It is not easy to stop drinking and stay sober. Sometimes people try and fail, and try and fail, in an endless cycle of frustration. In our online community, we have a couple of sayings that are repeated often to people who are struggling to stay sober. The Trick To Quit Drinking is to Never Quit Quitting and The Art of Living Sober is a Skill that Takes Practice. These are not just catchy phrases brought out to support or inspire, they are titles to posts that were written by members of our community, people who have walked the walk and are reaching back to share their experiences. To help you quit drinking. You can open those posts above with the blue links if you need some inspiration today. They may well help!
There are many effective tools to help you. We share thoughts on tools that work for each of us in our community every day. The important thing to remember is that there is nothing passive about making this change in your life. It is in your hands.
When I found myself caught in a dangerous cycle of binge drinking, I thought that attending Alcoholics Anonymous and working the 12 steps, was the only way to safely get sober and stay free. It turned out that it was my right, and my privilege, to decide the direction my life would take in sobriety. Discovering my own way to go alcohol-free and doing the work to stay sober has been the best gift I have ever given myself. It is possible to have control over alcohol. Believe it. Believe in yourself. You are powerful. You are so much stronger than you know.
AA set a standard of community-based support, and story sharing, which is the basis of the most effective quit-drinking programs. Even if you find that the doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous is not for you, it will likely be some sort of support community that helps you stop drinking and stay sober long-term. In this era of the internet, there are a great variety of communities that are easily accessible online and in person. At the end of this post, there is a list of alternatives to AA that members of our online community BOOM Rethink the Drink have recommended as helpful over the years, but first I’d like to share thoughts from a member of our community, on IOP or Intensive Outpatient Program.
IOP includes many of the tools that are used by other effective programs to help you quit drinking. Intensive Outpatient Programs are considerably less expensive than inpatient rehab or many of the sober schools and sober coaching programs offered online. You may find that IOP is covered entirely by your medical insurance. Whether or not you chose to try an IOP, this is great information to have in your sober toolbox.
This is how How I Quit Drinking with the Help of an Intensive Outpatient Program ( IOP )
It was early December 2020 and I was approximately three weeks along in my streak of sobriety, the longest I had managed in a while and I was determined to stay on track. It was then that I learned about IOP or Intensive Outpatient Program. I learned of one IOP in particular in the U.S. that works solely online. The program is for those who have chosen to quit and have at least a few days under their belt clean and sober. I signed up and started right away.
Over the years, I attempted to stop drinking, often and in many ways; from reading Alan Carr, to Annie Grace, from hypnotism to affirmations, and everything in-between, and it all helped, (or at least it didn’t hurt) but not 100% until I participated in Intensive Outpatient Therapy. IOP gave me the chance to take part in one-on-one counseling and group therapy made especially for those suffering from substance abuse. In addition, part of the process of the IOP I attended, is learning from helpful material and being encouraged to write about what I learned, to confirm my new understanding.
An IOP in comparison to Rehab, while not in person, nor available 24.7, is still a better choice for those who (a) can’t take time off work, and (b) can’t afford the high cost of a month or more of rehabilitation.
The IOP program included 3 basic components: regular ZOOM meetings, writing, and assignments that helped me build a sober toolbox for effective relapse prevention.
1. ZOOM MEETINGS
I took part in the IOP program for approximately 3 months, although for some it can be longer depending on individual needs. I joined Zoom meetings 3 days a week, 10 hours a week with mostly the same 10 individuals all in early sobriety. The meetings started off with everyone checking in and talking about how they felt that day, and how bad the cravings are if any.
The majority of the group were there to help with alcohol addiction although 2 members were dealing with painkiller addictions.
All individuals in the group were encouraged to speak about their experiences in regard to their sober journey. Responses and advice are encouraged, including polite criticism. Through this kind of interaction, we got to know each other well and all of us in this group became friends to this day.
I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with alcohol. In addition to the meetings, we were given assignments that were to be completed in our own time and presented in group sessions for which we were to receive feedback from others in the group. This was designed to get us to start thinking about our relationship to our drug of choice (alcohol), which turned out to be enlightening.
I did a lot of writing, a favorite one being a “Goodbye Letter” to alcohol explaining why I was quitting. It was actually kind of fun writing this because I had the idea of likening alcohol to an old “bad boyfriend.”
I was stopped at a traffic signal. I’m not sure why I looked in that direction, but over there just inside the liquor store was my old love. I was shaken at first. My thoughts went immediately to the good times though it was painful remembering what we used to have.
I remembered the happiness, and I suddenly felt alone, as if I no longer had that and it was heart-wrenching.
I couldn’t stop staring out the window at the liquor store. The memories felt happy. I wanted to run in and feel the embrace once again. But it lasted only a moment. Because I knew. It wasn’t always good times.
It was then I remembered the abuse, the constant lies and the disrespect. I remembered the demand for my time and attention, the jealously and so much hurt.
I remembered no one was allowed to be more important or more loved.
I remembered my stress when apart, and the constant demands. Always sneaking off to be together.
I remembered my confusion and the constant push and pull. I didn’t want it to end, yet, I wanted very much for it to end. I thought this needy feeling was love, yet I hated it.
I had tried to stop the insanity so many times but I just kept changing my mind like a love-sick fool, until the day I found the determination, and I ended it.
It was finally over. I thought about how much better off I am now without the misery of that relationship.
The light turned green, and I drove on past the liquor store.
I didn’t stop to say “Hello.” I only said under my breath as I drove by, “Good-by and good riddance, alcohol.”
I added, “I don’t love you after all. I may still miss you at times, but you’re bad for me and I’m happy you’re gone from my life.”
My decision to quit is the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. I won’t be fooled again.
I thought I saw an old lover at the liquor store, but I was mistaken. Alcohol was a lot of things. It was fun, then need, then desperation, but never, ever love.
Some of the writing was easy, and some painful but eye-opening and therapeutic. One, in particular, I’ll never forget was the story I was required to write about what my life would be like if I kept drinking. That one wasn’t easy. In complete honesty, there was a funeral involved in that story. Enough said.
3. Sober Toolbox
Getting through each of these assignments was quite an awakening for me. The later assignments were about learning skills to help me to deal with cravings and to deal with difficult situations that could have me thinking about drinking. Tools for my Sober Toolbox.
Sober Toolbox Skills –
One of the reasons I was adamant about quitting drinking this time was one situation in particular in which I was confronted at my job by my boss about my drinking. The reality of it really hit me hard and changed everything.
The hardest part of this was dealing with the anger, shame, and lack of self-respect with which I was suddenly overwhelmed. My excessive, uncontrolled and deceptive drinking patterns had damaged my relationships, my job, my friends, and my family.
To forgive myself I needed to understand real forgiveness. I first learned what it is not: Forgiving yourself is not forgetting what took place. It is not condoning or excusing the offense, and it does not mean you no longer believe what happened was wrong.
So, what is self-forgiveness, then? Self-forgiveness happens when you choose to let go of self-condemnation and shame, even if you feel you don’t deserve to let it go. You choose to give yourself mercy, generosity, and love. Because whether you believe it or not, you deserve to be free of that burden.
Reminding ourselves that we did the best we could with the tools and knowledge we had at the time, will help with self-forgiveness.
Learning How to Learn From Mistakes
I also learned that mistakes are how we learn. When we think of “mistakes” as learning experiences it gives us a chance to learn and improve our skills. Mistakes are errors, not crimes. We don’t commit mistakes. No one is immune to making mistakes – we are human, after all. But that doesn’t mean we should continue on without learning from them, or else we are bound to make the same mistakes again and again.
We are our own worst critics. If your first response to a negative situation is to criticize yourself, you are not alone. Still, it’s time to show yourself some kindness and compassion which is the best way to begin the journey to self-forgiveness.
UNDERSTANDING COGNITIVE DISTORTION AND COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
In IOP I learned about “cognitive distortion” which is “faulty or inaccurate thinking, perception or belief.” Negativity is often the defining characteristic. I learned how to recognize it and respond in a healthy way. I learned of 12 of the most common types of cognitive distortion.
1. Magnification (Catastrophizing) or minimization:
It’s about exaggerating the importance of things. You expect the worst in any situation. i.e. If your boss calls a meeting, you think you may be fired. And your thinking spirals. The proper response is to question yourself with logical questions. As an example, “What is a logical reason boss is calling this meeting?”
2. All-or-nothing thinking
4. Mental filter
5. Disqualifying the positive
6. Jumping to conclusions
7. Mind reading
8. Fortune teller
9. Emotional reasoning
10. “Should” statements
These things are in essence part of my understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I believe has been demonstrated to be more effective in helping people stop drinking than other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.
Sober Toolbox tools –
I learned about HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Recognizing that these basic needs are being met, promotes self-awareness. When these needs are unmet is when we are most vulnerable to relapse.
Maintain a Strong Support Group –
I also learned about the importance of having an effective sober support group and being effective sober support for another. This is a very important tool in your Sober Tool Box. I learned that there are early signs that relapse is a good possibility. If you wait until you’re on the way to the liquor store, it may be too late.
I was shown how to create a Personal Relapse Program which also used the tools and support group. I addressed at length what situation would most likely find me drinking again and how I would handle it.
The friends I made through this program are still in touch. Though we are scattered across the map, we managed to meet last Summer for a reunion, which was, for most of us, the first time in person. Sadly, two of the group relapsed and we since lost touch, but they are not forgotten. Ready with arms open when they are ready.
No one succeeds on their own. You need others who will offer spiritual, emotional, and mental support, and push you to be your best. Others can also help you work through the hard times and keep you accountable.
You are not alone. In the early days of quitting alcohol, it’s important to reach out as often as needed. That may be daily or multiple times a day. If you are unable to meet in person, there are online face-to-face meetings through Zoom and other sources which are available and are a great way to reach out to talk about your struggles, especially if you are having cravings and feel you might slip.
It’s very important to know when to reach out to your support group. A slip can be avoided by reaching out at the first thought of drinking.
You have strength, free will, and the desire to improve your life. Every day you are completely free from alcohol is more proof you can do this. You are more powerful than booze. Alcohol wins too often because it tricks the mind. Now you know better and won’t be taken in by that because you are powerful and wise. Alcohol is neither of those things. It’s just a fermented food product.
The IOP Program provided a lot of reference material including info about various types of meetings such as Recovery Dharma and AA. But this IOP provider does not promote one kind of recovery group over another which is one of the reasons I chose them.
The IOP does, on the other hand, push the graduates to get involved in a group of their choosing. It’s one of the reasons I found the Boom Rethink the Drink community. The connection, comfort, acceptance, and so much more, is why I stayed.
You can check out their website:
Lionrock Recovery Program
You can listen to some podcasts they offer here: www.lionrockrecovery.com/resources/podcast
If you are ready to Quit Drinking
1. Keep an Open Mind –
This is a key foundation for learning. Be open to accepting new realities. This makes you more likely to succeed.
New realities to consider to help you quit drinking:
- Alcohol is not the answer to our problems.
- Alcohol is poison.
- We are better off without alcohol.
- We can quit drinking.
- We don’t have to suffer without alcohol.
- It’s perfectly acceptable and respectable to be the only one not drinking.
Staying sober is not passive. It’s an active process that requires conscious effort long term. It is possible to quit drinking and it is possible to be a non-drinker. It is possible to have freedom from alcohol.
2. Let Yourself be Vulnerable –
Be your true self. Live with purpose. It requires that you go out on a limb, risk ridicule, and potentially do or say the “wrong” thing. That’s being vulnerable and it takes courage but builds self-confidence. Don’t be too concerned about what others think of you. The only one that really matters is you. And, ironically, being your true self is very attractive to other true selves.
3. Challenge the Voice –
You know the voice. It is the one that tells you, “You’ll probably fail.” It’s the same voice that tells you, “Go ahead, just have a drink; you can stop tomorrow.” Just about every successful person has heard it. They challenged it. You can, as well.
4. Be Open to What Life Brings
You may already know life isn’t always fair, but have you accepted it? Once we accept how life is, it is much easier to deal with. Accepting the fact that it’s unfair does not mean giving up. It means accepting that there are some things you cannot change, which frees you up to change the things you can.
More by this author :
More Thoughts from our Boom Rethink the Drink Community on the Tools to Quit Drinking:
and thoughts on
4 alternatives to AA with online communities and in-person meetings
FACEBOOK GROUPS WORTH CHECKING OUT
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using