holidays, especially the winter holidays, can be tough. People are tired, stressed, and spending… and overspending. Not to mention, the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have created a demanding new reality for all of us. When it comes to a desire to drink less or abstain, you may run into a complex set of obstacles. However, you can overcome them. 

Every person has a unique relationship with alcohol and because of that, there is no universal answer or number for how much holiday drinking is too much. While generally recognized guidelines (one drink a day for women, two for men) provide a broad recommendation for year-round limits, they don’t account for the biological, physcological, or social stressors that might be at play, and how they can affect your relationship with alcohol.

Through self-reflection, resources, and support, a clearer picture of your drinking habits will form. And ultimately, you’ll be able to answer ‘How much drinking is too much for me?’ on your own terms. Here’s how to begin that process. 

Let’s look back with compassion.

Oftentimes, we are nervous to look deeply at ourselves, and the reasons we drink. This is natural, as it can be a painful process. One of the most helpful tools for making a change is identifying and labeling your past and present emotions. Building this awareness will encourage an even stronger determination toward your goal. 

Let’s reflect on the last time you drank more than you wanted to around the holidays. Look back with honesty and kindness. Know that you’re already progressing toward something better by making it here.

If you can, try to recall the event from the very beginning: the environment (even including the weather), the location, and the other people there. Next, discern your emotional perspective: were you sad, joyful, lonely, or energized? I encourage you, if it’s helpful, to write these details out on paper. Putting pen to pad can be an incredibly effective way to access and process past experiences (particularly complicated ones).

Outdoor meal

Ask yourself the hard questions.

Oftentimes, you can arrive at the answers yourself. However, many of us also benefit from extra support. I recommend that you explore your alcohol therapy options. Industry-leading methodologies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Contingency Management are clinically proven to help folks assess their drinking behaviors — both past and present. 

Now, as you examine your past behavior with alcohol, explore what your expectations were: 

  • What needed fulfillment?
  • Were you expecting camaraderie or friendship; did you feel like you had to keep up with everybody? 
  • Did you need soothing or support? 
  • Were you looking for fun or to check out?
  • Did you pace yourself or drink quickly?
  • Did you skip opportunities to eat or drink other non-alcoholic beverages?

These questions will help you reflect candidly on your drinking behavior. Retracing your alcohol use over the course of the night will prepare you for the next holiday event, where you can implement your new goals for yourself. 

Holiday Group: Getting Through Today Without Drinking

The holidays can be filled with joy, loneliness, pressure to drink, and more. Your feelings are valid. Join us for an encouraging conversation about how to get through today without alcohol.
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Perhaps the most significant issue to contemplate as you get ready for future holidays, moderating or abstaining, is to think about the consequences of your alcohol use. As you do, you will likely find yourself gaining an understanding of how much alcohol is best for you to consume — if any. Ask yourself:

  • How much did I drink? 
  • Did I truly enjoy myself?
  • Did I act in a way that matches my values?  
  • Did I travel safely?
  • Did I become angry, depressed, or anxious?
  • Did I disregard my own good intentions? 
  • Did I harm others in a direct or indirect way?
  • Did I become ill? Did I continue to drink thereafter?

person in the snow

Ultimately, the amount we drink or the decision to abstain rests with every individual. As you contemplate these tough questions, you will also encounter your own innate wisdom for a healthy lifestyle, and what a healthy relationship with alcohol looks like for you. With some early preparation and a firm commitment to change your drinking habits, it is absolutely feasible to stick to your plan. I have no doubt! 

Remember, you’re not navigating this alone. Reach out to your support network, read more about family holiday drinking, come to one of our online therapist-moderated alcohol support groups, and explore how Monument can help you with medication to stop drinking, and alcohol therapy treatment. We’re here for you. 

This holiday, treat your drinking intentions as top priority. As you begin to evaluate your drinking patterns, you can reinforce your motivation and understand, from within, exactly why you’re sober or drinking less this year. And that’s something to be proud of.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.