You’ve probably heard that sobriety and giving up alcohol can transform one’s life. It was December 22, 2013, when I last drank alcohol. It had been nearly ten years since my last drink.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to reach my lowest point in order to become sober. Many persons who struggle with alcoholism are unable to give up alcohol on their own volition. Many heavy drinkers only give up when they can no longer count on their friends and family’s support.
I penned my mental and external impressions of the world as a former drinker to commemorate my second year on the wagon. Many readers were able to relate to that article and found the post to be beneficial in their attempts to abstain from alcohol.
But what if you’re on the fence about getting sober?
You want to quit drinking, but you wonder if it will improve your mental health and well-being. You’ve heard that if you quit drinking, you’ll avoid a host of legal and health problems, but you’re not even sure if you have a drinking problem.
I’ve talked to many people in all stages of alcohol addiction.
They all have the same curiosities, thoughts, and worries about living a life without alcohol. In this post, I’ve addressed nearly all of the questions that people have asked me about sobriety and alcohol detoxification.
I know that somewhere, someone will read this and it’s going to help them deal with their alcohol addiction and finally change their drinking habits. Maybe someone has a loved one getting sober and wants to know what they’re going through.
I know that many people who read this know someone who either:
- Wants to stop drinking
- Needs to stop drinking
- Has a drinking problem and is the person who needs to stop drinking
Whichever person you are, I hope you get something out of this advice and a life is changed or even saved.
Here Are 8 Things to Know if You Want to Quit Drinking
1. There are three things you need if you want to quit drinking.
You need three things to successfully stop drinking:
- Fear of what will happen if you don’t stop drinking alcohol.
- A goal you’re after that you believe sobriety will assist you in accomplishing.
- Acceptance of your fears when it comes to both of these things.
Most people stop at number one. Those who make it to number two will start drinking after they’ve accomplished their goal. When you have all three, you’ve embraced your humility and recognized how difficult this will be.
I knew when I needed to quit drinking. I took another two years of binge drinking, waking up the next day with hangovers, and pissing off friends and loved ones before I finally ceased my drinking habit.
It takes courage to admit that you can’t control your alcohol intake. Part of that courage comes from acknowledging your fears. Fear of what people think of you, fear that you’ll fail, and fear that you’re making the wrong decision.
Once you have these three things handled, it’ll be easy to quit.
If there’s one thing that will make all the difference, focus on how bad things can get. Meditate on it. I still think about what it would be like if I caused a drunk driving accident. It creates real terror in my being.
No matter how well things are going, that terror keeps me from ever picking up a drink again and exposing myself to my dark side.
2. You don’t need alcoholics anonymous.
When I decided to stop drinking, I enlisted the power of every tool at my disposal to guarantee success. I went to an AA meeting on the first day of my sobriety. While the community is solid and it has many success stories, it wasn’t for me.
I believe there are two types of alcoholics (generally speaking): people who have a drinking problem and people who have problems while drinking.
The outcome is the same, but the process is different. The first group is what most people think of when they imagine alcoholics. These people truly have an addiction and “need” to drink every day. I believe these are the types of people who need Alcoholics Anonymous to get sober.
I was the second type. I could shut it off and walk away, but when it was on, my life was a wreck. I used to brag that 95% of my problems were caused or exacerbated by alcohol. In reality, it was even higher.
Once I recognized this, I changed my environment and habits. I think this is the difference between those with a compulsion and those with a bad habit.
Bad habits respond well to the domino effect. Fix one, and everything else falls into place. A compulsion requires constant vigilance to prevent you from going over the edge and returning to the dark place. I had a bad habit. Bad habits are fixed with discipline and self-awareness.
This is why it can be useful to know why you can’t stop drinking in the first place.
Some of you will need to get outside help and some of you can do it alone. Neither one is better than the other, but it’s important to know which path is right for you.
3. You won’t lose your true friends.
I was afraid of losing friends because I believed that drinking was such a part of my personality that without it, I wouldn’t be someone they’d want to be friends with.
Imagine how messed up you have to be to believe that you’ll lose friends if you stop consuming a substance that makes behave poorly. I’m fortunate that I kept all of my close friends and even some of the friends I made during my heaviest drinking years.
Yes, there are haters out there who only want you to fail. Sure, some crabs never want to see you escape from the barrel. But most of my experiences have been this: If you take responsibility for your problems and make decisions to improve your life, most people either don’t care or actively support you. My experience with sobriety has been largely the latter.
Especially from the people who consider me their friend. More than they hated losing a drinking buddy, they loved being associated with someone making real changes in their life.
4. You will experience alcohol withdrawal.
How do you know if you have alcohol dependence? How do you know if you have a drinking problem?
I only went to one Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting because I didn’t think it was the best fit for me. I think it’s one of the best support groups around, but it did not vibe with me. The people there were from all walks of life, but the one thing they had in common was that their drinking and/or substance abuse caused problems in all areas of their lives.
I’ve come to believe there is a difference between someone with a drinking problem and someone who has problems while drinking. Most alcoholics are the latter. The former are people who need services like AA.
While there are different types of alcoholics, they all have the same thing in common: Alcoholics let alcohol interfere with their life goals. If you don’t want to be better, then it doesn’t matter how much, how often, or how fast you drink.
But if your drinking gets in the way of progress, relationships, or your quality of life, then you have a drinking problem. You don’t need rehab or a treatment program to tell you that your alcohol intake is causing you problems.
This is the most controversial piece of advice I give people because it flies in the face of what many publications consider the criteria for alcoholism.
According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, some of the most common symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol abuse) are:
- Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
- Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
- Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
- Choosing to drink over other responsibilities and obligations
- Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
- Drinking alone or in secrecy
- Feeling hungover when not drinking
- Changing appearance and group of acquaintances you hang out with
While these symptoms are serious, this is what alcohol is supposed to do. These behaviors are so common in our Western society that no one thinks twice if you have “drinking buddies” or you use alcohol to relax.
However, if you can’t make progress in your life or continually regress because of your alcohol consumption, then you have a problem. Then it’s safe to say that you are an alcoholic and you should do something before you lose everything.
5. Getting drunk is not worth losing friends over.
Sometimes I wonder if I was any more of an asshole drunk than I was sober. Everyone’s mood and temperament changes when drinking, but I wanted to know if drinking had a net positive or negative effect on my social life. I used a simple (totally unscientific) method to answer this question.
I didn’t have my first drink until I was 18. I counted the number of close friendships I had at that age. Then I counted the close friends I have now. I subtracted two for each friendship I lost and added one for each friendship I gained.
Since I got a positive number, I concluded that alcohol did not, in the long term, affect my friendships. It did, however, lower my tolerance for disingenuous displays of friendship. More impactfully, it made a harder person to be a friend to.
This is one of those things that you can only recognize in sober hindsight.
It takes special people who love you dearly to remain your friend when your drinking problem:
- Puts them in danger
- Needs them to cover for you
- Pressures you into drinking with them so they feel comfortable
- Hits on your girlfriend while constantly intoxicated
- Is generally going nowhere in life because of their habit
I consider myself lucky to have maintained my long-time friends during the worst of my drinking. So alcohol (barely) did not affect my friendships in the long term run. In the short run, I know for certain that I pissed a lot of people off.
I know I met some people who may have been great friends. However, they met me drunk or they knew of my drunken reputation and wanted nothing to do with me. Surprisingly, the missed relationships don’t bother me.
I’m aware that the following is a weak justification, but I believe that it contains enough truth to be valid:
I don’t think any friend I would have made under the pretense of heavy drinking is someone that I’d like sober anyway. While there are exceptions to the rule, the person I am today hates the person who I was.
Maybe “hate” is too strong of a word. It’s more appropriate to say that I have a low opinion of old me and I carry a certain level of shame and guilt about my behavior.
This means that I’d likely hate the type of person that guy was making friends with. This doesn’t apply to everyone I met during the “dark years”, but it is an unfortunate situation of bad habits.
6. Sober people can’t stand drunk people.
You need to quit drinking if it brings out the worst in you. If your headspace isn’t right, alcohol is going to expose it very quickly.
It’s easier to deal with personal problems when you’re sober, but having personal problems makes it more likely that you’ll get drunk. Alcohol greatly reduces your capacity for self-control.
Without self-control, you’re more likely to behave in a way that is repulsive to other people because you have a problem with yourself.
Any personal problem I had while sober got 10 times worse when I drank.
I said, did, and texted things that only made my life worse. I had to get sober if I wanted to stop putting my friends in a position to explain away my bad behavior with alcohol.
I never thought I was the type of person to drink my problems away, but when getting drunk is a regular part of life, it was inevitable that I would have problems in my life. If you get drunk to avoid the problems your sober problems, you may need to get sober so that you stop making those problems worse.
Now, I didn’t feel bad about pissing off people that were also drinking. They were part of the game of drinking and people acting foolishly is to be expected.
I feel bad about the people who had to deal with me while they were sober. The innocent casualties in the game of drinking are the true losers and the only ones who truly suffer.
7. You will find your true self.
I got super intoxicated at places like parties or bars because I was bored. I enjoy socializing with small groups of people that I’m close with, but large groups of people annoy the hell out of me. The only way I could make it tolerable was by getting wasted.
This helped me understand that I was never going to be happy fitting in and that I needed a purpose to direct my energy towards. Or else I’d get bored and likely self-destructive.
When you don’t drink, at first it’s impossible to not feel like an outsider. You become comfortable with the feeling, but it’s impossible to feel like you belong.
This is because alcohol is such a fixture in our culture that by actively rejecting it, you are actively rejecting what has essentially become a tradition.
8. Your relationships will change, for better or worse.
You can’t know yourself while drinking. Alcohol is designed to alter your perception of reality. The more time you spend in an altered state, the less accurate your perception of reality is. This means you’re likely to have friends and activities you don’t really want to spend time on.
Maybe you don’t like them, but it’s far more likely that they aren’t a good fit for your true personality and how you most naturally relate to the world. You won’t know this until you spend a significant amount of time, across all emotional spectrums, in a sober state of mind.
Sobriety is a good way to discover which relationships are important in your life.
The number of people I no longer communicate with is expected, so it’s not that surprising. What is surprising is the fact that I don’t miss the communication at all.
I know it’s very difficult to explore the depths of a connection via bonding over alcoholic consumption.
If you think you want to get sober…
- You don’t need Alcoholics Anonymous
- Your good friends won’t desert you
- You might not even be an alcoholic
- You need to stop drinking if you ruin relationships
- You need to stop drinking if you piss people off
- You’ll find your true self if you get sober
- Your relationships will change if you quit drinking
- You also gain tremendous health benefits
These are the key things that few people warn you about when you get sober. Consider them and make the best decision for your life.
The rest is up to you.