How do I quit drinking?

Alcohol ranks second in the list of drugs most abused. Chronic use of alcohol and overdose have caused countless deaths worldwide. With regular use of alcohol, tolerance develops. With tolerance the amount of alcohol one needs to get high increases. As tolerance develops, the body reacts to “not drinking” by trembling, aching and refusing to sleep. This perpetuates further alcohol use and gradually one neglects social responsibilities to drink. By now one becomes “dependent” on alcohol.

Alcohol does not define you, you are much more than a person with a drinking habit. You can beat alcohol.

Several people who do end up in a dependent state, do not want to stay dependent. Most individuals who are addicted decide to quit alcohol several times a week. Here are some tips that can help you make a decision and stick to it. Start with the following screening test. It’s free and will take around 3 minutes to complete.

Step one – finding motivation within you !

Remember that this is about you. If you are planning to quit for someone else, chances are your decision will fail if “someone” disappoints you. Remember that alcohol will try to manipulate you and make you take that one last drink again. The only way to stay sober is to take responsibility for your sobriety. Partners, children and other loved ones can be a source of great motivation to stop drinking, but you are the only person who can keep the motivation going. So why do you want to quit? Try answering that question with only “yourself” in mind.

Write it down !

Finding intrinsic motivation can be hard, give it some effort and you will find it. Once you do find it, please write it down. Writing is magical, it help slow things down, it helps fleeting thoughts become facts. So please write it down. In addition to your intrinsic motivation, try maintaining a drink diary as well. In your drink diary try to record the following.

  • Why did you drink?
  • How much did you drink,
  • What happens when you cannot drink.
  • How do you feel when you drink.
  • What do you gain, and what do you lose because you had that drink?
  • Most importantly, why couldn’t you stop yourself when you have already decided to do so.

Sit back and contemplate your drinking, Ask the ones close to you, what they think of your drinking. Quantify the feedback, and observe to see if they are true. Keep your mind open as you are receiving your feedback, please do not get defensive. Each entry in your drink diary offers a wealth of information that helps you learn more about yourself.

Denial , minimization and rationalization are defense mechanisms commonly employed by the addicted brain to keep the habit going.

Step two – Watch for hijack

Any addictive substance has the ability to hijack your brain to make you indulge in drug seeking behavior. Hijack is so common that some people do not identify it at all. Alcohol can drag you away from your life, without you noticing it. It can make you irritable and annoyed at everything that stop you from taking a drink. This isn’t you. The hijack fades only after you have had a drink, by then there is a lot of guilt and helplessness that is going to make your efforts difficult.

Become an expert in identifying the hijack. Take responsibility for every drink you take, and make sure you are doing consciously. Once you are able to identify the hijack, you are in a much better position to cut down or quit drinking.

Step three – Open up !

Addictions are medical disorders. You do not have to feel ashamed that you have a drinking problem. You have a disorder that needs treatment. This has nothing to do with self-control or intelligence. You will be amazed at the amount of support you gain from friends and family once you begin seeking help and support. Openly talk about you difficulties with a trusted few. You are going to need al the support you can get.

Step four – Seek medical assistance

However trivial you think your drinking problems may be, please seek medical help. Medical help increases the chances of breaking addictions many folds. As you try to quit and remain abstinent, you will realize something very important, that it isn’t easy! The withdrawal symptoms can be distressing and sleep elusive. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms can be outright dangerous.

A psychiatrist will first help you with the detox. He/she will prescribe drugs that will diminish the withdrawal symptoms (tremors, irritability, sleeplessness, nausea, palpitations etc.) Tests will be run to check the status of your internal organs. Any associated complications can be assessed and managed. Detoxing will take around 7-10 days. If you do not drink much and want to detox yourself. Keep yourself hydrated, watch for the signs of withdrawal. Tremors, palpitations, sweating, increased blood pressure and sleeplessness. As long as they are mild, they will begin to diminish within the first three days. I would never suggest unsupervised withdrawal from alcohol or any other psychoactive substance.

Step five – Stay in control.

A few days of abstinence may give you a feeling of control. Be weary of it, the moment you become confident in your ability to control your drinking, you become susceptible to hijack again. This can leave you reeling in a cycle of short periods of abstinence followed by longer periods of uncontrolled drinking.

Once detoxed, despite being alcohol free, the risk of relapse remains fro several years. There are a number of options available to prevent relapse. These options range from support groups to medications that cause adverse effects if you ever drink again. A professional will be able to give you all the options.

This is when we go back to step one, write down how being sober feels. Write down each time you fight the craving to consume one more drink. Put abstinence on top priority, because you already know what alcohol can do to you. 

You can do this!

taking care

These steps can work for you, but please do not blame yourself or others if it doesn’t. It is hard to quit, please seek help at the earliest to make it easier for yourself.