I often get emails from people asking how exactly do you quit drinking? It’s really easy to quit drinking. It’s the staying quit that’s the struggle. I’ve quit drinking dozens of times. I’ve woken up in the morning after a night of accidentally swilling too many apple martinis, feeling like my brain was in a vise, too nauseous to breathe and I’ve promised myself this would be the last time. I will never drink again.
Sometimes I would only last a day, sometimes a week, once I stopped for 6 weeks, but inevitably I’d cave in to the cravings. The problem was that even though I genuinely wanted to stop, I didn’t actually do anything different. This isn’t surprising if you know me. I’ve never been big on change: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; I’m not someone who takes up new hobbies or gives up gluten when it’s trendy. I prefer changes I can make from my living room couch. This attitude doesn’t exactly put you on the fast track to living your best life. It mainly leaves you anxious and depressed and unmotivated to do anything about it except maybe refill the Xanax.
Given this knowledge of myself, the last time I woke up hungover with shame and good intentions, I knew if I didn’t take real action, eventually I’d end up back in the exact same place and I couldn’t afford that. So here is exactly what I did:
I told someone.
I called a friend of mine who’d gotten sober two years prior and I said, “I want to quit drinking and I think I need help.” My friend didn’t judge me or say, “I told you so,” she just listened.
I sought support.
I found help in 12-step meetings, but if you don’t drink that flavor tea there are alternatives: Workit Health (that’s the site you’re already on), Women For Recovery, SMART Recovery and many others. Google it.
I made myself accountable.
By blogging about sobriety, even in those early days, I felt accountable to other people. It made it a lot harder to say, “screw it” and give in when the going got hard. If you want to be accountable, you don’t have to send out a “Just Quit Drinking” announcement to everyone in your contacts, but you can join a sober Facebook group and check in every day or embark on an alcohol cleanse -and while you’re at it, why not rope in some other alcoholics…I mean friends?
I immersed myself in sobriety.
I went to lunch with people I met in meetings, I called sober alchies nightly to bitch about sobriety, I read biographies about alcoholics, I made CD’s of songs that seemed like they might be about addiction and I listened to AA speaker CD’s. Nowadays there are podcasts you can listen to (try The Bubble Hour).
I rewarded myself.
I watched bad TV, made sure I had some sort of treat at the end of every day. I figured so what? It’s healthier for you than drinking! And you can’t get pulled over for driving while eating cake. Just remember, whatever it takes.
I attempted to help others.
This is an important part of my sobriety. When I was new to all of this there were women there to greet me with a smile and tell me it’s going to be okay. Now I get to be one of those people reaching out my hand. But as they say, helping you helps me.
The bad news is addiction can’t be dismantled by will power, a self-help book, the power of positive thinking or taking a bath in rose petals –in fact, cleaning petals out of your tub is liable to drive you straight back to the bottle. But the good news is that in these modern times, there are as many ways to get sober, as there are addictions. And there is a ton of help out there for you if you just ask.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, blogger and podcaster. She’s talked sobriety on Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, Dr. Drew, GMA, 20/20 and The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.