Alcoholism is a severe problem that affects as many as 15 million Americans. For people without alcoholism, alcohol may not seem like an addictive substance, but anyone who has suffered from this disease can tell you that is not the case. Alcohol, while not as addictive as some other drugs, is easy to abuse and readily available for most people. This makes alcoholism a much bigger problem, statistically speaking, than all other addictive substances, excluding nicotine, combined. In fact, 74% of adults suffering from addiction are addicted to alcohol.
If you are suffering from alcoholism, then you know how destructive this disease can be to your life and to those around you. Habitual drinking can destroy families and break homes, but there is hope. Thousands of people have stopped drinking and improve their lives. There is no reason that you can’t as well. As with any addiction, quitting is not easy, and it can come with withdrawals. Not everyone suffers from withdrawals. If your alcoholism is less severe, then you may not experience any problems, but heavy alcoholics can suffer from the shakes or even end up in the hospital.
If you are done being controlled by your addiction and ready to start your recovery, here are some options that you can try. Not all of these options are for everyone. Each person is different, and their treatment needs to reflect that. The most important thing to remember is that thousands of people have done exactly what you are trying to do. If they can do it and stay sober, there is no reason that you cannot. Have faith in yourself and get strength from those around you. You can beat this.
10Stop Cold Turkey
While this method is the least likely to succeed, and likely one that you have already considered, it is worth mentioning. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may be able to stop cold turkey and suffer no ill effects other than cravings. If you decide to try to stop drinking cold turkey, it is important to keep your goal in mind. You need to determine why you need to quit drinking and always keep that goal in mind. Whenever you start to reach for the bottle, remember the promise you made and the goal you set. Write your goal down and keep it in your wallet.
Many people realize that they have a problem when they accidentally hurt someone they love as a result of their drinking. This is one of the most eye-opening moments some people can have, especially if the person they end up hurting is their child or spouse. If this has happened to you, keep a photo of them with your goal. Use your past transgressions to steel your resolve and fulfill the promise never to hurt them again.
It is worth mentioning that note everyone can quit drinking cold turkey. Alcohol has physiological effects on the body and brain. Over time your body can become accustomed to these changes to the point that it can begin to fail if denied alcohol. Major withdrawal symptoms can include fever, vomiting, and even convulsions. If you have these symptoms, it is important to get to a doctor quickly and try a different approach.
Alcoholics Anonymous was created in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The program has helped thousands of people recover from alcoholism using its 12-step program. People participating in AA are more likely to succeed in staying sober for longer than those who attempt to quit solely on their own. This is largely due to the ongoing nature of AA. It is not uncommon for people who have been clean for years to remain in the program for this exact reason.
The reason AA is so successful and has so many people that keep attending the sessions, regardless of their sobriety status, is because of the group support offered. By making your recovery a group effort, you are still ultimately responsible for your own success, but you can have some help along the way.
AA is not without its own problems, however. AA is largely faith-based. AA is a faith-based organization, and the 12-step program revolves around accepting God and giving yourself over to a higher power. This is fine for most people, but atheists and members of other religions may not feel welcome at these meetings. If you are being required to attend AA by court order, this can also cause major problems for atheists in particular.
8Limit (and Record) Yourself
If you are a major alcoholic with a serious drinking problem, do not even consider this option. This is an option for people who are only mildly addicted or habitual drinkers that do not suffer from addiction. If you want to get your drinking under control, but not necessarily stop entirely, this could be the option for you.
The goal here is to reduce your drinking by limiting your access to alcohol and keeping a journal of how much you have drunk. First, you must decide how much you are going to allow yourself to have each day or week. Start by estimating how much your drink currently and reduce it appropriately. For example, if you drink a 24 pack of beer per day, reducing that to 18 is not a permanent goal. You can certainly start this way and steadily reduce your drinking further, but it is important to remember that the goal is to reduce your drinking to a reasonable amount. As a rule, men should aim for one to three drinks per day, and women should aim for one to two drinks per day.
The second step is to get a journal and record your drinks. This can be as in-depth as you want or as simple as tally marks on a calendar. The important aspect here is that you have a tangible record that you can look at and see your progress. If you do slip and relapse, do not neglect to include the drinks in your journal. To err is human, but by keeping a record, you can see your past mistakes as well as your improvement. If you start out having a cheat drink every other day but reduce that to once per month, your journal allows you to see your progress in a very real way.
7Pick ‘Sober Days’
Pick one day of the week that your goal is to remain completely sober. Sunday is a popular option, particularly in counties with blue laws restricting the sale of alcohol on Sundays. The increased difficulty of obtaining the alcohol as well as your own determination can help you achieve this goal.
The end goal here should not be to stay sober for one day per week, however simply. You should slowly add additional days as your condition improves and your cravings lessen. Depending on your own mentality, you may want to choose a day opposite of your original day or a consecutive day to increase the total consecutive time that you remain sober. The latter option is better for long term recovery. Your goal should be to add a sober day every few weeks in order to decrease your drinking. By the time you are done with this, you should have at least five sober days and only two drinking days. Ideally, you should also reduce the amount you drink each drinking day as well.
6Find a Hobby
Honestly, you should do this one even if you pick another option as well. One of the most difficult things about quitting is that you now need to find a way to occupy the time that you used to spend drinking. Drinking is time-consuming and being drunk is even more so. When you are intoxicated, you typically do not need to find ways to entertain yourself, a TV or group of drinking buddies is typically all that you need.
Being sober, however, often requires active use of your time. Sure, some people can sit in front of a TV and be perfectly content, but by doing so, you are opening yourself up for a relapse. There is a reason that old adages exist and “idle hands are the devil’s plaything” is relevant whether you believe in the devil or not.
Boredom leads to finding ways around being bored. The easiest way is through substance abuse such as alcohol. This is why it is so important to develop a hobby when you decide to stop drinking. Explore your options and find something that you are passionate about. Think back to before you started drinking, what did you do for fun then? If you cannot come up with a hobby, that is OK. Try signing up for some classes or an adult sports league. Explore your city and find new things to do that you didn’t know existed. The most important thing is to find a way to occupy your time in a productive manner to prevent you from even thinking about drinking.
5Avoid Peer Pressure
Most people have a group of friends that they would consider “drinking buddies.” While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it is best to avoid such friends when you are recovering. While not everyone has a group like this, the people who do must be vigilant and resist peer pressure to drink when around them.
You can’t really blame your drinking buddies for wanting to grab a drink if they are not trying to quit as well, but you should not join them. Even if you decide only to drink water or soda, simply being in a bar with people getting intoxicated can cause cravings to start.
Do not just cut your drinking buddies off. Tell them what your plan is and why you want to stop drinking. If they are truly just drinking buddies, you may not see much of them anymore after this, but at least you gave them an honest answer, rather than just leaving them behind. It is also possible that your friends may decide to join you in quitting, either because they see that they have a problem as well, or to support you in your efforts.
In many cases the two overlaps, so this may not be needed, but it is important that the people you associate with know that you are trying to go sober. If your friends try to make you feel guilty for trying to improve your life, cut them loose. You do not need that negativity in your life.
4Change Your Surroundings
If your entire home is built around drinking, it may be time for a change. For example, if you have a room dedicated to drinking such as a party room with a beer cooler, TV, chairs, and a bar, it may be time to repurpose the room. Consider making it a workroom for your hobby or a home office. You can even turn it into a guest bedroom, depending on what you choose to do. This extends beyond the home as well. If your typical lunch break or dinner spot puts you right beside a bar that you once frequented, it is best to avoid such spots. It is all too easy to be walking by your favorite bar and decide that you can have just one drink, then you end up relapsing.
The most important thing to remember here is that you are trying to remove reminders and temptations. If you have a piece of paraphernalia or other memorabilia that revolves around alcohol, get rid of it. If it has sentimental value, place it in storage or hide it away somewhere until your recovery has progressed, and you feel like you can have it again without being tempted.
It also helps to reorganize your living environment. You have grown accustomed to things being the way they are. This means that your brain automatically associates certain actions with drinking. This is very similar to how smokers act when they are driving. Most smokers, even light smokers, smoke once they get in the driver’s seat. Similarly, it is not uncommon for alcoholics to always have a beer or other drink while watching TV, for example. By reorganizing your living space, you can remove these associations and create new associations to replace them and aid in your recovery. Removing the clutter from your life also helps to remove the clutter from your brain. Cleaning your home and getting rid of your old clutter is a good way to release the need to drink mentally.
3Get a Sponsor
One of the most important things that you can have while recovering from alcoholism is support. Everyone needs help, and everyone needs other people. Even when we don’t believe in ourselves, if someone else believes in us, we can do anything. That is the value of having a sponsor. Everyone has moments of weakness, but if you have a sponsor, then that is someone that you can call whenever you are having cravings or otherwise need support, and they can help you through it.
Having a sponsor does not have to be your only solution. In fact, several rehab programs assign people a sponsor when they enroll or once they have reached a certain point in recovery. The sponsor’s job is vital to recovery and often very stressful, but they are doing it to help you recover. Remember, if you give up, your sponsor’s sacrifice was for nothing.
This is one of the strongest forces a sponsor can offer, fear of disappointment. You are likely going to get to know your sponsor very well. Remember, your sponsor is invested in you. They have committed their time, energy, and often money, to help you recover. If you have a moment of weakness and relapse, your sponsor is likely to be disappointed, but they won’t give up on you, so you mustn’t give up on yourself.
Why do you drink? Some people may be able to answer right away with a clear answer referencing something that happened in their past. Others may answer that they drink to mask depression or feelings of inadequacy, but they don’t know where these feelings come from. Others still might not even realize that they are drinking to repress some emotions.
Individual therapy is one of the best ways of finding out why you drink. Once you know what drives you to substance abuse, you can begin working through it and improving your overall mental health. It is not uncommon for people to drink to forget a painful memory, rather than accepting the reality of what happened and moving on.
Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may want to see either a phycologist or a psychiatrist. While some people use these terms interchangeably, they are not the same. A Phycologist can offer therapy and counseling to help you work through your issues. A psychiatrist is a phycologist that also has a medical degree. This means that they can write you prescriptions if they determine that it is needed or may help with your treatment.
1Find a Purpose
This is one of the most effective methods of reducing or quitting your drinking. It is easy to drink to forget your problems when you do not have any goals to achieve outside of work. You should find something that you are passionate about and make it your purpose. Do you believe that the coal plant down the street should be shut down? Start a campaign. Maybe you lost someone to a disease or suicide. Start a campaign to raise awareness and fundraise for research and treatment options. Make it your goal to contribute to finding a cure, no matter the disease and no matter how small the contribution may seem.
The idea here is that you must completely change your outlook on life. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or trying to suppress negative emotions, you must overcome them and focus on your goal. You must focus on something bigger than yourself.
Some might argue that committing to something bigger than yourself is similar to the 12-step program used by AA, but it is not. In AA, you are turning yourself over to God and saying that you have no control over your own life. By finding a purpose, you are taking control of your life and using it to improve the lives of your fellow man. You don’t have to go out and start your own charity; often people find a purpose in simple volunteer work helping their community.
Even if it seems like alcohol controls your life, remember, you are in control, and you can stop. If you have a drinking problem and want to quit find the best option for you and stick with it. You can even try different options to find the best one for your needs. Every person is different, so everyone’s recovery is different as well. The same method that works for one person may not work for someone else; that is why it is important to know the various options. This list is far from being all-inclusive, so if you are still struggling, look into other options as well. There are plenty of programs to help you recover. You may even be able to get your insurance to cover a stay at rehab if you can convince them that it can improve your health and consequently save them money down the line.
Alcoholism is hard on everyone involved, and the withdrawal symptoms can make it seem like sobriety is impossible, but it is not. Thousands of people have overcome their personal demons and given up drinking; there is no reason that you cannot do the same. It won’t be easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.