Early in my sobriety, I learned about “the witching hour” and ways to tackle it. The witching hour is that time of day (or day of the week) where you used to look forward to and regularly drank. When I first quit drinking – I had to figure out how the hell to tackle that evil witching hour. For me, it was 5pm everyday and Fridays. For the first two weeks – those times were hell! I was crawling out of my skin. I was unable to keep still. I was bored, I was mad, I was sad, and I was OBSESSED with alcohol. I couldn’t imagine going a single Friday without drinking. I couldn’t imagine that I wasn’t going to go COMPLETELY INSANE not drinking! I couldn’t even comprehend HOW I would ever get to a point that I wouldn’t feel utterly miserable about not drinking! I Just Couldn’t Imagine!
Part of the work to get past that stage was changing how I operated during the day -so that I didn’t work myself up and then feel like I NEEDED something to calm me back down at the end of the day or end of the week. Part of the work was also learning to replace those drinking times with other activities that later I’d look forward to instead of drinking. I remember right around a month of not drinking, I realized I had successfully gotten through a weekend without even thinking about drinking. I was so excited! FINALLY, I had seen the work pay off! From there, I had a lot more not-thinking-of-drinking days than thinking-of-drinking days.
Fast forward to 6ish months and I rarely think of drinking, but the funny thing is – when I do, it catches me WAY off guard. Early in sobriety, I expected cravings and triggers and had all the tools to tackle them when they popped up. If I’m not careful, though, it’s a lot easier to forget about those tools now that I don’t have to use them regularly. In fact, warm weather snuck up on me. It’s apparently another witching hour… a witching SEASON?! I have A LOT of glamorized alcoholic memories tied to warm weather – brunches with bloody marys, wine tastings after farmers markets, beer at baseball games, beer at barbeques, wine while dining outdoors, margaritas on the patio – the list can go on endlessly. And that’s the thing! The list literally can go on endlessly because when I drink, I drink endlessly. I drink indoors, outdoors, at an event, not at an event – it doesn’t matter what or where – when I drink, I drink. I might have a bunch of memories about “great warm-weather drinking”, but let’s face it –drinking wasn’t ACTUALLY different in the warm weather. Is it possible that I just like warm weather? Is it possible that right now I associate drinking with warm weather because I’ve never had warm weather without drinking?! I mean, what am I doing now that would be ANY BETTER if I were drinking? NOTHING! Me not drinking is WAY better than me drinking. I LOVE remembering all the things I do. I LOVE meaning everything I say. I LOVE that if I’m doing something – it’s for that thing, not because it’s just a backdrop for another drinking story. I LOVE that I actually DO THINGS now.
Is it possible that this “warm weather drinking nostalgia” is no different than 5pm.. or Fridays.. or any other first?!
LIGHTBULB! Maybe just like I had to recreate my 5pms and Fridays so that I looked forward to something other than drinking during them – maybe I need to recreate new warm weather activities so that I have new things to look forward to next spring and summer! The best part about tackling cravings, triggers, witching hours – each time you face one head-on and win, you’re stronger for the next one. So sure, this unexpected-warm-weather craving was surprising, but I have done this before. I have a proven track record that anytime I face a first, the next time is easier. I have a proven track record that after a few times of doing something sober, it becomes second-nature to me. So sure, maybe this first warm season is a trigger – but just like all my other firsts – this uncomfortable feeling WILL pass, and I WILL learn to love this first even more than all of the old drinking versions before it!