As the clock strikes midnight and the calendar flips to a new year, many of us embark on a journey of self-improvement by setting New Year's resolutions. One common and impactful resolution is the decision to quit drinking alcohol. While the idea of taking a break or giving up alcohol might seem daunting to some, it is a decision that can bring about transformative changes in one's life, health, and overall well-being. Sometimes, this resolution arises after years of reflection and a profound sense of despair.
The first step in this life-altering resolution is to recognise the importance of naming the reasons behind the decision to quit drinking. Just like any other goal, having a clear understanding of the motivations behind the resolution can serve as a powerful driver for change. It's not just about abstaining from alcohol; it's about creating a healthier, more fulfilling life. Knowing the ‘why’ i.e. the positive motivations that quitting/taking a break will bring as well as all the negative events, feelings, and consequences that are the outcome of alcohol can also be very powerful.
One of the primary motivations for quitting drinking is often health-related. Excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on the body, affecting various organs and systems. From liver damage to cardiovascular issues, the health risks associated with alcohol abuse are numerous. This motivation can also come too late, unfortunately. Some cancers are directly linked to alcohol consumption. That didn’t really scare me too much before, although after having my son, I started considering taking care of my body to last longer and be there for him. My doctor asked about my alcohol consumption when discussing breast and lumps after an annual check and informed me about this direct link. After that, every time I had a glass of wine and was looking at my baby, I knew each sip could bring me closer to a very challenging potentially fatal disease. And this wasn’t long after my partner cancer remission…I couldn’t keep thinking about cancer and wine.
Another critical aspect to consider is the impact of alcohol on mental health. While some might turn to alcohol as a temporary escape from stress or anxiety, it often exacerbates depression, anxiety, high level of stress, bad sleep, mood swings, to name a few. The decision to quit drinking can be fuelled by a desire to improve mental clarity, emotional stability, and overall mental health. Very often, the impact of alcohol on mental health is the driver to see a mental health specialist or to directly tackle alcohol. I personally never really thought or knew about this link between alcohol and depression and anxiety. It is such a vicious circle because most of the time, we start by indulging in alcohol to self-medicate either being shy or very anxious, upset about something to going through a major depression then alcohol just drag us further down the road of being unwell mentally. It is so interesting to notice how much better so many clients feel when removing alcohol from their life either for a period or forever – that is a very personal decision. That sense of feeling so good in the morning and not going down the rabbit hole of anxiety, depression, and the desire to hide under a blanket for day is amazing and something I hold onto every time I’m tempted to have a drink (because for me a drink isn’t just a single one as my brain goes automatically ‘what’s the point of having one drink anyway’).
Social and interpersonal relationships can also play a significant role in the decision to quit drinking. Alcohol abuse can strain relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Instances of erratic behaviour, damaged trust, and strained communication are not uncommon in the lives of those struggling with alcohol dependency. By acknowledging these negative effects and remembering lots of poor and regretful decisions I made, and that personally keeps me motivated to not hurt people and myself anymore. I want to be happy and feeling peaceful about all my relationships including the one with myself as this one was very damaged.
Financial considerations are another powerful driver for quitting alcohol. The cost of maintaining a drinking habit, whether through purchasing alcohol itself or dealing with the financial fallout of poor decisions - like drunk online shopping or paying for everyone at the bar - made under the influence, can be staggering. Personally, my initial motivation was not financial, but I did make inconsiderate expenses during some party nights out. I also lost money, wallets, keys, clothes during drunken nights. That wouldn’t have been my first motivation, but I do enjoy spending on my selfcare instead of my self-destruction those days.
Self-esteem and personal growth are often overlooked but crucial reasons for deciding to quit drinking. Alcohol dependency can hinder personal development and cloud one's sense of self-worth. It seems quite common to feel awful the day after a night of binge drinking, attempting to piece together a night filled with blackouts, searching for your phone to read all the sent messages, and reviewing your expenses to gauge the level of shame one must live with.
It is essential to emphasise that the decision to quit drinking is a personal one, and motivations can vary widely from person to person. However, the act of naming these motivations is a universal step toward success in achieving this resolution. Taking the time to reflect on why quitting alcohol is essential creates a roadmap for the journey ahead and provides a source of strength during challenging times.
Once the motivations are clear, the next step is to establish a support system. Sharing the decision with trusted friends, family members, support groups, or seeking guidance from an alcohol addiction or mental health counsellor can provide the encouragement needed to stay on course. The journey toward sobriety is not one that needs to be travelled alone, and a robust support network can make a world of difference.
Setting realistic and achievable goals is also crucial in the pursuit of a sober lifestyle. Rather than aiming for an immediate and complete cessation of alcohol consumption, individuals might find success in setting gradual and planned milestones. This could involve reducing the frequency and quantity of alcohol intake over time, allowing for a more manageable transition, getting ready, having an action plan, a strategy, and a set goal.
Celebrating small victories along the way is essential for maintaining motivation. Whether it's the completion of a week, a month, or reaching a personal milestone, acknowledging progress reinforces the commitment to the resolution. Positive reinforcement serves as a reminder of the positive changes that have resulted from the decision to quit drinking. Instead of noticing every time you promised yourself you wouldn’t drink or not too much and failed, your brain starts to record all your victories and it feels very good. It does change the neuroplasticity of your brain and then it becomes easier every time to not drink alcohol.
In conclusion, making the New Year's resolution to quit drinking alcohol is a profound and life-changing decision. Naming the reasons behind this resolution is crucial for finding the motivation needed to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
Celebrating each step forward, no matter how small, reinforces the commitment to change. As the New Year unfolds, those who choose the path of sobriety can look forward to a future defined by resilience, self-discovery, and the countless rewards that come with embracing a life (or a prolonged period) free from the constraints of alcohol. If you’d like to have me along your way to help you getting started, it would be an absolute honour to walk this path with you – I provide alcohol addiction counselling services in-person at the Fremantle Clinic and online if suits you better.