Changing your drinking
Facing up to your drinking
If you’re ready to face your drinking problem, congratulations! Admitting you have a problem is a huge first step. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face your alcohol abuse or dependency head on. The second step is reaching out for support.
Much as you may want to, don’t try to face your drinking problem alone. Changing your drinking habits will be hard and you’ll need support. Without it, it is very easy to rationalise just one more drink, especially since alcohol is everywhere in our society, or to fall back into old patterns when things get tough.
Alcohol dependency is a complex disorder that affects every aspect of your life. Overcoming it requires making major changes to the way you live, deal with problems, and relate to others. It’s not just a matter of willpower or simply wanting to quit. If you decide you want to stop drinking for good this is difficult without treatment and ongoing support. The good news is that there are many tools that can help you on your journey.
Thinking about change
Your first step in thinking about change is to examine your own drinking pattern honestly and consider the following:
What do drinkers need to believe before they will try to change?
- Drinking may be damaging my health and/or wellbeing.
- I will feel better if I cut down
- I will improve my health if I cut down
- I have a good chance of cutting down if I try
- I will be able to cope with stress and other life problems without drinking
- I will be better off in the long term if I cut down
- The advantages of cutting down outweigh the disadvantages
Wren &Thomas 2001
(Brief Intervention Skills for Health Promotion)
Cutting Down or Quitting for Good?
How do you know if you should just cut down on the quantity and frequency of your drinking or if you should quit drinking altogether? Indicators for and against Controlled Drinking:
Those more likely to succeed with controlled drinking:
- Those choosing controlled drinking
- Those who are younger
- Those in employment
- Those with a family around them
- Those with a shorter history of abuse
- Those with less physical, mental or social harm from their drinking
- Those with lower consumption before coming for help
- Those showing no signs of physical dependence
Those more likely to succeed with total abstinence:
- Those choosing abstinence
- Those who are older
- Those who have no social stability in terms of stable relationships, employment and accommodation
- Those with less support from family and friends
- Those with a longer history of heavy drinking
- Those suffering from physical damage such as liver disease or mental damage such as memory loss
- Those who have tried and failed to control their drinking
- Those who are more severely dependent in terms of having more physiological indices, such as more severe withdrawal, high or reversed tolerance
Heather and Robertson (1983) and Ward (1988)
Factors Affecting Outcome
Once drinkers have decided to stop what factors affect outcome?
- Dependence: Physical, psychological
- Life events
Reasons for Lapse
Why might drinkers lapse in their early attempts to change?
- Inadequate preparation
- Lack of appreciation of all the difficulties (drinking situations)
- Lack of alternative coping strategies
- Not enough support
- Adverse life events
Reasons to Try Again
What factors will influence whether lapsed drinkers will try again?
- Good support to review past and plan for future
- Revisiting of benefits for changing
- Positive evaluation of lapse - not in terms of unchangeable personal weakness
- Resources to seek out additional more appropriate strategies for change (coping skills rather than “will-power”).