How to quit drinking alcohol is aimed at alcoholics and problem drinkers who wish to give up drinking. The main way to beat alcoholic dependence is to stop drinking. The Sinclair method is the only one that requires participants to continue drinking, at least in the early stages. And, again in the early stages, it is optional in The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace. Most methods include group therapy in alcoholics meetings to harness the simple, powerful fact that only alcoholics understand each other. For those who successfully quit alcoholic abuse and abstain from drink to enjoy a teetotal, sober recovery, there will be a happy, contented life to look forward to. My books are aimed at atheists and agnostics who are uncomfortable with the god references in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, even though it professes to be non-religious, but anyone could follow my version.
How to quit drinking alcohol
Non-alcoholics can easily stop without help. So if you’re reading this the chances are that you’re an alcoholic. There are many alternative approaches which work better than a twelve step programme for some alcoholics. But most treatments to beat drinking, unless they’re a temporary detox, have elements of a 12 step program, even if they’re advertised as an alternative program. Then again in the world of twelve step programs, AA’s old-fashioned 12 steps are no longer the only ones. So some research is required by the alcoholic into what treatment will best suit them.
Any money left?
Money is one factor. If an alcoholic still has cash available or a health insurance policy that will cover treatment in a rehab clinic, this will often be the first option. The treatment will be more feather-bedded than a cold turkey in an unheated bedsit. But beware, if the clinic is more like a five-star hotel than a hospital it may be too comfortable for the patient to face up to harsh realities. More than one successful non-drinker has told me that first they went to a treatment center which treated them very nicely and it didn’t work. The ones that did work on a later occasion had a much tougher regime. I would avoid clinics that look like a five-star hotel in the brochure or on the internet with a swimming pool set out for sun bathing. These are more appropriate for temporary detoxes.
Usually clinics start treatment with four days on diazepam, formerly better known under the trade name Valium – until it was discovered to be addictive with long term use. Then the group therapy, one-to-one counseling, and lectures on addiction will begin. Sometimes a 12 step program will be embarked on in the clinic, to be followed up with a recommendation to attend AA after the treatment ends. Very often AA will be recommended as a maintenance program after treatment.
But not always. Sometimes the line is: “you’re OK now, off you go and if you have any problems come back and see us.” Sometimes clinics run their own weekly meetings of patients after they have left treatment. I know many alcoholics who don’t go to meetings, but keep in touch with other alcoholics through regular lunch dates or social encounters. However, knowing how many alcoholics that don’t attend meetings relapse, I would recommend continued attendance. Further, my observation of alcoholics who attend meetings but don’t do the steps is that they are in a limbo land somewhere between white-knuckling it (with no meetings) and being a happy, contented individual (who does the steps thoroughly). For them, I would recommend my latest book Secular AA.
Options are fewer if resources are limited. It may be possible to negotiate an outpatient program with a treatment centre or there may be publicly funded beds available in a drug and alcohol unit but there will usually be a waiting list for these, which lengthens if you’re a second-time or third-time applicant. I have met someone who went into clinics 27 times but his funding was private. For some lucky alcoholics there may be a charity-funded place available on a two-year program with one year in a clinic and one in a half-way house before being turned out to face the world alone. Most of these organisations are keen for patients to attend AA meetings as well.
A drawback of these treatments is the wait for a place. Some suggest that alcoholics continue drinking until a place becomes available. This doesn’t seem right to me. If there is some willingness to attempt to draw a halt to drinking, it seems a pity not to tap into it while it exists.
But I suppose these places aim to cater for no-hopers who have tried everything else. It is often said that people need to seek help for themselves, it is no good trying to do it for a wife or family or employer. That is because you cannot lock them up against their will and make sure no drink can pass their lips. But this option of willing admittance to a closed unit is the nearest alcoholics can get to being locked up against their will.
Some alcoholics gain admittance to hospital or clinics on an emergency basis when they have almost drunk themselves to death. But it is not a course to be recommended on purpose because the tolerances are very hard to estimate and it is easy to end it all by mistake. One of the more spectacular ends associated with cirrhosis of the liver is an esophageal haemorrhage whereby the body drains of blood via a fountain that hits the medical room ceiling.
One of the sales pitches by clinics is for an individually tailored, custom-built treatment, implying other options are one-size-fits-all. But 12 step programs are designed to be custom-built, too. Don’t assume they are rigidly applied to all alike.
I went to AA meetings as a condition of my outpatient program at a clinic. The initial six-week course gave me and my family access to separate post-treatment meetings at the clinic which lasted for a year or two, but I have continued in AA ever since. Only I rewrote the steps to suit my atheist convictions. A 12-step program requires members to admit they are alcoholics and that drinking made their lives unmanageable. This is the surrender to drink, admitting drink has beaten them and that they will not fight it. This is how alcoholics achieve victory over the bottle, not by trying to win each battle with the booze by willpower, but by refusing to fight it and adopting the 12-step program which will keep them sober from day to day.
Some AA members mistakenly think they have to surrender to god or their higher powers to achieve victory over alcohol. This is not the case. Since there is no god there can be no help from that quarter and members are foolish to rely on their imagination. If they choose a real higher power such as the program itself, this can give support, but they must do the work themselves. We say: “you have to do it yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone.”
We let go of self-will. This means we no longer try to force outcomes by bullying and manipulating other people, but do the spade work and then wait to see what the outcome is. It is usually different from the one we had thought would be best for us and often better than what we had envisaged.
We made a moral inventory of ourselves and set out to improve our behavior. We made amends for past wrongs. We sought to improve our spiritual awareness and to help others. Eventually the craving for a drink disappeared and we realised we were different people from the drinkers we once were.
Other How to articles can be found on www.addicts12steps.com including: How to beat drug addiction; How to beat eating disorders; How to quit sex addiction; and How to give up gambling.