Most people who are looking for information about alcohol problems need to get some clarification on what they really interested in:
1) Alcohol abuse – This is when someone is drinking to excess but they really have no problem with abstaining from alcohol. They can take it or leave it but when they do drink, they tend to go all out and can get into trouble because of it.
2) Alcohol addiction (alcoholism) – This is someone who has a much more serious problem than alcohol abuse, and has established a more regular pattern of heavy drinking episodes coupled with both craving and obsession over alcohol. Binge drinkers can also be alcoholics and go several days or even weeks without taking a drink, but when they do drink, they lose control and have trouble stopping. Therefore it can be tricky to differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, but as time goes on, it becomes easier to tell.
For example, a true alcoholic will continue drinking even in the face of major consequences. If a spouse threatens to leave, for example, someone who is merely abusing alcohol will be able to stop drinking in order to save the marriage. An alcoholic will continue to drink in spite of this consequence. The same can be said for losing a home or losing a job. The alcoholic will not change their drinking based on these major life events. Someone who is abusing alcohol can and will change in order to avoid major consequences, while the alcoholic will not.
The other way to differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is in the ability to stop drinking without any help. By definition, the true alcoholic can not stop on their own; they must have help. If they could stop on their own then they are not a true alcoholic.
So, what is the nature of the alcohol problem you are dealing with? Is it just abuse, or is it full blown alcohol addiction? It’s also possible, especially with younger people, that it will be impossible to know for sure one way or the other. The person might be abusing alcohol at this time but they might also be in the process of developing alcoholism too.
So what is the solution?
There are basically 3 possible solutions for any drinking problem, be it alcohol abuse or alcoholism:
1) Do nothing – don’t attempt to change the level of drinking at all. Continue on without conscious thought about the problem.
2) Attempt to control or limit the drinking – this might work well if it is in fact alcohol abuse. If this solution does not work, then it is likely that you have full blown alcohol addiction on your hands.
3) Attempt to quit drinking – abstinence is generally going to be the best solution for those who have a true addiction to alcohol.
Most people who have any sort of alcohol problem will attempt these 3 solutions in the order they were just presented. Obviously no one wants to have to give up drinking altogether so that is the last resort. Many people struggle with the second solution for years and years before they are willing to make the crushing admission that they cannot drink like a normal person.
How can we implement the solution?
If you have decided that you are just an abuser of alcohol then the solution is to limit or control the drinking. The way to do this is fairly obvious and you just have to do it – don’t drink so much. Now if you have the thought that “but I like to drink,” and accompany that thought with “Because I like to drink, I actually could cut back if I wanted to, but I just don’t really want to right now,” then you are stuck in something called denial.
You have to ask yourself why you’re here and what you are reading this for. If you’re playing with the idea of quitting or cutting down or controlling your drinking, then just do it. Cut back. If you cannot cut back, then you have a serious problem and need to ask for help.
If you get to this point where you decide that maybe you actually do have a problem and need to ask for help then this is good news. You have broken through your denial and made the first steps towards real surrender. It is only now that you can begin the healing process and start working towards a new life in recovery.
The best thing to do if you are at this point is to ask for help. For me, asking for help meant checking into rehab, and from there going into long term treatment for almost 2 years. That was a lot of help. It’s what I needed at the time though.
Previously, I was not willing to accept that much help. I thought I was “better than that” or that I did not need that much help to quit drinking. But it took what it took to get me sober. And so it will be with you or anyone else: it takes what it takes. The only way to find out what it takes to get sober is to:
1) Make the decision to quit drinking
2) Ask for help
3) Go with the flow and take some suggestions
That third point is important. That’s where you find out “what it takes” for you to get sober. You have to go with the flow. You have to be open.
After you ask for help, if you are constantly shooting down ideas and resisting the help that is offered, then you are still in denial and not ready to stop drinking. It is only when you are truly open to help that you can start on this new life in recovery.
This is how to implement a recovery solution in your life. This is how to succeed in early recovery. Ask for help and then take it. Ask for help and then do what they tell you to do. Your life has become a mess under your own direction and guidance, so give it over to someone else for while.
I always resisted this loss of control but it turns out that it gave me more freedom than I ever thought possible. Ask others how you should live and then take their advice, and you will discover a whole new life for yourself. Very counter-intuitive, but it works. Surrender everything and you will gain the whole world.
This is the secret of early recovery. Surrender. You must let go of everything when you decide to quit drinking. It is only then that you can become open to the learning that is now required.
If you’re about to quit drinking, good luck on your journey. It is an awesome one…..