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The difficulty of going through alcohol withdrawal is commonly understood, but what about life after treatment? While the initial detox can be a trying experience, most addicts will tell you that “the real journey begins once treatment is finished.” This is supported by the National Institutes of Health, as they conducted a study which concluded that 38.6% of individuals who received treatment for AUD (alcohol use disorder) relapsed within three years.
That’s nearly 4 out of 10 alcoholics that receive treatment. As you can see, relapse prevention needs to be a focal point in rehab. In which case, you might be here because you’re recently sober and need some support in avoiding alcohol. Or, perhaps you’re trying to take a break from drinking and just simply don’t know how to get away from it. Below are our top tips on how to stop drinking so much and how to change your current drinking habits for the better.
Learn to Identify Triggers
Individuals often drink alcohol because of triggers. For someone with AUD who is now sober, they know that triggers can serve as the waypoints for relapse—the kryptonite of all they’ve worked so hard to accomplish. Common pieces of advice would include staying away from drinking situations, leaving unhealthy social circles, creating a new routine, but it’s important to know that the biggest trigger of all comes from within.
A study published in the Andrha Pradesh Journal of Psychological Medicine, where 264 patients that met the criteria for alcoholism were observed, concluded that: “craving was found to be the most common cause for relapse in alcohol-dependent patients.” This is paramount for both the AUD sufferer and those that want to abstain from alcohol, as sometimes we look so hard in the distance for something that’s inward.
By understanding that cravings are the most prevalent cause of relapse, one can work to understand whether or not it’s external forces that are tempting them. If so, they can reach out to their support groups, clinicians, doctors, friends, family, or whoever is close to them to work through what they’re experiencing. This is especially important for the person who has completely avoided all triggers, only to crumble in frustration due to alcohol cravings.
Alcohol in The House
At some point in an alcoholic’s journey, they will usually have to be around alcohol. Initially, this is warned against, as the visual stimuli (of both alcohol as a material and people drinking) can be a serious trigger. In which case, as simple as this sounds, if you’re trying to quit alcohol… then quit it. Don’t be afraid to not go somewhere because you know there will be alcohol or drinking present.
Additionally, if you’re someone who’s trying to cut back on your alcohol intake, don’t stock your house. Any drinker will tell you that it’s a lot harder to control their substance abuse when wine is always piled on the counter, beer is in the fridge, and the bar holds multiple types of liquor. Avoiding alcohol often comes down to literally not being in its presence.
One of the principles taught in almost every AUD treatment program is to break ties with unhealthy relationships, as they are in themselves triggers. The primary relationship to abstain from is other drinkers, as the individual trying to avoid alcohol is susceptible to increased cravings in these situations. If someone close to you refuses to change—or at the very least not drink when you’re together—then that is not someone that will support your recovery.
Likewise, if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption because you’ve been drinking too much, it’s time to change social circles or take a break. If the people you’re surrounding yourself with go out to drink every night, or if every interaction is over alcoholic beverages, then it’s best to face peer pressure and abstain. Even someone with zero dependence might find it difficult to remain sober in situations where everyone is drinking alcohol.
If you want to avoid alcoholic drinks, then it’s important to understand what emotions act as triggers. Anxiety and depression are common emotional states that recovering alcoholics must grapple with. A study done on anxiety and alcoholism by ARCR (Alcohol Research Current Reviews) speaks on medicating AUD sufferers. It states (on anxiety medication):
“The efficacy of these drugs for anxiety treatment has been established firmly in well-controlled, randomized clinical trials. However, it is important to note that these studies typically exclude people with AUDs—a requisite standard practice to enhance the internal validity of efficacy studies.”
This is particularly important, as someone with a propensity for addiction is difficult to medicate seeing as there’s always a fear of a dependency forming. In which case, it’s important that the AUD sufferer trying to avoid alcohol recognizes when they’re feeling particularly emotional and seeks the help of their therapist(s), rehab clinic, support groups, or whoever they’ve leaned on throughout the process. By reinforcing the tools learned in dealing with these emotions, they’re able to avoid alcohol.
What If I’m Not an Alcoholic?
The same principle applies but in the case of someone trying to reduce their alcohol consumption, they must identify what happens when emotional turmoil ensues. Some questions to ask yourself:
- When you’re upset, stressed, or sad, is drinking usually the answer?
- When you’re emotionally volatile, do you find yourself craving alcohol?
- Do you use alcohol to cope with “hard” times?
- What type of emotions usually drive you to pour a drink or seek alcohol?
If you’re trying to avoid alcohol, yet use it to cope with difficult emotions, this can be a sign that you’re forming a dependency. This is a warning sign you must listen to, as this type of drinking can kickstart the cycle of addiction.
Routine begets habit and this can be negative if the habits formed are unhealthy. One of the reasons inpatient programs work well is because they remove the individual from their former environment, allowing them to break their routine. It’s important that a new routine is created. This can be as mundane as not taking a walk past the bars you used to frequent, to completely uprooting your everyday process. But your brain has been wired—through repetition—to associate your “old life” with drinking.
Likewise, if you’re someone that’s trying to avoid alcohol but don’t have AUD, old routines will tempt you to drink. That Taco Tuesday ritual needs to be replaced with something else. The Thursday night at the bar will be better served exercising. The after-work beer should be replaced with some tea, especially if that’s what usually occurs once you’re home.
What Steps Can I Take to Avoid Alcohol?
While we have encouraged you to learn and identify triggers, there are certain steps you can take to mitigate them from coming your way. The most important being:
Communication for the AUD sufferer doesn’t differ immensely from that of the person that just wants to drink less. One of the facets of recovery is facing your issues head-on, which often means communicating them to those you love most and those in your network. It’s important that anyone who wants to avoid alcohol:
- Speaks in an effective manner with their friends and family, explaining that they no longer want to be in situations where alcohol is involved
- Communicates with their coworkers, expressing the same sentiment and explaining that if alcohol is present, to not invite them as they will need to abstain
- Talks to their loved one or spouse, encouraging them to continue living their lives but, if alcohol is going to be around, to assist them in creating a divide
In this way, those closest to the person trying to avoid alcohol will help shield them from its influence. A simple “we should grab a beer” text can act as a trigger. If people are aware of the situation and that you’re trying to avoid alcohol, they will rally to support you. If they don’t, then refer to the “unhealthy relationships” trigger. Anyone that does not support someone’s choice to abstain from alcohol is a negative influence on their life.
Become the Change
If you’re someone that recently finished treatment, or if you’re someone that’s just looking to stop drinking, becoming the change you want to see can benefit anyone trying to abstain from alcohol. There’s a difference between informing people that you no longer want to be around alcohol and creating ways in which this can be done.
Try to become the change you want to see. What we mean is:
- Plan non-drinking activities: if you’re breaking away from past routines of old social circles, then plan activities with your friends and family that don’t involve drinking. Go on hikes, exercise, plan a picnic, bring them to an art gallery, or do whatever you enjoy that does not involve booze. If you’re proactive about planning these events, then those who are close to you will be more willing to join.
- Reshape the narrative: if avoiding alcohol is your main goal, then perhaps it’s time to reshape your own narrative. This means that alcohol is no longer going to be a part of your life, so you must recreate the definition of you. A study done on narrative therapy and alcoholism says: “the storytelling approach differs from conventional psychotherapy in that it involves the construction of subjective narratives rather than of logical arguments.”
In doing so, you allow breathing room for the latest version of yourself—room that will allow you to grow in different ways. It’s the difference between saying this is “who I am now,” and this is “who I am.” Think of the healthy, wholesome, and dynamic adventures that are going to open before you now that you no longer drink. The journey of recovery, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, can open up avenues you never knew existed.
If you’re struggling to avoid alcohol, or if you’re struggling with alcoholism, the tips above are going to be difficult to follow if you haven’t undergone treatment. Quitting alcohol “cold turkey” is never recommended as serious health complications can arise and there’s a higher chance of relapse.
In which case, to not only avoid alcohol but to create the foundation for sobriety in the future, reach out to Beach House Recovery to understand more on the ins and outs of their alcohol treatment. This can typically take the form of:
- Inpatient Alcohol Treatment: a treatment model in which the patient checks into a facility anywhere from 30-90 days and is released afterward
- Outpatient Treatment: a treatment model in which the patient manages their road to recovery at home, without sacrificing their everyday obligations, and checks into the clinic for 2-3 days (usually) a week
Both forms of treatment do recommend a medically supervised, in-house alcohol detox.
Additionally, our Florida rehab center offers a wellness program that takes holistic elements and blends them into traditional forms of addiction treatment to create a wholesome, enlightening, and peaceful experience.
Regardless of what you choose to do, be sure to find a rehab center that speaks to your values, provides comfort and is one that you believe in. How you perceive the support around you will dictate how willing you are to engage in your recovery. While this is not always spoken on, it’s an extremely important facet of choosing a rehab clinic.
How to Avoid Alcohol
The art of avoiding alcohol takes different forms depending on the reason for abstinence. Regardless, know that with a society that welcomes and accepts the substance, the process can prove challenging. That’s why creating clear goals, identifying triggers, and becoming the change you want to see is imperative.
With the tips and strategies we’ve spoken on above, we want to mention that you will encounter pushbacks. Alcohol is everywhere and if you’re struggling with it, people will not always be sympathetic to your cause. Work to focus on why not drinking—for you specifically—will benefit your life. Be tenacious with these reasons.
Through support systems provided by rehab clinics, strong willpower, and the network of beautiful people you’ll meet struggling with the same issue, avoiding alcohol is entirely possible. And if you’re someone that just wants to take a break, it’s a surefire way to learn a lot about yourself and the society you live in.
If you or someone you love has an alcohol abuse problem, please know that you are not alone. Call our clinic today to learn about our treatment program options.
- Can Fam Physician. D. Kaminsky, S. Rabinowitz. R. Kasan. Treating alcoholism through a narrative approach. Case study and rationale. Vol. 42. April, 1996.
- Alcohol Research Current Reviews. Joshua P. Smith, Carrie L. Randall. Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders. Comorbidity and Treatment Considerations.
- Korlakunta A, Chary RSS, Reddy CM P. Reasons for relapse in patients with alcohol dependence. AP J Psychol Med 2012; 13(2): 108-4
- Rudolf H. Moos. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission form alcohol use disorders. PMC 2007, Sep 11.