Dealing with Setbacks when Quitting the Drink

Somewhere along your alcohol-free journey you might face a setback – you've had a drink and aren’t sure what to do next. The main thing to do is work out why you had the drink. The next thing to do is to learn from what happened and try again!

Dealing with setbacks when quitting the drink
Dealing with setbacks when quitting the drink

Two common setback styles:

1) Constant resets

If you started your alcohol-free journey but have found yourself pressing the ‘reset’ button several times over a short period of time, even if you always swear you’ll add on extra days at the end, you need to figure out what’s going on.

There will always be circumstances, events, problems and joys that we’d like to experience with a drink in our hands, nothing wrong with that. But what about your goals for cutting back on your drinking? Why do you want to give the booze a rest? If you keep hitting reset, you’ll never get there. Work out if your motivation is strong enough; if it’s not, maybe you’re not totally ready for a 'dry spell'. Why not take on another challenge next month instead, but this time really keep your motivation in mind and go for it.

2) Emotional drowning

Sometimes life kicks you in the teeth and you respond by drowning your sorrows. This is the most common reason why people have a drink when they’re committed to not doing so. It doesn’t even need to be a big problem, just something that knocks you off balance emotionally. Then comes the overwhelming desire to scribble out the unpleasantness for a while and deal with the emotions later.

You know that having a drink will make you feel worse in the long run, but that’s also part of its appeal – next to drowning comes wallowing. As booze can make the highs higher and the lows lower, if we go into the glass feeling glum, we’re not going to come out smiling.

Source of information: Alcohol Change UK.

Nine practical tips

  1. Get right back on track. Stop drinking - the sooner the better.

  2. Remember, each day is a new day to start over. Although it can be unsettling to slip, you don't have to continue drinking. You are responsible for your choices.

  3. Understand that setbacks are common when people undertake a major change. It's your progress in the long run that counts.

  4. Don't run yourself down. It doesn't help. Don't let feelings of discouragement, anger, or guilt stop you from asking for help and getting back on track.

  5. Get some help. Contact your counsellor, support group or a sober and supportive friend right away to talk about what happened.

  6. Think it through. With a little distance, work on your own or with support to better understand why the episode happened at that particular time and place.

  7. Learn from what happened. Decide what you need to do so that it won't happen again, and write it down. Use the experience to strengthen your commitment.

  8. Avoid triggers to drink. Get rid of any alcohol at home. If possible, avoid revisiting the situation in which you drank.

  9. Find alternatives. Keep busy with things that are not associated with drinking.

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