I realise that for most people who have many times tried and failed to stop drinking the issue isn’t physical addiction to alcohol, but the fact that they found sober life dreary and dull. In this article I will provide information on how to quit drinking alcohol on your own and live a sober life.
Some time ago I, too, couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol: I drank every day and never envisioned the possibility that one day I’d stop altogether. But I haven’t drunk any alcohol for quite a long time now, and how glad I am that I gave up the habit and was able to find pleasure in an abstinent life.
The alcohol problem
I live in Russia where the problem of alcoholism is quite acute. People drink on holidays, when meeting friends, at funerals, when watching TV, when relaxing outside. People drink after work in the evening, then they drink in the morning to make themselves feel better after the previous night’s boozing. (Of course, by far not everyone in Russia is an alcoholic; but people here do like to drink.)
Unfortunately alcohol has become an integral part of life for many people, and not just in my country. It has attained the status of an essential, albeit dangerous, pleasure which no friendly gathering or chill out time can do without. In other words, people have long since made peace with the fact that alcohol, while harmful, is indispensable as a means for relaxing, a way to make yourself feel better and overall is a source of pleasure and fun.
In this article I’m going to try to change this belief. I’ll talk about how it is possible deal with all that life throws at you without alcohol. I’ll discuss how to give up drinking and also recommend ways to get rid of the fear of life without alcohol; the fear felt by many people with alcohol dependency.
This article approaches the issue of dependency through attempting to overcome with the typical psychology of a person with an alcohol addiction. It’s based on my own personal experience of beating dependency. It isn’t intended simply as a list of advice, but also as a source of support for people who have decided to give up drinking.
I systematically drank over a period of five years when I was going through a difficult time in my life. Although I can’t call myself a seasoned ‘alcoholic’, this was a long enough time to learn the psychology of heavy drinking.
In the first part of this article I’m going to talk about the issue of alcohol dependency in general. In second part I’ll also talk about the similarities between alcohol and heroin. I’ll then turn my attention to practical advice about giving up drinking and learning to live an abstinent life.
I’m going to base my arguments on three important principles or theorems which will help you set your mind on breaking this dangerous habit.
Theorem 1 – there are absolutely no reasons or excuses to use alcohol
Drink lovers will find thousands of reasons and motives to drink:
- I’ve had a hard day – I need to unwind
- I’ve had a good day – I need to celebrate
- I’m having problems at work
- I’ve started a new job
- I’m tired
- I’m excited
- I want to relax
- I haven’t really partied for a long time!
- It’s my birthday
- It’s your birthday
- I haven’t had a drink all month
- I drank too much yesterday and now I don’t feel well
- I’m off today – I need to relax
- I was at work today – I need to relax
- I just need to forget
People will come up with hundreds of excuses to drink; they feel that alcohol is essential to them. But even when it’s causing them all kinds of problems and they want to stop, with each attempt to quit they come up against some ostensible need to drink – they’re met with stress they don’t know how eliminate, boredom they can’t cope with and problems they can’t seem to solve.
They feel unarmed against these life trials. Wishing for peace and a way to escape their problems, they return to their old ‘weapon’ or find some substitute which may not be any safer than alcohol itself.
It’s precisely because of this that many people find it so hard to give up drinking. Alcohol is their reliable helper for all sorts of life issues. Without its support they start to feel powerless.
In my view, this powerlessness is at the heart of alcohol dependency. It’s the main reason for the many troubles which befall people due to their habit. Many mistakenly believe that the greatest role in the development of dependency is physical addiction to alcohol, or abstract ‘alcoholism’, but this isn’t the case. Alcohol wouldn’t be such a problem if it was only physically addictive.
In fact it’s the power of alcohol to satisfy so many of our desires that’s made it one of the most popular drugs in the world! I’ll talk about this in more detail later.
The theorem serving as the title of this section is aimed at the very heart of people’s weakness for alcohol. What I’m saying is that there are no reasons to drink! Absolutely none! Everyone can get along fine without drinking; nobody actually needs alcohol!
All the reasons you may think of for using alcohol are contrived, fictitious. There are many safe ways to relax and unwind, and there’s no real connection between a good time and mass drunkenness.
Every excuse for drinking that you’ve ever heard has been exaggerated in order to justify human weaknesses which are deeply engrained in social consciousness.
I’ve formulated this theorem to be used as an auxiliary tool by people who want to give up drinking. It isn’t intended to denounce society and individuals for drinking to excess or to make you feel guilty. Its aim is to show how the pull of alcohol isn’t a snare or trap from which it’s impossible to escape and that it’s within your capabilities to overcome it.
Of course, one perspective on this won’t be enough to make you stop drinking. But each time you get drunk you’ll know you’re doing it not because you need to but because you want to. You’ll feed the illusion less in this respect and start to realise that, in fact, none of your excuses for drinking actually justify your predilection for booze. You’ll come to the conclusion that alcohol isn’t a need, but a weakness you can overcome.
You always have a choice: to drink or not to drink.
There are many other ways to for you to relieve stress or sort out your problems. Apropos of this, I’d like to move on to the second theorem, which is actually a consequence of the first.
Theorem 2 – a happy teetotal life is possible
People who are deep in the pit of dependency find this thesis hard to accept. When I myself was drinking to excess every day, I found it hard to imagine how I’d live if I gave it up. It seemed that an abstinent life would be utterly grey and dismal, completely joyless and uninteresting.
What would I do with my free time? I pictured long, dull evenings, boring days off and gloomy holidays. I simply didn’t believe that it was possible to get any pleasure from life without alcohol. I wanted to give it up and I had a host of problems stemming from my drinking, but I absolutely couldn’t imagine a life without it.
I tried to take breaks from boozing – a week, a month. More often than not I’d snap after the second or third day. Sometimes I’d manage to go without a drink for three weeks or so, and I can tell you that those weeks seemed nightmarish to me!
When they came to an end I’d hit the bottle with gusto. My periods without alcohol in no way helped me deal with my dependency. On the contrary, they only convinced me all the more that my existence without drink wasn’t as much a ‘life’ as a sad excuse for one!
But now, a few years later, I’m completely happy without alcohol and can manage absolutely fine without it. My happiness is genuine; I’m not trying to convince myself that I’m OK; nor am I making some kind of cult from my sobriety only to endorse and justify my decision, as many on-the-wagon ‘alcoholics’ do.
I’m truly happy and truly fine without alcohol. If I do drink, it may give me a small amount of pleasure and I’ll regret it the next day. For me, abstaining isn’t a strained evasion of my natural needs (as many people imagine); a teetotal life is actually my return to a natural way of living!
Why does life without alcohol look so gloomy to those who drink?
The first reason is dependency itself. I’m sure it’s no secret that alcohol is a strong drug capable of inducing serious dependency. When you have an addiction your body starts to ‘think’ that a particular substance (nicotine, ethanol, morphine derivatives and other drugs) is a vital necessity – the substance deceives your brain in a way.
And if you don’t receive this substance, your body, which has now become accustomed to it, starts to sound the alarm and tries to ‘coerce’ you into using. You experience a strong craving and your mind helps lead you to temptation by coming up with all sorts of excuses –thoughts such as ‘it’s a holiday today’ or ‘today’s the last time’ are familiar to many, especially me.
As your body gets accustomed to alcohol it becomes difficult for you to even consider the possibility of giving up this thing which has become such an addiction. It’s very hard to imagine being out of dependency when you’re in the midst of it.
So the goal of giving up drink may by now seem all but out of reach. But what did you expect? You have a dependency! Naturally, when your body ‘thinks’ it needs a particular substance it’ll do all it can to ensure the supply isn’t stopped!
But, actually, when the dependency goes, sobriety won’t be as terrifying as you imagined.
Feeling of helplessness
The second reason that people are afraid of abstinence is the feeling of helplessness in the face of life, which I wrote about above. If alcohol has always been your tool for dealing with life and all its problems, the idea of losing it may seem horrifying!
How will I while away the time? How will I celebrate holidays? How will I get rid of my tiredness? Where am I going to find my relief? What will I use to congratulate myself for my successes in life? How will I have fun with my friends? What on earth will I do?
These are questions many people ask themselves; they’re the questions I asked myself, and they terrified me. They told me that I had only two choices: a life with alcohol but accompanied by the array of problems it caused, or a life free of alcohol but devoid of joy. Neither of these alternatives was appealing.
Such fear is entirely natural: you’re so used to having this tool to meet your demands that it seems indispensable. But it isn’t! What if I told you that there are many other efficient, not to mention safe, tools out there to help you cope with life’s problems and relieve stress far more effectively? What if I said that everyone has the potential to enjoy a life without alcohol much more than one in which they’re constantly drunk?
Would you be less afraid to give up your old method of sorting out problems? Life without alcohol is unequivocally possible. My life and the lives of others who have got rid of their dependency are all proof of this.
But this life won’t come to you immediately, as soon as you say ‘enough’. You’ll have to learn how to relax and spend your time, you’ll need to get used to being alone with your thoughts without any drug-induced stimulation, and you’ll have to master techniques designed to reduce stress. I’m going to talk about all of this in this article.
Of course, it many seem to you that the path I’m suggesting is too complicated and that everything is much easier with drink. But a simple path isn’t always the right one. Alcohol isn’t actually an effective relaxation tool. It disturbs your nervous system, making you more sensitive to stress. Its relaxation effects are only temporary.
Also, it doesn’t help you solve your problems. Rather than freeing you of unwanted thoughts and emotions, it only suppresses them. Your unresolved problems won’t disappear; they’ll just continue to trouble you.
Nor does alcohol enable sincere communication; all it does is temporarily mend the ‘holes’ in your confidence and self-esteem (i.e. it makes you calmer and more self-confident for a while). But these are qualities which should be developed and cultivated; alcohol, however, kills any incentive to do so.
In short, alcohol isn’t actually such a valuable tool after all. It doesn’t solve problems, but just conceals them. So why not get well and truly rid of it?
Theorem 3 – You don’t need alcohol at all!
I understand that at the moment not everyone is aiming to completely give up drinking. Many of you undoubtedly want to drink in moderation, in a more controlled way than you do now.
When I was drinking every day and thinking that I should stop, I wasn’t imagining that I would give up altogether. I didn’t want to abandon my best friend – a bottle of beer – with whom I had spent so many pleasant evenings. My dream was ‘controlled use’. I envisioned just drinking from time to time, for holidays. This was my ideal. As I wrote earlier, I felt terrified at the thought of a completely abstinent life. I thought, ‘OK, say I stop drinking every day. There’s no way I can completely go without though; I’ll have to drink on holidays and other special occasions.’
Such logic immediately breaches all the theorems I’ve laid out. To paraphrase my idea, I was telling myself that ‘alcohol has a reason’, ‘a sober life is impossible’ and ‘you can’t manage without alcohol’. It’s precisely this kind of logic that can lead a person to start drinking again.
I want to use these three theorems to shatter this logic!
The problem with the ‘controled use’
You absolutely can manage without alcohol – it’s completely possible not to drink at all. Ever. ‘Controlled use’, meanwhile, may lure you into a trap.
It implies an adequate comprehension of the norms of alcohol use.
But it must be said that people who are alcohol dependent have a pretty blurred notion of how much and how often they drink and therefore of what is normal.
Let me explain this statement with an example from my own life. One time I had to obtain a document saying that I wasn’t an alcoholic or drug addict. In order to do this I was to go to the public medical centre where a doctor would check whether my name was on the database of people who’d ever been treated in hospital for drug addiction or alcoholism.
I knew that I wasn’t on this database, as I had never been ‘caught’. So I went into the office calmly and waited for them to issue me the certificate. But the doctor decided to ask me a couple of questions. She asked how often I drank. At that time I was drinking daily; maybe this was obvious from my puffy and swollen face which aroused the doctor’s interest.
Of course, I wasn’t about the tell the truth. I said, ‘I drink once a week’. I felt that this wasn’t quite an outright lie, although it indicated that I was drinking like an ‘average person’ – once every seven days at the weekend – and not every day, which was the real case.
To my surprise the doctor said that this was quite common. She asked me why I drank. I became flustered because I hadn’t expected this kind of reaction. I answered, ‘I’ve got reasons’. ‘What reasons?’ ‘Meeting up with my friends…’ (At the time I really thought this was a ‘reason’.) Then she said, ‘There are no reasons for alcohol!’ (Remember theorem 1?)
She gave me a short lecture: ‘Do you know how many people die from alcohol in Russia every day?’ After this she let me go. I received the certificate I’d come for, but the doctor’s reaction got me thinking.
Of course, there is a chance that the doctor could tell from the way I looked that I drank a lot more often than once a week. But all the same, I know very well from myself and others with a dependency that we’re absolutely mistaken when we say ‘I rarely drink’.
There was a period in my life when circumstances forced me to cut down to drinking at weekends only. And at that time, I considered this not to be drinking at all! No matter that on Fridays and Saturdays I would get completely smashed! After a few years of daily drinking, only using alcohol at the weekend seemed extremely abstemious to me!
I couldn’t see a problem although there clearly was one!
I’ve also noticed other people with this distorted impression of how often they use alcohol. Many believe that drinking two to three times a week equals hardly drinking at all when in actual fact, it constitutes quite a lot! Hankering after controlled use can push into this trap. You won’t be any less dependent on alcohol; it’s just that now your dependency won’t necessarily overflow into as many serious disasters as before.
In addition, there’s a large chance that you’ll once again return to daily alcohol use if you drink sometimes.
It’ll be very hard for you to control the amount and frequency of your alcohol consumption if your brain is habituated to drunkenness. It’s so much easier to completely remove yourself from temptation. I tried several times to stick to drinking in moderation but it never worked. I only managed to give up when I realised that I didn’t need alcohol at all, that I was able to manage without it.
Don’t be afraid of a completely teetotal life. A life without a serious, destructive dependency will be much happier than the one you have at the moment. You don’t need controlled use if you can learn to live without alcohol. Fundamentally, people don’t need alcohol – at all!
It’s possible that some of you in future will be able to drink from time to time. But this won’t happen straight away, so for the time being give up your dreams of intermittent use. These dreams grow from a strong attachment to alcohol, like affection for an ‘old friend’. But this attachment won’t always be with you, so for now set your mind on learning to live without it. There’s no doubt that this goal is achievable. If you simply quit, without looking for a ‘middle’ path, you will definitely succeed.
I invite you now to move on to the second section of this article.
This article consists of 5 sections. You can pass to any of them, but I suggest you to read everything in order to get over your addiction.
Part 1 – How to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own – 3 Theorems (this part)
Part 2 – 2 Unobvious Problems With Alcohol (short)
Part 3 – Will You Be an Alcoholic Forever? (short)
Part 4 – Overcoming Alcohol Addiction – 7 Steps
Part 5 – Learn How to Live Sober Life – 7 Tips