If you’re thinking about quitting drinking – or taking some time off from booze – the chances are you’ve been mulling over a few important questions.
Things like: do I actually need to quit? Should I just cut down? Is my drinking really so bad? And if I do need to stop, what does that say about me?
Maybe you’ve been doing what I used to do: sitting at my laptop late at night, typing ‘am I an alcoholic?’ into google. (My other hobby was filling out drinking self-assessment quizzes, and doing them again and again until I got the answer I wanted…)
When you’re trying to figure out your relationship with alcohol, there are some questions that are bound to keep crossing your mind…
Here are 5 common queries and my answers to them:
Q – Should I stop completely or just cut down?
If you’re worried about your drinking, then trying to moderate your alcohol intake is a great place to start. But – and this is a big but – if cutting down doesn’t work, then you need to be prepared to take further action.
So, dig deep and be honest now: have you already tried to cut down? (Most people have been trying to do so, on and off, for years and years.) How has moderation worked out for you so far? Are you happy?
Cutting down always sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that you’re trying to exert control over a drug that makes you lose control.
And consider this: a big part of successful sobriety is opening your mind to the possibility that you can live a full and happy life without alcohol. Booze is just a crude, toxic poison. It’s a drug. Yet by trying to keep a little bit of it in your life, subconsciously you’re telling yourself that alcohol is special and you won’t be happy without it.
Q – I think I need to stop, but I haven’t hit rock bottom yet…
You do not need to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to decide that you’ll stop hurting yourself. (Besides, what exactly is rock bottom anyway? It’s different for different people.)
Think about it: we don’t wait until we’re morbidly obese before we decide we should lose weight. We don’t wait until we’re bankrupt before we deal with our debts. So why is alcohol any different?
You can stop drinking now, before anything hideous happens. If you’re frequently drinking more than you intend to – and it’s making you miserable – then you’re already suffering enough.
Q – Do I have to quit forever?
Sobriety is a mindset game. As soon as we start talking about ‘forever’, things can suddenly feel rather overwhelming. Equally, many people find that taking things ‘one day at a time’ isn’t very helpful either, because you keep questioning your decision on a daily basis.
The solution? Commit to taking a proper break from booze. Make the decision once and then stick to it.
I recommend six to eight weeks, so you can put some decent space between you and your last drink. Treat it like an experiment – give it 100% and don’t be half-hearted about it. Go all in. Then you can see how you feel at the end, knowing that you’ve given alcohol-free living a proper test drive.
(After all, you can always go back to drinking if you hate it…)
Q – Do I have to go to meetings?
Only if you want to! Some people love them, some people don’t. The good news is that nowadays, AA is not your only option. There are lots of other inspiring, online resources available, including my fabulous stop drinking course. So if you want to find support from the privacy of your own home, you can absolutely do so.
Q – Am I an alcoholic?
There’s still a fair bit of stigma attached to the A word. In my opinion, there’s really no need to label yourself, unless you find it useful.
Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic. I’m just someone who got addicted to a socially acceptable, widely available, well advertised, glamorised, highly addictive, toxic drug that’s marketed as the solution to all our woes.
Nowadays, I choose not to drink because I feel a million times better without alcohol in my life. I choose not to drink in the same way that I choose not to smoke cigarettes or take heroin.
I’m not ‘taking things one day at a time’ or ‘battling the demon drink’. I’m just living a very happy, drug-free life… and I don’t think you need a label for that 🙂