Why do so many people fail when they want to quit drinking? You have decided to want to quit drinking maybe for your health, your finances, your relationship or any number of other positive reasons but every time you give up, you eventually give in. Why is it so difficult to put down this particular bad habit for good?
- In our society it is seen as normal
It is estimated that over 80% of adults in the West drink alcohol. It is believed by many to be a normal part of our life, a social pleasantry, a reliever of stress, and a way of coping with the busy life we all lead. You try to stop, and you are seen as abnormal, you are fighting against the norm, a loan voice howling into the wind. You stand alone leaving the well-worn path and creating a new path into the unknown, at least for you.
It may seem at first that you are the only one, but there are many people now who do not drink alcohol, you are now joining a new group of people who are aware of the benefits of an alcohol free life. Be proud of the fact that you are refusing to follow the herd. Be a leader guiding the way for other people as they too see that alcohol it not in fact the elixir of life, but the drug that is standing in the way of living our life to the full.
One day in the future alcohol will be seen in the same light as smoking, gambling and illegal drugs. Just because alcohol is legal, and just because other people do it, does not make it good for you or the right thing to do. It isn’t illegal to eat 4 tubs of ice-cream in an evening but is that a good reason for doing it?
“Because alcohol is encouraged by our culture, we get the idea that it isn’t dangerous. However, alcohol is the most potent and most toxic of the legal psychoactive drugs” – Beverly A. Potter & Sebastian Orfali
2. People will encourage you start again
They tell you “One drink won’t hurt you”, as they look at you in a strange way, and you know that they are thinking that you are spoiling the party for everyone else because you won’t drink. They may even buy you drinks that you don’t want or put alcohol into a non-alcohol drink, much to their amusement. Unlike giving up smoking or losing weight, don’t expect anyone to congratulate you on your achievement, they are more likely to either avoid you or question why on earth you would want to do such a thing.
Sometimes in these situations we need to just make an early exit. Remember why you are doing this and stay strong. This is your life and your decision, own it and believe it. In the longer term you may have to cut some people out of your social circle, not because of what you are doing, but because they cannot accept and enjoy themselves in your company. Remember, how they feel is never about you, it is always about how you not drinking is making them feel. That makes it their problem, not yours.
3. You are inside with the drinker’s mind looking out
When we first try to give up we still have a drinker’s mind. We are trying to give up when we are in effect still wanting to act out our habit, but we can’t.
This gets easier as time goes on, after a while you will stop getting the cravings and the uncomfortable feelings as you repeatedly do not act out your habit, then the need for the habit will dissipate.
Eventually you will be on the outside looking in at everyone else still at the party and you will then see clearly that the fun you believed you were having was not fun at all. As people start to repeat the same stories, fall over, throw up and you can see it all clearly for the confidence trick it is. We think we are drinking to be sociable but being drunk is far from sociable.
“Alcohol is ultimately a failed experiment, a best guess at what makes us happy” – Stephen Doty
4. The thought of never drinking again scares most people
Close your eyes and say to yourself, I will never drink alcohol again, ever. Now picture yourself in different scenarios, at a wedding, a funeral, a party, a birthday or on holiday. Any number of events and places that you would normally associate with drinking alcohol. Now, think about how feel, can you image it? Is it easy? Or do you get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach.
You are looking at your future self from the point of view of still being a drinker, over time as your mind clears you will start to live your life in a new way, then it gets easier and easier to see into the future and see yourself free forever. It takes time, don’t try and rush it, just focus on the next day and then the next. One step at a time, just focus on the present.
“Life is a great and wondrous mystery, and the only thing we know that we have for sure is what is right here right now. Don’t miss it.” – Leo Buscaglia
5. It takes time – a long time
If like most people who have decided to quit alcohol you will have been drinking for maybe 10 – 30 years, that is a lot of repeating of an action in a lot of different situations, and all of it need to be unwound.
Getting over any addiction takes time, there are no quick fixes. It gets easier each day that passes but it can’t happen overnight because an addiction is an action that you have repeated again and again and again until it becomes habit. There is only one way to solve this and that is not to repeat it again and again, but this takes time. As you don’t repeat the alcohol habit and at the same time you replace it with good habits that you repeat again and again you slowly but surely create a new healthier and happier life.
Don’t be daunted by it, see it a journey, an exciting journey of self-discovery, of forging a new path in a forest and at the other side of the forest you see the light, you see it all for the massive marketing con that it was and still is, but now you are free.
6. We don’t change our attitude
I always find the stories of people who have quit alcohol, but after 20 years of not drinking still crave a drink because they have never changed their attitude.
We can either be negative and spend our lives bemoaning our lot, poor me that I cannot drink poison anymore or we can be positive, thinking how great my life is now that I am not poisoning body anymore.
Changing our attitude changes our life.
7. Believing that Alcohol is a Poison
Even though we know logically that alcohol is a poison and that it is bad for our health, we still find it difficult to quit for good. You only have to have a quick look at the World Health Organisations website to see details of the number of annual deaths related to alcohol and the number of illness that are associated with drinking. We know this to be true, our logical mind can understand this and accept it, but the problem is we cannot match this bad guy image with the pretty bottles of alcohol that are lined up in the supermarket shelves. One part of our mind knows that it is a poison the other part only sees good times and parties. We don’t want to poison our bodies but if we don’t we feel we are missing out.
This is a difficult one to resolve and again takes time. Only by re-enforcing the bad guy image, initially on a daily basis will you ensure that your mind does not drift off into the lure of moderation.
8. Memories of the hangovers fade
It doesn’t take long for the memories of sleepless nights and pain filled days to disappear, you know this already, why else do we swear that we will never drink again after a rough night only to be ready to party the following Friday. Just to rub salt into the wound the memories of the good times we had while drinking do not fade. Like a photograph album they pop into our thoughts with regularity, enticing us back into the addiction hell.
To deal with this, you must first be aware that it is happening. Be aware when thoughts come of you at a party with a drink, let it go, don’t grab hold of it and start daydreaming, if only …… let it float away. Better still see the whole thing through like a mini film where you do give in but the next day you have the hangover from hell to contend with.
Remember that you always have a choice between thought and action, you can think about drinking and go ahead and have a drink or you can think about drinking and go ahead and do something else instead. Your choice, your decision, your freewill.
9. Leaving a vacuum in your life
We give up alcohol but believe we can leave every other part of our life the same. The same life but minus the drinking. If only it was this easy, when we stop drinking we create a vacuum that needs to be filled. Initially, we will have all this extra time and energy and we will fill it with many different things. That’s ok don’t worry about it, just experiment, and find out what you enjoy.
As time goes on you will slow down again and you can drop the things you don’t want in your life anymore. The important thing is not to leave a hole, or the alcohol will hang about waiting for you to give in. If possible plan in advance all the things you will do every day, pack your day full so that you get frustrated you cannot achieve everything. Leave no space for alcohol to sneak back in.
We cannot live the life we had before, the same but without alcohol, we need to learn to live our life in a different way.
10. We don’t find other ways of coping
We used alcohol for all sorts of reasons, some of the most common are social anxiety, boredom, and stress. We used it to deal with the inner turmoil. It was a coping mechanism, but it you think back to situations in which you have used alcohol in any of these situations, it was never the best solution. By using alcohol for everything we never learn coping strategies for life that will serve in the long term and will improve our life instead of destroying it.
There are ways of relaxing that are better, healthier and longer lasting, ways that will give a deeper and more satisfying relaxation than anything built on chemicals. Ways that will not damage either your body or your mind.
When we use alcohol from a young age we don’t get the chance to learn and develop coping mechanisms for everyday situations. How to deal with socialising, how to deal with stress, how to deal with inner turmoil. We short cut lives lessons and use alcohol to a point where we use it in every situation, it isn’t even a conscious decision, it just happens as a natural progression as the years pass.
Alcohol is not a solution to a stressful situation, you may get a bit of peace but the next day you not only still have the problem, but you have to deal with it with a hangover, lack of sleep and loss of energy.
Surviving social situations without alcohol just takes practice, it is strange at first only because you are not used to it, but as you do it again and again it becomes easier, and you find yourself instead of being envious of the drinkers you feel sorry for them because you know how bad they will feel the next day.
Coping with stress means finding the method that suits you, for some it is mindfulness and meditation, yoga, or exercise. Improving our lives in a way that when a stressful situation arises we are better equipment to find the solution that does not push it into the long grass by doping ourselves up on alcohol.
Giving up alcohol is stage one, the next stage is learning to cope with all the situations in your life where you previously used alcohol. So before you let go, think through all your reasons for drinking and have your plan of action ready. Be prepared and you will be not drawn back into the cycle of addiction at the first sign of a stressful situation.
Alcohol prevents us immersing ourselves fully in life, instead we immerse ourselves fully in the bottle. We are alive but are we really living or just existing from one drink to the next?