How to give up drinking

— This article is a work in progress. I’ll add it it as I recall more and based on comments I receive —

This article would be better titled, “How I gave up drinking” – but you know how it is; you’ve got to come up with titles that impress Google these days!

I am not a trained therapist or doctor, so this isn’t in any way medical advice, but it is how I quit and found it pretty easy to give up. I’ve heard from people how they’ve gone from spending their lives away from home in various pubs, only to spend it away from home in various Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Using this method I had my last alcoholic drink one night, to having no more since – all with a minimum of discomfort. I’ve also subsequently used the same method to give up smoking. All that’s required of you is a sincere desire to stop drinking and the rest will come naturally – given that you’re even reading this article it seems you’ve got that one in the bag already.

I’d love you to give it a try, and if it works for you let me know in the comments.

Don’t give up drinking just yet!

This is possibly one of the most important steps, and fortunately it’s the easiest to follow. Carry on drinking just as you were before, where ever you usually do it. In the pub, at home with friends, in just the same quantity as you’re used to. If you’re a smoker, I’d suggest you carry on with that too; one thing at a time. Go through two ‘cycles’ . For me a cycle was one week – 4 x nights of after work drinking, a Friday night in the pub, Saturday drinking with friends, and Sunday sinking a quick bottle before starting a new week.

Keep a drink diary

Not one of those drink diaries that records “last night I drunk XYZ”; we’re not interested in capturing that. We’ve already decided we’re going to drink as usual so why bother recording it. If you’re anything like me, you already have a pretty decent idea of what you’re drinking without the need to write it down, and if you’re really interested, your debit card statement should provide you with a fairly good idea.

Instead, in the morning, keep a note (paper or smartphone is fine), on how you’re feeling. Not just as a one off exercise, but throughout the morning. Start with how you feel when the alarm goes off, until whenever it is your hangover wears off and you feel like you’re functioning ‘normally’. The important thing is just to note these things – not to beat yourself up about them; let’s face it, you already know they’re happening, but they’ll prove useful later in the process. Here are some comments I noted down:

  • Hard to walk to bus stop and cope with sunshine. No seat which is making me feel like s***
  • I’m paranoid the people near me on the train can smell the alcohol on me even though I’ve covered myself in aftershave
  • Saw myself in a mirror on the way into work. My face is red and my eyes are bloodshot to crap. Come up with a ready made lie about hay fever incase anyone asks
  • Running the morning team meeting. Hard to stand still and concentrate on what people are saying
  • Struggling to grasp difficult technical concepts because my brain is fried

But also, in that drink diary, keep a list of how you felt the night before – did you have fun? Who did you chat to? Did the drink de-stress you? Again, here’s a couple of mine:

  • Had fun at the pub
  • Forgot about work

You’ll note that there’s a difference in the length of those two lists, that isn’t accidental.

Examine the list

Toward the end of your two cycles, examine the list. Perhaps 3-4 days before so you can do so safe in the knowledge that nothing’s being asked of you just yet. Take a look at what you wrote down for the negatives of drinking, I expect there’s a few. Obviously, the easiest way to correct them would be by not drinking; that’s just common sense – so let’s spend more time taking a look at what you’ve written down for the perceived benefits of drinking. On my list these revolved around having fun with friends and de-stressing.

After looking at my list I began to wonder if I hadn’t fallen victim to Ozzy Osbourne’s “drinkers logic”. Let me explain. A few years ago, Ozzy was staying in a hotel and got absolutely blind drunk when a friend dared him to jump off a high balcony. Being as drunk as he was, Ozzy obliged and threw himself off and landed, miraculously, with no broken bones and barely a scratch. After being taken to hospital for a check up the doctor confirmed it: Ozzy had survived because he was so drunk his body and muscles were perfectly relaxed as he fell such that they could absorb the impact when he hit the ground. In Ozzy’s mind this was it: proof that alcohol had saved his life. Of course he’s handily ignored the fact that if he hadn’t been so blind drunk in the first place he would never have thrown himself off the balcony and would never have jeopardised his life in the first place. A real life example of a quote from the Simpson’s “Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of man’s problems”.

Have you fallen victim to drinkers’ logic?

Without doubt, a few drinks after work does de-stress you, but take another look at your list. How many things at work are causing you stress precisely because you turned up to work hungover and couldn’t concentrate? How many things are you worried about doing tomorrow because you know you’re going to be in the same boat? Are the things you’re worried about better tackled with a clear head; would there be any harm in trying it, if only for one day?

We think we need a drink to have fun with our friends, but how does that stand up to scrutiny? It used to take me 2 bottles of wine to get merry and tipsy with my friends, which typically took 2-3 hours. Was I bored during that time? No, I was having fun chatting and catching up with friends; the fact that I wasn’t drunk had no impact on my enjoyment, and if anything getting drunk hindered my having fun as I couldn’t remember what we were talking about.

Preparing to give up

Your first night as a new non-drinker will be moderately uncomfortable.  I used the word uncomfortable deliberately. It won’t be painful, it won’t be a chore, it won’t drag by, but it will be mildly irritating as you’ll get a ‘pang’ to drink about once an hour that will last 3-4 minutes. For me those pangs happened between 7pm and 11pm. That’s 4 pangs at 3 minutes each. A total of 12 minutes of minor irritation to be drink free forever.

Keep nearby a few bottles of Lucozade fit water and/or Glaceau smart water as these contain electrolytes and minerals that will really shorten your pangs. 2 bottles of night for the first 3 nights will be ample, but buy more if you think it will help relax you.

Just get though that first night and you’re pretty much home. By my second night, the pangs had dropped by around by 80% and by night number 3 they were barely noticeable.

Staying sober

Remember two key things and you’ll be fine:

Do not tell yourself you “can’t” have a drink. Telling yourself “no” is like telling a 5 year old not to press the big red button; it’s all you’ll want to do. The fact is you’ve chosen not to drink. This was a free choice – you made it, and you’re getting exactly what you want.

You’re not losing anything, but you’re gaining so much. No more hangovers on the way to work, no more lying to make up excuses as to why you’re not yourself, no more spending the weekend in bed. Instead you’re looking forward to things – and think of all the spare cash you’re going to have. All this benefit without having to sacrifice anything; who wouldn’t want that?!

Staying off the booze

I’ve written an article on cutting down vs abstaining. Obviously whatever you do is entirely up to you, I can only share my experience. Keep in mind the benefits and how you’re going to spend the extra cash, and feel enthused that there is an ever growing number of non alcoholic drinks on the market that are just as good – or better – than what you’re used to. You can check them out in our review section.

If you tried this advice, please let me know in the comments how you got on!