You can use this website in, at least, two different ways, independent or guided. On this website there is a series of tools available to help you assess yourself, tools for problem solving, tools for goal setting. All of these tools come with instructional videos showing you the rationale underlying the tools, as well as a practical demonstration on how to use them. You can find a number of short courses on self-esteem, assertiveness, dealing with anger, shyness and other emotional states. There is also the Blog and the community tools of the forum, instant messaging and the daily messages from the site.
You can use any of these tools in any way you like, either by making up your own program to suit yourself or alternately you can follow the suggested program for the various goals that the website supports. I suggest that, at least initially, you follow the program.
The website supports three drinking goals, abstinence, controlled drinking and reduced drinking. After you have completed your assessments you will find a tool that will help you by making recommendations what the appropriate goal for you might be. You are of course at liberty to ignore this recommendation and decide on your own goal. However, the underlying decision-making process for this tool is based on best practice, as it currently stands, and takes into account some the information that you have submitted before and since joining the site.
Getting Started with the Website
When changing any behaviour, including drinking, it is suggested that you refrain from that behavior for a period of time. Current best practice in the alcohol field would suggest that a period of abstinence of two to three months is advisable. You might ask yourself, why, if you don’t want to pursuit an abstinent goal, would you start by being absent?
There are four main reasons for remaining abstinent, to break old patterns of behavior, to give yourself a rest emotionally and physically, to give yourself and perhaps your family and friends a rest and it is easier to think about how to you will change your behavior when you’re not actually engaged in that behavior.
Firstly, when people are engaging in any behavior on a regular basis they build up patterns, habits and routines surrounding that particular behavior. These patterns etc. tend to help to help maintain the behavior and maintain it at a similar level and intensity. Many of these patterns are automatic, that is they do not require any thought, and we can find ourselves doing things, without even being aware of having decided to do it. This is how our brains manage to function with all the things that are going on in our lives, by putting some stuff, like regular actions, on automatic pilot.
Have a look at your day and think of times you have done things and not even been aware of doing them. For example many people drive the same route to work every day and do it without thinking. So sometimes they arrive at work without even being aware of the journey, especially if they are preoccupied with other matters. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with them, quite the reverse the brain is doing things, eg driving, without requiring the full attention therefore it can concentrate on other, presumably more important, matters.
Drinking is certainly no different. Indeed, some people even build up a dependence, physical or psychological, which adds to these patterns etc. in maintaining drinking behavior. So when changing a behavior, any behavior, normally we would recommend a period of time when we were not carrying out that behavior. This would allow some time for the patterns, habits and routines to be broken, and new (healthier) routines to be created. For if we carry out a behaviour after a break, the automatic reactions do not usually kick in immediately, instead we usually need to think about what we are doing. This then allows for new behaviours and new habits to be formed. Which is what change is all about.
Second, if you have been drinking particularly heavy over a period of time then you may have been doing some damage to yourself physically and emotionally. Therefore giving yourself a rest and an opportunity to heal may not be a bad idea. For example if you had a broken leg it should not come as a great surprise if the doctor suggested that you didn’t walk on it for some time, in fact you might even suggest that yourself. This situation is no different.
Third, drinking, especially heavy drinking, is often surrounded by high emotions, arguments and hurt feelings among family and friends. A period of grace that allows feelings to settle can be very helpful in the change process. It is easier to change your behavior and face a problem when you have the support of your family and friends, this is obvious. One of the best ways to recruit the support of your family and friends is to show them but you are serious about change. So a period of abstinence shows them that you are genuinely serious about making changes in your life. If there have been arguments and high emotions in the home than this may give you a period of peace and positive support.
Finally it is easier to make decisions about what kind of behavior you should engage in when you’re not actually in the middle of that behavior. So having a rest so that you can decide the best course of action makes a lot of sense, even if it is only the fact that you have a clear head to actually make those decisions.
So we strongly advocate that you stay away from alcohol and places that sell alcohol for at least two months, preferably three. This will make change much easier, for you, for all of the reasons given above and many others that we haven’t mentioned. If you don’t want to or can’t remain abstinent this does not mean to say that you can not use this website. Of course you can, but it will be that much more difficult. We strongly suggest that, at least, you reduce your consumption, in order to give yourself a chance. There are some tips on how to reduce your drinking here.
The next few pages outline the proposed program for the first four weeks of your new life. At least until you decide what you want to do, we suggest that you follow this program. Remember joining this website will not get you sober but using the tools and taking action in the ways suggested will.