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How to Quit Alcohol

mindset nutrition Jul 12, 2024
How to Quit Alcohol | Arangio

Alex was outgoing, social, and loved to unwind with a drink or two after a long day.

He was an executive in his mid-50s, with a wife and three children.

Back in his college days, there were many booze-fueled shenanigans at the fraternity house. A typical weekend often included getting blackout drunk and then joking about it the next day.

He cut back significantly on his alcohol use in his late 20s after marrying his college sweetheart and starting a family. Maybe a drink or two at a work function or a couple of beers on the weekends with his golfing buddies.

But as time went on, those casual drinks started to become a regular part of his routine. A glass or two of wine at dinner with his wife. Maybe a nightcap after that.

Alex didn't notice any immediate consequences.

In fact, he felt more relaxed and sociable when he had a drink in hand.

It seemed like a simple way to enjoy himself and connect with others; however, as the months turned into years, the innocent habit began to take its toll.

Alex noticed his suit pants felt snug thanks to a few extra pounds around his midsection. He didn't realize that alcohol is packed with empty calories, and his love for those evening drinks was starting to show on his waistline.

He found himself struggling to shed the weight and maintain his desired level of fitness too. But the physical changes were just the tip of the iceberg.

Alex also noticed that he was feeling more tired and sluggish throughout the day.  

You see, alcohol, despite its initial sedative effects, disrupts sleep patterns and quality. And while it may help you fall asleep faster, it interferes with the crucial stages of deep and REM sleep. 

As a result, the restorative benefits of sleep are compromised. Alcohol can lead to fragmented sleep, frequent awakenings, and increased snoring. It also impairs the production of melatonin, a hormone essential for regulating sleep-wake cycles.

Consequently, individuals who consume alcohol before bed often wake up feeling groggy, unrested, and lacking the energy they need for the day ahead, even after a full night's sleep.

Sustainable and restful sleep is best achieved by minimizing alcohol consumption within six hours of bedtime.

Some of you may be thinking, "No problem, I'll just day drink." But that's not a good solution either.

The quality of Alex's rest was compromised, impacting his energy levels and overall wellbeing.

Then came the mental and emotional toll. Alcohol is a depressant, and over time, it began to affect Alex's mood and outlook on life.

What once brought him joy and enthusiasm now seemed lackluster and dull. He found himself relying on alcohol to numb his emotions and escape from the challenges of everyday life.

As the years went by, the consequences grew more severe. Alex began to experience digestive issues, liver problems, and a weakened immune system.

He couldn't help but wonder if his love for alcohol had played a role in these health struggles. What once seemed innocent and enjoyable had become a burden on his physical and mental health.

Truth is, even seemingly harmless habits can have profound effects on your health over time.

While moderate alcohol consumption can be a part of a healthy lifestyle for some, it's crucial to be mindful of its potential pitfalls.

Awareness, balance, and self-reflection are key.

In today's lesson I want to share some thoughts about quitting booze, even if you don't think you "have a problem." 

My goal is not to offend, as this is a hot-button issue for many professionals over the age of 40.

Here are 10 actionable strategies to free yourself from the grip of this widely-accepted drug.

How to Quit Alcohol

If left unchecked, drinking alcohol to excess may result in a catastrophe that could end your life or, in the case of drinking and driving, the life of someone else.

This is still a worthwhile lesson, and can be applied to other negative habits, like smoking or mindless eating, even if you aren't a pack-a-day smoker or a binge eater.

You see, after 25+ years of coaching, I've worked with many folks who have struggled with tobacco use or a drinking problem. In fact, in my younger days, I wrestled with alcohol abuse myself.

When a new client begins the coaching program, I ask many questions about your habits. Not because I'm nosy, but rather because losing bodyfat, boosting strength, and slowing the aging process is about following simple routines, like being mindful of food-portion sizes.

Creating your "Ideal Body" is also about respecting yourself and leading by example. 

If you are overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, you are more likely to suffer from a preventable disease, like diabetes or heart issues.

If you have a daily habit that is known to cause cancer, like excessive alcohol use, you are disrespecting your body.

And if you are not creating generational health, you're letting your family down.

According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol use is one of the most important preventable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use and excess body weight. Alcohol use accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Crazy thing is that many people don’t know about the link between alcohol use and cancer.

The sad truth about alcohol use is there are several factors that make quitting very tough.

When cracking open your first beer, sipping that first mixed drink or enjoying that first bottle of wine, you are opening Pandora's box.

In the beginning, a few alcoholic beverages may seem fun and innocent. It's mainly pleasure with very little pain. Perhaps a hangover the next day.

However, like most destructive behavior, things eventually turn out to have far-reaching negative consequences. As you continue to drink more, the pleasure part decreases and the pain increases until it's just suffering.

Broken promises, damaged relationships, and poor health. Most drinkers try to quit many times and fail, namely because they underestimate the chokehold alcohol has on them.

Folks who are addicted think they can "quit at anytime." But when I ask many "former drinkers" how things are going, I discover they are drinking again.

According to the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol.

In other words, a zero-tolerance policy. So no beer, wine, or spirits ever. I agree with this abstaining-from-drinking philosophy, especially if you've ever struggled with alcohol in the past.

People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink a day for women, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

Here are 10 proven strategies to help you quit alcohol for good, even when the other methods failed.

1. Commit yourself 100%. Not 90%

In the quits that failed, you probably were only half into it. Maybe you told yourself you wanted to quit, but always felt (in the back of your mind) that you’d fail.

You didn’t write anything down and you didn’t tell everybody (maybe your spouse, but just him/her).

But this time, you wrote it down. You wrote down a plan. You shared your plan on social media.

You made a vow to your kids. You told family and friends you were quitting. You went online and joined a quit forum.

You had rewards in place. Many of these are in the following tips, but the point is that you fully committed, and there was no turning back. You didn’t make it easy to fail either.

2. Make a realistic plan

Some people, like physicist Richard Feynman, have the ability to quit cold turkey.

But most people can’t just wake up and say, “I’m gonna quit today.” You have to prepare yourself. Plan it out.

Have a system of rewards, a support system, a person to call if you’re in trouble.

Write down what you’ll do when you get an urge. Print it out. Post it up on your wall, at home and at work.

If you wait until you get the urge to figure out what you’re going to do, you’ve already lost. You have to be ready when those urges come.

3. Know your motivation

When the urge comes, your mind will rationalize: “What’s the harm?” And you’ll forget why you’re doing this.

Know why you’re doing this before that urge comes.

Is it for your kids? For your spouse? For you health? So you're happier and less depressed?

Because your significant other like doesn’t like drinkers?

Have one very good reason for quitting. Perhaps you have multiple reasons for quitting.

List them out. Print them out. Put it on a wall. And remind yourself of those reasons every day, every urge.

4. Not one drink ever (N.O.D.E.)

The mind is a tricky thing. It will tell you that one drink won’t hurt.

And it’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you’re in the middle of an urge. And those urges are seemingly impossible to argue with.

But don’t give in.

Tell yourself, before the urges come, that you will not drink a single drink of alcohol, ever again. Because the truth is, that one drink will hurt.

One drink leads to a second, and a third, and soon you’re not quitting, you’re drinking. Don’t fool yourself.

A single drink will almost always lead to a relapse. Don't take a single drink.

5. Join a support group

One of the things that helps in your quit is a community of quitters so you don’t feel so alone when you’re miserable. You can get support online or in-person.

Misery loves company, after all. Go online, introduce yourself, get to know the others who are going through the exact same thing, post about your crappy experience, and read about others who are even worse than you.

Best rule: Post before you drink. If you set this rule and stick to it, you will make it through your urge. Others will talk you through it.

And they’ll celebrate with you when you make it through your first day, day 2, 3, 4 and beyond

In addition, join a local group, that meets in person, which you can find through your hospital network.

Another surefire method is to get the one-on-one help of an addiction specialist, which is also available through your hospital. Or just ask your family doctor for a referral.

6. Reward yourself, but not with a drink

I joke here but, in reality, this is a sinister way many "quitters" start up again. They reward themselves with the exact thing that is destroying them.

So set up a plan for your rewards. Definitely reward yourself after the first day, and the second, and the third.

You can do the fourth if you want, but definitely after Week 1 and Week 2.

And month 1, and month 2.

And 6 months and a year.

Make them good rewards, that you’ll look forward to: books, a massage, a new bike, a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a hotel stay or whatever you classify as a good reward.

Even better, take whatever you would have spent on drinking each day, and put it in a jar. This is your "celebration jar."

Celebrate every success because you deserve it. Maybe donate the money in your jar to the local food bank. Or invest it on flowers for the terminal cancer unit of your local hospital.

Deliver the flowers yourself.

7. Delay. Delay. Delay.

If you have an urge, wait. Do the following things, in this order:

  • Take 10 deep breaths (inhale for four seconds, hold for two seconds, exhale for four seconds) or use another deep-breathing technique
  • Do 10 pushups
  • Do 10 bodyweight squats
  • Drink one cup of water
  • Call your support person
  • Post on your smoking cessation forum

And then repeat. The key is to do whatever it takes but delay, delay, delay.

You will make it through it, and the urge will go away. When it does, celebrate.

Take it one urge at a time. You can do it knowing that better days are ahead.

Remember you can follow these same strategies if you have the desire to binge eat or smoke a cigarette.

8. Replace negative habits with positive ones

What do you do when you’re stressed? If you currently react to stress with a beer, or a shot of whisky, you’ll need to find something else to do.

Deep breathing, muscle massage with a foam roller, or a resistance training session have worked wonders for many clients.

Other habits, such as what you do first thing in the morning, or what you do in the car, or wherever you usually drink, should be replaced with better, more positive habits.

If the "friends" you hang around with encourage your bad habits, maybe you should stop making friends. 

9. Make it through Heck Week, then Hell Week, and you’re golden

First week is Heck Week, and is difficult, but not nearly as hellish as the second.

For the extreme binge drinkers, the hardest part of quitting is the second week. If you can get past that, you’ve passed the alcohol withdrawal stage, and the rest is mostly mental.

But all of the second week is hell, which is why it’s called Hell Week.

After that, things begin to get simpler. Not suggesting that your life becomes easy.

It's more like things become simplified because you aren't making the same foolish alcohol-induced decisions anymore.

Of course you just have to deal with the occasional strong urge, but the rest of the urges may be light, and clients tell me they were confident they could make it through anything.

10. If you fall, get up

Yes, you will fail. That does not mean you're a failure, or that you can never succeed.

If you fall, it’s not the end of the world.Get up, brush yourself off, and try again.

Vince Lombardi, the American football coach, famously said, ""The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall."

Truth is, you may fail numerous times before succeeding; however, each of those failures will teach you something.

Sometimes you'll repeat the same mistakes several times, but eventually you'll learn.

Figure out what your obstacles to success are, and plan to overcome them in your next quit.

And don’t wait a few months until your next quit. Give yourself a few days to plan and prepare, commit fully to it, and go for it.

If nothing else, just focus on being positive. This is probably the most important tip of all. If you have a positive, can-do attitude, as corny as it may sound, you will succeed.

Tell yourself that you can do it, and you will. Tell yourself that you can't do it, and you definitely won’t.

When things get rough, think positive.You can make it through the struggle.

If you found this lesson helpful, please forward this to someone you care about. 

Summary: 

Drinking alcohol may lead to weight gain, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and a decline in mental and emotional well-being. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, interferes with deep and REM sleep, and impairs melatonin production. This results in fragmented sleep, frequent awakenings, and grogginess. The long-term effects include digestive issues, liver problems, and a weakened immune system. It's crucial to be aware of alcohol's potential pitfalls and have an actionable plan to quit.

To your success,

Coach Joe

 


 

Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women lose weight, gain strength, and slow aging. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to increase longevity with the best online age-management program, or you want to visit the best age-management program in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.

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