Why is it so hard to quit drinking? | Stop Drinking Solutions

Wow, Ive been getting some great feedback on this blog and heres the first bit of reader email.

Why the hell is this so hard?

Wait.

Actually lets start this way. Hey, we barely know each other but I’ve enjoyed your work in other avenues, and now here we are, talking about the realest shit there is, because alcohol is something that unites us all, in some weird way. Ive had my ups and downs with it but always felt like I kept it under control. I had one episode years ago where I threw up on myself and got tossed at last call because I was celebrating a pay raise at work (ughthe worst night), but since then, I never got behind the wheel drunk and I rarely did/said anything while under the influence that I ended up regretting.

My thing with alcohol was (well, IS) that it ends up amplifying whatever sad shit might be rolling around in my head at any given time. I cant even pinpoint how it started, but Id gotten awfully comfortable with drinking 2-4 beers and/or a couple glasses of bourbon pretty much every single day (what am I saying pretty muchit was every single day) after work. That time between 5-9 p.m. Its my time to drink. While I was drinkingman, I cant even tell you so good. No other way to say it, I LOVE good beer and bourbon. But toward the tail end of every evening, Id just feel like total shit self-pity, self-doubt, self-loathing, the whole deal. No real reason my life is pretty great. Alcohol just makes me negatively introspective. Id wake up the next morning feelingeh, semi-OK, but never good. Never great. Justdrinking to drink. Every day. One, then another, then another. 

Then, a little more than a week ago, I decided Thats enough. Just got sick of it. I still want (nay, crave) a cold beer when I walk in the door after work, but I just pour a big ginger ale instead. Working so far. Ive knocked out a few weeks here and there sober, but always got roped back into it at a social engagement or whatever. Always think I can just have one at dinner and sometimes, I can! But the next day, lets have two. Then its the weekend, and hell, its noon, I can have one with lunchwhy stop nowthe game is almost onand there is still five in the fridge

You know how it goes.

So Im feeling great right now. Sharp, focused, energized, 5 pounds lighter. All good. And your blog posts have been helpful, so please know that. And I appreciate you giving me your email to vent all this also super helpful. Youre an A+ dude and Im here for you to talk through all this (and anything else you wanna talk about). Thanks again.

My Response:

Thats a pretty normal reaction for sure. The habitual drinking becomes common place before you notice, and then it slowly starts to wear you down. I remember thinking How does Don Draper do it? and then I have to remind myself that hes a character on a television show.

The social engagement thing is hard. Once you quit drinking you might start to realize how many free drinks float around, and/or how many situations where people expect you to drink. You tend to stick out like a sore thumb if you dont have a drink in your hand, and people tend to treat you with kid-gloves because they think you are broken. Its sick, and Ive skipped more than one social engagement because I didnt want to deal with crap.

Its hard for so many reasons, Im only starting to see how theyve creeped in to my life. My dad drank after work, especially while watching sports and I think I picked that up from him. That, and all the alcohol culture on television and in movies was a huge thing for me. Its still a trigger when I see some characters on television getting hammered and I want nothing more than to pound some liquor and get sloppy (its a very short window of deep desire, but its followed by some longing).

I think its also hard because of the age we live in. I dont know much about you, but if youre around my age and in my demographic youre likely underemployed and over educated. Sometimes we see where were at and think This is it, tomorrows going to be the same day as today. We long for more, but it seems impossible to change our life in a way thats meaningful (for any number of reasons). That feeling of gentle hopelessness makes booze a very attractive option.

You can turn off your brain, shake up your attitude and give yourself a kick in the pants with a stiff drink. After all these years of equating alcohol with good times, it feels great to have a drink after work. Its that climax at the end of the masturbation that is your day job. However, the pavlovian trigger of drinking doesnt really give you pleasure it just numbs you until you feel comfortable in your skin. Thats all fine and dandy after an especially hard day at work, or during a celebration but for people like us it becomes a habit that eventually numbs us to the point of depression.

Thats why its so hard, and it sucks because the hardest part isnt NOT DRINKING, its unplugging your brain from the triggers that make you want to drink. Some people need to uncover some childhood trauma to help them out, some people need to forgive themselves for something they did, I think people like us need to add more value to our lives in order to make it worth living without the constant burden of alcohol. Once were amazing people with too little free time to be boozing, we wont want to spend our evenings in a melancholy state of numbed bliss.

Thanks for reading this post. Check out the first post, and the About Page for more info on what this is all about. My advice and anecdotes are to be taken as entertainment and for inspirational purposes (definition: I’m NOT a doctor or addictions professional). If you think you have a serious drinking problem please visit a doctor. If you’re worried about telling a family doctor, you can always try a walk-in clinic or try this resource for help with substance abuse in Canada.

You should also check out the great Stop Drinking Subreddit (Im not affiliated with it, I just find it to be a great resource).

Stop Drinking with Support | Stop Drinking Solutions

I stopped by the StopDrinking Subreddit this morning and I noticed more than a few posts about relapsing. So far there have been 2 weekends this year, and for a lot of people the weekend is just a relapse waiting to happen. For most of my adult life, the weekend is when I got drunk. I allowed myself to indulge because I didnt have a lot to do on the weekends.

Even in situations where I DID have a lot to do during the weekend, it was hard to resist weekend drinking binges. Everyone else is out partying, all your friends are at the bar, house parties a-plenty, and even beers during Sunday afternoon football all made booze the drink of choice for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

While the support of your friends and family is not a golden ticket to sobriety, it can be the difference between recovery and a quick stint of white-knuckle sobriety. Here are some tips for getting support, and some situations to avoid: 

Tell someone you can trust & rely on: Even if youre only quitting for a month, its probably a good idea to tell someone you trust. This will help you be accountable, because now that the cat is out of the bag, they are going to ask you about it later. You dont want to disappoint that person do you?

Bonus points if you tell someone you regularly spend time with. If youre about to head to a pub with a group of friends, having even ONE person who has your back is going to be extremely helpful.  Then again, if that person gets wasted its going to be hard to stay on the straight and narrow.

Go to a meeting: even if youre not ready to join AA or try the SMART program, consider attending an open meeting. Open meeting are for anyone who has a desire to quit drinking, and are a good place to talk about your problems. Even if you dont say anything, listening can be extremely helpful.

Hearing about how others have struggled and succeeded is extremely therapeutic. Knowing that youre not the only one who suffers eases the pain, and can take the weight off of your shoulders. You may also learn a thing or two about how to control your cravings and deal with the pressures of life WITHOUT alcohol.

Situations to avoid: Personally I like to avoid any situation where drinking alcohol is the main event. If youre having a beer pong tournament, Im going to pass. Heading to a wine tasting? Yeah, Im not sure why you think Id enjoy that. Your Facebook event mentions getting Good and Shittered? Maybe youre not such a good influence on me.

I think you get the idea. Stopping is hard enough, so when youre trying to avoid the urge to drink its not smart to put yourself in the line of fire. Even if your willpower is rock solid, the endless questions about why you arent drinking can be infuriating. (Youll begin to realize that a lot of drinkers are uncomfortable having sober people around because it makes them self conscious about their own choices).

To stay on theme, find some friends who drink less, and spend a weekend with them. Stay within your comfort zone (your first go at salsa dancing might not be a good place to start) and you might find that you have a great evening and not even think about alcohol once.

Being left to your own devices. Playing the hermit card and hiding away from the temptations of booze will definitely help you get through the weekend, but hiding from your problems isnt the same as recovery. Eventually youll need to emerge back into normal life, or you might get cabin fever. It might work the first couple of weekends, but being left alone with nothing to do might make drinking that much more appealing.

If youre anything like me, alcohol was a great way to make anything boring into something fun. Bad movies, bad dates, bad food, bad mood, add alcohol and its instantly better (until its not). Being bored and without any outlet is going to make alcohol a very tempting outlet for your frustration.

I suggest planning the evening so youre not alone, or at least youve got something to distract you. You cant sleep the entire weekend away, but physical activities that can really help you forget about alcohol AND make you so tuckered out that youll be in bed before your boozey friends are done predrinking. These include working out at the gym, going for a really long walk (bring your camera for extra fun), pick-up sports (at your local gym or rec/community centre), and physical labour (build/fix that thing that you keep talking about).

Striking the balance between avoiding alcohol, and teaching yourself to have fun without alcohol is going to give you the best results. Having fun while surrounded by temptation and secluding yourself for temptation to the point of extreme boredom are two surefire ways to flirt with relapse.

Take it one step at a time, get some support from someone you trust and focus on the betterment of tomorrow instead of the crappiness of today. Good luck & stay strong friends!

Thanks for reading this post. Check out the first post, and the About Page for more info on what this is all about. My advice and anecdotes are to be taken as entertainment and for inspirational purposes (definition: I am NOT a doctor or addictions professional). If you think you have a serious drinking problem please visit a doctor. If you’re worried about telling a family doctor, you can always try a walk-in clinic or try this resource for help with substance abuse in Canada.

You should also check out the great Stop Drinking Subreddit (I’m not affiliated with it, I just find it to be a great resource).

Stop Drinking with Parallel Goals | Stop Drinking Solutions

Hows your resolution to quit drinking going for you so far? Regardless of what your goals are, I hope youre working towards meeting and/or exceeding them.

For those of you who have sworn off alcohol, heres to another weekend free of temptation! If that doesnt work, heres to resisting temptation and avoiding the pain of a hangover, and the guilt of another weekend washed away by booze. 

For me, one of the ways I was able to distract myself from drinking was to replace my normal after work beer with an after work jog. These didnt last very long, maybe two weeks tops, but I feel like it was an important step I needed to take. It was a great distraction, and the runners high I got after a jog made me feel better than any beer ever could.

Around that time, I decided that I would make getting in shape a priority. My dabblings with Sober October made me realize I would be shedding some poundage anyway, so I thought Why Not Go Whole Hog? I started a bit late in the year to jog outdoors for very much longer, but a few laps around my neighbourhood turned into a near obsession with working out.

While I wasnt thinking about it much at the time, by setting two related goals, I was able to strengthen my resolve for both!

Think about it this way: how many times have you thought about hitting the gym on the weekend only to find yourself too hungover to even leave your house? Even making breakfast can be difficult, and that trip to McDonalds to grab an egg McMuffin (if youre even up that early) causes you to lose your breath. Doesnt really sound like a situation thats conducive to personal betterment.

It doesnt even have to be fitness, maybe youre already working out and fit as a fiddle. Your goals could be to learn to speak French, become a better cook*, or to save money for a trip or other big ticket item. Take some time to set a goal and think of ways you can accomplish your goal.

Give yourself a definite end, or something to strive for.  Recently my goal has been to work out once per week and Ive been successful in this recently, so for 2014 Ive decided to up that to 3 times a week in hopes of making 2014 even more active than 2013.

Having a goal with a specific achievement in mind will help you accomplish the goal easier, because you will be able to track your progress and work to pick up the slack if you find yourself failing.

Not Drinking Alcohol is easier to define than Drink Less. How much is Less? Is getting wasted 1 less time per week really a achievement youd be proud of?

Spend less is much harder to stick to than Save $1000 for a trip to Mexico in the winter because you will have a definite moment where you will know if you failed or succeeded.

In my case, Ive been using my Fitbit to determine how active Ive been. It tracks my steps and general activity and I can use the website to see how Im progressing. In 2013 my goal was to get at least 10,000 steps per day, but I didnt quite live up to that goal but now I know, and I can work harder to increase this number in 2014**.

To recap: take the time youd otherwise be getting drunk and put it towards a new goal. Working towards one, will help you achieve the other and help distract you from those darn cravings. This will be especially beneficial if its a goal you thought was impossible before, making your success that much sweeter.

*The Tim Ferriss book 4 Hour Chef has some great recipes in it as well as a game-plan to becoming a better chef, one dish at a time! Plus it has a lot of other great stuff in it on how to change your life for the better. One word of wrning though, the author is a bit of a wine-connoisseur so you might want to skip those parts.

Stop Drinking for One Month | Stop Drinking Solutions

(Note: this post was originally written at the end of January)

Congratulations! If youre one of the people who wanted to stop drinking as a New Year Resolution, youre meer hours away from being off the sauce for an entire month. Even better news, there are only 28 days in February!

Im sure it was hard, painful, annoying, and trying. However if you did it, youre probably pretty proud of yourself. and you DESERVE TO BE!!!

Quitting booze is as much about method, as it is about mindset. There are times when your methods fail, and you get through on mindset and vice versa.

Stay strong and I wish you luck and strength in many more months. If you are deciding to have a few drinks tomorrow, then I have a few words of wisdom for you:

Not drinking for 1 month proves you can abstain, it doesnt prove you can quit. If you thought you needed to quit, and decided 1 month would be the deciding factor, dont rush so quickly back to binge drinking. You clearly had a solid reason for going sober for a month, and youre only reinforcing your original concerns if youre first priority in February is getting fucked up.

Just some food for thought. Even if you do drink tomorrow, you can always put the bottle down on Feb. 2 after that horrendous hangover kicks your ass and youre once again reevaluating your life. :P

Complacency is the Enemy of Sobriety | Stop Drinking Solutions

Complacency is a funny thing. In the early days of sobriety you want to feel normal again. You want your life to be like it was when you were drinking, but without all the booze. You want to stop thinking about how badly you want a drink.

Tragically, complacency can be the first step towards relapse. Thinking youre cured of your illness, thinking youve conquered your demons, thinking youre out of the woods. Whatever cliché you want to slap on it, it can be tempting to feel good about what youve accomplished.

Well you should feel good about your accomplishment. If youve been off the sauce since January 1st, then youre only a few days away from 3 weeks! Good for you, pat yourself on the back, kick back and enjoy a nice cold see what I did there? 

I dont normally like to talk like alcohol is an actual demon thats taken liquid form to drag you from the glory of the garden of Eden, but in some cases the shoe really fits. AA calls alcohol cunning and they arent wrong. Well, its really your brain thats cunning, but well get to that.

Around this time you might be reconsidering if you really need to quit. Youre just a few days away from being dry for 21 days, 3 weeks, 3/4 of a month! Thats pretty good. If you were a REAL alcoholic youd be a shivering lump of skin on the bathroom floor, right?

Like Ive said before, Im no expert. Im just someone whos been there before and I have to say NO. If youre anything like me, and if youve read this far I think you might be, the idea that you arent an alcoholic is just denial.

If you didnt have a problem, would you really be willing to jump ship on your commitment to make your life better? If you REALLY didnt have a problem would your brain be thinking up ways where youd be able to drink again? If you REALLY TRULY didnt have a problem, would your upcoming holiday/gathering/get-together be ruined if you didnt have anything to drink? Me thinks not!

So dont get too smug there Mister or Misses 3 weeks! Be aware you are at war, even when youre not fighting a battle. That sounds like something some long dead person would have said right? Ok, heres an actual quote from Sun Tzu that fits somewhat:

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

To break it down from my perspective: You know your enemy, and right now thats alcohol. If you really want to survive 100 battles, you must know yourself as well. You must know that your dumb ass if going to try and trick yourself in to thinking you can have 1.

Now you dont need to read the Art Of War, youre welcome!

Stop Drinking and Sleep Better | Stop Drinking Solutions

If you’re 23 days in to sobriety, there’s a good chance you’re having some issues sleeping. Before I go any further I’ll say that this is normal, and it wont last forever. As someone who would regularly head to bed somewhere between decently buzzed and completely hammered, I had issues falling asleep in those first few weeks.  Continue reading “Stop Drinking and Sleep Better | Stop Drinking Solutions”

A less Ego Driven Life | Stop Drinking Solutions

One of the things about AA that trips people up is the God element. In this day and age, religion is a touchy subject that  a lot of people don’t want to get in to. Much like the parts of your body normally covered by pants, religion is something most people want to keep to themselves. Going in to a room filled with strangers who want to talk about GOD was not something that appealed to me very much.   Continue reading “A less Ego Driven Life | Stop Drinking Solutions”