There is never a line that is drawn that clearly defines someone as being a problem drinker or alcoholic. Each person is unique in their own way as is each drinking problem is unique in it’s own way. For individuals contemplating a decision to stop, this decision could be a struggle. There is always going to be some subjectivity involved in evaluating the problem. The process could include some back and forth on whether to stop or not. Once a decision is made to stop, that journey as well is filled with struggles.
- listen to what others are saying
- commit to a clear and definable goal
- identify what benefits you derive from your drinking
- create a lifestyle that supports your decision
- develop a strong support system
- lie about your drinking
- hide your struggle about your decision to quit
- feel like you are alone
- act defensively
- make exceptions to your commitment
People who are problem drinkers, drink for a reason. It serves some function (enjoyment, social, coping skill, etc). Whatever benefit they derive from drinking, they do not want to give it up. Most problem drinkers stop drinking because of consequences or influence from some other sources (courts, family, doctors, employers). Although you may not agree with what they are saying (most problem drinkers wouldn’t), understand that your drinking is impacting enough on them to raise concerns.
Since the process in deciding to stop is a back and forth struggle, the decision itself could be approached with equal ambivalence. Problem drinkers will be uncomfortable with setting a clear goal. A commitment to cutting back is easier to get away with then a commitment to stop all together. It is safer and a lot less accountable. Complete abstinence allows individuals to commit to a measurable direction.
Even people with long years of sobriety will tell others that staying sober is not easy. This struggle presents for some, despite significant consequences that have come from their drinking. The sooner you can identify these benefits the sooner you can prepare for your road to recovery.
There are few individuals that once they decide to stop drinking, can maintain the same lifestyle they once had when they were drinking. Friends, activities and routines often need to be changed, or the least evaluated to adjust to a sober commitment. Problem drinkers often miscalculate the struggle that comes with abstinence. This will create more of possibility of relapsing. This does not necessarily mean that you have to give up all your friends. It just means that you have to consider and evaluate what impact, if any, your current lifestyle will have on your decision to stop all together.
This support system not only would be family and friends, but outside sources as well. Consider religious groups, support groups, and therapy. This could be group, individual and/or family. Having a network of people behind not only helps you in addressing the challenges of remaining abstinent, they help reinforce the importance of doing it, which gives you motivation.
Problem drinkers, in order to allow themselves to continue the enjoyment of drinking, will lie about their drinking. This lying would be on the impact their drinking has on their life or whether or not not they have been drinking at all. The lie at times, is just as much to themselves (“It’s not that bad”) as to other people (“No I did not drink’). If you justify an omission of information regarding your drinking or intentionally deceive someone about your drinking, you are fitting the lifestyle of a problem drinker and creating mistrust. This is not helping you or other’s trust in you and your motives.
Let others know where you are at and if you are struggling. This will allow them to support in your journey. This will also create opportunities for you to openly plan and discuss potential relapse situations. Unfortunately, the journey you are embarking on may be filled with a slip. Sometimes, despite your best efforts you may relapse. Openly discuss this others and learn from it. This is also a time to reconfirm your commitment to abstinence.
The belief that no one understands often times lays the groundwork for return to drinking. In the recovery field, this is referred to as self pity. Don’t use this as an excuse. If you are truly feeling alone, try to get others to understand you or where you are coming from. Keeping these feelings to yourself will just make it worse. If you are feeling isolated there are additional resources like therapy and support groups that can help you not feel so isolated.
For most problem drinkers, there was hiding your drinking along the way. Also keep in mind for some problem drinkers, acting defensive was part of their tool box. This kept others away from the fact they were drinking. When you become defensive or angry about your drinking, remember what got others to question you in the first place. If you create a open environment in talking about it, you are creating a much more healthy and healing environment.
There are always going to be “special occasions’ where you want to break away from your commitment to remain sober. There is always going to be a desire to have “just a drink’. This creates an environment of having exceptions to the rule. In time with problem drinkers, the rule soon becomes the exception.
There may be one journey to sobriety, but many roads for individuals faced with a drinking problem to take. The first leg of the journey is understanding what impact your drinking has had on your life. Granted, drinking and problems associated with drinking could always be worse. However, you can choose not to make it worse and see what other consequences may present themselves. Identify what you may be getting out of your drinking and whether or not it is worth continuing. If you decide to stop drinking, it could be the beginning of another journey. Recognize that this journey to sobriety may present challenges that you need to prepare for.