2018 is quickly approaching and that means millions of people around the world are rethinking their life and their habits. Gyms love this time of year. For them it’s like printing money as the many well-to-do masses attempt to make good on their “exercise plan.”
Unfortunately these people underestimate just how hard it is to start a new habit, or break an old one. In the case of drinking alcohol, we’re talking about one of the hardest habits to break in modern society. Alcohol is everywhere. There’s a liquor store on every corner and drinking culture is at the forefront of all social engagements. In fact, many people refuse to go out and engage socially unless they know there is going to be a steady supply of alcohol to numb them from the social pressure. They spend an entire night drinking and socializing. All is well until the morning when you attempt to recall the evening, anxiously check your bank account, and call all your friends in hopes that you didn’t royally fuck up on some level. Checking your text messages you really let your ex know that she’s a complete bitch. Damn, just when the “friends” thing was starting to work out! Now she’s blocked your ass for good.
You spend the entire day holed up in your room racked with crippling anxiety and depression. In my case, I would often times drink multiple days in a row to deal with the anxiety and guilt, only to be totally crushed on the day I end the bender. Completely sucked into a black hole of depression.
Some people can drink alcohol and keep it to a couple glasses. To the bewilderment of binge drinkers like me, sometimes they don’t even finish their drink! My problem with alcohol does not extend to these types of people. Alcohol can be used appropriately or it can be completely abused.
Here’s a few ways you can tell if you are abusing alcohol…
- You consistently drink during the week
- You have more than a few drinks per night
- You need alcohol to socialize
- When the party is over you are just getting started
- You drink multiple days in a row
- Your drinking interferes with work and relationships
- You drink and drive
- You hide your drinking
- Sneaking out your recycling
- You experience withdrawal symptoms
- You drink when sad and depressed (big one)
- You drink alone (big one)
Checking off even a few of these means you should consider your relationship with alcohol. For me, that means cutting alcohol out of my life completely. Moderation is not possible and is perhaps the greatest lie the alcoholic tells himself.
“I can have just one though!”
In fact, it might even work for a while. Until it doesn’t, and you find yourself on the tail end of a 3 day bender wondering what the fuck happened. Bite the bullet and admit your utter powerlessness over this extremely potent and toxic substance. Admitting your weakness is actually a sign of great strength and control. I’ve known boozers who actually double down on their drinking because they refuse to admit that any part of themselves are not in control. Amazing philosophy indeed and a good sign a person has truly lost the trail. When the trail suddenly peters out and you find yourself bushwacking through tall weeds, it’s high time to admit you’re lost and retrace your steps.
How To Stop
Stopping begins with a conscious decision that you’ve had enough. Enough wasting money, enough blackouts, enough gaining weight, enough sloppy sex, enough forgetting personal valuables at the bar, enough mixing it up with the wrong crowds and embarrassing yourself. I challenge you to go to any bar sober and observe the state of the people at closing time. Absolute animals! And yep, you might have been one of them back in the day (I was.) Girls puking and crying. Guys trying to comfort them (but low key trying to get laid.) Guys hugging and telling themselves how much they love each other (kiss already bros!) Incoherent conversations that make you wonder if anybody knows what the fuck they’re talking about, and waiters and waitresses doing their best to maintain their cool whilst herding these animals onto the streets where they become someone else’s problem.
Not to mention the anxiety, dread, and depression you feel the next day. Looking at the whole thing from a common sense perspective you quickly realize that alcohol provides zero value to your life. You are destroying your health, bank account, and self respect.
Let’s not even discuss the friends and family some of us have lost due to drinking.
Knowing all of this makes the decision to quit much easier. Your brain “gets it” and putting a sobriety plan into action becomes manageable.
Okay, so how do you actually quit though? First off realize that alcohol withdrawals are very serious and can result in death by seizure. If you’re a full blown alcoholic who’s been drinking heavily for years, get medical treatment. Do NOT mess around with this.
For the binge drinker, weekend warrior, or the person who needs a few every night to wind down, I have a few practical strategies you can use as a DIY approach.
The first strategy is understanding that this is a day by day process. The mind will quickly turn against you and employ all kinds of tricks to get you to drink. If this part of the mind had a voice you could call it “addiction.” See the voice for what it is and stay true to the path of taking things step by step, day by day.
Second strategy is cold turkey. Having quit both cigarettes and alcohol I can tell you this is the best way. Rip the band aid off. Tell yourself to “man up” if you have to. I’ve found that tapering off drugs and alcohol is just a conveniant way for the addiction to stay alive. Granted, heavy users of alcohol and certain drugs DO need a tapering program but for less serious users this is simply not the case. Cold turkey will be tough but it will strengthen you in ways you can’t imagine when you come out the other side.
Third strategy is distancing yourself temporarily from people and situations where drinking is the primary focus. Prepare to lose fake friends and discover the true sidekicks of your life. Sobriety is a purging of everything toxic. Once you put down the booze you’ll be amazed how many “friends” simply stop talking to you because they don’t know you outside the context of drinking. Your own path of personal strength becomes a mirror that reflects back their own shortcomings and weaknesses. Remember, people would rather numb themselves than grow stronger (not you though.)
Fourth strategy is replacing old habits with new ones. I strongly recommend exercise. When you stop drinking there is a VOID that must be filled or else you will find the gravitational pull to drink too strong. Exercising is MUST! Even if it’s just a walk around the block, do something. Barring any serious physical impairment, exercise is non-negotiable in my book. Get to the point where you can go hard, put on some muscle, and start looking good. People all the time complain of depression/anxiety yet aren’t even exercising or eating right. Amazing I say! Get yourself a pair of Nikes and just do it.
Fifth strategy is surrounding yourself with people who don’t drink or drink very little on occasion. Surround yourself with people who have something more going on than hitting the bars and clubs and getting toasted on a regular basis. Go hiking, camping, fishing, play board games, go to the movies, go out to dinner, build something, skateboard, shoot hoops, go throw a damn Frisbee! There’s tons of cool things to do that don’t involve alcohol and there are loads of people to do these things with. You’ll find these types of people are generally on a higher level and have a lot more going on. In other words, good influences that will raise you up instead of bringing you down.
Sixth strategy is practicing self love and making yourself a priority above everything else. Feed your body nourishing and healthy foods. Drink lots of water. Make tea. Watch movies. Anything to make yourself comfortable while you go through the initial phases of quitting alcohol.
Your first week of sobriety
The first week is the hardest. This is generally when the body goes through a state of withdrawal and you must actively stop yourself from drinking. Depending on the extent of your dependence, physical symptoms such as shaking, tremors, anxiety, irritability, depression, sweating, and nightmares may occur (I’ll touch on nootropics and supplements for this later.) You will no doubt have deflected many requests to go out and exercised significant willpower saying NO (this is your new favorite word btw.) All of this is mentally and physically draining.
You’ll also no doubt experience many negative emotions for quite some time. You are no longer numbing yourself and now allowing the fullness of your being to come to the surface. Chances are you drank to numb and suppress negative emotions. The thing is, drinking just masked the problem. The shadows are still there and now you have to face them down like dragons who must be slayed. You are a hero with a new destiny. With each day of sobriety your sword gets sharper and your skills honed. You grow stronger with each dragon you slay.
Slowly the fog clears and you realize you feel better than you’ve ever felt before. You look back and wonder why the hell you didn’t do this sooner.
Nootropic and supplement regimen
There are a number of nootropics and supplements you can take to greatly reduce the negative symptoms of quitting alcohol.
B-Vitamins – B vitamins are so crucial to brain function and energy production and they’re the first to get flushed from your system when you drink. Defeciencies in any of the B Vitamins can cause depression and your brain won’t have the proper nutrients to support neurotransmitter function. Adding B-Vitamins will reduce the anxiety and depression associated with alcohol abuse and withdrawal. This is the bottle I use.
Magnesium – Magnesium excretion doubles when you drink. This is another vital nutrient for brain and nervous system function. All kinds of problems including anxiety and depression crop up when Magnesium levels are low. Loss of Magnesium dramatically inhibits protein synthesis, energy production, cell function and other crucial functions of other organs in the body. I prefer Magnesium oil because it’s readily absorbed through the skin.
Sulbutiamine – This is a nootropic I talk about a lot and it’s perhaps the best nootropic you can take when you quit drinking, especially the first few days. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is crucial for synthesizing brain neurotransmitters and generating energy from carbohydrates. It’s also the nutrient most depleted by alcohol. Sulbutiamine is a synthetic version of B1 and easily crosses the blood brain barrier making it far stronger and more effective than regular B1. Crucial stuff indeed.
Piracetam – Piracetam is just a staple nootropic that I continually find useful in many different scenarios. In the case of alcohol withdrawal, Piracetam increases the utilization of oxygen in the brain and enhances overall brain function and memory. This study showed Piracetam to be just as effective as chlormethiazole for acute alcohol withdrawal. Piracetam also exhibits powerful neuroprotective qualities. If you haven’t tried Piracetam I recommend you pick up some powder ASAP.
Living and thriving as a sober person is completely possible. Lot’s of people choose not to drink for many reasons. Sure, people might give you shit from time to time but just understand the person giving you the shit wishes they had what you had – control over your emotions and ultimately your life. The choices you make will ripple throughout eternity. Choosing to stay sober is a positive choice with ONLY upsides. It’s a battle you’ll always fight but with the right mindset, a battle you can ALWAYS win.
Thanks for reading and feel free to email me or comment at any time.
Best of luck to you my friend and God speed.
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