If you're reading this page, it's a good sign: you want to make a positive change in your life. Now is the time to turn this into a concrete plan and take action while feeling motivated. Fixing a toxic relationship with alcohol can be a long process, but don't let it put you off; there are millions of people who have gone through it, and with advice and support, the task becomes far less arduous. Don't be hard on yourself, enjoy every improvement you get and every effort you make along the way. It's a marathon, not a 50m run, and the reward at the finish line will always be worth it.
Part 1 of 17: Discard alcoholic beverages
Step 1. Let go of that temptation while you're motivated
Surrounding yourself with temptation won't encourage better habits, so build up your courage and throw your drinks down the sink while you feel committed to this task. Even if the intention is just to reduce the amount of alcohol ingested, having access to drinks only complicates the chances of success.
Decorative bottles or accessories that refer to alcohol should also be removed. Discard or keep them, as they can also trigger the urge to drink
Part 2 of 17: Ask friends and family for support
Step 1. Calling on people to support you on this journey makes it so much easier
Respecting your choice and not offering alcoholic beverages is the least affectionate individuals can do. Also, ask people who live in the same house (or with whom you go out a lot) to behave more reasonably:
- Talk to them to lock or hide drinks, or at least not to let the bales out in plain sight.
- Ask them to drink outside or use opaque cups so you can't see the drink.
- Make a request that they not come home drunk or hungover, or that they at least let you know so you can spend the night at a friend's house.
- It's normal that the early stages of fighting alcohol are much easier with these triggers away from you. It's a temporary favor, which is about you and your own recovery, not a judgment from friends and relatives.
Part 3 of 17: Set goals
Step 1. Setting hard and specific limits will help your success
You've set an important goal, and like any other, it's very helpful to have a good plan. First, you will need to decide whether to try to stop drinking altogether, or whether to try to impose a daily alcohol intake limit (and on which days drinking is allowed). The best way depends on the person, so consider the following points:
- An abstinence approach means not putting a drop of alcohol in your mouth. If you're feeling motivated to reach that goal, go ahead; if you change your mind and realize it's a very big challenge, with withdrawal leading to severe physical symptoms or you end up in a cycle of withdrawals and relapses, you might be better off doing “damage control”.
- The technique of "damage control” means you will set limits and only drink alcohol safely. It's a good option for those who aren't willing or don't think they can stop drinking at the moment. Sometimes, this will make you adopt healthier and safer habits, satisfying your goals, or at least, serving as the best option possible at this time. When you notice that you can't stick to the limits when you start drinking, it may be better to try abstinence.
Part 4 of 17: Set dates to start the plan
Step 1. Commit to having a clear start date and goals for that period
Say to yourself, “I'll start the plan on January 10th,” and use that date to motivate and plan ahead. It's an important decision that can greatly improve your life; mark it on your calendar as if it were any special occasion.
- If you prefer to stop drinking slowly, these goals should be well defined. For example: “Instead of getting drunk every day, I'll stay sober two days a week. Starting on Monday, I will stop drinking that day and Thursday.”
- Leave as many reminders as necessary. Circle the date on your calendar, put a reminder on your cell phone, or stick several “post-its” around the house.
Part 5 of 17: Stay close to individuals who support your plan
Step 1. It is important to surround yourself with allies, not saboteurs
The people who are going to do more well, at that moment, are those who respect your choice and accompany you to places where there are no alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, there are friends and relatives who can pressure you to drink, invite you to bars, or even scoff at your decision. It's too bad when old friends want to make you fail hard, but the best choice is to stay away from them so they don't have a chance of success.
- The subjects who are least supportive, in most cases, are those who also face drinking problems and who do not wish to question their own behavior. Their comments are not about you, and there is no obligation to try to solve their problems.
- If that friend who drank with you doesn't stop pressuring you to get drunk, think about what their relationship actually looks like. Did you have fun in each other's presence or did you just encourage them to drink? Look at the list of reasons you wrote to remember why you chose to stop; wouldn't this friend like that too?
- Set a strict rule, if necessary, by saying, “I asked you not to keep offering me drinks, but you're insisting. I better not be around you until I get over this addiction.”
Part 6 of 17: Write the reasons why you stopped drinking
Step 1. This list can motivate you not to give up on goals
Quitting drinking can be an “emotional seesaw”: today you will feel happy about your choice, but tomorrow there will be the possibility of having an uncontrollable craving for an alcoholic drink. By putting down the benefits of stopping drinking on paper, carrying this list in your wallet, it will be possible to “keep” these positive feelings to help you overcome the most complicated moments.
Some of the reasons that can lead you to give up alcoholic beverages are: feeling better physically and mentally, having better sleep, better health, feeling less shame, anxiety or depression, being able to avoid fights, having healthier relationships with people, do better at work, have more time and energy, and be there when your family needs it or to keep loved ones safe
Part 7 of 17: Fill your time with new activities
Step 1. It's easier not to drink if you take time to relax and have fun
When you stop, you can have a “reality check” and realize how much time you spent in bars or drinking at friends' houses. See this as an opportunity to explore alternatives. Try, for example, going to the gym more, hiking, reading or choosing a new hobby. Note which situations and activities that distract you, and focus on them instead of drinking whenever you need to manage stress.
Part 8 of 17: Monitor triggers
Step 1. Identifying the triggers that lead to drinking is helpful in being able to protect yourself against them
This urge to drink isn't random, even if it looks like a little devil is telling you to get drunk. By paying attention to in which situations these cravings for alcohol occur, it will be possible to find out what causes them to appear, so that you can avoid situations like these, when you can, and know what to do when you can't:
- First, list the external triggers: what objects, people and places cause the urge to drink to appear? What about time of day or events? They can be general (see “drunks”) or specific (that friend who likes to drink, André).
- Then list the internal triggers: what emotions or moods lead to drinking? And physical sensations? Any specific memory or subject?
- Pay attention to the urges that appear for a few weeks. Write down the time, place and situation when they occur. Are there any patterns?
Part 9 of 17: Whenever possible, dodge triggers
Step 1. Preventing the almost uncontrollable urge to drink from appearing is the best option
Recovery isn't just about gritting your teeth and having a lot of control not to give in to the addiction, it's about being honest with yourself, identifying patterns and changing them. Does being alone on a Friday night cause a strong urge to get drunk? Invite a friend to spend the night. When talking to your brother causes a lot of nervousness, which in turn leads to drinking, stop answering when he calls. Boundaries must be inflexible and don't be afraid to make big changes if necessary so that you can avoid alcohol, because it will be worth the effort.
- Alcoholic social events are a trigger for virtually any recovering alcoholic. If you feel guilty about turning down invitations or feel disappointed about losing a part of your social life, remind yourself that it won't last forever. Avoiding such triggers is most important in the beginning, until these impulses weaken and you can control them better.
- A good way to get people to stop offering alcoholic drinks at parties is to bring your own glass, always filling it with a soft drink.
Part 10 of 17: Come up with a plan to control the will as you face unavoidable triggers
Step 1. It's easier to have a strategy in place than to improvise on the spot
Sit down, get paper, and write all triggers in one column, except the ones you can avoid altogether. On the other side of the sheet, write how you will handle the urge until it passes. See some examples:
- “I'm going to get the list of reasons from my wallet to remind myself why I stopped drinking. If the impulses are still present after reading the list, I'll take a walk around the block.”
- “Before going to an event that has triggers, I'm going to talk to a friend so I can have my cell phone in hand. I'll call him and let him know what I'm feeling if the urge to drink comes up.”
- "Since I can't refuse this invitation, I'll make an appointment an hour after the event starts so I have an excuse to leave."
Part 11 of 17: Resist the urge until it passes
Step 1. Sometimes, it's better to “endure” the urge to drink than to try to get rid of it
In certain cases, when it is too intense to be distracted, it may be better to “accept” it; it does not mean that you should give up and drink, but understand that it is happening and resist until the urge passes. Follow the steps below:
- Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and pay attention to your body. In what part of him does the desire to drink manifest itself?
- Focus on each part of your body, one at a time: your mouth, stomach, hands, and so on. How does this desire manifest in them?
- Keep shifting focus between regions of the body, allowing them to occur, until they disappear. If it helps, imagine this urge as an ocean wave you're surfing: feel it rise, then fall and fall apart.
Part 12 of 17: Challenge your own excuses
Step 1. Be ready for the “justifications” your brain will come up with
Something that seems obvious on paper - drinking too much is bad for your health - may seem like a lie when there's a bottle of beer in front of you. Instead of indulging in impulses, get into the habit of stopping and analyzing that thought, telling yourself how ridiculous it is.
For example: you thought that “a small glass of beer won't hurt”. Wrong. Stop right now and reflect: “a glass of beer can be very bad. It can take another cup, another can, and so on, and that's why I need to change this situation."
Part 13 of 17: Learn about support groups for alcoholics
Step 1. Support services for individuals with drinking problems are very helpful and are available in many types
Perhaps the first thing that came to mind was “Alcoholics Anonymous”; although it is a good option, there are several alternatives if you prefer to try another method. It's worth exploring and finding what you think is best for your situation, because having a sober support network is so important.
- AA and other 12-step programs generally work well, even for those with heavy alcohol dependence. The method aims at complete abstinence and tends to include some references to the Christian religion.
- Other self-help groups do not have such a rigid step model, are less traditional, and may be specific to certain segments of society, such as just women. The Women's Alcoholism Collective group, just for women, is one of the best known.
- A good support group will make you feel welcome and have room to break down, but also to learn tips, methods and perspectives for progressing in the fight. It must be led by a good facilitator who protects everyone's comfort and privacy. You can search for groups online if the ones in your area don't suit you, especially in times of pandemic.
Part 14 of 17: Talk to a mental health professional
Step 1. Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers are some of the experts who can help
These are people who have already followed what others have faced and what you are facing, and are always ready to help. Depending on the situation, they may recommend one of the treatments below:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): assists in the development of resources to deal with triggers and control stress. This method may help you to flesh out some of the ideas in this article into a more personalized and focused plan.
- Motivational Therapy: A short treatment that focuses on building your self-esteem and motivation, as well as helping you to fulfill your addiction goal.
- Treatments for depression or anxiety can work well for people struggling with alcoholism.
- On the other hand, family or couple therapies are more effective, depending on the case, for you to be able to stop drinking. Both alcohol abuse and the recovery process affect those around you, so taking these treatments will make each of you better able to support the other.
Part 15 of 17: Ask a doctor about using medications and other resources
Step 1. There are safe and non-addictive drugs to help with treatment
Alcoholism is a disease and medicine is increasingly advancing in effective therapies against this disease. In Brazil, disulfiram is the most used medicine to fight it; talk to your doctor to find out if it is possible to use it.
You can also discuss other resources with him, such as treatment with therapists or the use of support groups aimed at coping with alcohol dependence
Part 16 of 17: Seek medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms
Step 1. It is important to seek expert help if your first day sober is difficult
Individuals accustomed to drinking every day can develop various withdrawal symptoms, such as heavy sweating, shivering, nausea, and anxiety. It's a very uncomfortable and hard period, but it's temporary; medical follow-up can make you more comfortable and secure. Go to a hospital if such manifestations worsen, especially when you notice tachycardia, suffer seizures, and experience confusion or hallucinations.
Even after very intense symptoms, it will still be possible to give up alcohol. The safest way is to go to a hospital or a clinic for alcoholics until abstinence is overcome (two to seven days in most cases)
Part 17 of 17: Stay strong even in times of relapse
Step 1. Relapses are temporary setbacks and should not be a reason to give up
In fact, they are normal within the recovery process, requiring several attempts to reach their goal; so the third, fifth, seventh, or tenth attempt, for example, may be the successful one, as you will learn a lot from each one of them. The best response to relapses is to seek support, analyze what made you drink, and plan to prevent it from happening again.It's hard not to feel guilty or sorry for yourself, but these are emotions that can drive you back to the drinking glass. Being kind to yourself is not only more pleasurable: it's a very important tool to get back on your way in life.
|Alcoholics Anonymous||+55 (11) 3229-3611|
|Health and Alcohol Information Center||+55 (11) 3842-3388|
|Al-Anon Brazil||(+55 (11) 3331-8799 and +55 (11) 3222-2099|
|Psychosocial Care Center (CAPS)||Do an internet search to find the CAPS phone number in your municipality|
- Remember that leaving a lesser pleasure (getting drunk) for a bigger one (having health, better relationships, or a clear conscience) is actually the easier path in the end. It will all be worth it!
- Doing a little research on the harmful effects of drinking too much alcohol can help and make you more committed to stopping drinking.
- Always take it one day at a time and don't think about future events. Deal only with the present.
- Withdrawal symptoms can be severe for heavy drinkers. Call SAMU (192) or speak to your doctor after experiencing hallucinations or seizures.
- The detox process doesn't have to be done alone. It is important to have someone around who can contact emergency services if necessary.