There are lots of reasons why you might want to stop drinking alcohol. Some people need to stop drinking as a result of developing an alcohol related medical condition such as liver disease, or because they start taking medication which reacts badly with alcohol. Others choose to do so for religious reasons, or simply as a move towards a healthier lifestyle.
What is alcohol abuse?
Abuse of any substance – including alcohol – is when the user begins seeking the substance compulsively and continues to use the substance even though there have been harmful effects to their lives, including problems with family, school, work or the legal system.
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how bad the addiction or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time. Read to get started on the road to recovery today.
What is the first step towards recovery?
Most people with alcohol problems do not decide to make a big change out of the blue or transform their drinking habits overnight. Recovery is usually a more gradual process. In the early stages of change, denial is a huge obstacle. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence about stopping drinking. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to change or you’re struggling with the decision, it can help to think about the costs and benefits of each choice. If you think you may be dependent on alcohol and decide to stop drinking completely, don’t go it alone. Sudden withdrawal from heavy drinking can be life threatening. Seek medical help to plan a safe recovery.
Commit to stop drinking. Before you can expect to see any real success in getting sober, you have to make the sincere commitment and firm decision to quit. It cannot be something you try out and see how it goes, or hope for the best. You must decide fully that you are no longer going to be a drug addict or an alcoholic and that you are going to make a fresh start in your life.
When you quit drinking, it can be uncomfortable – particularly if you have abused alcohol for some time. If you believe that you have an addiction to alcohol, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical supervision.
Whether you work with your doctor, or cut back on your own, as alcohol works its way out of your body, you will begin to feel better and your body will begin to repair damage that drinking may have caused you. However, some people require support to help them quit drinking.
Set goals and prepare for change. Once you’ve made the decision to change, the next step is establishing clear drinking goals. The more specific, realistic, and clear your goals, the better.
Building & Maintaining Motivation – Helps you identify and keep up with your reasons to quit. Why do you want to stop drinking – what will keep you focused on that goal?
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Living a Balanced Life– When you abuse alcohol, your life frequently falls out of balance – you may find yourself opting to drink rather than go to work or school.
Find alternatives. If drinking has occupied a lot of your time, then fill free time by developing new, healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships, or renewing ones you’ve missed. If you have counted on alcohol to be more comfortable in social situations, manage moods, or cope with problems, then seek other, healthy ways to deal with those areas of your life.
Plan to handle urges. When you cannot avoid a trigger and an urge hits, consider these options: Remind yourself of your reasons for changing (it can help to carry them in writing or store them in an electronic message you can access easily). Or talk things through with someone you trust. Or get involved with a healthy, distracting activity, such as physical exercise or a hobby that doesn’t involve drinking. Or, instead of fighting the feeling, accept it and ride it out without giving in, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass.
Get support. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of having a strong and stable network of support to help you get sober and maintain your sobriety. You need people you can talk to about the thoughts and feelings you experience while working to recover. You need people who will speak up when they see something is not right, and reach out to you if they haven’t heard from you in a while. You need people who know how important it is for you to stay sober and would not do anything to jeopardize this.
Getting started on treatment. Heading into treatment, make sure that you have the right attitude and know what to expect. Realize that it’s not a sure cure, and that results won’t happen on their own. Know that your recovery depends on more than just drying out, and that you will have to work on a variety of issues that caused or contributed to your addiction. Be willing to continue in rehab no matter how difficult it may be at times. And realize that there are people who want to help you get sober.
Make your intentions known. Tell your family and friends that you’re trying to stop drinking alcohol and explain why. This way, you can share your successes with them, and they’ll understand why you’ve started turning down drinks or trips to the pub. Frequently reminding yourself and the people close to you why you want to stop drinking can help keep you on track, and may even encourage someone else to give up or cut down with you.
Get Physically Healthy. You’ve spent years abusing your body, now its time to build it back up. You can’t live a healthy lifestyle and be an alcoholic at the same time, the two are simply not mutually compatible. Start taking up physical activities that you enjoy, educate yourself about nutrition, and quit any other vices that may be impacting your physical health, such as smoking.
Furthermore, getting in shape can be a tremendous boost to your self-esteem. Better self-esteem will help you get rid of negative thoughts and reduce anxiety. Real self-esteem can be a stabilizing force in your life.
Build Up Your Self Esteem. You’ve spent years with the self-loathing and pity that often comes with being an alcoholic. Its part of the reason quitting is so hard – the feelings of anxiety, self-loathing, and self-pity creates a desire for self-medication, and the consequences of alcohol abuse batter away at the alcoholic’s self-esteem, driving the need for more alcohol and continuing the spiral downwards.
Reward progress. It’s important that you acknowledge the fact that making changes to your lifestyle can be difficult and that you reward yourself with something if you are making progress. It’s equally important not to be too hard on yourself if you slip up every once in a while. An easy way to keep track of how you’re doing and keep your motivation up is to give yourself short-term goals. Perhaps you could aim firstly for an alcohol-free week, then an alcohol-free month, for example.
Enjoy the benefits. Whether you’re cutting alcohol out of your life completely or cutting down gradually, you may notice a number of improvements to the way you look and feel. Among other things, you might find you have more energy, that you’re sleeping better, or that you’ve lost a bit of weight. In the long term you will also be helping to reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related cancer, alcohol-related liver disease or alcohol-related heart disease and could lower your blood pressure.
Be Grateful For What You Have. When you’re grateful for what you have, relapse becomes the furthest thing on your mind. Take the time to appreciate what you have, even if it doesn’t feel like you have much.
You don’t need to find your calling overnight, but day by day – work on building a life that you want to live. Meaning can come from religion, spirituality, helping others, family, the pursuit of knowledge, or even just the pursuit of new experiences. Set goals and go out and make them a reality.
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