For many people, quitting drinking revolves around hitting the proverbial “rock bottom” and seeking recovery through peer-support groups or in-person treatment centers. At least that’s how many used to think about recovery from alcohol use disorder. But these days, you don’t have to lose it all or label yourself an “alcoholic” in order to re-evaluate whether your relationship with alcohol is having a positive impact on your life.
With the recent popularization of 30-day challenges like Dry January and Sober October, people are beginning to recognize that there can be benefits to cutting out alcohol for a period of time. But if you’re new to sober curiosity, you may not know where to begin thinking about your relationship with alcohol.
It doesn’t need to be a scary or intimidating process.
Just as you might think to yourself, maybe I should get more sleep this week, you can think, maybe I should check in with myself about my alcohol consumption.
Here’s how to start.
First, ask yourself: Is alcohol still serving me?
You might not think about alcohol as a glaring problem in your life, but it’s still a great idea to assess your relationship with alcohol from time to time.
Ask yourself, is alcohol interfering with the way you want to live or the things you want to do? It can be helpful to think about the effects of alcohol on the four major quadrants of your life.
These include your:
work and daily routines
In order to determine if alcohol is having a negative impact on your health, relationships, work, school, or mental health, think about what happens during and the day after drinking:
Are you getting into more arguments with friends and family when drinking?
Is your hangover keeping you from enjoying a sunny day outside?
Is how much you drank the night before impacting your productivity at work or at school?
Some signs that alcohol is having a negative impact on your life could include relationship turmoil, prolonged withdrawal, feeling out of control, drinking more in order to feel the same effects, and legal involvement related to alcohol use.
Consider what benefits alcohol provides to your life.
It’s OK — and, in fact, very normal — if you’re feeling ambivalent about changing your relationship with alcohol, says an expert.
“There are multiple ways to manage alcohol use in social settings to include learning and implementing harm reduction strategies, moderation management, and using refusal skills. It’s important to remember that you have the power to choose.”
If you look at the impact alcohol is having on your life and decide that there are still some benefits even among the consequences, that’s an important step in recognizing how your relationship with alcohol is working overall.
It’s important to acknowledge that there may still be some benefits to drinking alcohol, even if it’s not serving you overall.
It’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of continuing with drinking, since ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether you want to try abstaining or cutting back.
If you do decide to change your relationship with alcohol, it is suggested being realistic about what you might have to give up to make this change, at least in the beginning.
If you can’t imagine socializing without a drink in your hand, just know that you’re not the only one to feel this way. But it does get easier with time.
It will take time to adjust to a new normal but implementing mindfulness (such as deep breathing) when in a social setting helps you to focus on being fully present to the people you are talking to.
Starting with an event where you’re most comfortable and even relying on an alcohol-free beverage to ease the transition.
Think about the common risks of drinking alcohol
If you’re considering your relationship with alcohol, it’s important to educate yourself on the common risks of drinking.
Common risks of drinking alcohol include:
acting out of character
disregard for personal safety and the safety of others.
Trusted source reports that heavy alcohol use can increase your risk of:
high blood pressure
Not only can alcohol consumption be bad for your health but it can be particularly harmful for people with depression, suicidal ideation, or anxiety as coming down from alcohol may increase these symptoms,” say experts.