I have just completed 30 days free from alcohol and I thought I’d share the results with you. For the record, I’d like to say that yes I’m a health coach and yes I do have the occasional cocktail… shocking I know. 😉 I tell you this because I want you to know that I’m just like you – I have the same social obligations, temptations, and cravings that you all do! Here’s the thing – I’ve learned that some of my unhealthy habits no longer serve me. For instance, having one too many glasses of wine can complete disrupt the next day for me now that I’m in my 30’s.

So just like anything else that can “creep” back in to your normally healthy lifestyle, alcohol is one that does so in very sneaky ways. It starts with a glass of wine after a long day of work and by the end of the week, you may have found an excuse/reason to drink every single night. I’m all about moderation, so when certain things get out of hand (sugar, alcohol, caffeine) I find it very helpful to take a short break from the offending substance.

After a long summer of traveling and plenty of excuses to “celebrate”, I decided it was time to take a break from alcohol for several weeks. As much as I love a good cocktail, my body doesn’t always agree with this sentiment. I have dealt with stomach issues for most of my life, and it’s no secret that alcohol can wreak havoc on your stomach. Not only that, but if you suffer with any type of inflammatory or autoimmune disease, alcohol can be particularly detrimental. So if you’re thinking about avoiding libations for a period of time, here are a few tips that will help you accomplish your goal.

1. Focus on the results you desire rather than what you’re “giving up”. Whether you want more energy, to lose weight, or to improve any health issues you may be suffering from, use these goals as motivation for staying the course.

2. Avoid tempting situations when possible. This is not the time to host a party at your house or to finally take your colleague up on happy hour. You don’t have to be a hermit which we’ll discuss in the next tip, but don’t go out of your way to face temptation.

3. Have a plan for when you can’t avoid tempting situations. For example, there were multiple outings with friends or colleges where I was literally the only person not having an adult beverage. I ordered a soda water with lime, which helped to trick myself into thinking that I was celebrating along with everyone else. This is a great tip whether you are at dinner or any social event. Having something that resembles a cocktail in your hand will make you feel more comfortable and will keep you from having to explain to everyone who asks (because they will!) why you aren’t drinking.

4. Focus on the future. In the moment of temptation, it’s hard to resist breaking your cleanse, but I have found thinking “ahead” to be another useful strategy. For instance, I mentally fast-forward a few short hours when I will be back at home in bed, resting well because I abstained from drinking. I also think about the next morning when I will feel energized and focused, rather than groggy and foggy. The momentary temptation pales in comparison to the reward at the end of the evening.

5. The beginning is always the hardest. At first, you will feel a lot of temptation and social pressure, but once you find your groove, you will hardly miss the booze! It’s just like breaking any other habit. It will be uncomfortable but after a while, it’s old hat. FYI, I broke my alcohol cleanse over the weekend as I watched my Clemson Tigers beat the Georgia Bulldogs (woohoo!) and to be honest, it wasn’t so great. Within a few sips, I had a pounding headache and I felt really tired. I think this is my body’s way of saying – let’s continue with the break. Rather than feeling disappointed, I feel empowered knowing that I can still have fun and be comfortable in social situations without having to have a cocktail.

6. Find other ways to unwind. I have never been a stress drinker, but many of my clients are. So many people use alcohol as a way to relax, and although it may do the trick at first, it’s really not the best solution. Alcohol is a depressant so once the happy buzz wears off, you may be left feeling blue. Alcohol also disrupts sleep, which is what all of us stressed-out folks need more of. Rather than pouring a glass of wine after a long day, take a hot bath, listen to soothing music, take a walk in nature, or simply sit in silence. These meditative acts will soothe your stress without any of the negative side affects.