The Twelve Steps: Step two

Drinker’s Helper is not a twelve-step based program, but we want to help raise awareness of what the Twelve Steps are, as well as clarify why these steps may be helpful, according to our own understanding of what helps people reduce their drinking.

We’ve done previous posts on Alcoholics Anonymous overall, and on the first step. The second step of the famous “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous is:

“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

This step is the one that most commonly trips up people like us, who aren’t religious, or people who don’t believe in a God that can change their behavior.

However, there are reasons why it is a helpful step for those who do believe in a higher power.

First, almost any therapy benefits from people believing that it will work (see research on the “placebo effect”). Alcoholics Anonymous is saying that the ultimate power in the universe is on your side, helping you to quit drinking. To be clear: we’re not calling God fake medicine. We’re simply saying that you’re more likely to succeed at any major habit change if you believe you can.

Second, many who work at cutting back or quitting drinking try and fail once (or even multiple times!) before succeeding. It can lead to thinking you’re simply incurable, ruining motivation to try again. One way to escape this mental trap is to believe that something outside of you can help you succeed where you’ve previously failed. This step provides hope that makes the motivation to try again stronger. In some way, you need to believe this attempt is fundamentally different from what you’ve tried before and will address the reasons you continue to drink when it doesn’t make sense on the surface.

Third, it is recognizing, subtly, that the style of drinking to which they’ve become accustomed is crazy. “Restore us to sanity”? It doesn’t just say that this greater power can help them stop drinking. It says it can help them change and behave in ways that make rational sense, unlike what they’re currently doing. That’s why we place so much emphasis on understanding the pros and cons of drinking for you in Drinker’s Helper, so that you can help yourself begin to act in accordance with what you believe is actually good for you long term.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Drinker’s Helper is an app that provides motivational exercises, drink tracking, and a peer support group to help you along the way. Try it out free today!

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Book review: The Alcohol Experiment

We’re huge fans of Annie Grace at Drinker’s Helper, so it’s no surprised we loved her latest book, The Alcohol Experiment, which condenses much of the content of her flagship book This Naked Mind into a short read intended to be used as a guide to taking a 30-day reprieve from drinking.

That’s right: we think of it as a reprieve, not a break, or a fast, or anything like that, because after all, you’re doing something good for yourself that ultimately ends up being fun and fulfilling!

Here’s what we really like about the book:

  1. She has a broad understanding of the most common beliefs (we refer to them as triggers) that make people want to drink - things like stress relief, dealing with kids, having better sex, etc. Reading either of her books often feels like you’re reading your own innermost thoughts from your time as a heavy drinker. This empathy makes it that much easier to listen to what she says about why these beliefs are based on faulty premises.

  2. We also strongly believe in the importance of self care. That’s why an entire section of exercises in Drinker’s Helper is designed to help people who are experiencing sadness to ward it off with something beside alcohol. This isn’t just about getting massages or taking hot baths; it’s also about watching the way you speak to yourself (she has ample evidence about the importance of this!), not beating yourself up when you make a mistake, and not labeling yourself as weak-willed, such that you handicap your own efforts to cut back or quit.

  3. We share a similar view on moderation, which is that it’s absolutely possible, although we personally found it exhausting and chose sobriety for that reason.

The areas we disagree are few and far between, but I’ll highlight a couple that stood out to me:

  1. It seems we place a bit more emphasis on discovering and enhancing your personal motivation to change your drinking. Her book focuses more on addressing the beliefs and thoughts that lead to drinking, which is closer to cognitive behavioral therapy (which we also use) than motivational enhancement therapy. We use exercises drawn from a combination of both, primarily because we think different people may have very different reasons for changing their drinking, and that it’s important that they find the reasons that work for them. This may be in part related to the other area where our thinking differs…

  2. …which is that we do admit that alcohol has some real benefits (I know, I know, cue screeching record sound!). To be clear, we think the downsides of drinking VASTLY outweigh the benefits. But we think it’s important to acknowledge that drinking in small amounts does lower your inhibitions, making first dates and new social gatherings easier; it does make you feel a happy buzz (again, at low levels of drinking, like below a 0.055 BAC. It can be frustrating to try to deny that those feelings happen as a result of drinking. The problem is that it’s really, really hard, especially over time, to stick to those very low levels of drinking. And if you can’t, well, the risks are enormous. That’s why we also think you need to spend time figuring out your most important reasons for changing your drinking - so you can have the strongest cons to bring to bear against those pros in your decision-making.

All in all, we love the book and think the experiment is well worth doing. If you have decided to quit drinking or pursue moderate drinking, we’d love to be part of your journey! Drinker’s Helper is a moderate drinking app (or quit drinking app) that has exercises, tracking, insights, and a virtual support group to help you along the way. Try it free for seven days!

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TL; DR: 3 TIMES more people seek care for alcoholic parents in 2018 vs. 2013

The headline says it all. This was sad news out of the UK this week with regard to the level of drinking among older adults.

At first this might seem counterintuitive - after all, who drinks more than those who’ve just discovered drinking and are too young to get hungover?

However, it could be something to do with the lack of natural barriers you have when you’re young vs. when you’re older. Perhaps you retire, so you suddenly have excess free time. You don’t have as many obligations at home with young children.

It could also be due to boredom or loneliness, due to having less creative and social stimulation than in the past.

You can read more in the story from the BBC, but here’s what we got from it:

  1. Out of all those who develop alcohol use disorders, one in three have it happen after the age of 50, according to one UK charity.

  2. Although it’s a different experience than growing up with an alcohol-abusing parent from the beginning, it’s still psychologically damaging to adult children to have to help a parent cope.

  3. In general, children of parents who abuse alcohol are more likely to do so themselves.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. We offer tracking, insights, motivational exercises, and a support group to help you stick with it!

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TL;DR: Drinking and smoking: the health risks

We’ve posted before about the health issues associated with moderate drinking.

We think it’s an important topic to cover because while we think moderate drinking is a perfectly reasonable goal, it’s still not as good health-wise as no drinking at all. It’s like chocolate cake in that way. A lot is really bad; none at all is best; just a bit is in the middle, but can be easier to achieve.

But this study of historical data highlighted the cancer risks associated with moderate drinking. See the full article for more details, but here’s what we learned:

  1. According to the research, drinking at the moderate drinking limits for women (7 a week) translated to about 10 cigarettes a week in terms of cancer risk.

  2. That sounds alarming, but the actual percentage point increase in lifetime cancer risk is only 1%-1.4%.

  3. The study didn’t take into account some other risk factors for cancer among the population.

Read the article and decide for yourself if moderate drinking or sobriety is for you - it’s important to make an informed decision either way!

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Download the Drinker’s Helper app today!

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TL;DR: Binge drinking triggers greater cravings

Part of what gets lost when we focus on genetic causes of alcohol use disorder is the powerful effect behavior can have on the expression of genes.

This study at Rutgers University showed that alcohol changes the expression of certain genes in ways that make people want to drink more and find it more difficult to stop.

Here’s the TL;DR on what we learned (read the full article for more details!):

  1. Binge drinkers don’t get as much help as they need from genes intended to control their stress response system and biological clock.

  2. This alternation affects the children of heavy drinkers, too, such that they are more likely to abuse alcohol if they consume it.

This made a lot of sense to us. Binge drinking is problematic for a number of health reasons; it builds up a desire to get drunk, not just tipsy; and it over time increases your tolerance for alcohol, which of course encourages even heavier drinking.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Download the Drinker’s Helper app today!

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Quick Profiles: the rehab option

Our goal with Drinker’s Helper has always been to help people before they reach the point of needing rehab, or to continue helping them upon completion of a successful rehab stint.

However, we did some basic research to understand what goes on in such programs, and wanted to share our findings with you.

We should caveat this by saying we did not dive deep into any of the particular rehab centers, so their specific programs may be very different from what we describe.

  1. It’s actually the less popular option among formal treatment. According to Sober For Good, 90% of all addiction treatment in the US is actually outpatient, where you continue to live at home and go to a program during the day. Inpatient programs are the ones you’ve probably heard of or seen celebrities go to. Their advantage is that you live at the center, and it’s an important part of ensuring you stick with the program (you’re free of temptation, around others who are also avoiding those substances). Outpatient is cheaper, and has the benefit of making you deal with the situations at home or at work that make you want to drink.

  2. Most programs offer both group and individual counseling. It’s hard to overstate the importance of not feeling alone in this effort; that’s why we have virtual support groups in Drinker’s Helper. Those who give counseling are often former addicts, which means they can empathize with those in treatment rather than coming off as judgmental.

  3. Many are 12-steps based. (If you’re not familiar, this is the Alcoholics Anonymous program). This is not always the case; some focus more on cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy, the two therapies from which we drew our exercises in Drinker’s Helper. But it’s true for 90% of programs.

If you’re interested in formal treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence, there are countless resources available with just a quick scan of Google; the largest national chain is American Addiction Centers.

If you’re not yet at that point, but want to make changes to your drinking, we’d love to help. Drinker’s Helper is an app that offers exercises based on cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy, support groups, tracking, and insights to help people cut back or quit drinking.

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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.

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How to slow down drinking

A lot of our tips focus on people who are trying to quit drinking. But a good number of those using Drinker’s Helper are simply trying to moderate their drinking, and have seen great success with doing so. We actually started with moderating drinking ourselves, because when we first set out, it was hard to imagine we’d ever quit drinking! (We did).

Here are some of the best tips for moderating drinking we’ve seen - don’t hesitate to add your own in the comments!

  1. Choose drinks that are intense in flavor, so you don’t gulp, but sip them. Things with a sour citrus note, or bitters, could help. The goal is to actually get a better experience out of moderating than drinking quickly!

  2. Nix the shots. This should go without saying, but shots are intended to get you drunk, quickly. Once you’re drunk, it’s much harder to control your impulses and stop at your limits. The goal is to get and remain tipsy, and not to get drunk.

  3. Consume less alcohol per glass. You can achieve this in a few ways. With cocktails, it’s easy - simply put less hard alcohol in each glass with your mixers. But with beer or wine: you can pick one that has a lower percentage alcohol by volume, or achieve the same effect by diluting your drink with water. We used to put ice cubes in our wine as a way of doing this, and before you give us scandalized expressions, the Romans used to do it, and they knew their wine!

  4. Alternate alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic ones. If you’re in for a long day (tailgating, watching March Madness, partying with friends, celebrating a big occasion), it’s hard to go a whole day on just alcoholic drinks and stick to a moderation limit. But if you alternate gin & tonic with just tonic water, chances are you can make it just fine.

  5. Plan ahead for how long each drink has to last you. This helps you know if you’re on pace throughout the night. If the night is 3 hours and you only want to have 2 drinks, either start late or plan to nurse those puppies!

We firmly believe that moderation is possible for many of those who struggle with alcohol abuse.

If you’re thinking of cutting back on drinking, we encourage you to try out Drinker’s Helper, our moderation app that provides tracking, insights, exercises, and support groups to people looking to quit or cut back on drinking. Try it free for a week!

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What not to do to get someone else to stop drinking

In our deeply unscientific survey of people who have successfully cut back or quit drinking, we learned a bit about the difficult conversations people have with their friends, family members, and SOs about their drinking.

We wanted to share a bit of what works and doesn’t work, based on what we found.

The first thing you should know is that too few of these conversations happen.

Fully 60% of those we surveyed said no one ever talked to them about their drinking. Given all 100% said they were happy they quit (or cut back) successfully, we found that surprising. Is it really possible that no one else noticed their drinking level and thought it might be over the line into unhealthy?

The answer is probably no. After all, there are lots of reasons you might not bring up a potential drinking problem to a friend or co-worker: maybe you don’t know them well enough; maybe you think you don’t see them often enough to judge how much they’re drinking. It’s even scarier with an SO or family member, because they mean so much to you. You don’t want to lose or damage the relationship, so you stay quiet unless you absolutely have to.

It’s even sadder when you realize that more than 2/3 of the time, people said they found their friends and family members’ comments helpful!

So many of you are probably sitting on a wake-up call you could give someone that actually might work! Let’s dig into what makes these conversations helpful vs. not.

Here’s what stands out about the helpful conversations, according to our results:

  • In terms of emotions, the most prominent one expressed in the helpful interventions was fear or concern for the drinker. Some expressed anger or disgust, some expressed support, but almost all were clear they were afraid for them. Perhaps this makes the intervention seem less like an attack?

  • They tried to help the person see it was possible to quit, rather than focusing on ultimatums. Many times an ultimatum might actually scare someone into drinking, because they aren’t sure they CAN quit. To the extent you can offer resources, solutions, and encouragement that if they put in the effort, it will work to quit drinking (or cut back), the intervention may be more effective.

  • They focused on how the drinker’s behavior affected them, rather than on listing the possible negative health consequences. Truth is, most problem drinkers already know the standard set of consequences cold. Even if it is new information, it doesn’t necessarily make them more likely to quit unless they also address the reasons they DO want to drink. But what may be new information is how their drinking is impacting you.

  • Finally, one person who had an unhelpful intervention noted that the person they were speaking with knew nothing about addiction. It can be helpful to refer your loved one to someone who has dealt with alcohol addiction to encourage them it’s possible to quit or cut back and to offer help or resources. That’s one of the reasons people love support groups in Drinker’s Helper - they offer perspective from people who are in the same place, so they are starting from a place of empathy. If you think a loved one needs rehab, there are services like this one that help with the intervention stage, by bringing experts and people who’ve experienced addiction to help someone see they need help.

If you want to encourage someone you know to quit drinking (or cut back to a healthier level), we’d love to help. Try Drinker’s Helper for free for a week. We offer support groups, tracking, insights, and exercises to help people cut back or quit drinking.

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What is alcosynth, and why should you care?

We’re excited to see that there is work underway to develop alternatives to alcohol. A lot of the research is focused on cannabis, which is especially exciting because it is entirely plant-based. This just gives us more confidence that cannabis, when it’s not changed overmuch by people, might have health benefits, including calming anxiety and treating pain.

But we would be remiss if we didn’t cover synthetic alternatives to alcohol in development as well. The most prominent is called alcosynth.

The good stuff we’ve heard is:

  1. It results in no hangover. This is a big win for everyone! Hangovers are one of the reasons we decided to quit drinking in the first place.

  2. The goal of the developers is to make it impossible to get drunk. They believe they can control the level of interference the drug has with your brain, such that you can get tipsy but not out of control. This is also huge, if it works. The goal we recommend with real alcohol today is to keep your BAC below 0.55, because that’s the level where you can have some fun without getting into dangerous levels of impairment.

The bad news is, no one knows the following yet:

  1. Will it be addictive? This is a really hard one to tell until it’s been out on the market a while.

  2. Will it have side effects (other than hangovers)? Since it’s fiddling with GABA levels in the brain, it’s hard to imagine it won’t make you nervous the next day as your brain attempts to fight back against interference.

We also know it doesn’t taste very good on its own, although to be honest, most tequila doesn’t either.

We will be following the development with a lot of excitement, because this has potential to help people who are trying to cut back or quit drinking (by ramping down using the alternative).

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking and you don’t want to wait until alcosynth is commercially available, give us a try! Drinker’s Helper is an app for people who want to cut back or quit drinking, and it helps via exercises, support groups, tracking and insights. Get your free trial today!

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UK says no more drunk flight passengers

If alcohol just makes you have fun, be free, be yourself, be sexy, etc, why on earth aren’t we all drunk all the time?

Well, one reason is alcohol-fueled violence. If you’re angry, alcohol removes the inhibitions that might otherwise prevent a violent outburst, and makes it much easier to end up in a fight.

Many drinkers are used to drinking when they travel as a way to pass the time in boring airports or in overcrowded planes. Apparently, there have been enough instances of drunk and disorderly airplane passengers that the UK, famous for its wild New Years photos, is taking action. In fact, in 2017 there was a 50% increase over the previous year in passengers being held for their drunken conduct!

This article says, in brief:

  1. All duty free shops will seal alcohol purchases in the UK from now on, so they can’t be opened during the flight

  2. Gatwick airport has ended shots in its bars

Of course, none of this stops you from ordering drinks on board, or smuggling small bottles of alcohol in your luggage (there’s always a way, if you really want to get drunk), but it’s an encouraging sign that the duty free stores and airports want to help airlines avoid these kinds of incidents.

If you’ve had an embarrassing outburst or two (we certainly did, when we drank, although not on board any planes), consider quitting or cutting back. If you do, we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help people moderate their drinking or quit drinking entirely. Check it out today!

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Research says hangovers make you anti-social

Although alcohol is a social lubricant at night, by morning it transforms us into reserved people. A new study showed rats who were hungover were much less social than normal. This is consistent with a subsequent qualitative study of college students.

Here’s the scoop:

  • Younger people, who are better able to cope with hangovers, do not react as badly to them (and the same is true of younger rats!)

  • People bond over being hung over (shared pain does seem like it’s part of the college bonding experience, doesn’t it? Frat hazing, anyone?)

  • As we’ve previously mentioned a few times, this anti-social effect is probably down to the fact that alcohol causes increased anxiety afterward! There is also significant fatigue and of course physical pain (especially for those of us over 30).

Check out the article here, and if you’re interested in quitting drinking (or cutting back), we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help you quit drinking or achieve moderation, and includes exercises, support groups, tracking and stats to help you do it!

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Quick Profiles: LifeRing / Secular Organization for Sobriety

We thought we’d share what we’ve seen about other organizations that work to help people become sober (or moderate their drinking).

The Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS) offers in person meetings similar to those run by Alcoholics Anonymous, but with some important differences. LifeRing was born out of organizational rifts within SOS, but uses fundamentally similar tenets.

Here is what makes them unique, and how that compares to what we offer in Drinker’s Helper:

  1. The Sobriety Priority: Sobriety has to be your #1 priority. The SOS groups are promoting sobriety only (not moderation), and the core principle is that you solve sobriety first, before solving the underlying problems that lead you to drink. In Drinker’s Helper, our moderate drinking app, we think that can be the right order of prioritization (in the case of anger or anxiety, for example), but not in other cases (e.g., boredom or depression). In some cases, it can help to address underlying problems first, like developing new hobbies, to allow drinking driven by boredom to change, for example.

  2. It is not structured, allowing people to find their own paths to recovery using their tools. We think there is wisdom in this, because sometimes people need different elements of a program in order to achieve their goals. In Drinker’s Helper, our quit drinking app, people can pick which of the over 75 exercises they want to do given their needs at the moment.

  3. It is secular, allowing both religious and non-religious people in the group. This sets it apart from Alcoholics Anonymous, the largest and oldest sobriety organization. We too believe that quitting drinking, or cutting back on drinking, does not require religious belief of any kind.

  4. it acknowledges the importance of routine. Like the 30-day Sobriety Solution, it offers mantras to repeat to ensure focus on sobriety every day. We see the value of repetition too, making sure that in the app you can save your favorite exercises to your Toolbox so you can find them easily and do them again. Repetition can help lessons sink in and ensure your mind is focused on your primary goal.

If you’ve decided to quit or cut back on drinking, we’d love to help you! Drinker’s Helper is a moderate drinking or quit drinking app, with exercises, support groups, tracking, and insights to help you. Check it out today!

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What the 12 steps are: Admitting powerlessness

We thought it might be informative if we walked through the 12 steps and talked about why they might be successful, based on what we know.

For clarity, Drinker’s Helper is in no way affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, and is a completely non-religious sobriety app (and moderate drinking app).

The first of the twelve steps is: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

We admit, initially we cringed at the idea of admitting powerlessness. After all, the core idea of a quit drinking app is that there is something you can do about your drinking.

But wait - doesn’t Alcoholics Anonymous also help people quit drinking? By existing, AA also, in its way, says there is something you can do to stop drinking (which is to attend AA meetings). But AA solves the problem of this powerlessness by suggesting that a higher power can help you to control your drinking where you have failed on your own.

Ok, so why is there a benefit to admitting powerlessness, even if you don’t believe in a higher power?

Based on everything we’ve seen and read about quitting drinking, it’s this: if you admit you simply have to stop drinking alcohol, you’re fully committed to changing. You are saying your life is intolerable with alcohol in it.

Often, when people fail to achieve sobriety, or relapse, it’s because part of them was never convinced sobriety would give them what they needed in life. That means some small kernel of thought in their minds said: alcohol is doing something good here; you can’t do without it completely.

It is infinitely easier to quit something when you’ve decided absolutely to do so. This is true not only for drinking but for other addictive behaviors and other habit changes.

Thus, even though at first blush this step makes us uncomfortable, we like the underlying premise: you have to be sure, in order to achieve the desired results. Drinker’s Helper is meant to accommodate people of any religious faith or none at all, so we don’t believe you must on a higher power to supply the determination you need to quit drinking. We do, however, believe you have to be sure. If you’re firmly decided to quit drinking, or to cut back to a healthy drinking level, please check out the app today - we’d love to help you!

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Book review: The 30 Day Sobriety Solution

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a book review, but we wanted to share what we thought after reading The 30-Day Sobriety Solution (available on Amazon). It’s a book that also has complementary online courses (see here), and it promises to help people achieve sobriety or healthy moderation in 30 to 90 days (depending on your preferences).

Overall, there’s a lot to like about this approach, so we thought we’d share it with you.

Here are some of the things we think are great:

  1. They acknowledge the importance of changing your unconscious thinking. This is also one of the cornerstones of our favorite sobriety book, This Naked Mind. The chief reason so many of us fail to stay sober or stay within moderation limits is, simply that we aren’t 100% sure sobriety will give us what we need. We have a lifetime of unconscious cues about how great alcohol is to undo in order to change our minds about alcohol. That’s why in Drinker’s Helper, our moderation app, we have a set of exercises on rethinking what alcohol is really doing in our lives.

  2. They understand that sobriety is more than just not drinking. By far the bulk of what you’ll find if you read the book (which we highly recommend) are exercises to build a more meaningful, happier life. We believe, as they do, that drinking is but a symptom of the problem(s). Thus, you’ll need more than simple tricks & tips to stop drinking (or cut way back). You have to change the underlying thought processes that lead you to see drinking as a solution to any problem. That’s why our library of over 75 exercises includes everything from dealing with urges to drink to dealing with anxious thoughts.

  3. They believe in the benefits of repetition. The 30-Day Sobriety Solution repeats several conepts throughout the book in different ways. Exercises build on one another. But also, people are advised to repeat their visions and affirmations daily to achieve results. We also believe in the importance of repetition for lessons to sink in. Part of why we created Drinker’s Helper as a quit drinking app (instead of an in-person class, for example) is that it can be with you anytime, anywhere. We also put a toolbox in our app for you to save your favorite exercises for quick access. These are intended to be repeated as you continue using the app and encounter urges to drink.

  4. They know that testing the waters isn’t a full backslide. Drinker’s Helper is both a quit drinking and a moderate drinking app. We support you regardless of the goal you choose, and believe that both can work. The writers of The 30-Day Sobriety Solution also acknowledge that you might want to test the waters with one or two drinks after a period of sobriety to see if you’ve achieved a healthier relationship with alcohol, and that doesn’t mean you’ve had a backslide into problem drinking unless other troubling thoughts have crept back up.

Here are some of the places (we think) we differ:

  1. We place more emphasis on understanding why you drink. There are parts of their book that do ask about why you drink, but it’s not a core emphasis. While we know that too much introspective navel-gazing isn’t helpful, we think some amount of considering what your triggers and underlying thoughts are is extremely helpful in figuring out what changes you have to make to get better.

  2. We don’t place as much emphasis on positivity. While we do see tremendous value in positive thinking, we also know that life can be cruel and unfair sometimes in ways that positive thinking can’t fix. Visualizing success is a powerful technique, but not a panacea. It’s ok to feel shitty sometimes, in short. Too much positive thinking can be exhausting. Which leads to…

  3. It’s a bit much all at once. We think 90 days might be the best way to try The 30-Day Sobriety Solution. It packs quite a lot into a short amount of time. When we quit drinking, we made that one monumental change on its own. We had also gone vegan a year earlier, and we moved 6 months or so later, and we started a new exercise routine nine months later, but we didn’t try all of that once. The 30-Day Sobriety Solution includes a suite of exercises that seem designed to truly change many aspects of your life (as does the exercise suite in Drinker’s Helper), but our caution with both systems is: be careful of fatigue and make incremental improvements over time.

If you’ve decided to quit drinking (or cut back), we’d love to help. Try out Drinker’s Helper at the link below!

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Why people around the world drink

We’ve written before about the reasons people drink (per a previous post, relaxation was the top cited reason in our survey).

But what fascinated us in reading this article about drinking around the world is that the reasons can be quite different.

Here are some of the different reasons for drinking we saw in this article:

  • Rural vs. urban: In the US, big cities like New York and LA have the highest rates of drinking, whereas in Lithuania, it’s the rural areas where people have too little to do where they struggle.

  • Men vs. women: Ukraine has a macho drinking culture for young men, whereas India has a rise in whiskey consumption among old women.

  • Work vs. unemployment: South Korea is known for a work-related drinking culture for team-building, but it’s Lithuana’s unemployed who drink the heaviest.

  • Wealth vs. poverty: South Africa is one of the top drinking countries in Africa, supposedly because of its relative wealth. But the poorer ex-Soviet countries in Europe are heavier drinkers than the wealthy ones.

In short, the takeaway for us at reading this article was: there’s always, always, always an excuse to drink.

If you’re done making excuses, and ready to quit or cut back, try Drinker’s Helper today! We help people quit drinking (or cut back on drinking) via tracking, insights, exercises, and support groups.

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How we're different from AA

Let’s start with a clarification: we think AA is incredible. It’s helped millions of people quit drinking. Its program can be incredibly effective for those who believe in a higher power. We think Drinker’s Helper can be a complement to AA meetings to help out in between sessions; we don’t think the two are fundamentally incompatible.

However, we do have some differences both in our understanding of the problem and in the way we attempt to help.

Here’s a quick overview of how we are different from Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We hope to help people a little earlier in the process. Alcoholics Anonymous in its Big Book describes the ‘alcoholic’ as someone who drinks extremely heavily and can’t seem to give it up despite very severe impact on their life. We hope to help people when they realize they might have a problem, and are deciding whether or not to do something about it.

  2. We acknowledge moderation as a valid goal. This is partly tied to #1 - if you are meeting the AA Big Book description of an alcoholic, you’re probably past the point where moderation is feasible for you. But for many people who are not dependent on alcohol, but do drink to excess, moderation is possible if they know the right limits to aim for, can track progress, and can acknowledge the reasons for their drinking and fix the underlying problems.

  3. We believe it’s possible to get past the struggle phase. In AA, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Every day is a new challenge; a new potential relapse. It requires hard work to stay sober. But when you understand why you drink, really change the way you think about alcohol, and change your thinking and circumstances, we believe it’s possible to get to the point where you simply don’t want to drink anymore, at all. We know because we’ve done it!

  4. We don’t require that people believe in a higher power. The core of AA is surrendering to a higher power and allowing it to remove your character defects that lead to drinking. We try to help with underlying problems through therapeutic exercises that don’t rely on belief in a higher power. While we respect others who believe in God, we don’t, and we want to ensure everyone has the tools they need to address the underlying issues that lead to their drinking.

If you want to know more about our approach, download the app today! We help people quit or cut back on drinking with tracking, insights, exercises, and support groups.

Health risks of even moderate drinking

While most studies agree heavy drinkers are in for it, health-wise, we’re sure you’ve also seen headlines purporting to prove that drinking actually protects the heart (typically, those claims revolve specifically around red wine). Sometimes, these studies showing health benefits from moderate drinking don’t correct for other variables that could explain health differences between non-drinkers and moderate drinkers.

A new study has attempted to correct for some of these variables (age, sex, body mass index, etc.), and found drinking just 7 to 13 drinks a week (within moderation limits recommended by the NIAAA) can increase risk of stage 1 hypertension by 1.5 times. See the full article here.

In Drinker’s Helper, we do support moderation as a goal for those who are concerned about their level of drinking and possible addiction to alcohol. But that endorsement of moderation comes with acknowledging that any drinking at all does have health risks.

Think of it like a sugar addiction. Moderating your sugar intake is good, and probably means you’re beating the addiction, but quitting entirely would be better for your long term health.

Just sharing what we’ve learned! If you’re looking to cut back on drinking, or ultimately looking to quit, try out Drinker’s Helper today!

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Why people drink

Ok, there are obvious reasons. Alcohol is addictive; it’s ingrained in our society as part of every social occasion; it’s mixed into delicious fruity cocktails and it makes us feel free to act like idiots and forget our problems for a while.

But while we knew why we drank, we wanted to learn more about others.

We surveyed people on Facebook and Reddit who had quit or cut back on drinking to understand both their reasons for drinking and the things they did that helped them quit or cut back. This is all qualitative, as we only have 30 responses to work with, but it’s still helpful to get a rough sense!

Here’s what we learned about why people drink from our survey:

  1. The most common reason to drink was to relax (84% of people), but it’s not necessarily because people were feeling anxious. Only 60% of people said that feeling anxious was a trigger for them. What makes up the gap? One theory we have is that alcohol becomes a part of our routines when we relax. It’s the end of the workday, and out comes the cabernet. We feel like we deserve the reward, but it’s not necessarily because we’re feeling worried. This is supported by finding that 80% of people said they felt a desire to drink on certain days of the week, like Fridays and weekends. It’s a habit, and it has to be broken to quit successfully.

  2. More so than any feeling, social situations (sporting events - 68%, parties - 76% and hangouts with friends - 84%) propelled people to want to drink. This is true despite the fact that only 50% said they drank to socialize more easily, and only 36% said they drank to fit in socially. Maybe this goes back to the routines idea: we drink because it’s what we do with friends, or with acquaintances. It’s expected; it’s part of the routine. How do you celebrate without a drink?

  3. A good amount of people drink because they want to feel happier. This is the least surprising finding, but perhaps the most actionable. 60% said they drank to feel happy or giddy, and 60% said they drank to feel less inhibited. 64% sad they drank due to feeling sad; 60% said they drank due to feeling anxious. Here’s the takeaway for us: it sounds like people don’t want to be adults all the time. There aren’t enough chances in normal adult life to do something silly, or feel free. Alcohol, unfortunately, fills that gap, for some. Quitting or cutting back may require finding new outlets for childlike play.

As we discovered ourselves when we tracked our drinking and the circumstances surrounding it in Drinker’s Helper, sometimes your reasons for drinking may surprise even you. You may think you drink because of crippling anxiety but discover you actually do it as a way to celebrate when you’re not anxious. It’s all part of the benefit you can get from tracking your drinking with insights in Drinker’s Helper.

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How you can track your progress in Drinker's Helper

When quitting or cutting back on drinking, it’s important to set goals and track your progress.

Many apps offer helpful trackers for the purpose of counting days of sobriety. Drinker’s Helper is a little different, primarily because we also support people who are trying to cut back on drinking, in addition to those who quit entirely.

Here’s how we help people quit or cut back with Tracking & Insights.

We help people set and track drinking against their limits:

  1. We guide people to set daily and weekly drinking limits that are in line with what the NIAAA recommends as a healthy drinking limit. Only 2 in 100 people who observe these limits have an alcohol use disorder, according to their research. People can also set a limit of zero, of course, if their goal is total sobriety!

  2. When people track their drinks, they can see whether they are on track or not for the week vs. their goals. If someone has a heavy drinking day, for example, they might be off track for the week, but can catch up if they stay sober the rest of the week.

We help people motivate themselves with signs of progress:

  1. We help people see their streaks over time (how long they’ve stayed within their limits). This is one of the most important ways people can motivate themselves in the app. We let them know when their streak has gotten longer.

  2. People can also set a pledge in the app to stay sober for a certain number of days. This is one way to motivate themselves to complete a short-term stint of sobriety. They can be anywhere from a single day to a full year. We believe this can be one of the best ways to start out using the app!

  3. We also help people compare their progress to others using the app. That way they have a better sense of whether they’re checking in often enough, or doing enough exercises, compared to the community.

We help people understand why they’re drinking:

  1. Our insights give people a better sense of why they’re drinking. When people track a drink, they also track where they were, who they were with, and more. Then they can see over time what their top drinking situations are. It helps people to discover their triggers, so they can plan to deal with them. This helped us out a ton when we were first using the app ourselves.

  2. Finally, we also help people track urges to drink. It’s important to be able to track what gives you urges to drink, even if you don’t give in. This helps you get an even better sense of what triggers make you want a drink.

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