I Can’t Stop Drinking: Why am I Having Problems and What do I Need To Know?

Have you made the decision to quit drinking alcohol but keep finding yourself back at it again? Do you find yourself saying, “Why can’t I stop drinking?”

You’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to quit drinking alcohol. Alcoholism is a complicated disease that often requires people to change their entire lifestyle to eliminate the habit. There are behavioral strategies for quitting, and there are medications available that have helped many people with their alcohol dependencies. Below are answers to some of the common questions people ask about quitting alcohol.

What Exactly Is Alcoholism?

People challenged with alcoholism are dependent on alcohol and its effects. They drink despite the consequences. They often experience cravings for alcohol and find it difficult to stop drinking once they have started. When they stop drinking, they often find that they have a physical dependence on the substance and start to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, shaking, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety. People who become dependent on alcohol often develop tolerance, a condition in which the alcohol a person was drinking doesn’t have the same effect and larger volumes of alcohol must be consumed in order to give the person the original high.

Could I Have Inherited Alcoholism?

Studies have shown that alcoholism can run in families. A parent with an alcohol addiction can pass on a predisposition towards alcohol dependency to their children. However, not all of these children become drinkers and people without family histories of alcoholism can become alcohol dependent as well.



Why Can’t I Stop Drinking?

Alcohol addiction is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. Initially stress may drive people to drinking because it is an easy, albeit ineffective, way to find relief from difficult situations. Alcohol breaks down into other chemicals that can interact with neurological receptors in the reward center of the brain. When these receptors get repetitively stimulated after multiple episodes of drinking, the stimulation becomes a requirement for “optimal functioning.” When the brain does not get the chemical, it starts driving the person to seek and drink alcohol. The alcohol byproducts acetaldehyde and salsolinol (acetaldehyde reacted with dopamine) have been shown in studies to drive alcohol dependency and induce binge drinking behaviors in animals deprived of alcohol. Drinking becomes a self perpetuating behavior.

Is There a Safe Level of Alcohol to Drink?

People who are susceptible to alcoholism and/or have the tendency to drink irresponsibly should quit completely.

What Do I Need To Do First To Quit Drinking?

Quitting requires the drinker to realize that they have a problem; they need to be interested in taking the steps needed to end their dependency. They should also recognize that they are often not actually thinking and making the conscious decision to drink; most of the time they are auto-responding to cues.

What Can I Do To Prepare?

To quit drinking takes planning. One needs to figure out what to do when faced with the temptation to drink. Seeking professional guidance from an addiction professional and deciding on a formal treatment plan should be at the top of your list. Developing a social support system, or a group of people that support your decision to quit drinking and offer their services to keep you on task, is an important factor that has predicted people’s length of abstinence in research studies. Many have found that it is a good strategy at the beginning of addiction recovery to develop a system to stay motivated because staying sober can become challenging. Another strategy you can think about is developing a reward system in which you give yourself certain prizes at specific benchmarks (at 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, etc). Some have found these helpful for staying motivated and sober.



Is It Safe To Quit Drinking?

Both the emotional and physical stress of withdrawal can drive a person back to drinking. If you drink multiple alcohol-based drinks a day, it is probably best for you to see an addictionologist who can help you determine, based on your level of dependency, whether or not supervised detoxification is necessary. Visiting a doctor before quitting increases your odds of success because they can provide you with medications to deal with the side effects.

Are There People Who Can Help Me Battle My Addiction?

Addiction treatment professionals (who may be psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, drug counselors, social workers, etc.) can be sought out to help you on your way to sobriety. You can speak with one of these professionals, and they will help you develop a system of quitting that will work for you. They have experience with addiction therapy and can help you develop working strategies and the behavioral and mental skill sets that will help you to succeed. If you are looking for someone to assist you today, you can call Two Dreams (708-613-4750) and ask about how to get started. There should also be local support groups (like AA and SMART Recovery) that have regular meetings and can serve as one form of social support to assist you in quitting.

I Can’t Stop Drinking, Again. Am I a Failure?

Because addiction is a chronic condition, you will probably relapse in your life. A relapse might occur after only a short duration of time after the first time you decide to quit. Do not let this mistake bring you down. Think about what happened that led to the relapse and think of ways to prevent it from occurring again. People find that every time they restart sobriety, they achieve longer periods of abstinence.



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