"Can you really stop drinking if you don't WANT to?"
Certainly. Most of the people here didn't want to stop drinking at some level. We didn't want the negative effects of alcohol. But we still wanted to drink for the immediate benefits. It may be a compulsive behavior, over which we don't
to have any control. But we still want some part of what it does
us, in spite of what it does
Taking that first drink always seems like the right answer in the short run. Alcohol is the fastest acting legal anti-depressant we can buy! Unfortunately, in the long run it is a depressant and the problems we thought we were coping with are still there after the effects wear off. But during that period when alcohol is entering the bloodstream, it sure seems to solve our problems, doesn't it?
Quitting drinking can be described as deciding in favor of our long term goals over our desire for short term gratification. First you have to decide that
not drinking is in your best interests
for some reason. What are your reasons? Health, family, relationships, finances, workŠ.Those are all among the reasons cited by people who quit drinking, including people who simply quit without using any specific recovery program at all.
One simple tool we use here is to write a list of the costs of drinking, then a list of the
benefits of drinking
. Compare them. Notice how many of the costs are long term, and how many of the benefits are short term? Then write a list of the benefits of
. The purpose of this is to reinforce your rational desire to stop drinking.
The irrational desire to continue drinking is what makes physical urges seem so intense. We intensify the physiological part of it with our own self-talk.
--The emotional situation we're in is unbearable without alcohol (not true; it's uncomfortable, but not unbearable).
--We can't change our daily routine-'as soon as I leave work I head for the bar' (we can plan a different routine).
--Life is so miserable we might as well drink (drinking won't make it less miserable).
Recognizing this self-talk is an important step in changing our thinking.
We persuade ourselves that a drink is what we need. We tell ourselves nonsense about how we'll just have one, two, three drinks. We buy more than we 'plan' to drink.
But if we can talk ourselves
and if we can plan our lives around it, then we can talk ourselves
OUT of drinking
and plan our lives around sobriety.
Long term sobriety is a planned condition.
It doesn't just happen: we don't simply quit drinking, and resume our lives as though nothing is missing. It involves some pretty simple steps, but they require conscious effort, persistence, and patience. Most people who quit drinking and attain long term sobriety do some combination of the followingŠ.
Make a firm commitment to abstinence.
It may help to
to someone you trust, or to us, or talk to a counselor about it (someone with a background in REBT or CBT would be useful).
by reading your cost-benefit lists every day; carry them with you. Add to them.
Plan for the early stages of abstinence.
Talk to a physician if you have been drinking heavily. Buy some healthy food, some books and magazines, rent some movies. Plan for the boredom, restlessness, sleeplessness, etc.
Make lifestyle changes
that directly enhance your decision for abstinence. Change that daily routine-go window-shopping, stop at a bookstore, go to your local farmers' market after work. Start exercising.
Do something daily to enhance your sobriety
: read some good books about alcohol, post on a forum board, write in a journal about how you're feeling. Pay close attention to the immediate benefits you notice.
directly in some simple way. Set aside the extra money you were spending and buy something nice for yourself. Buy flowers every day instead of alcohol. Be nice to yourself. Congratulate yourself on your progress: this is a big change! And if you do drink (lapse), come back here and let's talk about it.
Plan, plan, plan for the drinking situations.
This includes the times that people might offer you drinks, or that you expect you'll find yourself thinking intensely about alcohol. Have a plan of action for what you'll do in those situations. Prepare your own self-arguments about why you don't drink anymore. Make up simple sayings or slogans that you'll repeat to yourself over and over. I had a couple: 'there will be no alcohol in my house or in my body' and 'don't think poisonous thoughts'.
Get support from others
if you think that would be helpful. Not everyone wants or needs group support. I've had people tell me that going to meetings seemed to intensify their desire to drink afterward. But others find it very helpful and swear by group support.
It may be especially helpful if you're very emotionally isolated, and feeling very much alone. There are lots of people who care about someone in your situation, and we are here online if you're anxious about walking in to a face-to-face meeting. All of us felt very isolated in our distress and shame. It can be very comforting to know that you're not alone.
So to answer the question:
yes, it is possible to quit drinking even when you want to continue.
I believe that ultimately, rationally, we want to quit drinking. But emotionally, in the short run, we want to drink. It's the conflict between urges and goals. Urges are time-limited. One person I know says she timed them, and hers lasted 5 - 7 minutes. So think of something to do for 5 - 7 minutes - read, run in place, pull weeds, sort your recipes, knit, or braid lavender into sachets -- doesn't really matter what you do! Urges will pass, and as time passes they diminish in duration, intensity, and frequency. And a clearer mind and healthier body makes most of our goals more attainable.