Alcohol is part of almost everyone’s life nowadays. We drink it during the holidays, on birthday celebrations, while watching sports and even when we feel stressed and want to take off the edge. We see it on T.V shows and movies, where it’s usually portrayed as fun and cool. There’s advertising everywhere -literally- of different brands of beer and other beverages. This can make it really hard for someone who wants to quit alcohol to actually achieve this goal.
At least it was for me. My story with alcohol began when I was only 9 years old. It always made me curious how alcohol seemed to make adults happier, more cheerful and more relaxed. So, one time I asked my mom for a tiny sip. She said no of course, but this only made me more curious. It’s funny how as soon as someone tells us we can’t have something it makes us want it more. So one night, while there was a family party at my house, I snuck a bottle from the kitchen while the adults were busy. After only a couple sips I was drunk. Yes, little 9 years old me was drunk and I loved it.
What started with alcohol soon escalated to drugs, and at 23 I got put in prison for substance-related charges. It was only then I realized I had a problem. I decided to get clean. Making that decision was hard and it took a lot of strength and courage. The real challenge was what came next: actually quitting. Luckily, I checked into a wonderful rehab center, where I went through the whole process with the help of great professionals. There I learned 6 tips that helped me quit alcohol for good, and I want to share them with you.
- Seek Professional Help
Alcohol detox and withdrawal is one of the hardest parts of recovery, and attempting it on your own can have potentially fatal consequences. What I did, and what I recommend to do is, right after making the decision of quitting alcohol, seek help and assistance from a doctor or a therapist. They can advise you on what the best treatment option for you is, and, if you experience any symptoms during withdrawal such as panic attacks, intense anxiety, tremors and tachycardia, they can prescribe you medicine to ease them.
It’s important to remember you don’t have to it on your own. Quitting alcohol is easier and safer, and you’ll have more chances of succeeding if you have professional help throughout your recovery process.
- Make Your Intentions Known
One of the first tips my therapist gave me was to tell all of my friends and family that I was in the process of quitting alcohol for good and explaining why. The goal is getting more people to support you, encourage you, and keep you on track. Also, this way they will understand when you turn down parties or bar plans. I used to share every little success with my closest friends and family, such as my first week of sobriety, my first month and so on, and they were always the greatest source of motivation to keep going.
- Stay Busy
Having nothing to do with your time can be your worst nightmare when it comes to staying sober. It was always when I was bored that my mind started wandering around and eventually started thinking about alcohol. My therapist suggested I join some kind of group activity, so I started meeting with a bunch of my friends to play basketball. This not only helped me stay busy but, since exercise releases endorphins, it made me feel happy and satisfied.
- Gradually Reduce Your Drinking
Quitting cold turkey can be really hard, so cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink, progressively, can be a better option for you. When I decided to quit, I stopped drinking once and for all, but I have met people in my AA meetings who have done it gradually and it worked for them. It’s a good way to avoid withdrawal symptoms since your organism will still receive alcohol, but you’ll get used to drinking less and less each time. You should set a limit from the beginning and stick to it; it will require a lot of discipline, but it’s achievable.
- Remember the Bad Times
The moments when I craved alcohol the most were when I was feeling sad or disappointed since I associated drinking alcohol with happiness and pleasure. If you catch yourself thinking like this, try to remember all the bad times you had because of alcohol: the relationships that got damages, the opportunities it cost you, how sick it made you. But be careful not to let guilt and shame from these events overcome you. Don’t hate yourself, hate alcohol.
- Reward Your Progress
Positive reinforcement through rewards can motivate you to stay sober. This is a real challenge, and acknowledging every success is important to keep you going. You can start by setting small goals, such as alcohol-free weekend, then an alcohol-free week, and build up from there. Each time you reach a goal, reward yourself with something you enjoy; getting your favorite food, buying a new piece of clothing, or watching a new movie. I started saving the money I wasn’t spending on alcohol and used it to treat myself whenever I completed my goals.
This year marked the 9th anniversary of my sobriety. It has been a tough road, but with the help of professionals, my family and friends, exercise and other activities, remembering the bad times and rewarding myself for every success, it has been a lot easier. I hope these tips help you on your road to sobriety as-as much as they helped me.
Do you know any other tip that can make it easier to quit alcohol? If you have any suggestions or want to share your experience, please leave a comment below.