[center]Delay Alcohol Use Research shows that alcoholism is more prevalent among those who begin drinking at an early age. Delaying alcohol use until age 21 or later may reduce the risk of alcohol-related problems in adulthood. Be Accountable to Someone. In the professional world, what is the strongest motivator for peak performance? Twelve-step groups use this methodcalled accountabilityto keep people sober and on the recovery wagon. Everyone has a sponsor, a mentor to teach them the program, to guide them toward physical, mental, and spiritual health. Today several people together serve as my emotional sponsor, keeping me accountable for my actions: Mike (my writing mentor), my therapist, my doctor, Fr. Dave, Deacon Moore, Eric, and my mom. Having these folks around to divulge my misdeeds to is like confessionit keeps the list of sins from getting too long. Predict Your Weak Spots. When I quit smoking, it was helpful to identify the danger zonesthose times I most enjoying firing up lung rockets: in the morning with my java, in the afternoon with my java, in the car (if youve been my passenger you know why), and in the evening with my java and a Twix bar. I jotted these times down in my dysfunction journal with suggestions of activities to replace the smokes: In the morning I began eating eggs and grapefruit, which dont blend well with cigs. I bought a tape to listen to in the car. An afternoon walk replaced the 3:00 smoke break. And I tried to read at night, which didnt happen (eating chocolate is more soothing). Distract Yourself. Any addict would benefit from a long list of distractions, activities than can take her mind off of a cig, a glass of Merlot, or a suicidal plot (during a severe depression). Some good ones: crossword puzzles, novels, Sudoku, e-mails, reading Beyond Blue (a must!); walking the dog (pets are wonderful buddies and can improve mental health), card games, movies, American Idol (as long as you dont make fun of the contestantsbad for your depression, as it attracts bad karma); sports, de-cluttering the house (cleaning out a drawer, a file, or the garageor just stuffing it with more stuff); crafts; gardening (even pulling weeds, which you can visualize as the marketing director that you hate working with); exercise; nature (just sitting by the water); and music (even Yanni works, but Id go classical). Sweat. Working out is technically an addiction for me (according to some lame article I read), and I guess I do have to be careful with it since I have a history of an eating disorder (who doesnt?). But there is no depression buster as effective for me than exercise. An aerobic workout not only provides an antidepressant effect, but you look pretty stupid lighting up after a run (trust me, I used to do it all the time and the stares werent friendly) or pounding a few beers before the gym. I dont know if its the endorphins or what, but I just thinkeven praymuch better and feel better with sweat dripping down my face. Rational Thinking Weve all heard the term Stinking Thinking. Challenge your thoughts when an urge arises and ask yourself, Is this really what I want to do? Do I want to wake up hung over, ashamed, feeling guilty and riddled with anxiety? Thoughts like There is no way I can fight this or I might as well have a drink and get it over with are counterproductive.These thoughts need to be examined and stopped immediately. If a situation is causing you to want to drink, examine your thoughts. For example, youre having a bad day at work and the boss just reamed you out. Instead of rushing off to the local pub, analyze the conversation and pull out nuggets of information that you can improve on to better perform at work. Distractions and Replacement If a stressful situation cant be avoided, distractions are a great way to overcome urges. Create a list of healthy distractions that you can refer to if a craving is overwhelming so you dont have to think too much. Distractions can be anything from a brisk walk or run, swimming laps, calling a friend, reading a book or cleaning. Choosing an exercise, offers the added bonus from a boost of endorphins, which will help to reduce the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Practice mindful meditation to find a peaceful resolution. Visualize yourself going through the motions of your distraction to help you to get started. This will ease any anxiety and fear that can trigger cravings. Keep a positive attitude, and understand that with practice, healthy habits will override negative ones.