quit drinking

What we believe about drinking

Today, we were thinking about the variety of viewpoints we have seen (in books, in articles, etc.) on drinking and the right way to resolve a problem with excessive drinking.

There’s a lot more debate now than it seems like there used to be about questions like “can moderation work?” and “what is an alcoholic vs. a normal drinker?”

We decided to summarize three of our core beliefs about drinking here. Let us know what you think!

  1. We believe that drinking nothing is better than drinking moderately, but drinking moderately is better than drinking to excess. If you drink moderately (within the NIAAA guidelines, which we also share in the Drinker’s Helper app), you’re far less likely to suffer from an addiction to alcohol, which is one of the worst downsides of excessive drinking. You also won’t put yourself at risk of injuring yourself or others via accidents, or making poor judgment calls after one too many. However, if you drink moderately, you are still exposing yourself to some health risk, as recent studies have shown (see previous blog posts).

  2. We believe that there is a social stigma associated with changing your drinking behavior that should not exist. Partly this is down to an underlying desire to maintain a firm red line between “normal drinkers” and “alcoholics,” so that as a society we can avoid recognizing that alcohol is addictive, and that anyone who drinks at a certain level will likely get addicted. We believe this stigma results in people not making changes to their drinking until they’ve really messed up, and we’d all be better off if it was a more common, socially acceptable thing to do to take a break from drinking for a while. We believe most people who feel concerned about their own drinking levels will, if they carefully look at the evidence from their own experience, choose to drink moderately or quit entirely, rather than continue as they are.

  3. We believe that excessive drinking is not a moral failing to be judged, but a behavior that naturally develops when we believe inaccurate things both about alcohol and about sobriety. We believe that as a society we push alcohol so hard, across so many channels and in so many hard-to-detect ways, that it takes real work to re-program ourselves to see faults in it. As a society we train ourselves to drink to escape, relax, or have fun, among other reasons for drinking. Sobriety sounds like dull suffering, by comparison, when in fact it’s one of the best feelings there is. The work of changing those thoughts is what we try to do in the exercises in Drinker’s Helper.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to offer a helping hand. Drinker’s Helper offers a library of motivational exercises, support groups made up of peers at the same level of risky drinking, and drink and urge tracking and insights to help you observe your behavior and decide what you want to do.


Alcohol consumption creeps back up after pregnancy

File under: news that will shock no one.

New research has found that while women stop drinking once they find out they’re pregnant, they’re usually back up to their previous drinking levels by the time their child is five years old.

What are the reasons this isn’t surprising?

  1. Natural barriers can help people drink less than they want to. Barriers can be responsibilities to yourself (your career, your fitness) or other people (your coworkers, your friends, your family) that make it harder to drink heavily. Pregnancy is a very strong barrier, because it means drinking will harm someone you already love - your unborn child.

  2. Drinking has a way of creeping back up when it’s lowered or even stopped. If you’ve set lines in the sand that you don’t want to cross with drinking (e.g., no drinking before 5pm), you’ve likely seen them get crossed. People who’ve quit for years sometimes find themselves drinking out of nowhere, because a stray thought occurred to them at a time when they had no interfering obligations (the ‘barriers’ we mentioned before).

  3. People may not be aware of the impact drinking has on young children. Many people are aware they shouldn’t drink during pregnancy, because of risks to the unborn child. But they may not be thinking as much about how drinking too much may make them less attentive parents, or less emotionally sensitive parents. The incentive isn’t as strong.

If you’ve decided to make lasting changes to your drinking, we’d love to help. Try out Drinker’s Helper, the quit drinking app, today and trial its support groups and exercises for free.


Quitting drinking without AA

A lot of people wonder if it’s possible to quit drinking without Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization that is the leading provider of services to help people quit or cut back on drinking.

Surveys have found that about 75% of those who’ve recovered from drinking problems did so without the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many people, in fact, recover without any formal help at all. In some cases, people believe there isn’t a good program for them, because all they know about is Alcoholics Anonymous (which, per previous posts, isn’t always suitable for everyone) or a formal rehabilitation program (which can be quite expensive, out of the reach of many people who need help).

If you’re not going to get formal treatment or go to Alcoholics Anonymous (or to a similar alternative group - see previous posts on this topic), you should seek out out a few things those programs typically provide that can make it easier to quit drinking.

  1. A strong support system: All these existing institutions that help people quit drinking provide a community that allows people to see that they’re not alone in battling addiction to alcohol. It can be encouraging to know that others believe in you and support you in achieving your goals. You can get this from a partner, from family, or from friends.

  2. Accountability: When you turn up to a regular meeting, expected to account for your behavior over the past week or month, you feel a sense of responsibility to stick to your goals. You can get this on your own by really tracking your drinking, so you can see progress over time; and rewarding yourself when you do well. You can even rope in friends to help keep you accountable.

  3. A wake up call: If you’ve firmly decided to quit drinking (or get back down to moderation limits), then great. If not, AA and rehab can provide a helpful push to make sure you’re committed to making changes. Seeing others struggle with more serious problems can provide helpful motivation. If you’re going to quit drinking on your own, it can help to do your research on the health consequences of long-term heavy drinking. Scare yourself with the possibilities, so that they don’t become realities.

  4. Strategies to deal with urges: Each of the programs provides attendees with tips and tactics to figure out how to deal with the stresses of life without alcohol. If you’re going to quit drinking on your own, without AA or rehab, you need to develop your own strategies. Read books about how others have quit. Write down what works for you. Stay away from your worst triggers, and make plans to deal with others

We hope you are successful in your journey to quit or cut back on drinking, and if you want some lighter-weight help, we hope you’ll consider using Drinker’s Helper, our app which we believe provides all of the above in your pocket.

Recommended reading

When you’re thinking about quitting or cutting back on drinking, it can feel like you’re the first person to have this idea.

Your friends may or may not be supportive; your partner may or may not be in the same boat; and all around you are signs that drinking is the norm, and that you are the odd man or woman out for not being on the drunk train.

Apart from joining online forums on Reddit (we recommend r/stopdrinking or r/cutdowndrinking), or joining a Group in Drinker’s Helper (Groups are personalized for you, placing you with others with similar past drinking habits), it can help to read books written by people who’ve gotten over drinking problems.

Authors share advice, of course, but they also share their experiences. That helps you understand that the challenges you face when cutting back or stopping drinking are normal - maybe withdrawal, but also other symptoms like mood swings.

Here are three that we really liked:

  1. This Naked Mind: This is one of the canonical books to read when you want to quit drinking. Through the story of its author, it brings to life the idea of changing the way you UNCONSCIOUSLY think about alcohol. Once you stop arguing against yourself, it’s a lot easier to quit.

  2. The Sober Diaries: One of the funnier reads, this book shares the experience of a woman quitting drinking after a realization that she was losing her grip on other things that mattered. It’s one of the best in terms of really describing the experience of cutting back - the physical and emotional ups and downs are so easy to relate to.

  3. Sober for Good: One of the most digestible of the books, this one offers tips from an extensive survey of people who have quit drinking or significantly moderated it. It helps to give a picture that there are many ways to quit or cut back on drinking, including Alcoholics Anonymous, therapies of various kinds like cognitive behavioral therapy, quitting cold turkey without help, and many combinations of different approaches.

We hope you enjoy the suggestions, and as always, if you haven’t already, please do give Drinker’s Helper a try here! We help people quit or cut back on drinking with therapeutic exercises, drink tracking and insights, and a personalized support group delivered via our app.


The argument for quitting drinking

At Drinker’s Helper, we believe that moderation (moderate drinking at healthy levels) is a perfectly acceptable option as a goal, and increasing numbers of people agree. We did it ourselves for a while without problems, before we decided to stop drinking. But we wanted to share a few arguments for quitting drinking entirely. It’s up to you - just some input to consider!

Here are the reasons we recommend you quit drinking:

  1. When you actually quit, you get a better sense of how (psychologically) addicted you are. When alcohol is forbidden, you see how much you crave it - much more so than if you can relieve that craving every few days.

  2. It’s easier to make one big decision to quit than many daily decisions to drink or not to drink. When you pass an airport bar, or go on a late night snack run, you just know that booze is off limits, instead of weighing the pros and cons of drinking that one time. As a bonus, others start to know that you just don’t drink, so they don’t tempt you with offers.

  3. When you stop drinking, you think about drinking much less often. When you simply moderate your drinking, you end up thinking about your next drink almost constantly (to monitor it, or to plan out your week so you stay on track). You end up anticipating your weekend drinks more than you’d like because you think about them all week when you’re denying yourself.

  4. There’s no fudging. When you are moderating, you need to monitor your drinking carefully to make sure you’re staying within the recommended limits. It’s easy to forget a drink, or count an enormous double cocktail as just one ‘drink.’ With no drinks at all, it’s pretty clear to tell whether you’ve hit your goals or not.

These are just a few of the reasons we recommend quitting drinking, even though we strongly support moderation as an option.

Download Drinker’s Helper today if you decide to quit or cut back on drinking!