How to stop drinking once and for all
It’s the habit you can’t kick. It feels like you’re never going to be able to stop. You’re questioning whether you even want to stop—after all, you think, shouldn’t you have enough will power for this?
A drinking problem might be a constant part of your life right now, but it doesn’t have to be. No matter how difficult stopping feels, you can do it. But it’s not just willpower that you need. You need the right knowledge, too. While everyone’s journey to sobriety is unique, here are the key pieces that you need to stop drinking once and for all.
The Rules for Recovery
According to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, there are five rules for recovery. It’s not about the actions you take, but also the mentalities you foster. Here are the rules to guide you as you begin your journey:
1. Change Your Life
Recovery isn’t just about cutting out alcohol. It’s about creating a new life full of healthy habits, where alcohol no longer belongs. If you just take out alcohol and leave everything the same, you’re going to feel like something’s missing. You need to replace drinking with new activities and people who bring you joy and meaning.
2. Be Completely Honest
Addiction tends to create a life of lying, constantly trying to keep the extent of your habit secret from family, friends, and employers. But recovery requires honesty. When sharing personal details, especially with self-help groups and counselors, you should feel uncomfortably honest. That kind of vulnerability takes time to work up to, but it’s ultimately what’s going to help you sort out the complexities of your motivations and heal the relationships with people around you.
3. Ask for Help
Most people try to sort out their addiction on their own before asking for help. It’s only after a relapse that they realize they need outside support and treatment. Don’t wait for that first relapse to reach out. Research shows that self-help groups significantly increase the chances of long-term recovery, and that the golden combination of a substance abuse program and a self-help group is extremely effective.
4. Practice Self Care
It’s common for individuals struggling with addiction to take less than they actually need. They’ll push themselves without enough rest or food, becoming exhausted and using alcohol to finally relax. Alcohol becomes a reward for a day of working hard. Self care is something that many people gloss over, as it seems unnecessary and sounds almost selfish. But it’s helpful to understand some definitions: Selfishness it taking more than you need. Self care, on the other hand, is about taking as much as you need.
Instead of waiting until you’re exhausted and looking for a pick-me-up, give yourself the care you need now. Studies show that mindfulness, meditation, and other mind-body relaxation techniques are effective in preventing relapse. You need to understand that your physical care is critical in reaching sobriety.
5. Don’t bend the rules
Have you ever asked a professional for help, and then ignored the advice? Or maybe you’ve been in recovery for a while, and the techniques you learned just don’t seem like they’re necessary anymore?
The final rule for recovery is simply that you can’t bend the rules. There are no shortcuts or exceptions. These are the building blocks of your freedom in a sober lifestyle, and bending them is like building a house with half-made bricks.
The Recovery Process
There are many ways to receive the treatment you need, but these steps are necessary to grow and establish yourself in your new sober lifestyle. You’ll begin with intensive care and guidance, and slowly “step down” to lower levels of care.
The first step in recovery is getting rid of alcohol entirely. Some people with milder addictions choose to detox at home with a friend or family member to monitor them. However, alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and even fatal, especially for individuals who have dealt with their addictions for a long time. It’s best to detox in a medical environment where you can be monitored for negative effects such as fever, high blood pressure, delirium, and seizures. There, you’ll have support from doctors who monitor your vitals and will help you recover lost nutrition throughout the detox process.
The time after detox is crucial. Many people begin to instantly feel better and think they are recovered, only to find themselves stuck back in their addiction a little while later. Recovery is about creating a new life, and you need a supportive community to grow into it. Oftentimes the best place to learn how to do that is in a treatment program.
There’s a spectrum of treatment methods depending on the severity of the addiction:
- Inpatient alcohol treatment offers an environment where you stay at a recovery facility full-time to focus on your recovery. At The Recovery Village, for example, you’ll participate in counseling sessions, group therapy sessions, 12-step meetings, and holistic therapies.
- Partial hospitalization is an intermediate step where you live at home but participate in therapy, classes, and other recovery activities during the day.
- Outpatient programs are for motivated patients who are ready to live in transitional housing or a private residence. In an outpatient environment, you have access to most (if not all) services available in inpatient treatment.
Recovery is an ongoing process, and every day is a journey to building a sober life you can find real fulfillment in. Aftercare helps reinforce the skills you learned for dealing with stress and cravings and giving you access to supportive groups and individuals who will be able to help you as you grow. It’s also an important part of building a relapse prevention plan.
Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most popular and successful approaches to recovering from an alcohol addiction. Meetings are free to members, who are only asked to contribute a small donation of time or money to keep the meetings going. AA meetings, other recovery community groups, and ongoing counseling are all parts of aftercare. You may want to also consider moving to a sober living home after treatment. This environment provides a stable, drug- and alcohol-free community to practice your coping skills.
Throughout your recovery process, there are a few techniques that you’ll likely hear about over and over again. They’ve been helpful for many people who have overcome their addictions and most (if not all) will likely prove important steps for you to free yourself.
Get Rid of Temptations
Don’t keep alcohol around “just in case,” or think that it would be a waste of money to throw it out. You have to go all-in.
It really does take a community. Tell people you trust about what you’re going through, at every stage. You may be surprised how many people are willing to come alongside you and help you on your journey.
What makes the cravings stronger? Pay attention to your body and identify what pushes you to drink. Then make tangible changes to avoid those them.
Keep a Diary
If you haven’t quit yet, use a diary to track your drinking habits. Once you’re committed to recovery, you’ll find it also valuable in identifying your triggers and sorting through your thoughts as you tackle fresh challenges.
Exercise brings new strength and lots of mood-balancing endorphins. You’ll start to learn the amazing things your body is capable of doing when you care for it.
Develop a Healthy Identity
According to Dr. Steven M. Melemis, there are two types of people in recovery: non-users, who are ready to move past their addictions, and denied users, who secretly can’t imagine life without drinking. They might tell themselves that they’ll get healthy now so they can handle a drink better someday, or use an anniversary of being sober as an excuse to drink. You have to change the way you see yourself. Everyone starts their journey as a denied user. Your job is learn to see yourself as someone who has left their drinking days completely in the past.
Are you ready to change your life? We’ll stand by you as you discover a meaningful life of sobriety. Learn about our treatment programs.
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