This is a compilation of stories and advice from people who have personally had some kind of drinking problem in the past, and successfully overcame it. This was the query I put out:
For people who managed to quit drinking or at least cut back significantly, we’d like to hear your story – what worked for you the most, and what tips can you share for others?
There were some great responses to that, and I’ve listed the best ones below. Here’s a summary of the great observations and tips people have made so far:
- Don’t keep alcohol in the house – make it hard to get (link)
- Drinking may be a transference, and in that case, you may be able to replace it with a healthier coping mechanism (link). See also this comment.
- Set goals (link)
- Let people know you’re quitting (link)
- Ask “does this serve me?” for every decision you make (link)
- Visualize yourself enjoying a night without alcohol, and create distractions (link)
- Socialize only with nondrinkers or minimal drinkers (link)
If you have your own story to share, please also make a submission here. All stories are welcome.
This tip is so easy. When I felt l like I had grown too dependent on wine and it was causing some problems, I decided to quit. The best method, don't keep it in the house. Make it hard to just get up and pour a drink. If you have to go to the store and buy your vice then you're much less inclined to do so, especially if you're trying to quit. It's no longer convenient.
--Michelle Gamble, 3L Publishing
I have a unique story of giving up alcohol very recently; I'm in eating disorder recovery and found myself in the midst of what is called transference, meaning I was no longer engaging in my eating disorder behaviors when emotionally triggered but found myself reaching for a glass or two of wine instead. I had transferred my issues from one substance, food, to another, alcohol. In an effort to stop this in its tracks, I decided to quit drinking altogether.
Things that have helped me:
Replacing drinking with healthier coping mechanisms, ie journaling, calls with friends, reading, etc.
Lots of hot tea, I like chamomile and lavender; the herbs calm anxiety and the warmth is self-soothing. Anxiety is often a driving factor in reaching for a drink.
Not keeping alcohol in the house.
Being open with those around me that I'm no longer drinking; allowing it to feel like a secret can be incredibly isolative.
Educating myself more about alcohol; ie it is a depressant and I deal with chronic depression, etc. The more I have learned about how it doesn't fit into my wellbeing, the easier it has been to distance myself from it.
--Amanda Gist, amandagist.com
It might seem a little cliche, but it was focusing on goals that made drinking seem unappealing to me. Throughout my 20's I was a huge partier, always running the social scene and always with a beer in hand. So it wasn't a huge surprise when I relocated my business to a tourist party island in the Caribbean, a place where I could work days and party nights... only that changed a couple of years ago, and it all came down to priorities.
The problem with drinking is that it writes off your other ambitions. How many mornings have you not wanted to get out of bed, your head doesn't feel right, your body is sluggish.... it's not great. The more I read about efficiency hacking, the more I realised booze was the root of many of my evils. So I went on a detox. 30 days of not drinking, instead of focusing hard on getting to the gym and growing my business. My schedule was regimented, and every day I set goals for myself. Soon these goals became addictive, they were the most important things in my life, and booze was a distant 10th or 20th...
Interested in the psychology behind what I experienced, I dived into the literature and I found two very interesting things:
1. Humans need to bond, and when they feel a bit hopeless and isolated, we bond with booze and drugs. This has been proven in Portugal, where instead of incarcerating drug users, they got them into social programs, bonding with real people, giving them sports to focus on etc. The result was a steep decline in reoffending.
2. Psychologically our brain tries to avoid pain. Pain is a broad term, which includes doing things that are hard or we don't enjoy. So instead of doing your work, you read the news or watch YouTube... the same thing happens with booze. You have a beer near the end of work, and whoops, the whole afternoon is gone. Psychologists have shown if you lean into the pain, and focus on working on it for 10 minutes, you overcome these diversion desires. As I discovered, the desire for drinking just disappears.
So what can you do? Here are a few tips:
1. Give yourself realistic goals. For example, mine was: 5 hours gym per week, 10 hours of Spanish practice per week, grow my business by 50% revenue. Focusing on these made everything else seem less important.
2. Try just drinking sparkling water. Yes, peer pressure feels strange, but it's amazing how quickly people adapt and let you be you. Just say no and enjoy your 'Aqua Con Gas'.
3. Stay social but find activities to do during the day. Sports, adventure, even computer games. You need to bond, but don't do it over beer.
4. Set a time period to trial this. Statistically you want that to be at least 30 days, but make sure you celebrate the milestones. Each week is another feather in your cap, be proud and let that momentum make it harder for you to go back to your own way!
--Joshua Strawczynski, JMarketing Agency
You must let people around you know that you are quitting. Now, this is not easy because some friends would let you know that you are being a killjoy and would urge you to take a sip every chance they get. You can be lucky not to have any friends outcast you for refusing to down a bottle every time, but you should be open to that happening. Changes can make you lose relationships, but it can also pave the way for stronger, healthier ones.My wife told me that she knows from personal experience that one drink can be one too many, and it can destroy families and friendships rather than strengthen them. She grew up with an alcoholic father who, while not physically abusive, has not been there for her and her siblings emotionally. It was an eye-opener. Alcohol should not come in the way between you and your loved ones. Being that uninhibited all the time can make you oblivious to cracks that are actually forming in your relationships.
--Robert Johnson, Sawinery
First and foremost, habit is replaced by habit.
Next, at the age of 51 now, I’ve given up several bad habits. For example, I’m now over three years free from tobacco. What did I replace that hand-to-mouth habit with? Percussion practice on a daily basis. So I swapped a bad habit for a good one… one which I consider to be a bucket list item of becoming an elite musician.
As I’ve learned, it gives one a sense of vigor and hope to conquer a bad habit. It renews – daily.
Rehabilitation specialists say that the closer you get to the actual physical location of where your addiction’s source exists, the lower your inhibitions get. Thus, just don’t go there. Don’t get near. If you pass by, don’t look. Out of sight is out of mind. So in the case of alcohol, I purposely avoid going near the alcohol aisles in the grocery store on my “sober” days. Also, instead of going to the corner convenience store for a cold soda (which also happens to sell liquor), I now stock up at the grocery store and stay home more. The purpose of this is that I’m not looking at a wall of stocked liquor while I wait in line. One covets what they see.
In my case, I allow myself 1-2 days a week to drink. It’s kind of a bend-don’t-break philosophy instead of being a daily drinker. I make those days judgement-free fun days. The rest of the days are sober. My waist-line definitely appreciates this change.
I’ve learned not to keep alcohol in the house because I know if I have one, the train leaves the station, and I’m along for its ride… simply because: “One is too many, and a million is never enough.”
That quote was told to me by a homeless crack addict on the downtown streets of Seattle. He added, “No rock too big… no rock too big.”
As someone who has enjoyed going to occasional weekday morning masses in the Catholic Church, I’ve learned it prompts an early alcohol choice to start the day. In my mind, even a tiny sip from the chalice causes me to be conscious that my day will not be 100% sober. Even if I don’t drink the rest of that day, I know deep down that it was 99.9% sober and not the full 100% monty. That’s just how my mind works.
It’s like lying. Even a little one is still a lie when you get right down to the heart of it. A lie is a lie. Jim Carrey’s funny film, “Liar Liar,” entertains this concept to its core.
In other words, once you say “f#ck it,” a part of you says, “Well, may as make the most of it…”
To me, Day Zero is the hardest part of going sober… from any addiction.
That’s when addiction’s pull and gravity are greatest.
I give myself those days because alcohol is social.
The same applies to food. We eat chow daily.
So put premium fuel in your body’s gas tank.
If you can’t balance it, give it up soon.
Should you do go totally sober and/or give up an addiction completely, the way I envision it is like Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway.” The tropical island’s tides are so strong; you have to be content to lose sight of its gorgeous shore forever in order to sail away to the main land… or sobriety’s “Promised Land.”
In the past, I even shaved my head once to help give up a bad habit… that way, I’d see someone “new” in the mirror’s reflection. Also, it cuts the drug out of your hair follicles for future potential drug tests. While that was a radical move, it worked. In that case, I’m over a decade free from that particular devastating drug habit. My hair grew back, but I know it’s now clean of past “gunk.” That fact has helped me get past the pull of its gravity. That one required me to make new friends. Making new friends changes your patterns. Sometimes, those people are the misery that love company. That choice has made me a stronger individual who stays more disciplined and is truly glad to be Alive.
The chains of addiction always seem light until they are too heavy to break.
So replace a bad habit with a good one because habit replaces habit.
--Brian Shell, PassionHero.com
Today is my 7th month of sobriety. What started as a one week detox has now evolved into something much longer than I anticipated and also far more beneficial than I could have ever imagined.
My best bits of advice are to keep in my that there is nothing in life that is permanent and to ask yourself, “Does this serve me?”
I started my sobriety out of discomfort. My acid reflux and IBS were out of control. My rosacea was inflamed and my pants were too tight. After about two weeks my ailments subsided and along with them my anxiety. I was curious about how long I could take it and what the benefits were. I’ve been drinking a long time and in quantities that are undeniably unhealthy. I spent all of 2019 doing things for the first time. If it won’t kill me, why not try it? I cannot express the amount my life has changed allowing myself to experience the unknown, including sober living.
We are constantly evolving and yet we limit ourselves by labelling qualities of our identity. For 15 years I identified myself as a party girl. I wanted desperately to become something more but I clung to the idea that I could only be one version of me and Par-TAY, as I called her, was who it was. That version of me also couldn’t handle the idea of forever and never. Most people can’t, they are overwhelming timeframes. I’ve learned that nothing is permanent. Nothing is forever. Nothing is never. I am not the same version of me I was yesterday and I am not the same version of me I will be tomorrow. Everyday I get to make choices and when I do I ask myself, “Does this serve me?” This question is essential to every aspect of my life, not just my sobriety. If I’m a version of myself that is upset for any reason, anxious, floating in negativity, that version of me is not served by alcohol. In the last 7 months that version of me has come up a few times and she has desperately wanted some of the numbing effects that she used to abuse. She didn’t get what she wanted because the numbing effects don’t serve her. I’ve had some pretty great triumphs in the last 7 months as well and have wanted to celebrate with champagne. In those times when I ask myself, does this serve me the reality is it doesn’t. I get acid reflux. I get hangovers. Even in celebration I still have a lot of things I want to do and alcohol, in the way that I’ve wanted to consume it in those moments wouldn’t help.
I’m not saying I’ll never drink again. Just as I detached myself from the label of “Par-Tay girl, I will not attach myself to the identity of being “Sobrie-Tay. I am just Taylor.I am complex, like every other person on the planet and always evolving. I also, like every other person on the planet, deserve to get the most out of life and so will continue to do my best to make sure that each decision I make serves me.
--Taylor Martin, Livingwanderfull.com
I owned a successful PR business when I had twin boys six years ago. I bought into the mom needs wine memes and believed I need alcohol to successfully get through the stresses of parenthood. Over time, my alcohol consumption increased and I experienced negative physical, mental and emotional affects - my skin started breaking out, my anxiety increased and I couldn't sleep. When I reevaluated my relationship with alcohol, everything got better. I realized it was affecting my fitness, faith, family time and finances in a negative way. Since then I have been inspiring others to reconsider the role that alcohol plays in their lives on Instagram and on my personal blog. I am in the final stages of getting my Certified Professional Recovery Coaching designation so I can continue to help others - particularly moms with young children!
What Worked For Me The Most - Mindfulness
What worked for me most was bringing awareness around my drinking. I created the attached five questions for others to bring awareness around their cravings.
You can’t stop drinking and know what it feels like to be alcohol-free if you continue to drink. It seems obvious but you can’t wish for it – you have to work for it. And working for it looks like making a different decision when a craving or trigger arises. I also wrote a blog post about this.
Visualization helps a lot - Some of the most famous sports stars use it to reach their goals, so why can't we?! Before quarantine, I would suggest someone visualizing themselves enjoying a night out, laughing and having a great time without alcohol, effortlessly declining offers to drink. But now the situation has changed and most people are turning to alcohol to relieve stress or out of boredom. In this case, I would encourage people to wake up in the morning and visualize themselves going through their day without alcohol, meeting stressors head on, cooking with a cup of tea (instead of a glass of wine) and ending the day with some stretching or watching a show/reading a book without a nightcap. You can train your brain to create a new normal and your body will follow.
Create a distraction - Cravings are like a toddler temper tantrum. And to get through the urge, just distract yourself or change your state. Take a shower, go for a walk, listen to a song, read a chapter of a book, do some breathing exercises, go from one room to the next, make a cup of tea, journal, etc. Just distract yourself long enough to not give in to cravings..
Figure out what motivates you and pull from that - Are you someone who loves a gold star? Are you motivated by the carrot or the stick? Figure out what really, really helps you achieve goals and apply them to this.
For example, if you were to take the money that you would have spent on drinks and use it to buy something special Monday morning, would that keep you motivated? Or would you love to share with your husband on Sunday night that you achieved your goal of not drinking? What about committing to donate $500 to a charity if you slip up? Would that prevent you from drinking? Think back to the last time you crushed a goal and work through why exactly you stuck with it – and then use it to your advantage when deciding whether or not to drink.
--Kim Banks, Kim Banks Reset
I stopped drinking on March 4, 2014, so it was over six years ago. I kept thinking and focusing on how it was aging me, interferring with my sleep big time (even one or two drinks), wrinkling my skin, ruining my balance, and keeping me from peak health. Once I quit, I was RESOLVED not to have even one more sip. I knew from experience that I could go months or years without a drink, then think I could go back to having one or two, but it would gradually increase to drinking every day, and over the years, more and more drinks per diem. I found later (after I quit) that when I went to parties it was no fun to be around drinkers when I was no longer drinking. It was harder to relate to them in their altered state. So I stayed at home or went to the party only an hour or two. That kept me sober. Now I hang out with nondrinkers or minimal drinkers (1-2 drinks).
--Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor
I stopped drinking in November, as I found myself feeling constantly fatigued, emotional, and even reacting to different alcohol (especially wine) with all-over itchiness and little hives. Since cutting back, I've found infinitely more energy, an overall positive attitude, virtually no brain fogginess, and a more centered and productive mindset.
What I've discovered along my journey is that I have what's called cholinergic urticaria. This is essentially a skin 'condition' (for lack of a better term) which means your body often falls into a state of inflammation, causing hives and an allergic reaction to triggers. I discovered, after quitting drinking, that one of my biggest triggers was alcohol.
I've also realized that alcohol was really slowing me down in terms of my thought processing, go-getter attitude, and willingness to do things (for myself, for others, and for my business). Since I quit drinking, I've launched two campaigns, built another online vertical with my business, strengthened my relationships with my boyfriend and his son, and started grad school! And all of this has happened while navigating a full-time business and being a full-time mom/caregiver/teacher to my boyfriend's son during the quarantine, too!
I don't say this to brag, but to be fired up about my journey! Not drinking has truly changed who I am as a person, and I'm passionate about sharing this with as many people as I can.
--Marisa Donnelly, marisadonnelly.com
I've quit alcohol using Allen Carr's Easyway method which works on the very simple premise - that there is nothing to give up.
We're led to believe that we enjoy it but the reality is the first drink tastes awful and we have to dilute it with something sugary to be able to cope with it or make it palatable.
Alcohol is a drug and when it leaves your body (known as withdrawal) it creates a void that didn't exist before. When we take a drink and fill the void it gives us the illusion of pleasure or satisfaction, but really we're just relieving the withdrawal from the last drink. It's like wearing tight shoes just to get the pleasure of removing them!
It's an antiseptic and works as a great cleaning product which can't be good for your insides.
I don't want to knock AA because they do a great job but you're never truly free that way; you're always left feeling that you've made a sacrifice.
It really comes down to seeing it for what it really is, not the way we've been marketed to. When you see it that way there's no desire and with no desire it becomes easy.
--Natalie Clays, allencarr.com.au