Time To Decide to Stop Drinking?
How can you decide to stop drinking in this alcohol-fueled world?
We live in a culture where drinking is as ubiquitous as going to the grocery store. We drink for every occasion; our team loses, our team wins, we had a great day at work, we had a terrible day at work, absolutely nothing of note happened at work.
It’s a holiday, it’s an average Friday, you’re on a date, you’re in college; it seems like drinking is something everyone does at any opportunity.
With so much focus on alcohol and so many perceived reasons to drink, it can be difficult to know when your drinking habits cross the line. When does cracking a cold one open with the boys move from being harmless to being destructive?
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Inability to Control Your Drinking
One of the big signs that it may be time to stop drinking is that you are unable to control how much or how often you drink. You may start out at a party or an evening out intending to have one drink, maybe two. But then two turns into five and five becomes eight, and before you know it, you’ve finished a whole bottle of whiskey.
We all have times when we drink a little more than we intended. But if it starts happening more frequently, or if you find that you have to drink more than everyone else to get the same effect, it may be a warning sign. Other red flags include drinking several times throughout the day or at inappropriate times, such as before driving or at work.
The desire to hide how much you’re using something is almost always one of the signs of alcoholism. There can be many reasons you may feel like you need to be secretive about your drinking with your family. Maybe they’ve said something to you in the past about your drinking, or maybe you feel like they’ll judge you.
Feeling like you have to hide your drinking is a sign that you know your behavior is outside the norm. You may sneak away to drink alone or hide the alcohol you keep. If you find yourself lying to your loved ones about your drinking habits, it may be time to step back and reevaluate.
Worrying About Having Enough Alcohol
Oftentimes, those whose drinking habits have reached an unhealthy point may worry about having enough alcohol around. You know you have to have a drink, and so the idea of running out of alcohol scares you. This indicates a dependence that is not healthy.
You may find yourself stashing alcohol in various places around your home, especially in hidden places. You might also have a flask or bottle in a drawer or filing cabinet at work. Perhaps you might even take alcohol with you to parties to ensure that you’ll have plenty should the supply there run out.
Alcohol Taking Over Your Thoughts
Addiction takes over your life, and the first place it does this is in your own head. Compulsive drinkers live and plan their lives around alcohol. It starts to be the only thing you can think about and the sole focus of your day.
You may want to reevaluate your drinking habits if you find that you spend large amounts of time, money, and energy getting alcohol, drinking, or recovering from a hangover.
When you start prioritizing alcohol over things like safe driving, taking care of health conditions, or controlling violent outbursts. You might also realize that you never go to events or spend time around people when drinking is not involved.
Dropping the Ball on Responsibilities
Another part of addiction taking over your life is that you start shirking your responsibilities. Alcohol has become the most important thing in your life, so things like your job, your bills, or your family take the back burner. The time, energy, and money you had to devote to those things before is now going to feed your addiction.
Maybe you’ve started missing work more often because of hangovers or leaving early to go drink. You may choose to go drinking rather than spend time with your loved ones, even severing ties with those who don’t drink. Your finances may also begin to suffer as you spend more and more money buying alcohol.
Other Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Ironically, one of the biggest indicators that you may be suffering from alcohol use disorder (and it is a medical disorder) is that you’ve tried and failed to stop drinking in the past.
In essence, alcohol use disorder means you are not in control of your drinking, and it is having an unhealthy impact on your life. Those who have a healthy relationship with alcohol can stop drinking with no more than some minor inconvenience.
There are also some withdrawal symptoms you may experience that can indicate a physical dependency. When you don’t drink, you may feel nauseous or you might start sweating or shaking. These aren’t just part of a bad hangover; they’re withdrawal symptoms.
Other Reasons to Quit Drinking
So far, we’ve focused on the signs of alcohol use disorder that indicate you should stop drinking. But it is important to note that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to decide to give up alcohol. Lots of people don’t drink for many different reasons.
You may find that you have a physical or mental condition that is made worse by drinking, including things like depression or anxiety. You might be taking medication (especially on a long-term basis) that interacts negatively with alcohol. Or you may have things like sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction. Or perhaps a family history of alcoholism that means you have to avoid drinking.
Cutting Down vs. Quitting
If you recognized any of the symptoms we mentioned above in yourself, you may be thinking that, okay, you should cut back on your drinking. Loved ones may have suggested this course of action to you as well. In some cases, you may be able to cut back and be fine.
However, oftentimes, that approach does not work.
If you don’t often go over your limits and find that your relationship with alcohol is a little unhealthy, but not a full-on dependence, cutting back may work for you. But one of the hallmarks of alcohol use disorder is an inability to control how much you drink.
If you go in intending to have one drink one night in a week, you’ll likely find yourself right back in the same situation.
Decide To Stop Drinking: The Benefits
There are many good reasons to decide to stop drinking, not least of which is an improved quality of life. For one thing, you’ll be physically and mentally healthier. Alcohol use can often lead to things like heart disease, liver failure, cancer, depression, anxiety, or gambling addiction.
But you’ll also find that you have better interpersonal relationships as a result of not drinking. You’ll be able to engage with your family and friends in ways that you can’t when you’re drunk. Your work life will improve. Plus you’ll find that you have more time and energy to pursue the things that matter to you.
How to Stop Drinking
The question of how to stop drinking may sound like a trick question at first. After all, don’t you just not drink any more alcohol, and mission accomplished? But when you’re dealing with a mental and physical addiction, it’s not as simple as just deciding not to drink anymore.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make a commitment to live a sober life. Write it down, tell your family and friends, post it to your social media if you like. Accountability is an important step to staying sober, and making the commitment is the first step in that journey.
Decide To Stop Drinking: When to Get Help
If you are suffering from alcohol use disorder, you’ll need professional help during your journey to sobriety. This has nothing to do with being weak or strong. It’s a matter of having medical help to overcome mental and physical dependence. Relapse can be the least of your concerns when you decide to stop drinking. Especially if you try to quit cold-turkey on your own.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly, as we’ll discuss more in a minute. When you decide to stop drinking, talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist. They can help you decide what level of treatment you need and refer you to the right program.
Alcohol withdrawal is one of the big reasons you shouldn’t try to quit drinking cold-turkey on your own. As we’ve mentioned, alcohol use disorder is physical dependence. You may have experienced some of the early symptoms of withdrawal before, and you’ll know they aren’t fun.
Withdrawal can last as long as a week and can include some very scary symptoms. Within the first day that you stop drinking, you may experience hallucinations, followed in some cases by seizures.
You may also experience delirium tremens, a dangerous condition that can cause your heart to race dangerously, your blood pressure to skyrocket, and blood flow to your brain to be cut off.
Recovery centers can help support you through the course of withdrawal, making sure you stay safe and mitigating some of the symptoms.
There are several different approaches to treating alcohol use disorders. The two big categories are inpatient treatment programs and outpatient treatment programs.
Inpatient treatment programs keep you in the hospital 24/7 for a few weeks. This can be helpful because it ensures that your symptoms are constantly managed. Plus it helps you avoid triggers while you develop new habits and coping mechanisms. However, this does require you to take several weeks out of your life.
Outpatient treatment programs involve your visiting the hospital for several hours every day. You can still live at home and possibly work a job during this process, which can be helpful especially as a transition during your recovery. But it does mean that you are in the same environment which originally led to your drinking, which can be hard.
Keep Yourself Accountable
One of the best things you can do to make sure your journey to sobriety is successful is keeping yourself accountable. Tell the people you love and whose opinions you value that you are quitting drinking. Be honest with them about your disorder and your treatment plans.
Telling other people about your addiction and treatment will do a few things. For one, it will motivate you to continue on the path since you don’t want to disappoint your loved ones. But it will also give you checkpoints in your daily life when you interact with those people and they ask how you’re doing.
In your daily life right now, you have formed a habit of drinking. And like any habit, there are signals in your daily routine that say, “Now it’s time to drink.” Think of it as a circadian rhythm with your alcohol use; when it hits 5 p.m. or you start your drive home or you hang out with that friend, your brain gives you a signal to start drinking.
When you’re first establishing a life after drinking, it’s important to avoid as many of those triggers as you can. You want to rewire your brain so that there isn’t a time when it sets off that craving to drink. If you drive past your bar on the way home, take a different route; if you usually leave work at 5, try leaving at 5:30.
Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms
The other part of avoiding things that might trigger you to drink is finding better, healthier coping mechanisms.
For many people, the reason they started drinking in the first place was as a way to deal with stress or negative emotions. It became the only way they knew to handle those problems, and so every time something bad happened, they reached for the bottle.
Instead, try to establish healthy patterns for dealing with stress in your life. This can include working out, art therapy, yoga, meditation, or talking to a loved one. Find something other than drinking that relieves stress and makes you feel better.
Decide to Stop Drinking And Find Sobriety
Knowing when to decide to stop drinking is the first step to a happier, healthier life. Take a look at your drinking habits, make a commitment to sobriety, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Your journey to sobriety will be well worth it.
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