Being addicted to things like exercise, new-found knowledge, good music, or top-end websites are all well and good, but an alcohol addiction is — as you could guess — no fun at all.
In the case of the most dramatically hard-done-by and washed up drunks, it’s easy to see exactly where the problem lies. For many of us, however, we may slip into patterns of unhealthy and destructive drinking — and the unhealthy and destructive thought processes that go along with that — without realising fully that we have lost control and that things are moving in an overall bad direction.
Whether the effects of out-of-control drinking are primarily financial, emotional, physical, or social for you, quitting the drink may be the key for you to free up time, money, energy, happiness, and resources, and allow you to invest in things like property and real estate, life-affirming hobbies, and strong, uplifting relationships.
This guide — inspired largely by Allen Carr’s “Easy Way method” for dealing with alcohol addiction — will offer you some mindset shifts, tips, and tricks for getting off the sauce.
Firstly — question the “benefits” of drinking, not the negatives
A key theme in much addiction treatment literature, or guides which encourage abstinence from alcohol, is the idea of reinforcing the negatives of drinking to yourself, over and over and even writing a list to carry in your pocket in order to remind you of the woes of drinking in case you forget.
These lists will typically contain information you’re already well aware of — stuff like; “chronic drinking damages the liver”, “drinking can shorten my life”, and “I’m more likely to get hurt when drunk.”
The problem with this is that on a deep level, you’re drinking because you believe that the benefits of alcohol outweigh the negatives in some fundamental sense. Or, even, that no matter how bad the negatives, the benefits are so good that you’re willing to accept whatever consequences come along with them, no matter how extreme.
To break the hold that alcohol has on you, begin questioning and challenging the perceived “benefits” rather than stacking up a list of negatives.
For example, you may think; “alcohol makes me happy and social at parties”, but is that really true? If you were drinking at the funeral of a loved one, would you be happy and social?
Perhaps all that alcohol really does, in this case, is to deaden your senses to the point where you ignore your normal filters and say and do whatever pops into your head.
Maybe this makes you feel like the life of the party sometimes, but it’s very likely that on at least an equal number of occasions, you annoy everyone around you by screaming your uninvited anecdotes in their faces at full volume while slurring.
In this case, true happiness and being truly social are skills you should develop sober. The confidence to act openly at a party, while still being able to judge the mood of the room properly, is what you should really strive for. And alcohol harms your ability to do that; it doesn’t enhance it.
Secondly — if you’re not sure if you’re an alcoholic or have a real problem, ask “how would I know for sure?”
One of the insidious things about problem drinking and alcoholism is that there are no clear definitions of the terms. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, argues that only an individual drinker can decide whether or not they’re an alcoholic, and doctors and counsellors tend to take the same line.
In fact, there is no medical test for “alcoholism”.
This means that alcohol could be ruining your life on various levels, but as long as you’re able to hold it together enough to seem “normal” or “functional”, you may never accept that you really have a problem, and your friends and even family may never think to suggest that either.
But is someone only an alcoholic or a problem drinker when they’re lost their home, got advanced cirrhosis of the liver, lost their marriage, and ended up on the street?
At the end of the day, if you ever feel that your drinking is trapping you, or causing you problems, or that you’re just not totally in control of it, it’s a good idea to take steps to quit it. Never mind the labels like “alcoholic” that carry so much social stigma. The questions should always be; “does alcohol cause me any problems” and “am I really, completely in control of my drinking?”
Thirdly — willpower is a poor system. Breaking the “schizophrenia” is key
There’s a stereotype that people who have quit alcohol, or some other drug of choice, become depressed and anxious for the rest of their lives, always avoiding bars and feeling nervous if left alone near a bottle of beer.
This does seem to happen often — but it’s not because alcohol is so powerful and awesome — it’s actually because people are still holding onto the idea that alcohol is great, with one part of their mind, while forcing themselves to abstain from it, using willpower.
But would you need willpower to avoid sticking your head in a toilet, if left alone in a bathroom? No, because no part of your mind would find the idea appealing.
The key to getting over alcohol isn’t to view it as a great, magic potion, while simultaneously forcing yourself to stay away from it by a sheer act of will. The key is to get all parts of your mind on the same page, by deconstructing the idea that alcohol is “good”, or “enticing”, or “beneficial” for you in any way.
Once you’ve broken the “schizophrenia”, and deconstructed your views on alcohol, willpower will barely come into it, if at all. You’ll be free to sit in bars, next to your friends who are drinking, without feeling nervous or tempted, and without being frightened that you’ll suddenly grab a bottle and start downing it compulsively.