“Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down stairs a step at a time.” Mark Twain
Congratulations on deciding to take a break from drinking this month. Are you new to this? Read on. If you’ve done this before or are a member of Moderation Management, you can skip this section and go to the last section of this post.
Making an abrupt change in a habit can be exciting as well as challenging. Liberating and scary at the same time.
As a clinical psychologist with 40 years of experience in helping people change their drinking, I’d like to recommend some first steps that have helped both my clients and our research subjects in clinical trials on changing drinking habits. And there is solid clinical research that supports taking these steps.
The Good Things about Taking a Break
What led you to make this attempt to change your drinking? Most people don’t consider changing a habit unless they’ve had some concerns about their drinking or are having alcohol-related problems. I recommend writing them down and adding to your list as you think of additional reasons to at least take a break.
The Costs or Challenges in Taking a Break
It’s also helpful to remember that there are “good things” you’ve liked about drinking. Drinking is rewarding and that helps maintain the habit of drinking. So write those “good things” down too in a second column so you can see them side by side, the Good Things about Taking a Break” and the reasons to “Not take a Break (the good things about drinking).
There are other “costs” that come with taking a break. You may have urges or cravings for a drink, especially in situations where you would drink. These “triggers” to drinking can be external (e.g., time of day, work, unemployment pressures) or internal (e.g., feeling anxious or down or excited, wanting to celebrate). And you can experience urges to drink as these triggers happen. There are ways to manage triggers (more on that later) but for now remember that while they may be uncomfortable, they can’t actually hurt you. And they can’t make you do anything.
Compare the Reasons to Take a Break to the Reasons to Keep Drinking
What does this comparison say to you?
The third step is to consider your values, what is important to you in your life. Write them down too. Then ask yourself, “how is taking a break in my drinking (or not) consistent with my values?” We have lots of research that says that living a life that’s consistent with your values enhances your well-being.
We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends
Apologies to the Beatles but they were right on. Having social support for making a change in a habit significantly improves your chances of success. Even if that change is only for a month or a few weeks. So tell people who care about you about your decision and ask for their support. And this forum can be a good source of support from others making the same effort. All are rowing in the same direction. Be aware though that not everyone will be on board with your taking a break from drinking. Some may find it threatening and subtly try to sabotage your efforts. Consider them your old drinking buddies but not your true friends. Good friends will wish you well.
Get Objective Feedback
Another way to build your motivation is to get some objective and confidential feedback about your drinking, risk factors, and alcohol related problems. My research team and I have been developing, evaluating, and disseminating Drinker’s Checkups that do just that for 20 years now. Our most current version is at https://checkupandchoices.com.
Members of Moderation Management or Have Done Dryuary Before?
Questions to ask yourself. Take some time to consider each in depth:
- What motivated you to change your drinking when you first decided to change?
- What positive things happened when you took a break from drinking?
- What helped you before to be successful at least for a period of time?
- What can you do differently this time to build on your past successes?
Post Submitted By: Dr. Reid K. Hester
Dr. Reid K. Hester is the Founder of CheckUpandChoices.com and has been involved in clinical research and practice in helping people change their drinking for over 40 years. The Drinkers Checkup screening is free and the Checkup is $34 and comes with a money back guarantee. Really.
Non-Alcoholic (NA) Drink Suggestion: Ritual NA Gin Lemon Drop