Ask Yourself Why You Should Quit Drinking?
Alcohol has a significant presence in our culture. It is attached to most social events, it is readily available, and it is celebrated. You receive a promotion or get engaged – drink alcohol. You go through a break-up – have a wine night. It is our answer to good news, bad news and is used as a reward in our society. Our fast-paced and high-pressured culture focused on ‘succeeding’ comes with the reward of drinking alcohol, champagne, etc. at the end of a tough week.
When you go to a restaurant, it is displayed everywhere with flashing signs, decorated beer taps, large fancy wine glasses. These constant reminders and motivators prime us to think of alcohol and to drink it frequently. There is little emphasis on how alcohol can be detrimental to a person’s health and life. We do not see commercials that show the aftermath of a night of drinking, the hangovers, the financial damage and relationship issues that can come.
So first off – I applaud you for asking yourself how alcohol may be impacting you! We often overlook the negative impacts of alcohol in our culture and asking yourself why you should quit drinking can be a tough question. A few questions to start off with could be:
- How do I feel about my relationship with alcohol? (i.e. concerned, worried, curious, etc.)
- How has alcohol been impacting my life? Look at health, relationships, financial, mood, sleep, and self-esteem.
- How do you feel when you do not consume alcohol?
- What would your life be like without the consequences of alcohol?
Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
Quitting drinking can be very challenging, but it can also come with many benefits. These include:
- Improved sleep/rest – alcohol is disruptive to our sleep. Although alcohol can lead to falling asleep more quickly, it will be an interrupted sleep as you are not entering a proper restful sleep.
- Health benefits – alcohol can be very damaging to our health
- Financial – if you have been drinking heavily or frequently out at restaurants, you may notice that this can become very expensive. Quitting alcohol can lead to a better grasp on your personal finances.
- Relationships/intimacy – you may notice your relationships improve once you quit drinking alcohol. Alcohol can often lead to increased conflicts and hostility; once it is removed this can open up room for your relationship to grow.
- Mental clarity – you may notice after drinking regularly (or even for one night) your mind feels ‘foggy.’ You may not feel you are at your sharpest after drinking, and this is because of the impacts alcohol has on your brain.
- Physical health – as we all know, alcohol is hard on your liver and your body. You can feel the physical aftermath of a night of excessive drinking as your body attempts to recover from the damage. When you quit alcohol, you will notice as your body naturally begins to feel better with the less alcohol you consume.
- Personal confidence – if you have been struggling with your drinking for a significant period, you may notice that your confidence has lowered. By quitting alcohol, you can begin to rebuild your confidence in yourself and in your ability to take action on an issue causing you distress.
Admit the Alcohol Addiction Problem
Admitting you have a problem is a challenging step, and it can be difficult to do this even internally. You may notice that you are in denial of how your alcohol intake is impacting your life, but when it comes to a point that you can no longer ignore the signs – this is when you may admit to yourself that you have a problem. It is important at this time to be compassionate to yourself. There is a great deal of shame and stigma associated with substance issues. This is entirely unjustified, as alcohol is a widely encouraged and available substance that many people find themselves struggling with. It takes courage to admit to yourself or to anyone else that you are struggling, and this is a big step.
It is a personal decision to admit the problem to others, but it can help. By opening up to supportive, trustworthy people in your life you create greater accountability and can access resources that can help you in the recovery process. By admitting the problem to others, you are not alone in your battle to reduce your drinking.
Side Effects & Tips to Cut Down On Alcohol Consumption
If you have been drinking heavily for some time, do not quit cold turkey or without consulting your doctor. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if not managed properly. If you are drinking heavily and consistently, it is not advisable to cut alcohol out immediately. Consult a doctor or visit a detox facility before completely quitting. Learn more about alcohol withdrawal symptoms
If you are a social or moderate drinker and are looking to reduce your alcohol intake, make a set plan with clear goals.
- Write out exactly how much you have been drinking – quantify your alcohol use. Be honest with yourself about your consumption. (For example, I drink 3-5 days per week, consuming between 4-6 drinks on each occasion)
- Write out the amount of alcohol you would like to be consuming (For example, I would like to drink 1-2 days per week, consuming 1-3 drinks on each occasion)
- Make a schedule for your reduction (For example – I will reduce my drinking by 50% in the next two weeks)
- Explore skills that will assist you in this process – such as adding in activities that do not center around alcohol and avoiding places that promote drinking. Practice coping skills to deal with cravings for increased levels of alcohol intake – such as substituting carbonated water for beer or not having alcohol accessible in the house.
- Examine how your progress is going – keep a diary of your alcohol consumption. Ask yourself what you noticed – are there certain events or people you are more tempted to drink more alcohol around? Keep a log and add in new coping skills as needed.
- Reward yourself – reinforce your progress. Quitting alcohol is not an easy thing to do and by rewarding yourself in healthy ways this will help you to stick to your goals.
If You’re a Mild or Social Drinker
It can also be helpful (if you are a mild to moderate social drinker – i.e. you do not drink daily or excessively on a frequent basis) to take a break from drinking alcohol completely. We are creatures of habit: if we have a glass of wine every Friday at 6pm – our mind and body will expect that glass of wine like clockwork when 6pm Friday arrives. Taking a few weeks or a month off from alcohol completely can disrupt this habit and your mind/body will crave the wine less and less each week.
Ask yourself –where, when and with whom am I consuming alcohol? Our brains pair substances with people, places and things. For example, if you always drink beer with your father-while playing golf – when you go to play golf your brain expects and craves the beer. If you always drink white wine when you see your best friend, you can let yourself know it will be challenging to see her and to turn down that glass of white wine. Our brains are amazing things and they create bridges whether we want them to or not, for healthy and unhealthy habits. We become conditioned to expect those substances with those events or people, and by gaining understanding of this you will prepare yourself to reduce your intake.
Additional Tips on Quitting Alcohol
- Distract yourself – stay busy! Boredom and free time can make it challenging to stick to your goals
- Get physical – be more active. Physical activity will not only improve your mood but will take your mind away from alcohol.
- Try new activities – take a dance class, go to an art gallery, etc. Try new things that your brain has not paired with drinking alcohol.
- Get a buddy – ask a friend to join you in your goal and keep each other accountable. Encourage each other to stick to the goals and distract each other when you are tempted to drink.
- Try a new (non-alcoholic) beverage – treat yourself to a fancy coffee, sparkling water, or juice. You may get bored if you are always drinking water instead of alcohol.
- Create a prepared sentence to say if you are offered a drink – such as “I am off alcohol for awhile” or “I am okay with water for now!”
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
For many people, quitting alcohol cannot be done in isolation or without professional help. Alcohol addiction treatment options include:
- Residential addiction treatment: For those people who require that additional barrier between themselves and alcohol – residential treatment is an ideal solution. It temporarily removes the element of “will power” by removing the option to have alcohol. It allows your brain and body to get a break from alcohol, while you have the chance to work on the underlying issues which led to the dependency.
- Partial hospitalization: In the case that you have been drinking heavily, you may require hospitalization for a proper detox. There are also medical detoxes which you can access, and government-funded detox facilities.
- Addiction Counselling: Outpatient programs which focus on coping skills and relapse prevention can be extremely helpful to individuals who are capable of abstaining from alcohol on their own. They can be an excellent way for patients who have completed residential treatment to continue working on their recovery.
- Therapy (Individual, Group, or Family) – Can often be sufficient to help individuals begin their alcohol reduction. It can help you to identify what function the alcohol is serving in your life (for example anxiety relief, stress relief, comfort for grief, etc.) and what you can do to replace it.
- Sober living – If you have completed a treatment program but still benefit from a structure and safe place to live free of alcohol, sober living houses can be a great option. They allow for independence as well as structure and provide the support of being surrounded by others in early recovery.
Let Your Loved Ones Help You Quit
In summary, quitting alcohol is a very difficult task. For many people it can mean completely changing their life. Don’t go through this alone – get support from loved ones and/or professionals. Don’t allow the stigma and shame of addiction to overcome your need for support throughout the recovery process. Most importantly, if you are going to quit drinking alcohol, do it safely. Do not go through it without medical advice. It is extremely dangerous to quit alcohol cold turkey if you are a heavy drinker, and you can become seriously ill or even die from withdrawal.
Sobriety Starts With a Question
Quitting alcohol is about taking care of yourself, your mental and physical needs. It is about asking yourself if your life is moving in the direction you would like it to– and whether alcohol should, can or will be a part of your life. It is about asking yourself whether you are happy with the amount you drink or whether you need to change, and how to make that change safely if necessary. You are not alone in this process, and we encourage you to get connected with as much support and encouragement as possible.