When you stop drinking, expect these common challenges

5 common challenges when giving up alcohol

You’ll face many challenges when giving up alcohol. These will vary depending on the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed, and the regularity of your drinking. You may face withdrawal symptoms ranging in severity, which could require medical assistance to navigate.

However, this article isn’t about that. It’s the five immediate issues I faced when I stopped drinking in 2012. They’re not hard core issues, and you should be able to deal with them quite comfortably after a short while.

The need for a drink after a stressful day and week

One way we deal with stress is by having a few drinks. The boss at work has hammered you, the kids are driving you crazy, or the bills are piling up and you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Most of us have been there, and when this happens, a couple of beers, a glass of wine or two, or a bourbon and coke always seems to provide a momentary release from the stress.

These urges to relieve the stress by smashing a few drinks will subside, and you’ll find that you will be able to deal with stressful situations much better without the alcohol. It took me around three months before I no longer felt the urge to pour myself a few drinks after a hard week.

The social aspect of sharing a drink with your friends

Socialising with friends is a big reason why people drink
Socialising with friends is a big reason why people drink

Who doesn’t love sitting around with friends, telling stories and sharing a bottle of wine or a carton of beer. I’ve had many great times doing just that, but since giving up alcohol, I’ve realised if I remove the drinking alcohol part, I still have just as good a time.

Instead of socialising with friends at night over a few drinks, now it’s all about catching up for breakfast and lunch instead. It’s just as much fun, and no alcohol needed.

Accepting that you’re no longer a drinker

I still find myself thinking how strange it is that I’m no longer a drinker. It’s such a huge part of the Australian culture, and I’d been doing it for 20 years! Automatically ordering a drink in a restaurant, or reaching for a beer at a social event was like second nature, and in the early stages you really have to consciously stop yourself from doing it.

For me, it took a few months to change those ingrained habits, but I don’t even think about ordering a drink anymore. Although I do still feel a little strange when I think that I’m no longer a drinker.

Peer pressure and saying no

I was very lucky in this regard, because all of my friends just accepted that I didn’t want to drink any more. There were always going to be a sly dig here or there, maybe once or twice egging me on to have a drink. But on the whole my friends were very supportive.

If you find yourself in a situation where those around you aren’t supportive of your decision, you must do two things. One, remove yourself from situations where there could be peer pressure, such as Friday night drinks at the pub or going to a friend’s house party. And two, steer clear of friends and family who are not supportive. You don’t have to remove yourself from everyone and everything forever, that would be crazy. But until you’re confident in your ability to say no and are comfortable with your new lifestyle, it’s best to stay away from temptation.

Explaining to people why

You'll find yourself explaining why you're not drinking a lot
You’ll find yourself explaining why you’re not drinking a lot

You’ll find yourself doing this a lot. I found people were genuinely interested in why I’d decided I no longer wanted to drink alcohol, and almost everyone was very supportive. But be prepared for the questions to come, because they will thick and fast.

What I found was most people asking questions were really interested in doing the same, either permanently or to have a break, or at least reducing their drinking levels.

However, I also found people would make excuses for their drinking, and get defensive about the amount of alcohol they drank. It’s in these situations that I get a little uncomfortable because I never introduce myself as a non-drinker. And I would never judge anyone because they enjoy a drink. But be aware that opening up about why you no longer drink could make people uncomfortable, even though they will have probably initiated the conversation.

These are just a few of the immediate challenges when giving up alcohol that you’ll face. They’re not major issues, and can be easily overcome within a few months of your new lifestyle. But just be aware that some people won’t be supportive, and may even get quite defensive of their own lifestyle. It’s ok to remove yourself from the social scene while you get your head around being a non-drinker, just don’t remove yourself forever.

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  1. I am one month into no alcohol. Last time I want this long without a drink was 2012. I recently changed jobs – very bad and stressful situation. That’s behind me. I’m ok at home (now) and can get through lunches and dinners. My newest challenge is holiday parties and not being home- traveling for business. I love whiskey and red wine. That’s it. So, I’m going to assume that EVERYTHING at a bar or restaurant tastes like beer or soda. That will help.

    The other thing I notice is that my relationship with my husband is changing. No longer am I passing out at 8 pm from too much to drink. I am spending more time with him. He is supporting me by not drinking as well. We are now experts on herbal teas. We are drinking about 6-8 cups a night.

    I would appreciate any tips or suggestions in “getting through the night” that readers have found useful.

    • Hi Gail, I’m really glad to hear you’ve made a huge effort to give up the booze, that’s great news. Xmas can be a difficult time of year with so many parties and events. You have 2 choices, not go, or go but have strategies in place to stop you from drinking. For example be the designated driver, and have responses ready for when people ask why you’re not drinking ie. “I’m catching up with friends for breakfast early tomorrow morning”. You also need to fill any gaps where you’d normally be drinking with healthy habits. This could mean going for a walk after dinner, heading to the movies once a week (date night), joining a hobby group in the local area, or getting stuck into a good book instead. It’s virtually impossible to replace a bad habit with nothing and expect it to be successful. You need to replace a bad habit with a good habit. Good luck 🙂

  2. Thanks for your insight. I have an office party in two days. That will be the defining event. Also am spending the night so I have to be extra diligent.