For most people who live in countries where drinking is part of the culture, making the decision to stop drinking alcohol can be tough, particularly if you’ve been a consistent drinker for many years. There are many reasons why people make the decision to quit drinking alcohol:
- Medical problems such as liver and heart disease
- Weight loss goals
- Avoid the dreaded hangover
- Body detoxification
- Lead a healthier life
- They’re simply over it!
If one of these reasons above fits your current situation, or there’s something else not mentioned that has given you reason to quit drinking alcohol, read on to see how you can make the transition from drinker to non-drinker that little bit easier.
Tell people you’re giving up alcohol
If you quit drinking alcohol and don’t tell anyone, people are going to wonder why and start grilling you. This inevitably leads to playful banter, teasing and peer pressure, which is when a lot of people succumb.
Instead, be open and honest with everyone from the start. Tell them you don’t want to drink any more and the reasons why. Of course there will still be those who either won’t believe you or won’t understand, and they’ll try and get you to drink despite the fact they know you don’t want to. You may need to avoid these people for a little while, even though you may be very close to them, until you are confident as a non-drinker. However, you’ll also create some allies who will encourage your new path, and don’t be surprised if some even join you.
Stay away from drinking environments
If you’re serious about quitting alcohol, stay away from places where alcohol is readily available. This includes removing all alcohol from your home. If there is no alcohol around, the temptation for you to drink will be drastically reduced.
For the first few weeks at least, while you’re getting used to this new alcohol-free lifestyle, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from social gatherings where alcohol will be flowing freely. You won’t need to live like a hermit for the rest of your life, but you may need to step out of the drinking scene while you become accustomed to not drinking.
Offer to drive everywhere
This idea can be dangerous and should only be used if you have enough willpower to say no to alcohol. The last thing you want is to drive to a party or the pub, relent to peer pressure or your own cravings, then get behind the wheel when you’ve had too much to drink. If you don’t think you can say no to an alcoholic drink just yet, don’t offer to drive.
However, if you’re strong enough to resist the temptation, driving to social gatherings will give you a great excuse to say no. And if you’re friends or acquaintances are decent people, they will understand completely and not offer you a drink at all.
Fill peak drinking times with other activities
There are common times throughout the week when the drinking routine kicks in, such as Friday after work drinks, Sunday afternoon sessions with your friends, or quiz nights at your local pub on a Wednesday night. If these or other regular drinking sessions are part of your life, then the decision to quit drinking will leave a hole in your schedule that may need to be filled. If left open there’s a chance you’ll be sitting there twiddling your thumbs during those times, and eventually relent.
Instead, fill the Friday after work gap with a trip to the cinema; go bike riding with your friends on a Sunday afternoon; and on Wednesday nights enrol in a course you’ve always wanted to do (or sit in front of your laptop and read this blog for some inspiration)! For a while you’re going to feel a little lost without your drinking sessions, so it’s important in the short to medium term to find other things to do where drinking alcohol is not the focus.
Reduce your drinking instead of going cold turkey
If you’ve been a heavy drinker for a while, going cold turkey may be difficult for you to do. Instead, gradually reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, and the frequency of your drinking, could be the first step to a life of sobriety.
If you drink every night, pick one or two days to be alcohol-free to start with. After a few weeks of getting into that routine, add another day or two. Continue along this path until you aren’t drinking at all, apart from at events or social gatherings. Just reducing the constant flow of alcohol can have a seismic effect on your health and wellbeing.
If you have a friend or family member who you live with, and you can count on them to support you, it’s a good idea to tell them that you’re quitting drinking alcohol and the reasons for it. Ask them to help you stay on course, and when the urge to drink takes over, give them permission to remind you why you made the decision to stop drinking alcohol in the first place. This could be a friendly reminder, or it could be something a little sterner, but sometimes we need someone on our case to push us through those tough times.
Keep the reasons for quitting visible
A great way to decide if you want to stop drinking alcohol is by doing a cost-benefit analysis. By taking the time to write down all of the reasons why you want to stop drinking, not only will they start to embed themselves in your mind, but you’ll also have a hard copy that you can read over and over again at any time. By placing this list somewhere that you really can’t miss on a daily basis, such as on the fridge or next to your computer at work, you will be constantly reinforcing why you’ve made this decision.
Seek professional help
There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to make improvements in your life. I’ve always used the coach/professional athlete example to illustrate why it’s important. A professional athlete would never be able to make a living from their sport without the assistance of an elite coach. CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies will have business mentors all through their lives, guiding them as they forge a successful career. People who have achieved incredible feats more often than not have had help along the way. Hell, even Presidents and Prime Ministers have advisors with them every step of the way!
If you need to seek professional help because you have an alcohol dependency, please do so immediately. Confidential and anonymous services are just a click of a mouse or a phone call away. It is the first step in breaking the cycle, and moving towards a healthier, happier and more rewarding life.
If, like me, you just don’t want to drink any more, you have professional options to help you achieve your goals. I went and saw a hypnotherapist, and since my one-hour session in mid-2012, I have not touched a drop of alcohol since. I hardly remember the session at all, I think I fell asleep on the couch for most of it I was so relaxed! But I can only assume the messages the hypnotherapist placed in my subconscious mind has done their job. I’m not saying I’ve never had the urge to buy a drink or two at the supermarket since my hypnotherapy session, particularly during the first couple of months of sobriety, but they are a distant memory now and I don’t even think about drinking alcohol any more.
If you slip up, get back on the horse
Along the journey you may be so tempted by an alcoholic drink that you can’t help yourself. That’s ok, don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s all part of the journey. But when you do slip up, remind yourself why you wanted to quit drinking in the first place, reaffirm that message in your mind, and start again.
I knew I wanted to stop drinking alcohol about four years before I had my last drink. I didn’t drink too often, but I’d have a big night out with my mates once or twice a month and regret it the next day. The hangover, empty wallet and wasted day on the couch just wasn’t worth it anymore. But because drinking is such a part of the Australian culture, and had been part of my life for so long, giving up was incredibly hard.
The key is to reward yourself when you’ve enjoyed success and reached a goal, and to dust yourself off and get back on the horse when you have a fall. Set yourself a goal of one week alcohol-free, then one month, then three months. Soon you won’t have to set goals anymore because not drinking alcohol will just be your natural way of life, and not something you have to work hard at to achieve.