Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
Beating an addiction is never easy. From physical withdrawal
to psychological attachment, the road to sobriety is full of challenges. You
may feel as if you’re too weak, incapable, or powerless. You may “fall off the
wagon” more than once. But the bottom line is that becoming sober will be one
of the most important and fulfilling journeys in your life.
Admit You Have a Problem
Admitting your drinking is a problem may not happen easily.
The choice to quit may come after you’ve had troubles in your personal or
professional life, or after being arrested, having an accident, or hurting a
loved one. No amount of nagging from a spouse, parent, or friend will get you
to make the decision to quit. Only you can make that choice.
Coping with Denial
Denial is only one of the many roadblocks you will meet on
your journey to overcoming an addiction, but it may be the most difficult. For
most alcoholics and alcohol abusers, the desire to drink is so overwhelming that
your mind finds ways to rationalize your choices. You tell yourself you have to
drink or you would be cast out of your social circle. You convince yourself
you’re not hurting anyone but yourself. Your friends and family don’t
Denial makes excuses for you. It’s only when you are honest
with yourself that you’ll be direct with yourself enough to decide it’s time to
break the habit.
Make a Commitment
Once you’ve made the decision to get help for your
addiction, talk to friends and family members so they can help you. Share your
feelings about your drinking problem and why you’ve come to the decision you
have. It’s important to be honest with yourself and those around you about how
this decision makes you feel. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings,
admit if you’re ever feeling unsure about your decision, and seek support.
Alcohol addiction is just as much about the behaviors you’ve
established around your drinking habit as the physical addiction itself. When
you break the habits and establish a new routine, quitting may be easier.
Keep in mind that you can’t break an addiction overnight. Your
goals need to be realistic. If you can’t imagine giving up drinking altogether
right now, try just limiting your alcohol consumption. This could mean only having
a certain number of drinks per week, or only drinking socially on weekends. Other
goals may be to avoiding drinking when you’re at a restaurant, or deciding not
to drink when you’re alone.
Commit to your goals and take steps to achieve them. If
you’re no longer going to drink during the week, you may need to avoid the Tuesday
beer night with your basketball buddies. You might have to skip happy hour with
your coworkers on Fridays. Be honest with yourself about what you think you can
and can’t do. Challenge yourself to rise to your goals, and let others know
what you’re trying to accomplish so they can be supportive.
Certain methods can help you stick to your goals.
- Keep a
diary of your drinking. Write
down what you drink, when, and how it made you feel. If you felt driven by a
particular emotion or stressor, record that information. As you begin seeing
patterns, you can revise your goals.
yourself. Don’t let your goals
exist just in your head. Write them down. Post them around you so you’re
your routine. If you find
yourself tempted to drink, have a backup plan in place. Instead of pouring your
usual drink, have a soda or a glass of water instead. Step outside for fresh air or busy yourself
with a particular task. Give yourself something to do so your mind is occupied.
Find the Right Treatment Program
There are a variety of alcohol treatment programs available
for people seeking to overcome addiction. Some alcoholics and alcohol abusers
will choose to go the road alone. Others may need a self-help group,
rehabilitation programs, therapy, or medical treatment. Speak with your doctor about
treatment options and the costs involved, and ask for information about support
networks in your area.
Coping with Withdrawal
While alcohol addiction may be triggered by emotional trauma
or stress, over time, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol. You
may build up a tolerance and find that you need to drink more and more to get
the same effect. As a result, many alcoholics experience withdrawal symptoms
once they decide to quit drinking. The
symptoms of withdrawal include:
- elevated heart rate
These symptoms can begin just a few hours after your last
drink, and they can take several days to more than a week to end. For some addicts,
symptoms of withdrawal can be life threatening. Withdrawal from long-term or
severe alcoholism should be done in a controlled, medical setting to avoid
serious complications. Contact a medical professional if you begin experiencing
- high fever
- severe confusion
In most cases, doctors can supply medicines and treatments
to help you deal with withdrawal. If you are doing this on your own, it may be
wise to ask a friend or family member for help to monitor your condition when
symptoms first appear.
Sobriety is a lifelong battle. Even when you’ve been sober
for years, temptations can arise. Stressful situations may push you toward old
habits. Every day is another chance you may find yourself confronted with old
Deal With Triggers
With professional help you may discover what started your
drinking behaviors in the first place. Perhaps drinking relieved feelings of
stress or anxiety, or helped you feel welcomed and appreciated. Learning to recognize what caused your
problems can help you recognize problems in the future.
Take Interest in Your Health
Work with a medical or mental health professional to develop
strategies to help prevent mood swings, combat cravings, and take better care
of your health. Learn to eat well and get exercise. Your body has a natural
ability to cope with stress and promote well being when you care for it.
Find New Interests
While some recovering alcoholics may find they’re no longer
tempted to drink in familiar environments, others may struggle. Find new
avenues for entertainment and hobbies, and invite friends who are encouraging
and supportive of your sobriety to be a part of them.
Your chances of staying sober are higher if you participate
in groups designed to help you succeed. Support groups are available in almost
every community, and online resources may be helpful as well.