We all know the health effects of alcohol. The risks to the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys, and the multitude of cancers that can develop as a result of heavy drinking might be enough to stop some people from falling into the habit, but if you already have an alcohol dependence, the fear factor might not be enough. There are mental and physical challenges to quitting drinking, and you might not be sure if you’re ready or how to get started. If you’re thinking about making a change, the website Rethinking Drinking, part of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has some strategies to help.
First, consider the pros and cons of quitting. What are the reasons you think you might want to stop? Some common answers are improving your health, improving your relationships, saving money, doing better at work or school, avoiding frequent hangovers, to lose weight, and to avoid future problems. Now, what do you consider the negative effects that giving up alcohol might have? Maybe you feel it’s the only way that you can be comfortable enough to interact with people socially, or you think you wouldn’t fit in with your friends anymore because they all drink. Maybe it’s the only way you know how to unwind at the end of the day. Or it could just be that change sounds too hard.
Now, start to consider if you’re ready to change. Make lists or talk with other people about how to overcome your concerns about quitting. There are many alcohol-free ways to have fun and relax, and if your friends won’t like you if you aren’t drinking – well, they probably aren’t very good friends. Keep track of how often you’re drinking and the ways it affects you. If you have other priorities that you feel must be taken care of first – say, lining up someone to cover for you at work for a while, or finding help with childcare – get those out of the way. Look for support, whether it be from a friend or family member, a specialist, or your family doctor.
Start making a plan. Going cold turkey isn’t safe if you’re doing it at home, so consider how to taper off. Look at how many drinks you have a day and set a goal for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything huge in the beginning, just something like, “by this day, I’ll be down from five drinks a day to four.” Keep in mind the reasons you’re doing this and don’t be afraid to turn to the people who are there to help you. Plan for any possible roadblocks and how you’ll handle them. For example, if you know a holiday is coming up where everyone will be drinking, make a plan to spend time with sober friends instead.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.