15 Keys to Quitting Drinking
15 Keys to Quitting Drinking:
An Effective, Step-by-Step Guide to Recovery
By Jerry Dorsman
Alcohol can be addicting. The need for a drink can eclipse everything else in our lives. Recent surveys by the National Institutes of Health revealed that one in eight American adults now meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. You may be one of them.
Many of us have, or have had, problems with alcohol. But for most of us, there’s a point when we realize we need to stop the madness. We realize we need to quit drinking.
Maybe you’re at this point yourself. Maybe you’re ready to break your addiction to alcohol and start improving your life. So how can you be successful?
Here are fifteen keys to breaking free of alcohol for good:
1. Stop Denying. If you’re like most heavy drinkers, you’ll swear that you’re not addicted or else you’ll deny that alcohol is causing any of your problems. But if you want to quit drinking, you need to be honest with yourself. Take a look at your condition. If you’re drinking too much too often, you’re addicted the stuff and the alcohol is most likely causing problems for you. You may be experiencing poor health, emotional instability including mood swings, impaired family relations, legal problems, financial problems, and/or difficulties at work.
2. Evaluate Your Condition. How bad are the problems? First, get a medical checkup to learn how much physical damage alcohol has caused. Second, get an emotional checkup. Ask your family, your best friend, your counselor, and your boss to tell you truthfully what they see happening with you. And listen carefully to their answers. Third, evaluate yourself. Has drinking made you a better person or has it been causing serious problems? You’re the best judge.
3. Know How You Will Detox. Among those who attempt to detox from alcohol alone, without medical supervision, and who go into DT’s, about 25% die. If you experience any severe physical shaking when you try to quit drinking, plan to use an inpatient detox facility. A mental health or addictions treatment provider can help with a referral at this stage.
4. Make a Decision to Quit. You’ve already made a personal assessment and know that you need to quit your drinking. You have some very good reasons. Alcohol is ruining your life in too many ways. You know things would be better if you stopped drinking. So when is the best time? Pick a day. Make your decision to quit on that day and then strengthen your decision in every way you can. Remember, this is your personal commitment to yourself, your vow to make a positive change in your life.
5. Get a Plan or Program to Help You. Make sure to access as much assistance as you need. Having a plan can keep you focused and ensure that you don’t miss something important. With a framework for recovery, you’ll know what to do… and when. This list of fifteen keys provides that kind of framework. But there are plenty of options. You may find help in one of the many programs available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, Celebrate Recovery, or Refuge Recovery, to name a few. Each offers a specific plan that you could follow.
6. Develop Alternatives to Drinking. There are hundreds of things you can do besides drink. What else would you enjoy? Make a list of things to do. Be sure to pick things that you don’t associate with alcohol. Here are some categories of ideas to get you started: sports and exercise, artistic or creative activities, making home improvements, gardening, spiritual pursuits, community events, local entertainment, hobbies, educational pursuits, getting more involved at work, or spending time with a friend.
7. Change Your Diet. Studies show that most heavy drinkers have hypoglycemia, a problem with sugar metabolism that causes nervousness. Of course, feeling nervous causes a desire to drink. So when you quit drinking, quit sugar foods at the same time. This will help to keep you calmer. Other ways to reduce your alcohol cravings and repair the damage caused by heavy drinking: Stop eating white flour products, white rice, whole-fat dairy, and red meat. Also cut out foods with chemical additives, preservatives, or substitute sugars. Quit nicotine and other harmful drugs. Reduce or quit caffeine. Enjoy seafood, chicken, and eggs but in moderation. Eat more vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and fruits.
8. Start Exercising. When you exercise for more than 20 minutes straight, your body produces endorphins. These are naturally occurring biochemicals that help to relax you. So take a walk, go for a run, jump-rope, dance, or ride a bike and begin to gain the benefits. Studies show that if you do this at least three times a week, you will experience decreased anxiety overall. Also, to feel relaxed while you work-out, try yoga stretching exercises.
9. Become Assertive. As heavy drinkers, our behavior toward others can be hurtful, not only to those around us but to ourselves as well. We tend to be too aggressive, too passive, or else we alternate between the two. Aggressive behavior is when we bully others, shout them down, or strong-arm them in some way. Passive behavior is when we give in to others too often and let them run over us. Assertive behavior is in-between: not too hard, not too soft. Learn to be assertive. Try a book to learn it or go to an assertiveness training class to help with the details.
10. Establish One Positive Relationship. Each of us needs at least one healthy connection with another human being. This will be someone to whom you can tell your deepest feelings: your fears, your frustrations, your accomplishments, your joys. Having a good friend is the best situation (but choose a non-alcoholic friend). Or if you don’t have a good, close friend right now, get a counselor. When seeking a counselor, shop around and choose one that’s right for you.
11. Learn How to Reduce Stress. Life is riddled with tension-producing activity. To reduce the stress of the daily grind, you need to take some time off, time to slow things down and recuperate. It helps to have a few methods that you know will work for you. What calms you? Here are some options that different people use: take a long, hot bath, get lost in a fun activity, read a book, sit quietly and meditate, go for a walk, spend time with a pet, play a sport, start a new hobby, and many other options. Make a list of what will work for you. Then, when you feel stressed, pick something from your list and do it.
12. Add Alternative Healing Techniques. It helps to revitalize yourself in every way you can. Here are some proven methods that offer physical, emotional, and even spiritual rejuvenation: Massage, Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Visualization Techniques, Affirmations, Expressive Art Therapy, Herbal Remedies, Group Therapy with a Trained Counselor, Reaffirming Your Religion, or Pursuing a Personal Spiritual Path. Select one of these and give it a try.
13. List the Benefits You Gain by Not Drinking. When you quit drinking, you begin to regain your health and your life becomes more enjoyable. You start to feel less pain, emotionally and physically, and you also become more responsible. For this step, make a list of the benefits you gain by staying sober. This might include regaining my health, becoming a good lover, feeling less tense, feeling more in control, saving time, saving money, feeling free, holding a good job, or thinking more clearly now. Remember: these are all great reasons for not drinking. So, go over this list often and add to it as you continue your recovery.
14. Establish New Goals. As your life changes, your goals change as well. Without alcohol coursing through your veins, your life starts looking up. Be part of it! Write down your new goals and pursue these goals as you pursue your new life. Be modest at first then raise your sights as you become more capable.
15. Reward Yourself for Success. Many rewards come naturally when you quit drinking. Better health and greater emotional stability for instance. But take time to give yourself some other rewards that don’t come naturally. Buy yourself something special, take yourself out to dinner, spend some time with a good friend, pamper yourself at a spa, or plan an exciting vacation. Remember, your life becomes a greater and greater success the longer you stay away from alcohol. So reward yourself often. You deserve it.
# # #
Jerry Dorsman is the author of two books on addiction recovery: How to Quit Drinking Without AA and How to Quit Drugs for Good, and the coauthor of How to Achieve Peace on Mind.
See more info on Breaking Addictions here.