Giving Up Alcohol By Making A Plan

close up photo of a planning journal to illustrate giving up alcohol by making a plan.
Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

“Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail” is an old saying that I once saw on a poster. At the time I thought it was a dumb expression and didn’t give it much thought. After a few failures at giving up alcohol, I realized it had more truth than I could have imagined. A plan cannot guarantee success, but they are often what separates an amateur from a professional.

Living your life randomly is typical behavior for an addict. It’s not that alcoholics never make plans; I would often plan to go to parties or buy a special beverage for an occasion. This gave me the illusion I was under control. I had a decent job, and I wasn’t getting blind drunk in the middle of the day. Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Do you have a Plan or a Routine?

Later I realized that I didn’t have a plan, I had a routine. My only real structure was work, alcohol, sleep, repeat. The amount of alcohol and sleep was ever changing, and the quality of my work would suffer consequently. After a few years in this routine, I admit I was in a rut. A rut is a routine you can’t escape, and most attempts to get out of the rut make things worse.

This is the reason why my previous attempts to quit failed so miserably. Attempting to change your entire life by making a single change is very difficult. I promised myself I wouldn’t drink, but I hadn’t planned what I’d do if my roommate came home with a case of beer. I hadn’t even thought about what I might say if someone asked why I wasn’t drinking.

To avoid these pitfalls, I put a specific plan in place to make my commitment stick:

  1. Pick a specific date to quit
  2. Deal with any leftover alcohol
  3. Plan activities in advance, to avoid situations where I will be tempted to drink
  4. Create a new routine for healthy living
  5. Have someone hold me accountable

This is not a great plan, but it worked for me in the moment. On the specified date (Oct 1) I poured out any leftover alcohol, and immediately put the cans and bottles in the recycling. I bought a pair of running shoes and planned on running every day after work. Finally, I told my roommate, my mom and a few other that I had taken on the challenge of quitting alcohol. I also planned my weekends so that I would only go out to see friends if it was an occasion like a birthday or when alcohol was not present.

Giving up alcohol is still hard

The above was the bare minimum needed to stick to my commitment. I may have been able to make it 1-month without planning, but I doubt it would have stuck any further. My plan was to stay sober after October 31st, so I added a 6th step to my plan: keep going. It wasn’t a great plan, but I was able to succeed in giving up alcohol because I just keep going.

This post is part of a series called “So you’ve decided to quit drinking“. You can read the first post here, or you can sign up for our newsletter.

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