Are you struggling with alcohol? Are you questioning whether or not you’re an alcoholic? Are you wondering if you should quit drinking? Do you have to quit drinking? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, it’s recommended you quit drinking, and if possible, seek professional treatment. Alcohol kills over 240 people every day. That being said, it’s scary as hell to quit something you’re addicted to, and it can be ridiculously hard, especially with alcohol.
Quitting isn’t even the hardest part. It isn’t even what happens to you when you quit. The hardest part of the journey to sobriety is attempting sobriety in the first place. Still, people can and do recover from alcoholism, perhaps more often than you may think.
OK so you need to quit, you know it’s going to be tough, but you know it’s possible. Professional treatment is strongly recommended. What follows is a list of reasons and ways to stay on the path to recovery. There is no particular order of any kind. We have simply combined our knowledge of alcohol treatment to give you a guide on how to stay sober.
ADMIT THE PROBLEM
With drinking, we tend to think in black and white terms: are you an alcoholic or a normal drinker? Meanwhile, the large gray area in between is full of problematic drinkers who either are alcoholics, or are well on their way. If you have a drinking problem, chances are you are aware of it. As the old saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
If you find yourself caught in a thought cycle – comparing your drinking to that of others, taking online assessments, or just asking yourself if you have a problem – give these three things a try:
- Ask the right question. Stop asking yourself whether or not you’re an alcoholic. If you’re asking yourself this, you probably are one. Sorry to be so harsh. Instead, ask yourself if drinking is preventing you from having the life you want. If yes, step one is over. You’ve admitted the problem.
- Stop the comparisons. They do you no good. That’s not your life. You are an individual with a complicated, unique life. So what if you drink less than Billy down the street… If you have a problem, you have a problem. Comparing your drinking to that of others will only lead to self-justification.
- Think of your future self. Picture yourself five years from now with the same drinking habits. Are you okay with what you see? If not, you likely have a problem with alcohol. Now admit it, so you can begin treating it.
REALIZE WHY YOU SHOULD QUIT DRINKING
Long-term benefits are rarely enough to motivate people to quit. We often prefer instant gratification. Quitting drinking is no exception. The long-term benefits are only about saving your health and well-being anyway, (please note sarcasm), so here are 4 short-term benefits we all can relate to:
- Reclaim lost time. Jill is a moderate drinker. She drinks three times a week, 2-3 drinks per occasion. Each time, she ‘loses’ about 3 hours of productive time being buzzed. Every year, Jill loses a month and a half. That’s a lot of lost time that could have been spent sober and productively. Don’t forget about any time Jill (or you) may spend hungover.
- Have more meaningful talks. Conversation builds character and makes us grow. Those benefits disappear when you’re drunk. Alcohol prevents any meaningful change from talking. It might seem terrifying to meet new people without drinking, but the damage alcohol causes is scarier.
- Get rich quickly. It’s easy to spend $150 or more per week as a drinker, especially if you go out. of drinking. After 6 months, quitting could allow you to afford backpacking around the world. Are you willing to pay $600 a month for health problems?
- Sleep better. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it will make you tired. Alcohol also disrupts sleep patterns, throwing off your body’s balance. This only adds to the damage alcohol does. Quit drinking and it’s a guarantee your sleep quality will increase dramatically.
We joked a bit before about the long-term benefits of quitting alcohol, but the fact is that quitting alcohol (as a drinker) is the healthiest decision you can make. Weight loss, improved liver function, lower cholesterol, stronger immune system, a clearer mind, better emotional balance, and more efficient brain activity are among the ocean of long-term benefits.
MAKE SOBRIETY NUMBER ONE
Giving up alcohol must be made priority number one in your life. A partial commitment is a commitment to failure. Establish rules and do not break them. Say no to bar night, say no to the sale on six-packs, and say no to the devil on your shoulder telling you it’s only one drink. Put sobriety on a pedestal and don’t remove it until you know your problem is cured.
FIRE YOUR DRINKING PALS
Easier said than done, right? Whether alcohol is a major part of your social life, or it’s just something you and the gang do once in a while, it’s going to be hard if and when your friends/family drink around you. Step one is telling them all you simply cannot be around drinking for a while. Step two is cutting off anyone with whom all you did was drink.
Besides, if the only thing you have in common with someone is knocking them down, you might want to consider unfriending them. I’ve let go of people in my social circle before and I know it’s not easy — but that doesn’t make it unnecessary. This might be the hardest thing you do in choosing a life without alcohol. The key is to remember that true friends are an abundant resource. Having a strong social circle is purely a function of the effort you invest into it. That includes choosing to associate with people who are aligned with your purpose, avoiding the energy vampires.
ADVERTISE YOUR CHOICE
Tell people what you’re doing. Not only does this add accountability to your goal, it also drops the hint that if your friends are planning on going out and getting wasted, you’re probably not interested. Plus, if someone offers you a drink and you look at them and say, “I can’t. I’m a full blown alcoholic,” they probably won’t ask you again.
ISN’T IT DANGEROUS TO QUIT?
The first 72 hours are the most painful part of recovery. As your body rids itself of alcohol, you’ll experience acute withdrawal – unpleasant. Alcoholics can experience especially difficult recoveries, and professional help is recommended for them. Regardless, the benefits of quitting drinking will soon make themselves known.
Even though it may not feel like it, the acute withdrawal stage of the recovery timeline is the beginning of something great. Withdrawal symptoms are evidence your body is healing. The onset of withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after your last drink. You may experience:
- Elevated temperature
- Increased blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse
- Excessive sweating
- In extreme cases, one may experience seizures, sometimes life-threatening.
The body is working overtime to cleanse itself. When done correctly, detox is the most important step in the recovery process. At the same time, many recovering addicts relapse when they use drink as self-medication for the withdrawal symptoms. Ironic, but true. This is why it’s crucial to seek professional treatment when necessary.
CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE
Even after you admit that you have a problem, you need to change your attitude regarding your situation.
Don’t get mad at people when they try to help. Don’t put yourself down because you have gone through a rough patch. Instead, get in the right frame of mind by realizing that you are taking the right steps on the road to recovery.
Is it easy to have a good attitude when you are dealing with such a difficult situation? Of course not. That being said, when you approach the situation the right way you are going to ease the stress on yourself and make it much easier to reach your goals.
CHECK INTO REHAB
Sometimes, quitting alcohol on your own is not possible. You are in too deep to figure things out without professional assistance and medical guidance. There are both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs that offer all the assistance you could need.
By comparing multiple treatment programs and facilities, you can settle on the one that is best for your addiction and lifestyle. Your approach to quitting alcohol is not going to be exactly the same as the next person. However, there are many things you can do to find yourself on the right path to a better life in the near future. Once you are “alcohol free” you can really begin to enjoy your life!
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2+ WEEKS AFTER QUITTING
Full detoxification from alcohol can take up to two weeks. As your body is getting rid of its last remnants, some negative symptoms may pop up, but the benefits will already be clear. As expected, recovery comes with emotional highs and lows. The negative effects may include:
- Anxiety & depression
- Decreased energy & metabolism
- Feelings of aggression or hostility
- Declined sexual interest or function
- Sleep disruption & nightmares
Don’t let this deter you. The positive effects will be abundant, too many to list.
…AND ALL THAT JAZZ
The worst part of all may be cravings for alcohol, which may last a lifetime. Even after removing all traces of alcohol from your system, the brain will still want it to help return to the balance of chemicals it has gotten used to — but knowing the source of these symptoms is key to dealing with cravings appropriately.
Develop and enforce new hobbies and habits that don’t include the bottle. In a treatment program, you can attend therapy, perform group work, and receive one-on-one attention from medical and clinical professionals. Building effective coping skills and getting to the root of your addiction is key to alcohol abuse recovery.
Seek out a therapist. Attend some type of group meeting, such as AA or NA. It’s always helpful to have a support system of counselors and people who understand what you’re going through. Utilize your friends and family as well. Go to WAR with your addiction. Recovery is a lifelong process, and post-treatment maintenance is just as important as the initial treatment process.
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