Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to Stop Drinking: Part 1

Drinking provides many real benefits that cannot be underestimated, especially for men who might not be the most emotionally expressive.  First and foremost, it relaxes and loosens the tongue.  That's really important if you feel boxed in and find communication about your needs/wants/state of mind difficult and taxing because other's "just don't get it" when you try to give them a little bit.  Often, their not getting it is a result of your not saying it overtly enough.  It is hard to realize this, but easy to suffer from it. 

Another major benefit from alcohol is pure pleasure.  I'm not lying.  Drinking feels really great.  That's why we do it, ostensibly.  And for folks that might become alcoholics, drinking feels even better, and we/they get even more energized the more they/we drink.  I say they/we because I think people have the potential to become alcoholics, and that there are multiple stages to alcoholism and addiction.  Notably, though, if you find yourself drinking when times are tough, i.e. as an escape, you should consider drinking less or not drinking a bit and trying to face those tougher times.  A related reason is that drinking relieves stress almost immediately.  You can "pull the plug" on stress by having a beer (*or three).

Then there are vaguer reasons: drinking out of sheer boredom, or because it is habit, or because you do it with your buddies and it is normal, or, simply, because other people do it. 

So let's say you have a vague feeling like you should cut down or stop drinking for a while.  The first issue you'll tackle is a basic practical one--it will always be more convenient to have a drink when the urge arrives than to not have a drink.  Not having a drink stops movement, makes you pause, creates awkwardness, incites anxiety, etc.  Having one relieves everything.  Think, though, about how this also mimics our hungry minds--when we're hungry, we're focused only on sating that hunger, and many people may drink instead of eat, creating a cycle.

The next step is to associate drinking with everything that's negative in your life.  I.e. you must take responsibility for everything you don't like, and then link it to your choice to consume alcohol.  This is a big step, and one that will flatten out later on, but for the sake of stopping, it is important to link negative stimulation to drinking, and break positive association.    While having one beer might not directly correlate to full blown life crisis and disaster, it is important to remind yourself that we, as humans, are particularly bad at recognizing what's bad for us in the long run.  Or, one could argue, what is good for us.  What we can grasp from example, though, is a crew of older alcoholics who have suffered tremendously and didn't at first intend to suffer.  They intended to do the small bits: take off some stress from a long day, or find a way to feel better about themselves in a social situation.  All small logical things.  If you look around your family and see problem drinkers, it's a good sign that you could develop a problem. But it is hardly a reason to stop drinking. 

In fact, if you don't convince yourself that alcohol will lead to greater problems that you can't now fathom, you probably won't stop drinking.  That's why people say that someone has to "hit bottom" first.  The problem with such thinking is that once someone has "hit bottom" they've lost a lot of their lives, most likely hurt close friends and relatives, and suffered a great deal.  So choosing to stop is really an equation--you or I must weigh the probabilities of our failure to control our drinking in the future.  The first step toward doing that is to notice, each and every time, you want to have a drink. 

What makes life so hard that you must drink?  What about drinking makes life so much better?  Are the claims inherent in answering those questions accurate when you evaluate them rationally, or emotionally driven instead?


Anonymous said...

I'm forced to break my own rule here. I really hate it when people comment to the effect of "great post, bro, couldn't've said it better myself," but it's a great post, couldn't've said it better myself. Waiting for part 2.

hmm said...

Hey, thanks. I appreciate it.