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Beating an addiction is never easy. From physical withdrawal to psychological attachment, the road to sobriety is full of challenges. You may feel as if you’re too weak, incapable, or powerless. You may "fall off the wagon" more than once. But the bottom line is that becoming sober will be one of the most important and fulfilling journeys in your life.
Admitting your drinking is a problem may not happen easily. The choice to quit may come after you’ve had troubles in your personal or professional life, or after being arrested, having an accident, or hurting a loved one. No amount of nagging from a spouse, parent, or friend will get you to make the decision to quit. Only you can make that choice.
Denial is only one of the many roadblocks you will meet on your journey to overcoming an addiction, but it may be the most difficult. For most alcoholics and alcohol abusers, the desire to drink is so overwhelming that your mind finds ways to rationalize your choices. You tell yourself you have to drink or you would be cast out of your social circle. You convince yourself you’re not hurting anyone but yourself. Your friends and family don’t understand.
Denial makes excuses for you. It’s only when you are honest with yourself that you’ll be direct with yourself enough to decide it’s time to break the habit.
Once you’ve made the decision to get help for your addiction, talk to friends and family members so they can help you. Share your feelings about your drinking problem and why you’ve come to the decision you have. It’s important to be honest with yourself and those around you about how this decision makes you feel. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, admit if you’re ever feeling unsure about your decision, and seek support.
Alcohol addiction is just as much about the behaviors you’ve established around your drinking habit as the physical addiction itself. When you break the habits and establish a new routine, quitting may be easier.
Keep in mind that you can’t break an addiction overnight. Your goals need to be realistic. If you can’t imagine giving up drinking altogether right now, try just limiting your alcohol consumption. This could mean only having a certain number of drinks per week, or only drinking socially on weekends. Other goals may be to avoiding drinking when you’re at a restaurant, or deciding not to drink when you’re alone.
Commit to your goals and take steps to achieve them. If you’re no longer going to drink during the week, you may need to avoid the Tuesday beer night with your basketball buddies. You might have to skip happy hour with your coworkers on Fridays. Be honest with yourself about what you think you can and can’t do. Challenge yourself to rise to your goals, and let others know what you’re trying to accomplish so they can be supportive.
Certain methods can help you stick to your goals.
There are a variety of alcohol treatment programs available for people seeking to overcome addiction. Some alcoholics and alcohol abusers will choose to go the road alone. Others may need a self-help group, rehabilitation programs, therapy, or medical treatment. Speak with your doctor about treatment options and the costs involved, and ask for information about support networks in your area.
While alcohol addiction may be triggered by emotional trauma or stress, over time, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol. You may build up a tolerance and find that you need to drink more and more to get the same effect. As a result, many alcoholics experience withdrawal symptoms once they decide to quit drinking. The symptoms of withdrawal include:
These symptoms can begin just a few hours after your last drink, and they can take several days to more than a week to end. For some addicts, symptoms of withdrawal can be life threatening. Withdrawal from long-term or severe alcoholism should be done in a controlled, medical setting to avoid serious complications. Contact a medical professional if you begin experiencing symptoms like:
In most cases, doctors can supply medicines and treatments to help you deal with withdrawal. If you are doing this on your own, it may be wise to ask a friend or family member for help to monitor your condition when symptoms first appear.
Sobriety is a lifelong battle. Even when you’ve been sober for years, temptations can arise. Stressful situations may push you toward old habits. Every day is another chance you may find yourself confronted with old desires.
With professional help you may discover what started your drinking behaviors in the first place. Perhaps drinking relieved feelings of stress or anxiety, or helped you feel welcomed and appreciated. Learning to recognize what caused your problems can help you recognize problems in the future.
Work with a medical or mental health professional to develop strategies to help prevent mood swings, combat cravings, and take better care of your health. Learn to eat well and get exercise. Your body has a natural ability to cope with stress and promote well being when you care for it.
While some recovering alcoholics may find they’re no longer tempted to drink in familiar environments, others may struggle. Find new avenues for entertainment and hobbies, and invite friends who are encouraging and supportive of your sobriety to be a part of them.
Your chances of staying sober are higher if you participate in groups designed to help you succeed. Support groups are available in almost every community, and online resources may be helpful as well.
Written by: Kimberly Holland
Medically reviewed on: Nov 24, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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