I will quit drinking after my best friend’s wedding.
I will quit drinking after my upcoming cruise to the Bahamas.
I will quit drinking after New Year’s.
Are you currently penning a book of excuses? I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve conducted internet searches with the sole focus of finding data that proved I wasn’t an alcoholic. I’ve taken the “problem drinking” quizzes over and over, tweaking my responses just enough to keep me out of the danger categories. I’ve sought out movies and memes and mommy blogs that validated my evening glass (er bottle, er box) of wine. Essentially, I made the justification of my drinking being a full-time job.
I’d heard others claim that life was brighter on the other side, but that was just noise until I found my formula. Once I discovered that I could approach alcohol recovery on my terms, I decided to give it a go. There are steps you can take to help you reach that headspace. As you peruse the suggestions below, consider this fact–there will never be a “perfect” time to quit drinking. Taking action today is a viable option, but I suggest you first do the following five things:
Rethink Your Internet Searches
Enlist a Confidant (or Two, or Three, or More)
Write a Letter to Your Addiction
There are a lot of surveys and questionnaires and diagnostic manuals out there. Rather than fixating on labels, I suggest you answer one simple yes or no question: Does my drinking concern me? If your answer is “yes,” then something needs to change.
Admitting that your patterns have reached troublesome proportions does not issue you a lifetime membership in the alcohol addiction club. Every drinker’s relationship with alcohol is unique. Your alcohol recovery can and should address your needs and should employ language that you are comfortable with. You never have to assign yourself with labels that steer you away from getting the help that you need.
All that time you spend attempting to normalize your drinking can be channeled into finding resources that truly resonate. Whether you are a person who gleans inspiration from memoirs or self-help literature or interactive workbooks, there is inevitably a story that you can connect with.
Once I embraced a mindset of change, I grew more willing to address the underlying issues behind my drinking. Years of denial had buried the true sources of my addiction and I came to view supportive literature as “prepping my excavation site.” Essentially, I was arming myself with the tools I would need to do the necessary digging.
Alcohol abuse is a private matter and it’s normal to feel protective of your habits. When I first determined that I needed to make changes, I was quite selective in terms of who I clued in to my decision. But by pinpointing a team of supporters, I was building accountability and entering the process without the sense that I was doing so alone. There is power in being willing and able to talk about your feelings and your desire for help.
If you feel determined to protect your anonymity as you contemplate treatment, consider connecting with an online forum. AA, SMART, Women for Sobriety are among countless support groups that offer a digital alternative. In his book, Chasing the Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, author Johann Hari attests, “[T]he opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” In this digital age, the most critical step you take towards addiction recovery could be one mouse click away.
There is a power that comes from addressing your alcohol addiction directly. As you write this letter to your addiction, take an honest inventory of your life and how it has changed since alcohol or drugs entered the scene. Get real. Be raw and vulnerable when you write and you are likely to see some profound insights emerge.
Conclude the letter with thoughts about where your relationship with your addiction is heading. Keep in mind that you are in the driver’s seat – you get to choose your own ending.
No matter how long you’ve been caught up in the throes of addiction and no matter how deeply you feel your capacity for joy has been buried, there is always hope. There is an inner-light in each of us that you simply cannot snuff out. By taking small steps forward, you are digging away at the layers that you’ve been piling on yourself over the years. You are exposing narrow tunnels that allow the light to shine through.
Like you, I was once immobilized by the negativity and denial that accompany addiction. Outwardly, I maintained appearances, but internally, I was shriveling from decay. By owning up, rallying some support, and trusting in the success stories of others, I have emerged from the darkness. I’ve written my own ending.
I doubt you saw this coming, but it’s over.
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), sobriety coach, former alcohol enthusiast, and writer living in Florida.