Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how bad the addiction or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time. Read to get started on the road to recovery today.
Alcohol treatment and recovery step 1: Commit to stop drinking
Most people with alcohol problems do not decide to make a big change out of the blue or transform their drinking habits overnight. Recovery is usually a more gradual process. In the early stages of change, denial is a huge obstacle. Even after admitting you have a drinking problem, you may make excuses and drag your feet. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence about stopping drinking. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to change or you’re struggling with the decision, it can help to think about the costs and benefits of each choice.
Evaluating the costs and benefits of drinking
Make a table like the one below, weighing the costs and benefits of drinking to the costs and benefits of quitting.
Is Drinking Worth The Cost?
Benefits of drinking:
It helps me forget about my problems.
I have fun when I drink.
It’s my way of relaxing and unwinding after a stressful day.
Benefits of not drinking:
My relationships would probably improve.
I’d feel better mentally and physically.
I’d have more time and energy for the people and activities I care about.
Costs of drinking:
It has caused problems in my relationships.
I feel depressed, anxious, and ashamed of myself.
It gets in the way of my job performance and family responsibilities.
Costs of not drinking:
I’d have to find another way to deal with problems.
I’d lose my drinking buddies.
I would have to face the responsibilities I’ve been ignoring.
Alcohol treatment and recovery step 2: Set goals and prepare for change
Once you’ve made the decision to change, the next step is establishing clear drinking goals. The more specific, realistic, and clear your goals, the better.
Example #1: My drinking goal
I will stop drinking alcohol.
My quit date is __________.
Example #2: My drinking goal
I will stop drinking on weekdays, starting as of __________.
I will limit my Saturday and Sunday drinking to no more than 3 drinks per day or 5 drinks per weekend.
After three months, I will cut back my weekend drinking even more to a maximum of 2 drinks per day and 3 drinks per weekend.
Do you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back? If your goal is to reduce your drinking, decide which days you will drink alcohol and how many drinks you will allow yourself per day. Try to commit to at least two days each week when you won’t drink at all.
When do you want to stop drinking or start drinking less? Tomorrow? In a week? Next month? Within six months? If you’re trying to stop drinking, set a specific quit date.
After you’ve set your goals to either stop or cut back your drinking, write down some ideas on how you can help yourself accomplish these goals. For example:
Get rid of temptations. Remove all alcohol, barware, and other drinking reminders from your home and office.
Announce your goal. Let friends, family members, and co-workers know that you’re trying to stop drinking. If they drink, ask them to support your recovery by not doing so in front of you.
Be upfront about your new limits. Make it clear that drinking will not be allowed in your home and that you may not be able to attend events where alcohol is being served.
Avoid bad influences. Distance yourself from people who don’t support your efforts to stop drinking or respect the limits you’ve set. This may mean giving up certain friends and social connections.
Learn from the past. Reflect on previous attempts to stop drinking. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently this time to avoid pitfalls?
Can I cut back on my drinking or do I need to stop drinking completely?
Whether or not you can successfully cut back on your drinking depends on the severity of your drinking problem.
If you’re an alcoholic—which, by definition, means you aren’t able to control your drinking—it’s best to try to stop drinking entirely. But if you’re not ready to take that step, or if you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but want to cut back for personal or health reasons, the following tips adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can help:
Set a drinking goal. Choose a limit for how much you will drink. Make sure your limit is not more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, or two drinks a day if you’re a man. Now write your drinking goal on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
Keep a “diary” of your drinking. To help you reach your goal, keep a “diary” of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for 1 week. Try to keep your diary for 3 or 4 weeks. This will show you how much you drink and when. You may be surprised. How different is your goal from the amount you drink now?
Watch it at home. Keep a small amount or no alcohol at home. Don’t keep temptations around.
Drink slowly. When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Take a break of 1 hour between drinks. Drink soda, water, or juice after a drink with alcohol. Do not drink on an empty stomach! Eat food when you are drinking.
Take a break from alcohol. Pick a day or two each week when you will not drink at all. Then, try to stop drinking for 1 week. Think about how you feel physically and emotionally on these days. When you succeed and feel better, you may find it easier to cut down for good.
Alcohol treatment and recovery step 3: Get sober safely
Some people can stop drinking on their own, while others need medical supervision in order to withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. Which option is best for you depends on how much you’ve been drinking, how long you’ve had a problem, and other health issues you may have.
Withdrawing from alcohol
When you drink heavily and frequently, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol and goes through withdrawal if you suddenly stop drinking. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe, and include:
Nausea or vomiting
Anxiety and restlessness
Stomach cramps and diarrhea
Trouble sleeping or concentrating
Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually start within hours after you stop drinking, peak in a day or two, and improve within five days. But in some alcoholics, withdrawal is not just unpleasant—it can be life threatening.
1. Oklahoma residents diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, experiencing anxiety or depression, or battling substance abuse can find a residential treatment program with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in nearby Texas. The Meehl House provides DBT to residents who are ready to make the recovery process a top priority. The DBT treatment Oklahoma team introduces the key skillsets of DBT, including Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, and Emotional Regulation, that are necessary to maintain a healthy and productive lifestyle.
2. Oklahoma residents diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder can find a residential treatment program in nearby Texas. The DBT treatment Oklahoma team allows a resident to address a distressful or emotional situation as it is occurring, and put learned DBT skills and life skills into practice immediately. The cohesiveness of the DBT team, including a psychiatrist, therapist, skills trainer, life coach and program director, means all team members are aware of the particular situation and needs of each individual. The residential treatment center also provides an atmosphere of continuous support from fellow residents, family visitors and the founders of The Meehl Foundation, Mark and Debra Meehl, DD, MSW, who live at The Meehl House.