Have you committed to quitting? Even once you have, you may fall back into patterns of denial or justifying why a drink, or a few drinks, is okay. With or without help many struggle with theses bouts of irrational rationalization. Quitting alcohol is not easy. Quitting an addiction presents a big challenge for anyone, regardless of how long they have been struggling with addiction or how intense the addiction is. There is good news, however. If you have committed to quitting drinking, you can do it. If alcohol’s grip has become a problem in your life, set your sights on the benefits of quitting.
Here are some practical self-help tips that can help you, or someone you love, kick the alcohol habit:
- Consult with Your Doctor
- Put it in Writing
- Avoid Temptation
- Share Your Plan to Quit
- Decide How You’ll Quit Drinking
- Reward Your Progress
- Be Watchful of Withdrawal Symptoms
- Tap Into Your Support System
- Accepting Slips or Relapses
Consult with Your Doctor
When quitting alcohol, you may be at medical risk. The best way to be sure that you don’t get any unwanted medical surprises is to sit down with your doctor and talk about your plan. Your doctor may suggest a medication that could help curb withdrawal symptoms, or recommend vitamins or supplements that will help you during recovery.
Put it in Writing
Along the way you’ve either thought or said both reasons why you drink, and reasons why you should quit. Getting those thoughts out on paper can often help not only solidify your decision to quit, but also serve as a reminder if you contemplate going astray.
Simply take out a piece of paper and do a cost-benefit analysis. This exercise is used in many facets of life and business, and it’s simplicity is where it’s value lies. Divide the piece of paper into four quadrants: Costs of Drinking, Costs of Not Drinking, Benefits of Drinking and Benefits of Not Drinking. Here’s an example:
|Costs of Drinking||Costs of Not Drinking|
|Benefits of Drinking||Benefits of Not Drinking|
Think through each question and write three to five statements in each quadrant. Try to be as honest as you can. If you are, you will likely find this piece of paper to be a guidepost throughout your recovery.
You’ve enjoyed alcohol for quite some time. In that time you’ve found places you like to go, and some of those places serve alcohol. You’ve also maintained relationships and friendships and made new ones. Some of those relationships are with people who you tend to drink with. You’re going to have to honestly evaluate if you can go to each of those places and be around each of those people and not be tempted to drink.
Beyond people and places you’ll also need to be conscious of your personal environments and routines. In your home and work environments you will need to remove alcohol and reminders of alcohol to avoid temptation. You also need to look at your daily routines and look for any red flags. Red flags could include places you tend to stop for one reason, but almost always end up drinking. An example would be stopping at a restaurant to watch the game or meeting a friend once a month.
Routines that you have that create opportunities to drink will have to be changed.
Share Your Plan to Quit
There are people in your life that truly care about you. You know who they are. Well, think about those people and try to find at least one, if not a few, that you can share your plan with. If those who truly care about your well being and health are a part of your plan they can help you succeed.
Decide How You’ll Quit Drinking
As we’ve said, and you know, quitting drinking isn’t easy. One thing is for sure: if you don’t come up with some sort of approach to how you’ll quit, you likely won’t do it. There are two ways to go. The first is cold turkey. You just decide you’re done, you stop, and you don’t go back. The second way is to gradually wean off alcohol. This can be done in a number of ways, but it should be a steady progression of consuming less over a defined period of time until you aren’t drinking alcohol at all. Learn more about how to taper off alcohol here.
Another way to wean off of alcohol is to enroll in a medical detox program where medication-assisted treatment can be provided. Once detox is over you may begin inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Reward Your Progress
Quitting alcohol is hard. When you’re succeeding, you should be rewarding yourself. Coming up with rewards is up to you. Whatever the reward, be sure to celebrate your progress!
Be Watchful of Withdrawal Symptoms
Normal alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, cramps, headache, nausea, shaking, sweating and vomiting. Everyone experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms differently. Some will barely struggle with them where others will have a tough battle. Whichever and however you experience withdrawal symptoms, they’re usually the worst in the first day or two and by day four or five are just about gone.
There are symptoms that are dangerous and warrant a visit to the emergency room. Those are confusion, convulsions, disorientation, fever, hallucinations, seizures and severe vomiting. In any of those cases, seek immediate help by dialing 9-1-1 or heading straight to the emergency room. Never drive if you feel you are unable to.
Tap Into Your Support System
Along the journey of recovery it will be clear who in your life is a part of your support system. Some will be individuals, like a friend or relative. Others might be groups of people whom support each other. From time to time, you’ll find yourself struggling to stay on the plan you’ve laid out. This is the time to enlist help: leverage your support system. Don’t forget, you’re not alone, and there are people who want you to succeed.
Accepting Slips or Relapses
Nobody is perfect, and slips and relapses happen. In our recent survey only 29.4% reported not relapsing at all. The largest group (32.3%) relapsed back to alcohol use within the first year after stopping. What’s important is what you do after a slip or relapse. You need to get back on track. It sounds easy now, but guilt, shame, or the opinions or statements of others at the time may tell you otherwise. Don’t fall into the trap! Everybody makes mistakes. Seek help and support from your support system and get back on track.