It may be stress or anxiety, depression or boredom, perhaps social pressure or relationship problems. If you can identify that you often drink alcohol in response to some of these, then your first step is to look for different solutions to these issues.
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 negative effects of your drinking? Be honest here – 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? 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. So if you’re drinking this much you should see your doctor before you plan to stop drinking alcohol. If you won’t do that, 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.
But what if things go wrong?
Ok, so it might not be as easy as all that (of course not), you may well slip and have a drink when you weren’t planning to. You haven’t failed, it’s just a mistake, you let that old habit sneak up and catch you unaware.
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 therapy session.