While this one is written specifically for those of you who have decided you want to totally stop drinking. Again, like his other book, it concentrates on the cognitive aspects of your alcohol problems – what you are telling yourself internally about alcohol.
Struggling with addiction is stressful – when you’re trying to stop drinking you can end up in a cycle of battling with cravings and guilt, having to remember all those things that you’re supposed to be doing differently.
It can be exhausting, so much so that it creates its own cravings. But stress is all about your perceptions of your abilities – if you tell yourself that “I can’t do this”, then of course you’ll feel stressed about it.
If you tell yourself that, “yes this is difficult, but I think I can do it”, then you’ll feel more confident. It’s simple really, you just need to get into the habit of saying positive things like that to yourself, eventually you’ll believe them.
What you’re trying to do right now is very difficult, so recognise that you need to off-load to people, to talk it through, to schedule in some relaxation time, some treats for yourself. If you’ve got a family to think about too then this can be hard to justify: “I’ve been such a strain on them already, how can I ask them to sacrifice even more?”, or “How can I take time away from my children when I’ve already been neglecting them because of my drinking?”
The point is, you need some time to relax if you’re trying to stop drinking, because it’s an incredibly draining task. Acknowledge that, be honest about it. You can’t be strong all the time!
Are you trying to decide if you should stop drinking alcohol? Maybe you’ve already tried a few times to just cut down, and drink more sensibly like other people seem to.
Perhaps you’ve had limited success, you manage it for a week or so, but then you start drinking more again, then the blackouts and awful hangovers start, the guilt and the arguments with your partner. Do you finally decide its time to quit? It might be worth a try.
So how do you stop drinking? The first thing to look at is:
Consider your motivation for stopping
Why do you actually want to stop? What are the consequences of your alcohol consumption? Weigh up the pros and cons of your drinking, the costs versus the benefits (write them down here if you like).
- What are the good things about your drinking right now, what does it do for you? This is important to consider, because you need to find other ways to achieve this.
- Then what are the bad things about your drinking? Really dig deep with this – look at your relationships, your health, job, self-esteem, depression etc.
- Next what are the good things you expect to happen when you stop drinking, how will your life be better?
- Finally what are the negative aspects of quitting? What is putting you off the idea? Again, this is important because you will have to find some way to solve these concerns.
You need to be reminding yourself about this list of your motivations every time you think about having a drink. The next stage is to find out:
Are you physically dependent on alcohol?
For the sake of safety, if you are drinking all day from the moment you wake up in order to avoid your hangovers, then you will need some sort of medical supervision to help you through the detox. You might have experienced D.T.s before (the shakes, or Delirium Tremens to be precise), but full scale alcohol withdrawal can be an unpleasant business. Hallucinations, seizures, it can even be fatal. So you should see your doctor before you plan to stop drinking alcohol. They can help you with medication, or even a short stay in hospital to get you over the first week. If the thought of that scares you to death, then you MUST try and cut down a bit before you stop completely.
So you’ve worked out why you want to stop, and if you can stop safely. Now what? You need to:
Develop a plan for how you can avoid those urges to drink.
Read our earlier article on coping with alcohol cravings first. It will give you a few techniques to help you. One thing’s for sure, will-power alone is not enough to stop you from drinking.
You need to work out what are your ‘high-risk’ situations, what are your ‘triggers’ that make you want to drink? Some of these can be avoided, so make plans as to how you can avoid them. For those that clearly can’t be avoided, you have to start thinking about how you can deal with them differently. Make your own relapse prevention strategy.
Now sit back and wait for sobriety.
Ok, so it might not be as easy as all that (of course not), you may well slip and have a drink, you might even relapse in dramatic fashion and wake up in a ditch somewhere. Don’t laugh, it might be you. You haven’t failed, you just let that old habit sneak up and catch you unawares.
This obviously isn’t going to change over night. And realistically, this is where you might need the help of a professional. You will need to replace all that drinking with other activities, which means you need to set yourself some achievable goals.
The same goes for your feelings, learning how you can cope with difficult feelings without alcohol will take some time. Alcohol has been your way of dealing with everything difficult in your life, so you are going to have to find some other ways to cope, basically.
You should regularly review what is working and what’s not, what things are still tripping you up and most importantly, what benefits you are seeing. Remind yourself of your original reasons for wanting to stop drinking alcohol. And of course, if you find that you need some help, try a counselling session.