Resolved to Quit Drinking? At the start of a new year many individuals have resolved to quit, cut down or cut back on a variety of problematic behaviors or challenging issues. Smoking, overeating, nail biting, spending too much or consuming alcohol may be on the list. Typically when a person decides to 'quit drinking' (such as myself) there are a variety of motivating factors contributing to the decision to quit. Legal issues, financial costs, physical and mental problems, and the troubles it can cause in relationships often lead up to the decision to quit. Although I am in long term recovery, the problems I encountered from drinking too much continue to be part of why I am still sober today.
Waking up with a good size lump on the head from a fall or a fight, missing work because of a vicious hangover, or losing a significant amount of money the night before are never fun experiences. They were usually followed by an adamant "I'm never drinking again!" The overwhelming feelings of anxiety, anger, fear and worry that occur when taking a trip to jail after receiving a DWI or being confronted by a family member who's had it with bad behavior can create the desire to quit. There's nothing quite like the devastating feeling that comes with hearing about how I hurt someone that I cared about and don't even remember it because I was in a blackout!
My first attempt to quit drinking came after such an incident. I had received some crushing emotional news one day and decided to go out and "drink it away" and my cousin agreed to go with me. I had made a solemn promise not to drink and drive and she agreed to hold me to that promise. Later on that night I went into a blackout and demanded my keys. An altercation soon followed. The next day she filled me in on my behavior and I was appalled at what I had done. I didn't remember any of it. She was very angry and hurt. I made a solemn promise right then and there to never drink again. Experiencing that blackout scared me and I was very serious about not drinking again.
Blackouts occur when information from our short memory does not get transferred over into long term memory because alcohol interferes with that process. Typically it is a sign of alcohol dependency. Whenever I experienced a blackout I just thought it meant that I had really "tied one on." I was not very educated about the disease of alcoholism. Why would I or should I be? I certainly wasn't "one of those people."
My solemn oath to quit drinking again lasted about 5 weeks. Just long enough for my cousin to forgive me. Once that happened and things seemed back to normal this little nagging voice in my head started to say things that sounded pretty convincing about why it would be okay to drink again. Thoughts came like "you don't have a drinking problem, you have an anger problem... you just need to get your anger under control and you'll be fine." Well I decided that sounded pretty good, so I spent the next several years drinking and trying not to get angry about anything. I wasn't very successful.
What happened to the solemn promise to myself and others? Did I not mean it when I said I was going to quit drinking? No, I did mean it. I meant it with everything in me, but something happened the further I moved away from that last drink. Something began to change in my thinking and ebb away at my resolve. The problem with this was that I didn't see anything wrong with the way I was thinking! Therein lies the problem with the person who is substance dependent. We really don't see where our thinking is distorted, unreasonable or skewed. There comes a time when we can't come up with any good reason why we shouldn't take that drink. In our mind, it seems like it is going to be perfectly fine, this time.
Being involved in a recovery program helps me remember who I am, where I came from and why I don't want to go back. Left to my own devices I will drink again. I know this because I did it. And thus far, by working a program I haven't found it necessary to pick up a drink for over 18 years now. They told me in the program that I never had to drink again if I didn't want to, and trust me I didn't want to. They were right. I have found a way that works for me and that works for many other individuals also. It's not complicated, but it's not easy at times either. It takes dedication and determination to do what I need to do in order to remain sober. My resolution to quit drinking has held up thus far and I believe it will continue to do so if I keep doing what I'm doing. There is hope and there is help.
Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified reciprocal alcohol and drug counselor and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services. Angie sees local clients in office and is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with appointment requests, questions, or feedback.