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How To Use Mindful Drinking To Change Your Relationship With Alcohol

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How many times in a day do we really notice what we’re doing? Our daily routines can become so habitual that we go on ‘autopilot’ mode and start reacting from our unconscious pathways instead of being fully engaged. While subconscious repetition can be helpful at times, it can also keep us feeling stuck in our ways. This is especially relevant when it comes to our drinking habits. 

If your drinking habits feel so deeply ingrained in your routine to the point where it feels impossible to change, you are not alone. It’s important to remember that drinking is something we do, but not who we are. Even what feels like “automatic” drinking habits can be changed. An incredibly powerful practice for overriding your subconscious instincts is actively turning mindless drinking into mindful drinking

What is mindful drinking?

With the rise of the sober curious movement and the mindful drinking trend, you may have heard this term before. Mindful drinking is the ability to observe one’s relationship with alcohol objectively and with deliberate curiosity. It’s the process of actively being aware of the amount of alcohol you consume and your motivation for drinking. Some people use mindful drinking in order to moderate drinking, while others use mindful drinking as a stepping stone in their journey towards abstinence.

If you’re not sure what your long-term goal is yet, that’s okay. Mindful drinking is a great way to start reflecting on your relationship with alcohol, and clarifying how you want alcohol to show up or not show up in your life. Growing this awareness can both illuminate your path forward, and strengthen your trust in your ability to reach your goals.

woman doing yoga on a rock

Tips on how to drink mindfully 

Examine the “what’s” and “how’s”

In any mindfulness practice, two very valuable components involve examining the “what’s” and “how’s” of the moment. For example, as you are reading this article,

  • The “what’s” are made up of everything you are noticing in the process (i.e. feeling tired, absorbing as much information as you can, thinking about what you’re going to prepare for lunch). 
  • The “how’s” are the ways the “what’s” are manifesting in yourself or the environment around you (i.e. eyes are heavy, writing notes down, listening to what your body is craving). 

The next time you are about to drink an alcoholic drink, consider the “what’s” and “how’s” to better assess what is going on for you at that moment and how it might be impacting your desire to drink. I would encourage you to try this check-in before every single alcoholic drink you are about to consume and take note of any changes in your thoughts as a result.

Oftentimes describing the “what’s” and “how’s” of the moment can lead to asking yourself; What might I want to be doing instead? How can I best care for myself right now? Is this next glass of beer or wine going to be something I enjoy? In essence, you can start to listen to your inner voice and genuine needs.

Group Meditation and Mindfulness Practice

From reducing stress and cravings to improving overall mood, mindfulness and meditation can play a meaningful role in changing your relationship with alcohol. Join this weekly guided meditation session to practice in a group environment, and gain mindfulness tips for everyday life.
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Create a mantra

Another trick is to create a mantra that can act as an “ah-ha” signal that you are ready to “tune in to” the present. A grounding mantra can help create a mindful moment, and allow you to make decisions that are aligned with your truest self. Phrases like “I am here” or “be where your feet are” can cue your brain to observe the situation, connect to your breath, and shift from that auto-pilot mode into powerful consciousness. I’ve also had patients reiterate these mantras with physical reminders around their home, including post-it notes and magnets. 

Immerse in the entirety of your experience

Actively engaging your five senses is another helpful mindfulness practice. This can mean managing cravings by submerging your senses in alternative forms of sensory behavior (i.e. sipping on alcohol alternatives like alcohol free drinks, lighting a relaxing candle, or going on a walk). If you’re trying to drink in moderation, it can also mean closely and intentionally observing the drinking experience itself with your five senses. 

Why intentional observation works to help reduce alcohol consumption is similar to the studies done with people trying to reduce smoking. The participants were asked to spend a few minutes holding the cigarette before using it. The more time they spent examining it, touching it, smelling it, soaking in what it looked like and how their body reacted to just observing it, the less likely they were to light it, and if they did light it, they stopped at that one or had significantly less than they would. 

Two friends sitting by the water together

Keep a journal 

All of the above mindful drinking tools can be further solidified through journaling. A journaling practice may include:

  • Writing down your daily mantra before saying it aloud
  • Noting the ‘whats and hows’ of your situation
  • Recording your observations

In addition to these mindfulness practices, it can also be helpful to record your alcohol consumption. If you’re looking to reduce your consumption and become a more mindful drinker, recording drinks per day can help you reflect on your patterns, identify triggers, and track progress over time. Keeping a journal or log is also a best practice in specialized online alcohol therapy, where you’re encouraged to share these insights with your Care Team to align on goals and next steps.

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Incorporating mindful drinking into your own journey

We all have different reasons for cultivating mindfulness. For some, moving from mindless drinking to mindful drinking is about setting an ideal amount to consume and noting all the emotions, thoughts, and sensations that arise when trying to complete that plan. For others, mindfulness is used as a tool for recognizing triggers and managing cravings by becoming grounded in their “why” for abstaining. 

Like any coping skill, it’s best to put it into action during moments of relative ‘normalcy’. Practicing ‘while the kettle is cold’ allows for the muscle memory to develop so that mindfulness can be a go-to tool during challenging moments. That’s why it’s a great idea to incorporate mindfulness into your routine. You can even make it a game. Try to catch yourself disengaging and take a deep breath, or see if you can notice a certain object or color throughout your day. These are just some small ways to exercise your mindfulness “muscles” and break out of “autopilot” mode. Over time, the mindful drinking trend may become a part of your daily routine.

If you’re looking for a place to start, try following this guided mindful drinking meditation I recorded.

Rewarding benefits of mindful drinking

Mindful drinking not only allows you to better understand your relationship with alcohol, but also serves as a holistic self-care practice, creating neural pathways that benefit your overall mood and wellbeing. 

Mindfulness has been studied extensively for its benefits. Key benefits include: 

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved circulation
  • Boosted immune system

I get to witness the benefits of mindfulness firsthand as the therapist moderator of a free, weekly support group on the Monument platform dedicated to this topic. Many members of the group have shared that they have gained the necessary skills not just for reducing their alcohol intake, but for starting to understand what was under the surface of their desire to drink. They become better equipped to respond to their emotional needs rather than react to their initial impulse to drink. It is truly inspiring!

Of course everyone’s journey is different, but the more you explore mindfulness in a way that feels right for you, the more it can be something you genuinely can look forward to doing. 

This was my first Meditation/Mindfulness Monday, and I loved it. Felt restored and calm after the first practice. I am going to try to attend regularly... Very impressed and hopeful. - Monument Member

Changing your relationship with alcohol with Monument

If mindful drinking sounds like a major jump to make alone, that’s completely understandable. There are experts ready and eager to guide you throughout your journey. Engaging in online alcohol treatment can be incredibly helpful for making progress towards your goals. In online alcohol therapy, you can work together with a specialized therapist to identify exactly what mindful drinking might look like for you on your unique journey.

Monument also offers personalized physician care and medication to stop drinking, free therapist-moderated support groups, and a 24/7 anonymous community chat. Exploring your options and discussing your experience with others can provide tremendous empowerment as you start becoming more aware of your current relationship with alcohol and the changes you’d like to make.

Silhouette of man sitting by sunset

While it can be challenging to begin a mindful drinking practice, your work will be worth it. Not only does mindfulness allow you to examine the context for your drinking in a present-minded state, but it can also serve as the starting point of an invaluable tool for your overall self-care. If you’re not sure where to start, consider attending one of my mindfulness support group sessions. Join with your camera on or off. You are always welcome. 

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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.
young couple hugging

The Relationship Between Alcohol & Chronic Pain

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A common misconception about chronic pain is that it only affects our physical health. However, a chronic pain condition can significantly impact how we move through the world and influence all dimensions of our wellbeing. It can also affect our relationship with alcohol. If you’re navigating chronic pain and unhealthy alcohol use, you are not alone. Simultaneously addressing both conditions is possible and often requires looking beyond immediate physical sensations. Let’s dive into why alcohol misuse and chronic pain commonly co-exist, and explore steps you can take to feel better. 

Identifying chronic pain 

Chronic pain usually refers to long-lasting pain that continues beyond a recovery period of 3-to-6 months. Chronic pain may be caused by an initial injury, or occur alongside a chronic health condition. Recognizing chronic pain can be a process of trusting the messages your body is giving you, especially if the initial trigger for your pain is no longer present. This does not mean the pain is not real. In fact, it’s indicative that what you’re feeling needs more time to heal. Understanding and addressing the complexities of chronic pain will provide relief and lead to a higher quality of life. One of those insights involves recognizing the impact alcohol has on your chronic pain, and vice versa.  

side profile of woman smiling

The risks of using alcohol to cope with pain 

When confronted with emotional and/or physical pain, alcohol can provide short-term relief, but ultimately has long-term consequences. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, recent studies suggest that around 1 in 4 adults who experience chronic pain report self-medicating with alcohol, and 43–73 percent of people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) report experiencing chronic pain.¹

Drinking is known to numb the excitatory response of the nervous system, causing a temporary soothing effect and feeling of pain relief. However, studies have shown that for alcohol to reach the medical levels of pain moderation, one would typically have to consume much more than what’s considered healthy alcohol consumption by the CDC². This excessive alcohol consumption can be a sign of alcohol use disorder, and put individuals at risk of developing physical alcohol dependence

Furthermore, using alcohol to self-soothe can cause issues with:

  • Memory
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Sleep
  • Vitamin levels 

Deficiencies in vitamins, like thiamine, reduce your body’s ability to maintain healthy cell development. Moreover, alcohol can also have harmful interactions with both prescription and over-the-counter medications, leading to exacerbated chronic pain symptoms over time. While the short term may give you a “feeling” of pain relief, the long term effects can increase your pain severity.

There is no shame in having used alcohol as a coping mechanism. Many people drink to soothe uncomfortable feelings, whether those are psychological (ex. anxiety symptoms or depressive thoughts), physical (ex. chronic pain symptoms), or a combination of both. The persistent difficulty and demands of managing a chronic illness can be incredibly challenging, and seeking relief is only human. As I often witness with my clients, learning more about how drinking habits affect overall wellness can be incredibly empowering, and lead to both finding self-forgiveness, and adopting new forms of self-soothing. 

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How to manage chronic pain without alcohol

Build a self-care practice 

When working with patients with a chronic pain condition, I always recommend creating a self-care plan. It may not seem appealing at first, but dedicating a small portion of your routine to stress and pain reduction can have long-term benefits for your overall health. Stress has been found to intensify chronic pain symptoms, which is why stress management is a core component of caring for your health and wellness. 

A self-care plan may include:

  • Identifying your pain signals and warning signs of potential flare-ups and preparing an action plan when they do occur
  • Engaging in hobbies, eating habits, and forms of exercise that promote physical and mental health
  • Prioritizing stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, baths, and other comforts
  • Establishing an alcohol-free nighttime routine and maintaining a regular sleep schedule 
  • Recognizing loved ones you can reach out to when you need support and utilizing them whenever necessary
  • Consulting with trusted medical professionals when exhibiting chronic pain symptoms


Your selfcare plan can evolve and grow, and it’s okay to start small. This plan might look like incorporating things like stress relief, nutrition, and hydration into your daily rituals. I also always make a case for developing a meditation practice, which is helpful in soothing the emotional pain and distress that may accompany physical pain. Mindfulness can significantly improve nervous system regulation and make all other self-care steps more achievable. If you’re looking for a place to start, join me in the free support group I lead dedicated to exploring mindfulness. Adopting one self-care habit can set the stage for overall healing. All of this can be done gradually and is often more effective when built in incremental steps. 

man posing by flowers

Seek support through expert care 

In addition to selfcare, I also recommend exploring external support for accountability, guidance, and encouragement. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if pain medication for pain management is appropriate for you. Additionally, consider these components of online alcohol treatment, which can help you address chronic pain and drinking habits simultaneously:

  • Physician care: A physician can review your medical history and help you formulate a treatment plan that aligns with your specific needs. That may include medication to stop drinking, among other recommendations about how to reach your goals. 
  • Therapy: Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism for chronic pain, and treatment can help you build new tools. Cognitivebehavioral therapy is especially helpful in revealing the inner-wisdom you already possess about how to manage alcohol cravings and building skills to tolerate negative feelings. Your therapist will build a curriculum specific to you and your needs.
  • Community support: Hearing from others navigating chronic pain and sobriety or moderation can provide relief and encouragement. You can join us for our free, therapist-moderated support group: “Changing your relationship with alcohol while managing chronic pain,” and discuss topics such as distress tolerance, what ‘emotional sobriety’ means to you, and so much more.

elderly couple hugging with flowers

Your journey changing your relationship with alcohol and managing chronic pain will be enriched when shared and experienced with others. There’s truth in the saying,when you heal, I heal.” Adopting a sobriety or moderation goal can afford you the space and energy to find a long-term chronic pain management plan that works for you. One of the hardest truths to accept in any chronic pain journey is that healing is a lifelong process. We have to grieve what we once had, and can celebrate what’s to come. With time, those with chronic pain often find that a new appreciation for life emerges. This gratitude is found not just in what it means to “be able” to do something but also in allowing things to be just as they are. We’re here to help you get there. 

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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.

Sources: 

  1. https://niaaa.scienceblog.com/231/the-complex-relationship-between-alcohol-and-pain/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711399/ 
  3. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/using-alcohol-to-relieve-your-pain 
mom and daughter sitting together

How a Parent’s Drinking Can Affect a Child

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Let’s start with an important reminder. Your relationship with alcohol is not a reflection of your love for your family, and working to make a change is incredibly admirable. If you’ve struggled to manage your drinking while parenting, you may be wondering specifically how a parent’s drinking patterns can impact a child. While the thought of your own struggles affecting your loved ones can be incredibly difficult to face, I often encourage my patients to keep their relationship with their child close at heart while they work to change their alcohol consumption through sobriety or moderation. This is not to instill guilt, but to provide purpose and empowerment as you navigate the changes you’d like to make for yourself and your family. It’s my hope that by reading this article you will better understand how a parent’s drinking habits can affect a child, and learn steps you can take to help your family move forward in a healthy and connected way. 

How exposure to alcohol use disorder can affect children

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by drinking more than you want and for longer than you want, despite wanting to cut down. AUD is not a moral failing, and it can be treated with evidence-based care. Despite anyone’s best intentions, those close to someone with AUD, whether that’s a young child or older adult, can be significantly affected by their drinking. Children, in particular, face a unique set of challenges. 

One of the largest studies done on childhood trauma is called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, or ACES study. This study followed over ten thousand individuals throughout their lifetime, gathering information on their health. A correlation was made between the amount of toxic stress experienced from ages 0-17 and an individual’s health outcomes. Having a parent with alcohol use disorder was one factor of adverse childhood experiences included in the study. This study illuminated that being a child of a parent with a substance use disorder can increase the likelihood of physical and mental health problems (largely due to genetic and learned behavioral factors). 

Mom and daughter hugging

Depending on how many factors an individual listed, a young person was more likely to later encounter challenges such as depression, anxiety, or experiencing a substance use disorder themselves. Stressors faced in childhood are also closely associated with the development of one’s attachment style, which is the way someone connects with others throughout their lifetime. 

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Understanding attachment styles 

Attachment patterns are influenced by the distance or attention caregivers provide to a child’s needs. The four major attachment styles are:

  1. Anxious
  2. Avoidant-dismissive
  3. Avoidant-fearful
  4. Secure

Anxious attachment

An anxious attachment is typically indicative of a fear of abandonment due to inconsistency in parenting. 

Avoidant-dismissive attachment

Avoidant-dismissive attachment is characterized by fear of intimacy, commonly driven by a parent being distant or unable to fully validate their child’s needs.  

Avoidant-fearful attachment

Avoidant-fearful attachment forms with inconsistent and sometimes fear-based parenting. 

Secure attachment

A secure attachment is one where most of a child’s needs and emotions are validated and attended to. A secure attachment translates into more trusting relationships in the future, increased self-esteem, and an overall ability to regulate emotions and take care of oneself. 

Attachment styles characterized by unmet needs and abandonment can influence the likelihood of an individual developing AUD. If you’re navigating alcohol use disorder, that doesn’t mean your children will necessarily develop any of the above attachment styles, or that responsible drinking isn’t attainable for them. However, any unhealthy drinking behavior can consume our time, energy, and attention, and can create distance between ourselves and the people we love the most. If that rings true to you, you are not alone. 

Father and son walking holding hands

How to start building a more secure attachment

It’s important to remember that none of this is irreversible. As a parent you can take steps to assess and address any potential strains in attachment that have been linked to your drinking habits. Inevitably, this usually leads to the realization of needing to assess your own attachment style and “reparenting” yourself by building a more secure understanding of your own needs. 

If you catch yourself resenting an aspect of what your child receives from you or another loved one, this is often a cue to reflect on your own childhood memories and learned behavior. This may mean facing unmet needs from your caregivers, recognizing what you have not felt safe to fully experience as a young child, and rebuilding confidence in how well you were able to overcome challenges. In online alcohol therapy, a specialized therapist can help you identify how your experiences have shaped your life, and how to manage your needs and emotions while changing your relationship with alcohol. Cultivating a sense of self-forgiveness in recovery can be a powerful way to reconcile with your past actions, and understand what may have influenced them. Once you start a journey of self-reflection and reconciliation, you become more free to explore who you really want to be as a parent. It also allows you to model unconditional love (including self-love), and create an environment where it feels safe to make mistakes and persevere. 

Many parents have navigated these same questions and challenges when drinking alcohol, and throughout their sobriety or moderation journey. Hearing others’ stories about how drinking alcohol impacted their parenting and how they made a change can provide relief and motivation. Monument contributor Celeste Yvonne shared how she navigates wine mom culture without wine, with tips including how to replace an alcoholic beverage with alcohol alternatives and how to prioritize your own needs. You are not alone. 

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Answering your child’s questions 

As you continue to work on understanding your relationship with alcohol, you will gain greater clarity into your ‘why.’ However, these complex, interconnected influences can be challenging for children to grasp. Throughout my years of working with families, I’ve identified common patterns of questions that children, at all stages of development, have about their parents’ relationship with alcohol. Answering these questions can provide reassurance and enable collective healing. Common questions include: What can I do to help? Will things ever change? Is there something I did wrong for my parent to feel they need to drink more? Will they always need to drink? How will I know I can trust they’ll be there when I need them? 

Every parent wants their child to know they can count on them for a sense of safety and trust, so these are hard questions to confront. That said, there can be several long-term impacts to a child’s emotional development if these questions about parental drinking are not discussed. When you’re ready to address your child’s questions, it can be incredibly helpful to have family therapy sessions or prepare with your own therapist ahead of time. If this is not feasible at this time, know that the greatest healing comes from taking ownership of your own health, validating your child’s emotions, and coming up with collaborative next steps for what skills or activities of self care in recovery you can practice individually and together. Creating a space where everyone can voice their emotions, especially when shame, blame, or guilt arises, is so vital for the overall health of the family system. Establishing boundaries is also crucial. This means taking ownership of your own body and health, while modeling ways your child can collaborate on shared healthy habits. This balance reduces the risk of your child feeling isolated, helpless, or left to take on the responsibilities of the parent. 

family walking together on the beach

How stigma influences treatment 

From my clinical practice, I have come to find that those who have a family history of AUD often have an increased sense of stigma around their struggle to find care, because they have previously associated it with something morally wrong. They may have sought out support sooner if they did not have the extra stigma from their past experiences of witnessing loved ones struggle without proper tools to heal. That said, many come to find through their treatment journey that they have not only healed themselves and their younger selves, but have had a positive impact on loved ones who start to seek treatment as well. Never underestimate how much your self-care impacts everyone around you. Especially as a parent, you can break the cycle and heal the generations of the past, while also being a role model for the generations to come. 

two moms and daughter talking together in a park

It takes a village to raise a child, and there is no shame in needing support to change your relationship with alcohol. There’s community and expert resources to get your drinking habits and relationships to where you want them to be and our online alcohol treatment is available whenever you need it. Having the courage to reflect on your habits and envision a better life for yourself requires a tremendous amount of determination, vulnerability, and bravery. What could be a greater gift to your child than to set that example?

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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.

 

Sources:

Ainsworth, M. S., & Bowlby, J. (1991). An ethological approach to personality development. American Psychologist, 46(4), 333–341. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.46.4.333

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2Facestudy%2Ffastfact.html

Tsabary, S. (2010). The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children. 

https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.53.8.1001

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What Is ‘Emotional Sobriety’?

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If you’re reading this, it’s possible you’ve heard the term “emotional sobriety” before and are wondering how to achieve it. At Monument, we empower you to change your relationship with alcohol, whatever that means to you. You may have alcohol-reduction goals like sustaining lasting sobriety or drinking in moderation. You may also have lifestyle and wellness goals like improving physical health, showing up more fully for friends and family, or getting ahead at work. All of those goals are valid and something to be extremely proud of. 

So, where does emotional sobriety come into play?

Some define emotional sobriety as no longer feeling the emotions that trigger alcohol cravings. For others, it represents the progress that comes from long-term sobriety.  At Monument, we don’t believe emotional sobriety is a box you check off or a finite milestone. We recognize sobriety is a non-linear journey and that there’s no single moment of achieving either sobriety or ’emotional sobriety.’ However, the concept can be helpful in understanding the psychology of recovery and providing actionable insights about coping with cravings and tolerating intense emotions. I’m here to share a bit about the origin of this term and why emotional regulation is a crucial component of building healthier habits. 

Why do we hear about the difference between emotional and physical sobriety?

As you explore the meaning of sobriety, you’ll notice that making the distinction between emotional and physical sobriety is common in traditional recovery programs. These programs often describe ‘emotional sobriety’ as the ability to manage  the emotions that lead to a desire to drink in order to eliminate cravings and remain abstinent. 

Under the traditional definition, this would mean that if you haven’t consumed alcohol for an extended period of time, you are physically sober. However, if you were still experiencing cravings, you may not have achieved ‘emotional sobriety.’ This definition may motivate some because it encourages them to address the emotional influences on their drinking. However, focusing only on emotion-based cravings overlooks all of the other biopsychosocial factors involved in alcohol use. 

There are many other dimensions of your wellness outside of your physical and emotional wellness, including environmental, social, spiritual, vocational, and many more. While emotional sobriety acknowledges one dimension of our wellness, recognizing the other influences gives us a more complete awareness of our relationship with alcohol and the path towards changing it. 

Man breathing by riverfront

Also, traditional concepts of ‘emotional sobriety’ often don’t fully encompass that recovery is a non-linear journey. For example, you can be meeting your goals in reducing or eliminating alcohol from your life and still experience alcohol cravings. There is absolutely no shame in that. In fact, there’s a scientific reason why we crave alcohol, which is more complex than being in tune with your emotional needs. 

Alcohol releases ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters that create associations between alcohol and pleasure in your brain. While this may sound positive, this chemical interaction can ultimately reduce the levels of these neurotransmitters and intensify negative feelings. Gradually readjusting your body’s natural production of its pleasure neurotransmitters is a complex process. Regulating alcohol cravings isn’t a matter of sheer willpower, and it often involves both an environmental and medical approach based on your unique needs and goals. 

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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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How can we get more comfortable with our emotions? 

While emotional regulation isn’t the sole driver behind building healthier habits, it is a very important component. When my clients ask me how to get more comfortable with their emotions or address emotional pain that they cope with using alcohol, I begin with this advice: start small. I encourage them to take note of how they embody their emotions and feelings via their word choice. Phrases like “I am anxious, angry, sad…” all assert a permanent emotional experience. What if we looked at it from the lens of fleeting truths? For example, “anxiety, anger, sadness are here”? Or “I feel anxious, angry, sad right now…” It may initially feel like such a slight difference in our dialogue, but it can serve as a helpful reminder that these feelings are just guests in our body, trying to help us adapt to the situations in front of us.  

Man on street

Why is it important to address negative emotions?

There’s a phrase I often use in my therapy practice: what is suppressed gets expressed.”

When our sympathetic nervous system (commonly known as for the  ‘fight or flight response’) is activated in moments of stress, we typically don’t feel safe to fully explore our emotions. Instead, we tend to distract ourselves with external sources of soothing. While this strategy may work temporarily, the reality is that tension is still stored in our body and will likely show up again when similar triggers arise. Suppression is like any other defense mechanism: valuable in the short-term, but unsustainable and unhealthy in the long-term. This is especially relevant in the relationship between PTSD and alcohol use and the suppression of past traumas. To build long-term healthy habits, we have to learn to manage and process our negative emotions. This concept is known as “distress tolerance.” 

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Exploring negative emotions doesn’t mean you have to revisit all of your past negative experiences or trauma or take constant inventory of what is going on in your body. It means developing an ongoing practice of checking in on yourself: accepting the presence of unwanted emotions, noting where they are embodied in your physical state, and releasing the physical tension as much as possible so that it’s not harbored over time. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, Qi Gong, and any other form of bilateral movement are helpful tools for resetting the nervous system in moments of stress. These activities can increase awareness of your experiences and activate the flow of energy needed for developing emotional regulation in sobriety. If you’re interested in learning about mindfulness in the context of emotional regulation, I’d love for you to join my free support group on the topic. 

It’s also important to note that you’re not expected to learn how to process negative emotions on your own. Online alcohol treatment is a powerful tool for developing these skills, building new coping mechanisms, and so much more. Therapy can also help address mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which very commonly co-occur alongside alcohol use disorder. Like other health conditions, mental health conditions and alcohol use disorder can be treated with evidence-based care. 

Woman meditating on mountain

Whatever your journey looks like, it is valid, and you are deserving of support. Whatever labels (or lack thereof!), goals, and definitions feel most empowering for you is what you should take with you along your journey. Emotional sobriety is defined individually based on what increases your sense of curiosity, freedom, and peace as you distance yourself from alcohol. When you acknowledge what you are facing as fully as possible, you will be able to make the health decisions that align with your truest self. Reflecting on and sharing your emotional experience can cultivate a recovery journey of empowerment and accountability. And as a result, you will get to experience all of the emotional benefits of sobriety. Learning about this topic today is a meaningful step in itself, and I’m cheering you on.  

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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.

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How to Find Self-Forgiveness in Recovery

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man looking at woods

Embarking on a recovery journey of any kind is courageous and something to be proud of. Recovery can be challenging at times, which is why it requires perseverance and trust in oneself. It’s also why experts recommend engaging in treatment and accountability tools. A common phrase you’ll hear at Monument and in my support groups is ‘non-linear journey.’ This phrase describes the reality that you can be making significant progress and still experience setbacks. Although challenges are to be expected, it can sometimes feel like you are taking two steps forward and one step back. This experience can be discouraging and affect our trust in our ability to progress. To break this cycle, I encourage all of my clients to practice self-forgiveness. 

Self-forgiveness is a crucial tool for reframing experiences throughout the recovery journey as learning opportunities. It also serves as a tool for building sustainable growth that extends beyond changing your relationship with alcohol. More generally, it’s a great way to help practice self care in recovery. So, it’s easy to agree that self-forgiveness is a gift we all hope to give ourselves. The harder question is: how do we find it?

These are a few ways to start cultivating self-forgiveness in recovery as you continue to navigate your journey of sobriety or moderation. 

Challenge your thoughts 

When we’re in a cycle of self-blame, resentment, and shame, we’re likely navigating negative feelings and untrue thoughts about ourselves. Negative emotions may stem from co-occurring mental health conditions or trauma, and can hinder the healing process. They cause us to repeat fight or flight patterns if they’re not acknowledged and worked through to some extent. To address these thought patterns with a self-forgiveness mindset, I recommend using the T.H.I.N.K approach. T.H.I.N.K. is a mindfulness exercise for breaking down thought patterns and approaching the situation from a place of compassion. 

Stop and T.H.I.N.K. about these questions. Ask yourself, ‘Are these thoughts…’:

  • True?
  • Helpful?
  • Insightful?
  • Necessary?
  • Kind?

person on a dock

Take your time examining your thoughts through the lens of these questions. Try writing out your thoughts and then rewriting them without judgment, shame, or guilt. The goal is to reframe and sit with an experience in order to create an active awareness of what is really going on. 

Here are additional self-reflection questions to consider as you practice T.H.I.N.K.:

  • What evidence do you have that this negative thought is always true? Can you find any exceptions? 
  • If you’re feeling ashamed about a past action or past ‘mistakes’, what would be helpful to focus on to rectify what happened and take actionable steps to move forward?
  • What insights have you gathered from this experience? How have you gotten to know and accept yourself more fully in this process?
  • What do you need at this moment? What can you do to satisfy this need? 
  • Is this the kindest way you can make sense of who you are or what happened? 

Finding these new perspectives will enrich your understanding of how you respond to stressors. 

As I mentioned, T.H.I.N.K. is an exercise in mindfulness, something I recommend to all of my patients. (In fact, I lead a support group dedicated to mindfulness in recovery). When practicing mindfulness, you recenter yourself in the present moment. You can expand your awareness of what you are experiencing, listen to your mind and heart, and take action as your truest and most grounded self. 

Honor the “ands”

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a modality that is often used at Monument as part of a specialized alcohol therapy program. The premise of DBT is to embrace multiple truths at once and honor all parts of a situation. In the case of self-forgiveness, it means finding a way to both forgive yourself for whatever you have done and realize that you can do things differently. Common phrases in DBT work are: “I’m doing the best I can and I can do better” and “I can forgive myself and hold myself accountable for the changes I want to make.” You may want to try writing a few of these yourself to get comfortable with the “ands” of healing from a situation. 

Embracing opposing truths means holding them on the same plane, as opposed to invalidating one or the other. When we look at things as one or the other, we start thinking in black-and-white and shut ourselves off to all of the different possible outcomes. In recovery, this might look like experiencing a setback and then thinking, ‘oh, this setback means I’m not making progress.’ 

Instead, let’s honor the ‘and.’ That might look like recognizing the times you may have reverted to old drinking patterns and all times you’ve made new healthier choices. It means recognizing that drinking has been a way to cope and it also leads to negative side effects that are unsustainable for a happy, healthy life. It allows for both flexibility and boundary setting as you continue to learn about what works for you. 

person in mountains at morning

Recognize that it might take time

Just like how we can’t rush a loved one into automatically forgiving us for something, we can honor our own hesitations about practicing self-forgiveness. Noticing when this hesitation comes up is a helpful guide to understanding what emotions and experiences might need to be processed. Engaging in online alcohol treatment is a great way to work through these barriers to self-compassion and learn how to accept forgiveness from yourself. This, in turn, helps to change your relationship with alcohol. Your therapist can help you navigate these challenges and process complex emotions that arise along the way. Practicing self-forgiveness over time allows for a new pattern of thinking to develop alongside a new pattern of behavior, like sobriety or moderation. 

woman breathing

Self-forgiveness can be an amazing tool for overcoming obstacles and connecting with your genuine self. Reframing experiences as teachers instead of regrets can help illuminate our path to recovery and contribute to personal growth. When guilt or self-judgement arises, try to redirect your focus on small, consistent steps you can take to care for yourself and honor your goals. In moments of self-doubt, prove any negative thought you may have wrong and recommit to your journey. Forgiving yourself creates a powerful openness to new growth and honors all of the valuable progress you’ve already made.

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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.

Sources:

https://www.amazon.com/Expanded-Dialectical-Behavior-Therapy-Training/dp/1936128128

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QXG5HPH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Woman in sunglasses

7 Tips For Managing Your Drinking Post-Quarantine

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Woman in sunglasses

If you found yourself drinking more throughout the pandemic, you are not alone. Per a survey by the American Psychological Association, many people drank more to cope with this year of unprecedented stress. On the other hand, it’s also been a time of reflection, and many people have started re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol and seeking healthier coping mechanisms. I get to see this firsthand as a therapist on the Monument platform. Whether you have recently begun to cut back or abstain, or have been maintaining a goal long-term, it’s natural to feel some apprehension as a post-pandemic world appears on the horizon. You can be excited about turning this corner and anxious about what it will bring. Wherever you are in your journey, know that you’ve already come so far in making it to this point, and there is so much to be proud of. Keep these 7 insights in mind as you continue on into this next chapter.

1. Your boundaries are invaluable 

Develop a clear understanding of what changes you want to bring with you out of quarantine, including your goals for sobriety or moderation. Communicating these boundaries at home, work, and with friends will help you honor your needs and progress. Boundaries are also instrumental to establishing a sense of safety, and developing trust in yourself to not revert to old patterns. It can be difficult to speak up for our needs at first, but it significantly reduces the likelihood of them getting overlooked or not addressed. Chances are, others will greet us with empathy, grace and open dialogue.

Take a pacing approach and begin practicing this now. Start reaching out to a friend or coworker about your new drinking habits (or lack thereof!). Read these tips about going to your first party sober. Join one of our free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups to talk through your feelings about the world reopening. Taking action now will help reduce the looming feeling of “I don’t know where to begin”. 

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2. It’s important to embrace all the feelings

The transition out of quarantine is exciting for many reasons. However, it’s important to appreciate that change can be challenging, and if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, those feelings are 100% valid, too.  In a world where we’re often subject to ‘toxic positivity,’ we need to remember that all emotions are valuable. Give yourself space to see the “ands” in your life. For example: “I can be both relieved and worried”. Ultimately, acknowledging and validating your own experience will be the key to exploring the new opportunities of a post-pandemic world.

3. It’s okay to feel worse before you feel better

The effects of traumatic experiences, including the collective trauma of a global pandemic, can be intensified over time if not addressed. Uncomfortable feelings are a natural signal from our body that we are now ready to start processing our emotions and relieving that intensity. Engaging in alcohol therapy is an incredible tool for working through these challenges. You will feel better with time, and you deserve self-compassion and support along the way. 

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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4. You’ve made more progress than you might realize 

Most of the skills you’ve developed or are developing during the pandemic are transferable. A post-quarantine world does not mean “starting over”, it means building on the progress you’ve already made. You’ve likely discovered new things about yourself during this time, and have a richer understanding of what adds meaning to your life. These valuable lessons will help guide you as you navigate the future. 

Your body and mind have persevered under unthinkable circumstances. Your accomplishments this past year may look differently than what you expected, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been making progress. Simply surviving in times of crisis is productive, and working towards sobriety or moderation on top of that is incredibly meaningful. 

I'm doing the best I can and I can do better

5. You will discover all new benefits of drinking less

One of the many gifts of sobriety or moderation is that you get to authentically experience every new adventure and feeling. Remind yourself of this during both the highs and lows. You can even say to yourself “I’m doing this alcohol-free”, or “this is the part of my story where I feel more clarity” as a reminder of this benefit. Whatever feelings come up, embrace that you are now more present, grounded, and physically capable to take on the challenges, and fully appreciate the joys. 

6. Find your sources of calm, and allow for intense emotions to arise 

There are bound to be unforeseen challenges as the world opens back up. It’s beneficial to establish calming practices so we can ride the waves of anxiety and other emotions without getting overwhelmed. This might include breathwork, meditation, yoga, a calming hobby or other practices of self-care in recovery. When we re-center ourselves in the moment, we are more likely to find peace with our emotions and make decisions that align with who we really are and what we really want. That’s why I recommend mindfulness practices to anybody reevaluating their relationship with alcohol, or making any other kind of lifestyle change. When we take time to recognize and accept intense emotions we suffer less, learn more, and clear a path to the other side.

Confronting an intense emotion? Be AWARE: Accept the intense feeling by putting a name to it (ex. shame, overwhelm) Watch the intensity of the feeling and grade it on a scale of 1-10 Act as ‘normally’ as possible to let your body & mind know that it can manage this feeling Repeat the above steps as the emotion subsides Expect the best will come out of this practice, and know that this will pass

7. You can always cancel plans 

Holistic practitioner Dr. Will Cole termed the acronym JOMO, which stands for Joy Of Missing Out. This message is a helpful reminder that you do not need permission to do what you want to in order to relax, process your emotions, and maintain your sobriety or moderation goal. Loneliness and aloneness are two very different emotional experiences. Despite the excitement for socializing again, we may find we need more alone time than expected. Whatever comes up for you, it’s 100% valid. Whether in a group or by yourself, you have the opportunity to cultivate new, authentic ways of relaxing and celebrating.

In quarantine we discovered that we can still find joy, even through fear and sadness. Remember to savor the little things, practice being present when it matters, and share joy when you can. If you find it hard to be compassionate to yourself, start with giving it to others. 

We will not go back to normal, normal never was... we are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment, one that fits all of humanity and nature.
We will co-create the post-quarantine society as we go along. It’s not a return to how it was, it’s an opportunity for evolution. We each can play a role in changing the language around alcohol use & recovery, creating sober-friendly work environments, speaking openly about our relationship with alcohol, and celebrating sobriety and moderation in every corner of society. Whatever comes our way, we will navigate it together.

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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.

flowers and notepad

Love Languages Can Change in Sobriety, And That’s Okay

flowers and notepad

What makes you feel loved? Is it when your partner praises you for something that matters to you? Or is it when they take the time to put the phone down, and be fully present with you? Perhaps your love language is words of affirmation, or quality time. These are examples of the five love languages, a model created by Dr. Gary Chapman. These languages describe the different ways love can be communicated in a relationship.

The five love languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Acts of service
  • Gift giving

Of course we all thrive with a combination of the five, but we are drawn to some more than others. Love languages can be used to examine how you and your partner communicate your needs to each other, and how you can become more intimately connected. They can also give you important insight into how you can best give yourself love.

Chances are the love languages you have today are not the exact same as those from five years ago, or even last week. Life experiences, personal changes, and overall wellness factors impact how you care for yourself and your loved ones. It is hard to fully appreciate how much these languages can and will change over time, especially as you change your relationship with alcohol. So, how can you best express and receive love as you work towards sobriety or moderation?

A great place to start is by dispelling some common myths.

Embracing How Love Languages Can Change in A Relationship

Myth 1: I am burdening my partner with my changing needs.

Not wanting to impose changes on your loved one can make you feel hesitant to mention how your needs have shifted with your moderation or sobriety goals. There may have been a history of feeling like loved ones have “put up” with the unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and to ask for anything else would feel selfish. Let’s put debunk this myth with a few reality check questions:

  • Would it really be an imposition? Would needing more words of affirmation, for example, really be a detriment to your partner or loved ones? How would this be a “hardship” on them? Are there other underlying reasons you’re hesitant to make the ask?
  • Would you feel imposed on if they asked you the same request? Let’s say you’re looking for help in getting alcohol out of the house. (An act of service!) If you knew how much they were struggling, chances are you wouldn’t hesitate to support your partner in this way.

Reality: Giving your loved one the chance to show you their love is a sign that you trust and appreciate them. Your vulnerability is the strength you offer to make the relationship thrive.

couple holding hands

Myth 2: My partner should know my changing needs. They should automatically shift gears to align with them.

We often assume our partners must be mind-reading, never-ending sources of support. But if we take a step back, we can logically appreciate how our partners have their own minds and “should” only do what they are capable of in the moment.

I encourage everyone to ask themselves “how much do I rely on my partner for fueling my happiness tank?” Brainstorm ways you can regain your control of what fuels you. You can then fully accept and appreciate the love they give you as a partner (and not a dependent). Learning more about the signs of codependency may aid with this process.

Chances are you already have recognized the need to take back the steering wheel. Share that awareness with your loved one, so they have the freedom to start looking at how to develop their own self care too.

Reality: The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is listening to your own love languages.  They can only work with what you’re able to acknowledge as well.

Navigating relationship challenges while managing your drinking

Relationships are complex. And the challenges that come with changing your drinking can add additional complexity and stress. Join an honest discussion about cultivating healthy relationships through sobriety or moderation.
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Myth 3: We are both incapable of change and our love languages are just as immune to change. 

This may seem obviously untrue, but we often unknowingly fall into this fixed mindset. When we start feeling this way, perhaps it’s time to face some internalized messages of inadequacy and immobility. What were some personal experiences that kept you from accepting change as something natural, necessary, or valid? Has anything else in your life shifted you to the recognition that progress involves change? The same goes for the way we feel love. Remember you are allowed to change when you learn new information and evolve your understanding of what it means to love and be loved.

Reality: No different than your sobriety goals, your relationship goals thrive with a progress over perfection mindset. You are two beautifully messy people sharing your beautifully messy lives. Embrace this truth, celebrate your connection, and allow yourselves the ability to grow together.

couple on beach

By reflecting on what love languages work best for you right now, it’s my hope you and your partner will be able to better communicate your needs to each other, or at least have a place to begin that process.

Now how do you remember to also direct these love languages towards yourself?

Applying The Wisdom of Love Languages Inward

Love languages can provide a valuable framework as you work towards your own personal goals. If you are looking to build your self-esteem for example, you may want to dive into the words of affirmation language. Develop a daily habit of writing what you are grateful for about yourself, or repeat positive self affirmations. Let’s say you are trying to shift your relationship with alcohol; perform an act of service to yourself by not keeping it in your house. Explore all the new ways you can spend quality time with yourself when alcohol is out of the picture. Let yourself see the value of honoring your love languages, while allowing for shifts whenever your self-love expands to new territory.

If you need support with figuring out how to build and practice this self-love alongside your sobriety or moderation goals, a therapist can help you through this process and more in alcohol therapy. Perform an act of service towards yourself and try our free, therapist-moderated, online alcohol support groups. Find your community of accountability and compassion.

man on rock

Genuine intimacy requires an understanding of our changing, individual sets of needs. Love languages can be a great place to start in this exploration of yourself and your partner. Wherever you are in navigating your relationships, especially those that may have been affected by past drinking behavior, we’re here for you. Join us in our community. We’re here to help you with every step, like how to ask a partner for support. Remember that your sobriety or moderation will offer its own clarity as you continue to find the best way to self-soothe, receive love, and care for your partner. You are capable of great change, and your love languages will reflect that.

To help you put them into practice, we’ve curated an alcohol-free gift guide inspired by each of the love languages. Check out these 5 ways to show your partner (or yourself!) a little extra love.

 

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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.

holiday items

Your Questions About Drinking Less This Holiday, Answered

holiday items

The holiday season can create extra pressure to drink for a variety of reasons. However, with that discomfort comes opportunity. Opportunity to seek support from those you love, and create healthier, more meaningful holiday traditions. After answering questions like ‘My Family Gets Drunk During The Holidays, Now What?’ and ‘How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much’?, we asked Monument Community members to submit their most pressing questions about navigating this winter without or with less alcohol. Here’s what Sabrina Spotorno, a therapist on the Monument platform, had to share in response.

Q: What if you haven’t told your family you’re trying to get sober? 

A: It’s common to feel some hesitation to open up to your family, especially if you fear they might be discouraging. Cultural norms recognize the value of sobriety and moderation, yet sometimes shame the practice of it. When we speak openly, we shape our culture. You have the power to show just how normal it is to want to examine and change our relationships with alcohol as we center our lives in health and authenticity. You deserve to feel recognized for making a positive life choice. And if you’re not at that point (yet,) not saying anything is okay too. If you do want to share, here are some tactical tips for having the conversation. 

Remember: you’re allowed to set your boundaries around drinking regardless of what anybody else thinks or feels. 

Q: I’m craving a seasonal drink that’s become a holiday tradition. Any suggestions to resist this temptation?

A: Keep in mind that just like a past relationship, we tend to romanticize the fantasy more than the reality. Reflect on the core emotion that drove that craving. Then let yourself explore ways to cultivate that same feeling with loved ones, new experiences, or comforting rituals. You have the power to make your own new traditions. And a great place to start is by finding a speciality alcohol free (AF) drink for every festivity. Check out our recipe book Delish AF for inspiration! 

woman in snow

Q: Reflecting on past holidays (when I was drinking heavily) brings about feelings of deep shame. How do you manage feeling like a failure?

A: One tool for confronting self-shaming is to ask yourself: what would your wisest self (your self of today) tell your self of holidays past? Maybe you would tell them how their mistakes guided you towards a clearer picture of what you want in your life and what needs to be processed in order to keep going. This can at first seem like a self critique, but gradually leads to reparenting that younger self, remembering they are worthy of compassion, and are capable of growth. As Brené Brown would say, “owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” Be brave, you deserve to see the light that came out of those challenging times.

Q: How can I spend New Year’s Eve with a small group of friends where everyone is getting drunk?

A: Since you’re in a smaller group this year, being upfront about your moderation or abstinence goals might feel unavoidable. This may also be the exact time to experiment with being more explicit about your goals with a smaller crowd, where there’s greater opportunity for more intimate conversations. If you’re with really close company, you might even consider asking them for support in your journey to change your drinking. (Here are a few tips!)

Ask yourself this: what do I want to do this New Year’s Eve? How do I pace myself if I am going to moderate? Or what  alcohol-free drink am I going to bring to feel just as festive ? Coming prepared with a fun game or a great playlist is a productive place to start. 

And if you’re stressed about how others will perceive you, remember you can always chat with us in the community or in our online alcohol support groups. We value your authenticity!

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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Q: I’m thinking  I want to cut back but am nervous about starting out during the holidays and quarantine. How can I reach my moderation goals during a time of  increased temptations?

A: This may sound counterintuitive, but the more temptations you have around you, the more potential you have for information gathering as well! Moderation is all about visualizing the boundaries you want to set for yourself and actualizing them to your fullest capability. So now is actually an ideal time to take note of when you want to drink (virtual happy hours, holiday dinners, etc.), and put that boundary setting into practice.  

Also remember to cultivate your sources of comfort. Replacing alcohol as a temporary relief leads us to discover new, nurturing ways to relax and find authentic joys. And as stressful as it can get, the holidays can also offer simple pleasures, like baking seasonal treats or watching cheesy holiday movies.

holiday treats

Q: How do I tell my family I don’t drink anymore before our holiday celebration?

A: More often than not, the more direct you can be about your boundaries, the better. It might be difficult at first, but setting clear expectations from the beginning avoids any escalation later on. This may look like: “I just want to give you a heads up that I won’t t be drinking at the celebration. Please know that if you or anyone else asks if I want a drink I understand that you don’t mean harm, but I will first say no, and then if you’re insistent, I’ll have to walk away.” Communicating your decision firmly helps both you and your family honor your goals.

Q: I feel tired all the time and am lacking motivation for the holidays. I drink everyday and feel like I’m in a vicious cycle, how can I make a change when I’m exhausted?

A: Thank you for keeping it real here! I would encourage you to listen to your body’s signal of needing a break. Is there extra time and care you can give yourself to get some genuine, judgement-free, rest? Remember you don’t have to do it alone. I highly recommend joining one of our free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups as a place to listen and be heard. Everyone brings support, encouragement, and resources. (You don’t even need to turn your video on, you can even listen while you’re in bed.) If nothing else, it will provide an energy boost to know you are cared for and can do this! And if you’re interested in more one-on-one support, you can also explore personalized alcohol therapy. A therapy program tailored to your needs can address co-occuring conditions like anxiety and depression, and empower you to change your relationship with alcohol along the way.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful questions. With communication, boundaries and compassion, you can maintain your sobriety or moderation goal through the holidays and into the New Year. And what better gift could you give yourself?

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.

People holding hands

Authentically Changing Your Role In Your Loved One’s Recovery

Does someone you love struggle with unhealthy drinking? Click to get free expert resources

People holding hands

If you’ve been concerned with your loved one’s substance use for some time, I can imagine you’ve been on your own emotional journey. It’s common (and normal!) for fear, anger, and shame to arise. Everyone dances around these emotions differently when inadequacy or uncertainty of where we fit into our loved one’s recovery becomes overwhelming. But by digging deeper into the role you are currently playing, you will be able to shift into a new path of authenticity and empowerment.

Roles we may play, but didn’t audition for

First, keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with an individual who falls into any of these roles. They are commonly observed archetypes and a natural result of how we try to resolve difficult emotions.

“The Addict”
What’s more traditionally known as ‘The Addict’ is the family member who is struggling with alcohol use disorder. Their unhealthy drinking behavior often affects their loved ones, leading to familial grief and shame, despite their having a medical condition.  We don’t use this label at Monument, as we believe drinking is something you do, not who you are.

“The Enabler”
They feel it’s their responsibility to repair “The Addict” and do everything they can to quickly clean up the aftermath of any setbacks. The Enabler has a hard time allowing for negative consequences, even when these experiences are natural parts of the healing process.

“The Scapegoat”
This role is exactly as it sounds. The Scapegoat is regularly singled out and blamed. Utilizing a “scapegoat” is a common way the family diverts attention away from how they are each internally managing their emotions surrounding alcohol use disorder.

Two people talking by the water

“The Loner”
The Loner tends to delay decision-making, downplay their strengths, and not see the value of taking many risks, such as sharing their emotional world with others. The Loner is most comfortable staying distant or hidden from view, especially when it comes to engaging with family recovery.

“The Achiever”
The Achiever can point to their success — maybe it’s their childhood trophies or a high-powered job. However spectacular, their accomplishments are often being fueled by a need to cover up underlying shame. The Achiever may end up feeling they don’t have permission to fail or experience emotions they fear could get in the way of “success” throughout their loved one’s recovery.

“The Mascot”
This role is the class clown of the bunch. While their knack for entertaining can often help their family through pain, it can be harmful when The Mascot doesn’t feel like they are allowed to express their feelings around the challenges of unhealthy drinking and recovery.

Making progress together: For family, friends, and those in recovery

One of the most effective strategies for achieving sobriety or moderation is engaging with friends and family. This group is for those looking to cut back on drinking and those supporting them. Join the discussion about how to better understand one another and support each other throughout this journey.
Check out the Schedule

Pause and take a breath

If you’ve identified with one or more of these roles, you are not alone. The beauty of recognizing these labels is that they are just that — labels. The first step toward change is awareness. Let’s break it down.

Recognize what is under the surface of “helping”

Take a closer look at your behaviors. Your “helping” may actually be rooted in control, and wanting to fix the people around you. I encourage you to first, own that experience. Second, maybe even let your loved one know about this role you’ve been playing. And third, remember that no one is broken here, so it’s not your responsibility to “fix” anyone. To show up as our most authentic selves, we approach relationships with patience, empathy, and ownership of the shame that comes with not always knowing how to support or seek support from those around you.

Person walking in the woods

Once you explore what is under the surface, dive in deeper

Ask yourself, what would it look like to allow myself to feel this fully? What are the core feelings under the surface of this emotion? Your self-healing means trusting your ability to notice where it resides in your body and recognize it as a cue that one of your needs has not been met yet. Emphasis on yet! The goal is to learn to communicate these needs effectively and open the door for your loved ones to do the same.

Recognize authenticity as a process

Don’t get down on yourself if you fall into default patterns. If you return to a retired role, it’s not starting over but a gentle reminder that authenticity requires nourishment. This takes minimizing triggers and reminding yourself that you are bringing all the knowledge of the past cycles before it. We need a more empowering word than “relapse.” Finding new language to destigmatize these patterns can be a great first family project towards developing a recipe for healing.

Unhealthy drinking affects everyone. Learn how to support a loved one, and get support for YOU along the way. Sign up for our newsletter

Savor the process

Remember to give yourself a chance to savor all of this work! Set an intention each morning, set an alarm for a mindful minute, create a visual reminder as obvious as a sticky-note on your mirror that says “savor this.” These moments of grounding can go a long way in your healing process. You are opening all kinds of new doors!

We’re here to help

With reflection, awareness, and action, it is absolutely possible that you’ll authentically change your role in your loved one’s recovery. Making the space for yourself to heal and grow is essential — not just so that you can support others better, but yourself too.

If you suspect a loved one is struggling with AUD, find tips for how to talk to someone about their drinking, making sure to to plan ahead and ensure your loved one feels supported. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to address about supporting a loved one with alcohol use disorder, I encourage you to post in the community forum. I also encourage you to read my article on “How To Support Yourself While Supporting Someone Else In Recovery,” for additional insights.

And lastly, make sure to RSVP for our new therapist-moderated support group, “Caring for yourself while caring for someone in recovery.” Camera on or off, all we ask is that you bring yourself exactly as you are. Share or listen, give or get support, join alone or with a friend. We’re here to listen, and we’re here to help.

Does someone you love struggle with unhealthy drinking? Get free expert resources ->

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. 

person and mountain

How To Distance Yourself From People…And Alcohol

person and mountain

Our relationship with alcohol isn’t so different from our relationship with people. It’s complex, unique, and always evolving. One sign of an un-healthy relationship to anything or anyone is when our personal needs become secondary to the needs of something or someone else.

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When a relationship that once brought us joy exhibits signs of abuse, heartache, and self-doubt, it’s safe to say it’s no longer serving us in the way that it needs to. Okay, so now what? When my patients describe unhealthy relationships with sub-
stances or people, I recommend they take steps towards what’s called psychological distancing. Here’s how.

Laptop On Table

Psychological Distancing 101

Our relationship with alcohol isn’t so different from our relationship with people. It’s complex, unique, and always evolving. One sign of an un-healthy relationship to anything or anyone is when our personal needs become secondary to the needs of something or someone else.

Create new adventures

Psychological Distancing is a concept in developmental psychology. It focuses on building self-awareness in order to establish a sense of autonomy from 
our surroundings and leave room for personal growth.

While we are all in some way attached to the people, places, and things around us, it is how deeply attached we are that can alter our self-confidence and sense of self. We naturally possess a sense of what we need to live our fullest lives, but certain circum-stances, relationships, and various forms of trauma can condition us to believe otherwise. The relationships we form to these people, experiences, and substances is what we call a narcissistic bond. Here’s how to break these bonds and get closer to our ideal-selves

“You are able to respectfully back away from an unhealthy attachment and begin healing. I tell my patients to think of acceptance as an act of self-love.”

Adventure can feel nonexistent in narcissistic relationships because what becomes your sole purpose is fueling the ego of the narcissist, or in the case of alcohol, dedicating all of your thoughts and time to drinking. It is as if there is one channel playing at all times. The good news is, you have the power to change it. Even the act of planning to do something outside of your routine can be healing. Engaging in new relationships, hobbies, and experiences outside of that unhealthy bond is an incredibly effective tool in creating necessary distance.

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Understand your boundaries

In narcissistic bonds, we’re conditioned to feel that we’re nothing without the person or substance we’re bonded to. In reality, boundaries and independence are a necessary part of any healthy relationship.

In the case of alcohol, creating boundaries often means examining your relationship with drinking, and building coping mechanisms to create the distance that’s right for you. I wrote this piece to help you better understand what amount of distance, whether that means moderation or sobriety, will empower you to live your fullest life.

Therapy can be a really effective tool to build those coping mechanisms and create that distance. Therapy provides a platform to work on modifying self-destructive behaviors, obtaining healthier coping responses, building relapse prevention skills, establishing boundaries, improving communication skills, and increasing self-efficacy. If you’re interested in therapy, I encourage you to check out Monument’s personalized treatment options. Members receive a specialized treatment plan, designed to help you reach your sobriety or moderation goals, while keeping in mind co-occurring conditions surrounding alcohol and PTSD, depression, and other mental health factors.

In relationships with other people, you can also work out boundary setting with the support of a therapist. Monument also offers a free therapist-moderated support group about navigating relationship challenges while managing your drinking.

And finally, it’s important to understand that sometimes boundaries aren’t enough. In relationships with narcissists, their suffering often plays out in a projection. They often see your emotions as weaknesses because that is how they view their own. And your emotions are valid and deserve to be recognized. Enter: accepting the end of unhealthy relationships.

Radically accept things as they are, not as we wish them to be

Sometimes, the reality is that there is no way to keep a person, place, or thing in our lives in a healthy way. Whether that means you explored moderating your drinking, and decide sobriety is best for you, or are in a relationship with another person that is stripping you of confidence and joy. Accepting that you need to end that relationship may initially feel like failure.

It’s common to mistake acceptance with defeat. Acceptance isn’t throwing in the towel. So let’s look at the difference: The major distinction between acceptance and defeat is what brings you freedom. Acceptance gives back the freedom to move on from the narcissistic bond, and seek closure. You are able to respectfully back away from an unhealthy attachment and begin healing. I tell my patients to think of acceptance as an act of self-love.

Sitting At Sunset

Be aware of where you get validation

Regardless of where you are in your healing process, it can be hard to let go of the feeling that your character is built on others’ perceptions of you, and past behaviors. It’s crucial to be mindful of this. Otherwise, we risk filling any gaps of validation with substances.

So, ask yourself, what do I genuinely appreciate about myself regardless of what anyone has to say? Even the people whose opinions matter the most to me? Answer this question, write it down, and say it out loud a few times a day. Eventually, with practice, you’ll become your default source of approval. You won’t need validation from others or seek relief from alcohol. The narcissistic bond will break and you’ll step into the empowered, liberated individual that you are.

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.