It’s not easy to change your relationship with alcohol. If you’re struggling, it can feel like a never-ending cycle of abuse and shame. But there is hope!
In this blog post, we’ll go over seven tips to change your relationship with alcohol so you can break the cycle and live your fullest life.
7 Tips to Change Your Relationship with Alcohol
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1. Kill the Triggers
One challenge in changing your relationship with alcohol is the brain’s reward system. With addiction, this part of our brains is hijacked by drugs like alcohol and cocaine.
The pleasure center (nucleus accumbens) drives us to seek more, even if it causes problems later on down the road; nobody thinks they are an alcoholic when they first take a drink.
Over time, this part of the brain will stop responding to alcohol and drugs like cocaine, leaving you with less pleasure in life. Cravings may increase along with tolerance levels until your only option is complete abstinence from alcohol or other substances.
If we want to change our relationship with alcohol and stop abusing it (or stop using alcohol altogether), we need to stop activating this reward system.
One of the best ways you can stop triggering your pleasure center is by learning to not give in to what starts it in the first place.
This is called “urge surfing.” It can help you stop activating that pleasure center in your brain by riding the wave of the urge without giving into it. Ultimately, you’re changing how you react to the things that trigger those cravings for more alcohol.
You’ll learn to substitute new behaviors for those old detrimental ones.
If a drink with friends makes us feel good, then hanging out with new people might make our brain stop wanting a drink so badly; if eating fried chicken after work makes us want a drink, then stop eating fried chicken after work.
This may sound easy enough on paper, but there are other factors at play as well: environment, mindset, and stress. If you know your triggers well enough to avoid them entirely, then do it!
Changing our environment helps us stop activating our brain’s pleasure center.
Drinking at the same bar every Tuesday won’t be as strong of a trigger if we stop going to that bar on Tuesdays (or stop going there altogether).
2. Develop New Pleasures
The problem with the pleasure center is that it’s an addiction.
We stop feeling good about non-addictive things like taking a walk or spending quality time with family and friends if we get used to drinking alcohol instead of doing these activities.
But you can also reverse this and what triggers the brain’s pleasure center by changing your behaviors. You might think drinking alcohol helps calm your anxiety.
Yet how much better will you feel if you stop drinking and start working out regularly, meditating, and reconnecting with the passions that activated these pleasure centers before alcohol?
And make it fun! Challenge yourself with small goals, so you build momentum. Then you’ll find yourself on a streak you don’t wanna break!
If we keep developing new pleasures in life without drugs or alcohol to fill the void, we stop craving alcohol, and it becomes easier to cut back or quit drinking.
3. Release the guilt about the past
In addition to changing what triggers those cravings for more alcohol and stopping the activation of your pleasure center by giving up drinking or avoiding your typical trigger spots, you can also release the guilt about the past, including today.
Guilt will only bring back old habits. It’s essential to stop thinking about giving up alcohol as something you should do (instead of what you want to do), let go of the guilt for past actions, and stop associating drinking with guilt.
If you keep thinking about how drinking is harmful to your health, that drinking can be expensive, or any other type of guilt, you end up just wanting to drink again, so you don’t “feel” guilty anymore – until later, that is.
Then the whole cycle repeats.
It’s essential to let go of the past and kick guilt about drinking. Avoid focusing on why you can’t drink or what you think you’ll lose by becoming sober, and instead, begin thinking about all of the good reasons to quit or ease back on consuming alcohol and what you’ll gain.
4. Change Your Mindset
The other important element of changing our environment is our mindset. How we think about alcohol impacts how triggers operate in our brains.
If you believe giving up alcohol will stop your life from being fun or that you need alcohol to loosen up and be social, you’ll struggle with changing your relationship with alcohol.
It’s vital to stop thinking this way!
Many people think drinking with friends is fun, but there are other ways to be social and have a good time. If your mindset changes about the purpose of drinking in social situations, then stopping will cease those triggering cravings for more alcohol.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but it’s essential to stop thinking that giving up alcohol will prevent you from having fun or being your full self.
5. Learn to Manage Stress Differently
Stress can play a significant role in changing our relationship with alcohol. It releases cortisol and dopamine into the brain (just like drugs), making us want to drink more when we’re stressed out or anxious.
Meditation, mindfulness practices, self-care practices, and exercise are all excellent ways of reducing stress in our lives.
6. Get Support
Getting support from others is one of the most important things you can do to stop drinking. A supportive group of friends and family can be pivotal.
Still, that’s not always possible, so you may need additional help outside your inner circle.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a ton of great resources for people trying to stop drinking, and it’s a good place to go if you find comfort in knowing others are going through the same thing.
Additionally, many communities have sober groups to help people avoid drinking and associating with people who drink. If you stop hanging out in bars or going to parties flowing with alcohol, you fill your social circle with sober folks – who also like to have fun!
Consider joining a support group if it feels right for you.
7. Get Personalized Help
If you stop drinking and stop hanging out with friends who drink, but your cravings don’t stop, seek additional support.
There are many great therapists available in person, and virtually that can help you work through the triggers that have been driving your drinking for so long.
Don’t stop trying just because giving up alcohol doesn’t halt your cravings.
It may take longer for some folks because of different triggers in the brain that make specific people drink more or faster. This is why it may be worthwhile to connect with a professional.
An online platform makes it easier than ever to find the help you need to change your relationship with alcohol.
Monument, a telemedicine platform, connects you to therapists and medical doctors who provide personalized care and a supportive community to learn and communicate with others.
Monument brings you affordable, accessible alcohol treatment and support, all in one place.
Research has proven medication, alcohol therapy, and community support to benefit those waiting to stop drinking. Learn more about Monument today because the longer you wait, the longer it takes.
There are many great reasons to stop drinking and many ways to achieve sobriety or a healthier relationship with alcohol. It’s important to stop feeling guilty for the past and stop associating drinking with guilt.
Change your mindset about alcohol in social situations; stop thinking that giving up alcohol will keep you from having fun. Develop new pleasures in life instead of relying on drugs or alcohol to fill your time (yoga is a great alternative).
Create a new mindset about what you want out of social situations involving drinking. Learn to manage stress differently by meditating or practicing mindfulness exercises; this reduces cortisol levels in the brain, curbing cravings for more alcohol.
Get support from friends and family who understand your struggle with drinking, and consider joining a community that focuses on whatever goal you’d like to achieve in changing your relationship with alcohol.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid or ashamed to enlist the help of a professional. Millions are experiencing what you’re feeling, and the support is out there if you’re committed to making this positive lifestyle change!