Did you just type this question into Google, “How can I stop drinking?” Are you worried about how much you are drinking? You have just reached out, the first step to making a change. This is amazing.
Deep down inside, only you know the answer to this question. Deep down inside, only you can help yourself. Deep down inside, tucked away beside the shame and guilt, hides your inner child. The one who wants to be free, to be the real you.
Greet your inner child, say “Hi.” Ask your inner child how you can stop drinking alcohol!
I am being serious. Many people who drink and who then Google that question, “How can I stop drinking alcohol?” are the people who have lost touch with who they really are. They are swamped with guilt and shame. They are spent from all the ducking and diving, the stress, and the burnout.
They have been hiding for so long and now they feel terrible about it all. They feel terrible about the alcohol and its effect on them. They feel terrible about their poor images in the eyes of their families and friends, their colleagues, and their acquaintances.
Many people who drink have been drinking for so long that they have lost so much in their lives. Yes, they have lost opportunities, pathways to other destinies – and now they are too scared to stop drinking in case it is just too damn depressing out there to face all of these truths!
Cast Your Mind Back
How can I stop drinking alcohol? I think what you mean is I WANT TO STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL. Do me a favour: go back in your life to that day when you had your very first taste of alcohol. Was it wine? Was it beer? Was it a glug of your father’s whiskey or brandy? How did you feel? After that, what was the pattern of your drinking?
Cast your mind back: did you do crazy, regrettable things when you drank? Did you have a normal, happy childhood? Was there trauma?
Why am I asking all these questions? I am trying to help you answer that question. Stopping drinking doesn’t usually happen overnight like the click of a switch. Stopping drinking usually comes with a whole Pandora’s box of discoveries and shocks, Déjà vu’s and realisations.
Don’t worry, most of the experiences are good and motivational. It’s fun and safe here, on the other side of the fence. The sober side of the fence is much quieter, gentler, more real.
Trauma Underlies Addiction
Often, when I ask people who want to stop drinking what traumas they have experienced in their lives, they get that dumfounded look and suddenly start to “see”. And if they have a certain trigger for their drinking or their anger or their pain, and they start to really look at that trigger, memories start to flow or pop up where things were NOT that lekker. Then ask yourself: WHY AM I DRINKING?
The hardest part about stopping drinking alcohol is what we learn about our lives and ourselves. Instead of numbing the pain and hiding away and thinking we are having a really fun life, we now decide to take control of our health and welfare, our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being WITHOUT the need for a false substance that is a false sense of happiness and fun!
Please read about Dr Gabor Mate, “a man who has dedicated his life to understanding the connection between illness, addiction, trauma, and society. Trauma is the invisible force that shapes our lives. It shapes the way we live, the way we love, and the way we make sense of the world. It is the root of our deepest wounds.”
Maté talks about how early childhood experiences sometimes show up later in life and how we’re all affected by our social, cultural, economic, and relational environments.
“In all cases of addiction that I have seen, there’s a deep pain that comes out of trauma. Addiction is the person’s unconscious attempt to escape from the pain. That’s not just my personal opinion. It’s also what large-scale studies show. Whether we are talking about the emotional pain and the shame that’s at the heart of addiction or whether we are looking at the brain physiology of addiction, which is very much influenced by childhood experiences, we are looking at the impact of trauma.”
So, do yourself a favour and look back on your childhood. Talk to your inner child – is he/she still there? Do you still remember that time when ….?
Root Causes and Practical Steps
The practical steps you can take to stop drinking are all good and well. And I am going to list them now. But until you address the ROOT CAUSES of your drinking, I am afraid that you can take as many practical steps as you like, and you may end up a depressive wreck.
The first step that you can take if you want to stop drinking is to look carefully at where and when you drink. Which activities involve alcohol? In my experience, many drinkers drink at home alone! But if you seek out social events and places like pubs to drink, then you know what to do about that – avoid them. If you drink alone at home, it is trickier. You will have to do lots of work to change your routines and rituals.
Reading and writing, podcasting, and You tubing are good ways to start – fill yourself up with knowledge, Quitlit and wonderful success stories by others who stopped drinking – look at why and now they did it! Take notes and learn from these now happy sober people.
It is good to start looking seriously at the negative impacts of alcohol as a foreign substance on your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Did you know that alcohol consumption is directly linked to cancer – as a leading cause of cancer?! Drinking is drinking if you have one glass a day or 6 glasses a day. Heavy drinking is defined as having a binge at least 5 times a month and a binge is when you drink the weekly limit on that day (the weekly limit is only 1,5 bottles of wine and many people can put away 2 bottles of wine a day!
According to the Cleveland Clinic,” Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition involving frequent or heavy alcohol use. People with alcohol use disorder can’t stop drinking, even when it causes problems, emotional distress or physical harm to themselves or others… It’s a disease of brain function and requires medical and psychological treatments to control it. Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe. It can develop quickly or over a long period of time. It’s also called alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse.”
If you are reading this and this definition makes you feel uncomfortable then maybe look into WHY you are drinking. What degree of dependence on alcohol have you reached? Is there still hope if you stop now?
Alcohol Damages the Body
Leah Miller notes that the body takes huge strain when you are drinking. Look at the impacts on these organs:
- Brain. Alcohol can change how the brain functions and appears, altering moods, behavior, coordination, and memory. Alcohol has been associated with depression, anxiety, memory loss, and increased risk of dementia.
- Heart. Drinking can affect the heart, leading to cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscle), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), increased risk of stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Immune system. Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to fight diseases, making individuals more susceptible to getting sick. Chronic drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia and tuberculosis (infection of the lungs). And binge drinking or drinking heavily on a single occasion slows the body’s ability to ward off infections—even a full 24 hours after getting drunk.
- Liver. Over time, alcohol can cause inflammation and liver diseases, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
- Pancreas. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can cause pancreatitis, a condition involving inflammation and swollen blood vessels that impairs digestion.
- Risk of developing cancer. Evidence indicates that the more a person drinks regularly over time, the greater the likelihood they have of developing alcohol-related cancer, such as breast, mouth and throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, and colon and rectum. Even moderate drinking—one or two drinks per day—has been linked to an elevated risk of breast cancer in women.
- Stomach. Alcohol misuse can also contribute to gastric bleeding.
Naturally, if you stop drinking, these symptoms will disappear if you are lucky – that you stop before things are terminal. Sobriety can bring you back to a healthy status quo as long as you do the work: physical work (exercise, eating well, sleeping well); mental work (change your false beliefs and reinstate your value system); emotional work (find someone to help who is needier than you are, find friends and family who can support you and believe in you, do yoga, etc) and spiritual work (find the group which supports your beliefs be that Christianity or Buddhism, Atheism or Pantheism).
Let’s look at some steps you can take toward stopping drinking. You ask, “How can I stop drinking?” The answer is JUST DO IT! Believe in YOU, not a fake sense of happiness led by the alcohol. Believe in who you are, in the raw, in reality – not with the aid of something abusive and addictive that was manufactured to create a false sense of happiness and much money for big companies!
Read some helpful tips to help you stop drinking:
- Write down your reasons for wanting to stop drinking. List the positive impact this can have on your body, mental health, finances, relationships, and other areas of your life
- Explore your current relationship with alcohol. You may want to consider why you drink, such as socializing or coping with stress, and how much you drink. Keep track of how much and how often you drink and how you feel when you drink
- Consider whether you want to cut back or stop drinking completely. Talk to your doctor to decide what makes the most sense for you right now. Think about your habits. Can you stop drinking once you start? Try taking days off from drinking or pacing yourself when you do drink by not having more than one alcoholic beverage in one hour.
- Remove alcohol from the house. It is a lot easier to cut back or stop drinking completely when alcohol isn’t readily accessible.
- Set aside time for self-care. Ensure that you take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating properly, getting exercise, and meditating. These practices provide healthy alternatives to drinking.
- Reach out for support. Encouraging friends and family members can help reinforce your decision and help you manage difficult situations.
- Attend a formal rehab treatment program. Sometimes it may be hard to stop on your own and a formal treatment program with structured schedules and therapies can help you to overcome your addiction.
- Learn how to say no. If drinking has been a big part of your life, you are likely to encounter situations where alcohol is present, and you might be offered a drink. Plan for these instances. Ask a friend to role play with you and request a non-alcoholic drink instead.
- Find ways to occupy your time. Replace alcohol-centered activities with healthier pursuits, such as exercise, catching up with old friends, or learning a new skill.
- Stay away from high-risk situations. Identify trigger situations and avoid them if possible. If you can’t, bring a supportive friend or family member with you to help you cope with temptation.
Sue Diamond of Good Life Recovery notes that “being an adult in recovery means that we are in control of how we think and how we feel. By making small adjustments in our view of ourselves and others, we can see an experience from a more positive vantage point… Nothing is impossible once you stop your addiction and start healing and growing. Your thinking can go from the scrap heap to the skyscraper. The power to do that is inside of you and part of a well-paced, well-planned, holistic recovery.”
Sue knows that our negative thoughts can be our downfall. If we change negative thoughts such as I’m not good enough, no one loves me, I don’t fit in, I don’t need others and more we can change our lives. Think the opposite of these thoughts: I am good enough, everyone loves me, I do fit in, I do need others, etc.
Sue promotes these four steps:
- Self-Awareness (know what you are thinking)
- Pause to interrupt the automatic reflex
- Make a conscious choice to practice the opposite.
- Notice the impact it has on those around you (track it in your journal).
Right now, stay with Tribe Sober and DO THE WORK!