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Why quitting drinking alcohol is not the real problem?

Updated: Dec 2, 2021


We, humans, are really funny creatures. We first invent something, encourage everyone to use it, indulge in it, and then we want to quit using it all together because we see the real danger in using it.


We do it with sugar, cigarettes, medication, fast food, soft drinks, or alcohol to name a few. The depth of addiction may vary, but the principles are the same. Don’t worry, this post is not about the physiology of addictions, the history of alcohol or I am not here to tell you that you should stop drinking alcohol. After all drinking alcohol is part of our culture. And it would be an impossible task to change that.


I used to drink excessively (well I am half Polish, half Australian so ‘excessively’ may have a different meaning to you) for a really long time and always wanted to take control of my drinking. I tried quitting many times, without success until I got curious as to why it’s so hard to give it up and why I was so dependent on it. I wanted to take control of my drinking, and not live a life when drinking was controlling me.


Now, I want to invite you to dive a little deeper to understand that quitting drinking alcohol is not the real problem here.


Why you won’t quit


Let’s face it, reading about how bad alcohol is for our bodies and society will not make you want to quit. I read a book about quitting alcohol, holding a glass of wine in my hand. And it didn’t matter how passionate the author was in saying that alcohol is composed of ethanol, which is also found in petrol so ultimately, you’re pouring petrol into your body. Was that compelling? Of course, it was. Was that scary? Of course! Did I want to stop? Well, yes, who would want to put petrol in their body?! But you see, none of this really made me want to stop drinking.


If you look around, it feels like everyone is quitting drinking for social reasons, the latest diet or new research was published, and unknown harmful effects of alcohol came to light and it made you think that maybe it’s about time to quit. You decide to stop drinking for a week because it’s part of a challenge or perhaps you quit for a month because it’s a ‘dry’ month. Do you know that studies show that the highest alcohol consumption happens in August, right after dry July?


Yes, I know. Surprising, isn’t it?


But there is a very good explanation why this happens. That’s because you want to compensate for what you lost the previous month. You didn’t quit alcohol for a month. You deprived yourself of alcohol for a month. So, once you saw you can drink again, you wanted to catch up.


In order to stop any addiction, you need to have a very strong reason as to why you want to quit.


I couldn’t find one.


Can you think of a good one? The obvious reason is of course health, your erratic behaviour while you were drinking and the shame you felt the next day or your life is so out of control you no longer run the show. You know you need to stop drinking, but you can’t push yourself over the line.


Because you see, quitting drinking is three-fold.



It’s a habit


When I worked my corporate job, I drank a bottle (or two) of wine every night after I came home from work. It worked like a clock, taking my shoes off, getting started with dinner, the need to unwind. It was happening so often, that I didn’t even know when I stopped paying attention that not only, I was drinking every night, but the amount of consumed alcohol went up.

It became a habit: something you do automatically, so your brain doesn’t register the action anymore.


And we all know how hard it is to break a habit. So, I tried different techniques, swapped some triggers around, got different cues, and tried to break the habit loop. It worked. And sometimes it didn’t. I was getting somewhere, but slowly and not always with clarity.


So, I decided to dive deeper into this habit to understand why it is so hard to break it.


Coping mechanism


Your life is composed of habits and activities you created to make your life easier, more passionate, or maybe just manageable. But all habits and activities are created for a reason (even if you don’t realise it). They are there to get you out of bed at the morning, to be productive at work, and achieve your goals in life. Or they are there to keep you stuck in a runt. But they all have one thing in common: they are coping mechanisms.


You created a habit of drinking alcohol as your coping mechanism. Maybe it was to cope with the stress in your life, the endless commitments, the fear of facing the day, the loneliness you felt, the guilt of the past. Whatever struggle there was, your coping mechanism was right there in a bottle.


So, pause for a moment and ask yourself if this coping mechanism still serves you? If yes, how does it serve you? Does it uplift you? Does it help you to take control of your life so you can apply for the job you dreamt about, get up at the morning full of energy so you can stick to your exercise routine or so you can show up for your kids?


When I realised that my coping mechanism leads me to self-destruction, rather than helping me to show up as my best self, I knew controlling my drinking was much closer than I ever thought.


Emotional pain


After changing my habits, creating new coping mechanisms to tackle the overpowering stress and anxiety in my life, I was getting some success. However, I knew that I didn’t reach to the bottom yet. The more often I check with myself why I reached for that bottle, the more often I faced the fact that there was a lot of unresolved emotional pain.


Ask yourself what emotion is coming up to the surface that is keeping you up at night? What unresolved feelings are bubbling at the top and you want to shush them? What’s the state of mind you want to numb?


Our attention is being taken by so many things that it’s very hard to stay in control. Sometimes, it feels like your life is a string of challenges rather than opportunities. And that unfinished, unprocessed emotional pain stops you from moving forward. And at the end of a day, if you can’t find the clarity of who you are, and that you are more resilient than you thought, by default you will go for what’s familiar.


Conclusion


Giving up drinking for your health, social reason, diet or ‘dry’ month are all good causes. And although those can be very powerful first steps, they are not enough to solve the mystery of why you can’t stop drinking.


But don’t be harsh on yourself. Give yourself some credit. In today’s life full of endless demands on your time, energy, capabilities, it’s not a surprise you need to find something to relieve the stress. You did the best you could with the resources and knowledge you had. Now, the power lies within you to find a different way and a different coping mechanism, one which serves you; to build a different habit: one that empowers you, keeps you grounded and helps you see clearly what your life is all about and to unpack that unresolved emotional pain which started the loop.


So, tell me, what action will you take NOW to take control of your drinking?


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Having troubles finding the clarity of who you are? Go on: www.annadoktor.com.au to find out more about Anna Doktor Wellness Coaching and how I can help you to create the life you always wanted. Alternatively, send me an email at anna@annadoktor.com.au or call to have a chat to see how we can work together tel: 0498016440.


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