A reader recently asked me if its possible to quit drinking on your own?
The answer is yes and no, depending on your definition of “on your own”. If by quitting on your own, you mean:
- Detoxing with no medical supervision
- Avoiding alcohol without making a public commitment to quit
- Avoiding social contact
Then your chances of success are probably close to zero. On the other hand, if you:
- Detox under proper medical supervision
- Avoid dependency on others for your sobriety, but publicly declare your commitment to quit
- Maintain and seek out healthy relationships
Then overcoming alcoholism on your own is certainly possible, though its not without its challenges.
The Challenge Of Quitting Drinking On Your Own
The desire to overcome alcoholism without assistance is a pretty common one. An alcoholic’s behavior often causes pain for those around them. Many alcoholics also turn to alcohol in part to mask some emotional pain inflicted by another person(s). Whether it’s due to guilt, shame, or stubbornness – its not surprising that a certain percentage of individuals want to quit without relying on others.
However, one of the biggest problems with the idea of quitting drinking on your own, is that the inability to control one’s addiction is the very reason people spiral into chronic alcoholism in the first place. Addiction is a disease of the mind – treating that disease with the very same diseased mind is a tricky thing. The chronic alcoholic is in a constant losing battle against their own efforts to control their drinking.
Distinguishing Between Support & Dependency
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t stop drinking on your own without relying on social support. In fact, too much dependency on recovery groups or peers can be a crutch that inhibits true recovery. But you need to understand that you won’t overcome the cycle of addiction by simply willing yourself to quit – you have to take the massive action needed to rebuild your life from the ground up.
You don’t necessarily have to pour your darkest secrets out to a bunch of strangers and constantly depend on a social pressure to keep you on track. At the same time, you’ll benefit from connecting with others in recovery, without relying on them to maintain your sobriety. And you’ll certainly need the understanding and support of those around you.
A Plan For Overcoming Alcoholism On Your Own
Declaring Your Intention To Quit Publicly
While you can certainly get sober without pouring your soul out to a room full of strangers, you can’t quit secretly. Sorry, if you’re a true alcoholic, it’s just not going to happen.
Making the decision to quit in your mind, while keeping it secret from those around you is a recipe for failure. The world is full of alcohol – at dinner parties, cocktail parties, restaurants, birthdays, weddings, wakes, weekends – unless others know that you’re quitting, those around you will continuously offer you opportunities to drink – and you’ll take them.
For you to succeed, those around you need to know that offering you a drink is a bad idea.
While the severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary from case to case, it’s generally a good idea to detox at a rehab facility. You can certainly detox on your own, but it can be dangerous. Depending on your level of addiction, seizures and even death are a real possibility. If you tend to shake or tremble when you stop drinking suddenly, then you should definitely undergo detox under proper medical supervision.
The detox process itself isn’t that long, it usually only takes around 3-5 days, and you can continue the rest of your recovery on your own terms once your body has overcome alcohol withdrawal. If you experience serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, don’t risk your health and life insisting on detoxing on your on..
Once you detox, you’ll need to establish baseline sobriety.
If you’re quitting alcohol, you can’t do it by moderating your alcohol intake. You either abstain completely, or count the days until you fall off the wagon. Abstaining from alcohol is especially important if you’re quitting on your own – without complete abstinence, what’s going to stop you from rationalizing that 4th or 5th drink once you’ve had 1-2?
To ensure that you maintain abstinence, you’ll need to take action during your new found period of sobriety. This is the process of learning to live without drinking, something that has been a part of your life for years. Here are some steps you need to take to maintain complete sobriety:
- Never keep any alcohol in your house
- Avoid your old hangouts where you used to drink
- Avoid friends or acquaintances you used to drink with
- Be productive – this might mean applying for jobs, picking up more hours at your current job. Use your newfound sobriety to be as productive, reliable, and dependable as possible
- Establish healthy distractions – where you used to drink, fill the time with healthy habits. Go to the gym, go for a jog, go to a yoga class, or take up an outdoor hobby.
- Give back to society - this might mean volunteering at a homeless shelter or better yet, helping others in recovery. Connecting with others in recovery doesn’t mean you aren’t quitting on your own, as long as you don’t rely exclusively on peer support for your sobriety.
- Forgive yourself, forgive others, and move on – yes, this is straight from the 12 step program. However, it is absolutely critical. If you harbor resentment for yourself or others, this resentment will poison your long-term recovery. Learn to make peace with those who wronged you, and make amends to those you wronged during your struggle with addiction.
Admit If You Fail
We’re all human, and we often fail. Overcoming alcoholism is not easy, and a single failure doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be an alcoholic for eternity. Figure out why you fell off the wagon, and take massive action to ensure that your second attempt doesn’t meet the same failure.
However, if you fail to stop drinking on your own multiple times, it may be time to seek outside support. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the same cycle over and over again.
Transition To Long Term Recovery
By following the suggestions given above for establishing abstinence, you’ll slowly but surely build a new life for yourself without alcohol.
In the early stages of recovery, your daily goal is simply to avoid drinking. Every day you spend sober is a victory. For the first few months, this is enough.
But as the months go by, you need a way to avoid complacency. Whether it takes 3 months or 3 years, at some point you’ll simply become used to not drinking. Your days will no longer be driven by the single-minded goal of avoiding alcohol. Your energy and efforts will be focused elsewhere as you start to take your sobriety for granted.
At this stage in your recovery, you’ll need something more to drive yourself forward and keep from relapsing months, years, even decades on. You’ll need to continuously seek out holistic growth. For some, this might come in the form of building a relationship with God or a higher power. For some, it might mean dedicating your life to helping the less fortunate. For others, its about personal growth in all facets of life – mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, and social.
Long term recovery is about more than simply avoiding alcohol. It’s about building your self-esteem by setting goals and achieving them. It’s about building strong, healthy relationships with people that make you happy. It’s about keeping your body healthy and mind sharp. Your mindset going forward should always be one of striving for self-improvement.
Push yourself to grow in all facets of your life, and work like crazy to make your goals a reality. Only by taking massive action and building positive momentum will you manage to recover from alcoholism on your own.