Quitting Drinking: Where to Start
Right now you can start the journey to a new-found life in sobriety! If you are ready to get started, and end the continuous miserable cycle of Alcohol Use Disorder, you have come to the right place!
WELCOME! I have been down this journey myself and I am extremely grateful for every day that I do not take a drink. Getting sober is a wonderfully rewarding, yet quite difficult process. The first steps are always the hardest, but all you have to do is just put one foot in front of the other. If you choose this journey you will gain strength, and knowledge, and freedom that you have never experienced.
I would love to share a few things with you that may help you get started! Whatever your beliefs about the nature of Alcohol Use Disorder are at this point, we all know that there is a huge amount of stigma associated with it. So I would like to share with you, what the medical community’s definition of Alcoholism is, as it was stated in this 1992, Excerpt from the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled, The Definition of Alcoholism:
Therefore, the committee agreed to define alcoholism as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic. (JAMA. 1992;268:1012-1014)
You can read the entire article HERE.
Before you begin, if you have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for a long time, it is recommended that you see a doctor, or check into a detox center, or your local hospital. Do not try to stop drinking suddenly – alcohol withdrawal can potentially be deadly. If you start experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms (panic attacks, rapid heartbeat, severe anxiety, the shakes) you should seek immediate medical assistance. The condition could potentially deteriorate to delirium tremors (DT’s), which is deadly, if left untreated.
Now that you are ready, the following tips will help you get started on the road to recovery:
GET READY: If you are ready to start this journey, I would highly recommend that you get rid of any alcohol that may still be in your house. I would even recommend getting rid of the wine openers, the bottle poppers and all alcohol related glassware, and drink mixers. This will help you when you get triggered to drink, by making it a bit more difficult – it’s hard to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew and this may give you enough time to change your mind about drinking.
THE BEGINNING. Be aware that first few days will be tough. Your neurons, which have been deadened by alcohol for some time, and now are all busy with activity, which means your body functions are trying to get used to their normal activity levels. Resting and sleep will probably be hard to catch for a couple of days as your body is adjusting. In the meantime, your brain will tell you lies: “It’s not that bad,” “I can just moderate better,” “I don’t really drink that much,” “I will feel better if I have a drink.” Call it a LIAR and go watch some late-night TV till it passes! Keep yourself busy to avoid wandering thoughts!
FIND SUPPORT. It may be the hardest part of your path to recovery. Like it or not, few people attain sobriety alone, and even fewer sustain it alone. Don’t feel inadequate about asking for help! Joining a support network like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, or Soberistas, or even telling your family and friends what you are dealing with, can be beneficial to your recovery process. You can also start a blog and connect to the recovery community. There is lots of support online. Click the Find Support link on this page and Recovery Bloggers in the right sidebar to connect to others in recovery.
COMMIT TO 90 DAYS. Researchers at Yale University have documented what they call the sleeper effect–a gradual re-engaging of proper decision making and analytical functions in the brain’s prefrontal cortex–after a drug addict or alcoholic has abstained for at least 90-days. From the July 05, 2007 issue of Time Magazine’s cover story, “How We Get Addicted” by Michael D. Lemonick, “Research shows that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is very important in sustaining substance abuse sobriety because it helps you control your impulses and refrain from alcoholism and drug abuse. It takes at least 90-days for it to re-engage.”
AVOID DRINKING SITUATIONS. You know that saying, if you stand by the hot dog cart long enough, you will get a hot dog! Do not put yourself in situations where alcohol is the main event! This also pertains to people; you might have to give up your old drinking buddies and the favorite watering hole. It’s really important that you stay away from all alcohol related activities to minimize your triggers and cravings, which unfortunately are a part of early sobriety. Alcoholism is very powerful disease, do not underestimate it!!!
CREATE NEW ROUTINES. Just like with other changes in life, new routines often need to be established. You may find this to be a crucial part of your early recovery. If your routine used to include specific times for drinking, like 5 o’clock, you may need to find something new to fill that time with. If you always went out on Friday nights, you may need to find a new way to celebrate the end of the week. You can find many helpful ideas for finding new things to do under the Friday Nights Pep-Talk link on this age.
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. Cry when you need to, and laugh when you can. Get angry if you feel like it. Eat when you are hungry. Sleep when you are tired. Most likely, you haven’t felt your feelings for a long time. You will find many feelings that you may not be able to even identify. This is going to be really strange at first, but try to embrace them. This was not meant to be easy, but it will get easier with time!
KEEP INSPIRED. Sobriety is a learned skill, and like any skill it takes time to be good at it. You may start really excited and happy (aka the pink cloud state) and/or lose interest and get bored. You may struggle with your feelings, both mental and physical. You may hate life without alcohol, and miss all the things that make drinking “great!” You will want to quit and just go back to your old life! But DO NOT GIVE IN! Remind yourself of the last time you drank, or the scary incident you found yourself in while drinking, or a risky behavior you were engaged in due to your drinking! You don’t want to go back there again! You are not giving up a best friend, you are getting rid of a vengeful enemy. I promise if you stay sober, things will get better, and you will never have to feel that way again.
As you begin your journey, the first few months of sobriety can often be filled with incredible highs and lows, and you may feel like you rarely know what’s coming around the next corner. You may find that you are fidgety, anxious, and unbalanced. This is because your body, mind and spirit are undergoing a tremendous amount of change and adjustment while trying to function without any alcohol. At this time you may find that cravings are hard to deal with, and seem to occupy most of your day. You can read my full post about dealing with cravings HERE.
I hope you have found some good information to get you started on your sober journey. I hope you give it a chance enough to see the amazing gifts that sobriety can bring – don’t give up before the miracle happens! You can also read about my journey to sobriety on the About Me page. We would love to hear from you, what was a crucial part of your early recovery?
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).