How to Stop Drinking Alcohol: A 100-Proof Primer
Are you just hating that feeling you have when you drag yourself out of bed in the morning, knowing you’d feel better if you knew how to stop drinking alcohol?
First you have to recognize your limit: Do you want to stop drinking—full stop—or can you make it if you just cut back? Then take a look at these great ideas to help you reach your goal.
Sit down with yourself and answer these questions honestly:
• How many days a week do you drink?
• Do you drink alone?
• Do you stop drinking before you pass out?
• Have you been arrested for something to do with drinking?
• Do you get crazy when you drink—that means crazy angry, or crazy promiscuous, or crazy risky?
• How angry would you be if someone in your family took away your alcohol for the day?
Doctors say you shouldn’t drink more than two days a week, although that’s not a guideline firmly etched in stone. The key is that in a normal week, without holidays or vacation time, two days maximum is reasonable, and extra drinking days during times of celebration is acceptable for most people as long as they aren’t addicted.
On the days when you drink, you shouldn’t consume more than three drinks. Once you hit four, it’s considered a “binge.” And if you’re honest with yourself, the answers to the other questions are pretty evident.
Now that you’ve made a basic self- assessment, consider these ways to stop drinking alcohol:
1. Just cut back.
Maybe for you drinking is just a bad habit. If you’re drinking every day, make it a hard and fast rule that you will drink only every other day. No matter what’s going on in your life on the no-drinking days, no matter who you’re hanging out with, you can’t drink. Once you’re down to every other day for a month, make it every third day, and so forth.
2. No drinking alone.
Drinking should be limited to social occasions. Unless you’ve just been chased home by the Lock Ness Monster, there are few acceptable reasons why someone should come home and drink all by him- or herself.
3. Consider the sugar content of alcohol.
A light beer has about 100 calories. A five-ounce glass of sweet Moscato wine has 127 calories, but Cabernet Sauvignon with virtually no residual sugar has 115 calories. That scotch or whiskey you toss back to chase away Nessie has 103 calories. A shot of vodka has 97 calories. Triple sec has 73 calories, so just remember that each Cosmopolitan you sip will have at least 300 calories.
So ask yourself, just how much weight are you adding to your daily diet with alcohol? Whew!
4. See your doctor.
You can find out if you’ve damaged your liver, and you can ask him about medication options to help you stop. You’ve probably heard of these:
• Wellbutrin. People have reported a reduction in cravings when they take this antidepressant medication, and it’s also used to help stop smoking. However, it has been known to cause seizures in people, and other side effects include nausea, constipation, dry mouth, and itching. If you stop it suddenly it will cause a seizure. The real question is: Have you been drinking because of depression or anxiety? You should know that alcohol is a depressant, all by itself, and if you drink it you will feel more depressed, especially the next day.
• Antabuse. Many people tell themselves that there is medication to help them stop drinking completely, and they’re thinking of Antabuse, generically known as disulfiram. But it only works if you have completely stopped drinking, because it will make you violently ill if you do both. Even if you take cough medicine or use mouthwash with alcohol, you cannot use Antabuse.
• Naltrexone. Some addiction treatment specialists are beginning to use Naltrexone to help people stop drinking. The worst side effect is nausea, noticed in about 10 per cent of patients in a clinical study. However, you cannot easily stop taking Naltrexone; you will experience withdrawal symptoms as bad as those felt by any heroin addict. Naltrexone should only be used as a desperate measure.
5. Try a 12-step group.
Ask yourself if your drinking has been the elephant in the living room that everybody in your family is trying to ignore.
It’s really not fair to expect your family to feed that ugly beast and clean up its dirt whilst pretending they don’t even notice it. If you can’t stop drinking but you’re really ready to try, go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. AA has meetings everywhere in the world, every day of the week, even on holidays. Even if you live in an isolated area, there are online chat rooms.
Many people are put off by AA because they want to avoid the spirituality. After all, AA people talk about a “higher power”—and maybe you have your doubts about the existence of God. Even if that’s true, you can still go to AA. Your “higher power” can be whatever you think makes the universe run, even if it’s just electromagnetic energy!
AA will teach you many things about the relationship you develop with your alcohol, the triggers that make you drink, and the ways you can stop drinking and make amends to the people you’ve hurt. When you go there, you don’t have to get up and talk if you don’t want to.
For some people, managing your drinking is like managing an illness like diabetes. You can know there’s a problem, and you can even take medication and follow a diet, but you have to manage it all your life. There are also legal consequences associated with excessive drinking, such as driving charges that can cost you money and put you in jail. Are you ready to go there?
However you decide to stop drinking, remember there’s no shame to it. The only shame is if you don’t take the help that’s offered. There’s no disgrace to relapsing, either. The only time you should be mortified about falling down is if you don’t get back up.
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