should i give up alcohol completely

Confronting the fear associated with "never drinking again"

It’s hard, when you first decide you might be drinking too much, to contemplate never drinking again.

I mean, it sounds so final. Never? Ever? What about my bachelorette party?

It’s one of the reasons why we (personally) went with moderation first. The idea of never drinking again was impossible, but moderation seemed reasonable (and in fact, it felt important to us to prove to ourselves that moderation could work, because that meant we weren’t “alcoholics”).

Baby steps can be a helpful approach - instead of “going sober,” maybe “go sober for seven days,” or even a month. It has to feel achievable if you’re going to make it.

However, we think it’s ALSO important (even if you choose the baby steps approach) that you confront head-on the fear you feel when contemplating going sober. Why? So you can understand the roadblocks in your way to your goals and how to tear them down. After all, whether you choose sobriety or moderation, you want to truly redefine your relationship with alcohol to where you can honestly take it… or leave it.

Here are some of the most common reasons people are afraid when they contemplate never drinking again, and how you can challenge them:

  1. All your fun times are associated with drinking, so you think you’ll never have fun again. This was a big one for us. Drunk college reunions, drunk birthdays, parties, brunches, etc. What is so hard to see at that time is what can take the place of being drunk, and why that can be so much better. With the new energy, self-worth, creativity and productivity you’ll feel without drinking, your options expand; they don’t contract. Instead of drunk brunches with friends, maybe you’ll try surfing (sober. obviously). You’ll build new skills. You’ll learn new things. Instead of passing out by 3pm, you’ll get in the best shape of your life, which has even further positive impact on your mental health. There is more fun, not less, on the other side of the rainbow.

  2. Everyone else gets to do it, and you’re saying I can’t? It’s natural to feel deprived at first, because you’re used to thinking of alcohol as chocolate cake. It’s a treat, and if you can’t have it, you feel left out. But let’s refocus on the downsides here for a second. You know what else you don’t ‘get’ to do? You don’t ‘get’ throw up all over your dorm room. You don’t ‘get’ to apologize to friends and family for things you don’t remember saying. You don’t ‘get’ to forget important moments. There’s a lot you’re missing out on that’s pretty great to miss out on.

  3. It’s not such a big deal if I drink too much, is it? Apart from the (very real) health risks of even moderate drinking, we think there’s even more at stake if you drink too much. After all, if you continue to drink when you know you can’t just take it or leave it - that you really think you have to have it - you are basically giving in to an addiction. You’re deciding that it’s ok that you can’t deal with life without a substance. And that, as we all know, never ends well. If you pursue moderation, it has to be from a place of truly believing that you can take alcohol or leave it.

  4. You just really love the feeling of being drunk, and can’t imagine not having it again. This is perhaps the hardest one. There are few things in life that give you that euphoric rush like a drug can (that’s part of why they’re addictive). Exercise and a healthy diet do a lot to make us content and even-keeled - both have a measurable impact on our moods. But here’s the real kicker: fun while drunk is like borrowing happiness from the next day. You get a euphoric feeling now, and then tomorrow, not just a hangover, but a host of potential consequences for your health, your self-esteem, your productivity, and your relationships with others. It doesn’t come for free. And the ROI sucks.

These were a few that occurred to us. What else are your reasons for being afraid to stop entirely?

If you have decided to change your relationship with alcohol, we’d love to help. Our app offers members over 75 motivational exercises, a peer support group for advice and empathy, and tracking and insights to get a handle on why you drink. Give it a shot today!

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What motivates people to cut back or quit drinking?

As previously mentioned, we've completed a deeply unscientific (small sample size) survey of people who’ve successfully cut back or quit drinking, and we’ve learned a lot coming out of it that we want to share with you.

This time, we want to share what we’ve learned about why people decide to cut back or quit drinking. A lot of us struggle with deciding if we should give up alcohol completely, and there are tests out there (like the WHO Audit) that can help you understand the level of problem you have with alcohol.

But what are the reasons that ultimately got others to quit? Maybe by looking at them you can get a sense for whether they apply to your situation or not.

Here’s what we learned:

  1. In 60% of cases, there was a specific incident that prompted them to cut back quit drinking. Most of them time it was either A) an incident where people injured themselves or others in an accident or B) an incident where drinking had an adverse impact on somebody’s love life or job (something else more important than drinking in their lives).

  2. The downsides of drinking that drove most people to quit were actually fairly mundane. This surprised us at the time, but it makes sense now. In order, the top four were: calories (76%), hangovers (72%), bad decisions (72%), and embarrassing moments (64%). The reason this makes sense is that all of these consequences are ones we can observe quickly - they don’t take years to develop, like addiction or disease.

  3. Few people (56% for anxiety and 44% for depression) cut back or quit drinking because they saw their feelings as a problem. This made us wonder if perhaps people don’t realize how connected these mental health problems and drinking are. Drinking can cause anxiety and worsen depression. Cutting back or quitting drinking can actually make it easier to solve those other problems too.

  4. You don’t have to be drinking at a dangerous level to see benefits to quitting or cutting back. Fully 40% of those we surveyed who successfully quit or cut back were within moderation guidelines for men in the US (under 14 drinks in a week). Of course a majority were drinking more, but it’s worth realizing that sobriety has benefits even at the lower end of the drinking spectrum.

If you’ve already cut back on drinking, or quit, we’d love to hear from you about what you did! If you haven’t yet quit or cut back on drinking, but want to, we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app that can be used for moderation or quitting drinking, and offers support groups, tracking, insights, and exercises to make it easier.