the 5-7 pm witching hour

i got a random, lovely email from a lurker (hi, y’all!), and i’m not sure if she’s using her real name in her email to me, so i’m gonna call her Miss Molly.  She’s been reading my blog, and said some nice things, and then said she’d picked her quit date last week (hooray!) … I offered to be pen pals, and in addition to saying thanks, she had a specific question: How to deal with the witching hour of 5 pm to 7 pm (kids hungry, trying to get dinner on the table, scheming and planning and waiting for the wine to begin).

Now, i work from home so i can start dinner whenever i like. and i don’t have kids. so i can’t really write knowledgeably about those challenges.  You might argue that without a commute and without children, i don’t KNOW stress (and i’d agree!). and c’mon really, any advice i might have on how to navigate the 5-7 pm window is only based on what worked for me. and some days i’m still using these strategies in a very conscious way, but most days i’m on sober-auto-pilot and i don’t have to think so hard.

but in the very early beginnings, i was thinking a lot, and trying to get my sober car rolling, and here’s what i did (here’s what I wrote to Miss Molly):

I guess the way to get through 5 pm would be to have a plan.  I don’t know, maybe a 3-part plan : )  first, have something else to drink, already picked out, perhaps already purchased.  so that at 3 pm you start to think: “can’t wait to have my black currant and lime soda drink tonight.” I think it’s important that you ALREADY have the treat in mind.  before you need it.

maybe part 2 of the plan is to know, now, this morning, that you’re not going to drink tonight no matter what happens.  it may be the shittiest of all shitty days, everyone vomiting, cat run over.  you’re not drinking today.  no matter what happens, you’ll wait till tomorrow to drink if something bad happens today. so know that you’re going to do today no matter what.  even if you have to go to bed at 8 pm.  which I’ve done.  plenty.

and part 3 would be go to bed with a feeling of smug satisfaction that you ignored the wolf voice, and you know it’s just a voice, and you don’t have to listen to it.  I think that smug self-satisfaction / gloating is NECESSARY in the beginning.  it’s like saying “damn, I’m GOOD” every single day as you get into bed.  “I rock.  I’m a genius. I ignored that ridiculous voice.  I rule. I win. look at how smart I am.  look at how good I am.  I am a genius.”

… you’ve probably already done one of the three things above, or all three, without even knowing you were doing it.  now you can just be more ‘aware’  … and go to bed early if necessary.  or even tell the kids that you’re taking a ‘nap’ and get into bed at 6 pm with the lights off.  even for me, as recently as last night, I was in bed before 9 pm because I could just begin to feel the tickle of a thought like ‘well maybe this might be a good time to have a drink …’ and then as soon as I got into bed I was like ‘you’re so smart, this is so much better than drinking, and the wolf will be gone tomorrow.’ 

 and it is.


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Great advice! I am on my 9th day without a drink! I have been drinking chocolate hazelnuts tea at night with a splash of milk when I am craving a glass of wine. I also have fruit spritzers in my trudge in the trudge. I agree that having something yummy on hand that is NON alcoholic is very helpful to keep from drinking. Great post by the way!

    • Just reaching out and finding that other people are trying to navigate the same scary waters has been such a boost to my commitment to stop for good. I cannot say enough what a difference it has made for me to know that there’s someones out there who understand. Having a special drink treat to take the place of the nightly glasses of wine has been crucial. (Fresh ruby red grapefruit and seltzer y’all. It’s delicious, treat-ish, and just for me.) It also helps to know that one will never be “just one” it will always be “just one more”.

      And now I suppose I’m no longer a lurker. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😉 I’m finishing up day six today. Yay! And now I have to make dinner. Without wine. Ahhhh.

  • All wonderful ideas! Another tip is to change the routine. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we condition ourselves to expect certain things at certain times, so by changing things up as much as possible we can short circuit our mind’s expectations.

    For cravings in general, a slogan that always helped me was “Think it Through”. i’d imagine having the first drink and then i knew i’d want another and then i’d keep it up until the bottle of wine was finished and i was slurring my words and fighting myself not to open a second bottle and just saying “screw it” when it came to washing dishes, cleaning up and then i’d plop myself down in front of the TV and drink more until i dragged myself to bed to wake up with a hangover… The reality of what that one drink led to was enough to keep Pavlov’s dogs at bay.

  • Hi Belle and Miss Molly:
    I have 3 kids at home one 20, one just turned 5, and one just turned 4, and I work from home, I usually leave my “office” at 5pm to go to my kitchen to get dinner ready so that when all kids and father walk through the door- dinner is ready or just about. This is also (in the past) one of my favorite times to get my wine on. Now what I do is make a tea right away, and then begin dinner. One thing that I have really noticed is that I have so much more time and presence with my family when I am not drinking and once everyone is home-the wolf gets pushed back…but that one hour….it does kick in. (so find something else to do, maybe step out for a 5 min walk-change your pace, get the old patterns change up)

    I agree with Wayne, get an alternate, and Belle’s suggestions go to sleep, talking to yourself about the positives of not drinking etc.

    I find playing music is also a good thing to divert my attention.

    It’s only an hour (some days, not every day-so it’s getting more infrequent for me, and that’s great!) but I have done some serious wine damage in an hour in my not so distant past.

    Good luck Miss Molly, it does get better, I didn’t believe it when I read everyone’s blog here – that kept saying keep on – it gets better…while I was happy not to be drinking, I didn’t really believe it…but it does get better! off work – to my kitchen !!! thinking of Ginger Tea (from my NEW STASH!) and Christmas music!!

  • great advice! the only way i have made it successfully through the “witching hour” is by going to a meeting everyday at 4:00.

    I also like to keep the phrase “think through the drink” close to my heart. nothing has ever been made better by a glass of wine (or five).

    thanks for your words!

  • I agree having a non-alcoholic drink picked out and chilling in the fridge is a great idea. I make sure there’s plenty, and I say to myself “you can drink as much of that as you want.” That way I don’t feel ripped off!

    I also like to make some early preparations for bed time, to remind myself how much nicer it is to go to bed sober, rather than stumbling in drunk. Turn back the sheets, puff up the pillow, put out pjs, get a book ready… whatever will make you really look forward to going to bed later, sober and happy.

    Writing down a couple of things you’re grateful for is pretty powerful too.

    I love your blog by the way. Thanks for all the sharing. I’ve been reading for a while now, and getting a lot of strength and ideas from you. Day 45 for me today.

  • This is fantastic advice to anyone, I remember being at home watching the clock just waiting for tea time and having that first drink.
    Picking an alternative is great Pepsi Max for me. I write in my journal each night which I started a week before my sobriety, each night I write down the sober day, the number of days without a drink and quietly celebrate with a Pepsi Max.