We were friends for many years, love the guy to death, you could say he was my best friend. We met in high school, we liked sports, especially football and it was the talking point between us every day. For some reason we enjoy experimenting with stuff, some things, many things, we thought it was innocent enough, so what if you experiment a bit, how could any of us know that one of us would need to know how to overcome alcoholism?
It became apparent to me that something was wrong but I could not put a finger on it, our conversations were not following a logical pattern, most times we were quiet, not saying much to each other, but I like the guy, there was something about him that was very genuine.
We both decided to go to College together, we were not even sure what we would major in but there we were registering for classes, Business Administration, that would be it. After a while he would be missing classes, I would go by his house and knock him up, he would say he was tired and needed to get some rest. We were working students at the time and so we had to balance work and school, it was tough.
It was happening too frequently and so I tried to open his door and it was not locked, there he was as drunk as a bat as they would say, I was shocked, my best friend was embarrassed as he tried to focus on me, you could see a number of thoughts flashing through his mind, so I said nothing, what was there to say?
I stayed with him for as long as I could, the beer bottles, the bottles of white rum were just steering me in the face, however I said nothing. He sobered up and we started talking, he was open with me as this was going on for a while, no one actually knew for sure, but folks suspected, he was very good and keeping secrets.
After a while he just disappeared, I was not sure where he was and I did not go after him, I said nothing to no one as I thought he was now going to get some help. The news came back to me that he had passed, one year after the day I last saw him, I was broken, I felt responsible, my best friend was gone and I did nothing to help him.
There are some things I have learned since and I will pass it on to you if you want to know how to overcome alcoholism.
Do not hide it, tell!
Tell your family and friends that you’re trying to stop drinking alcohol and explain why. This way, you can share your successes with them, and they’ll understand why you’ve started turning down drinks or trips to the pub.
Frequently reminding yourself and the people close to you why you want to stop drinking can help keep you on track, and may even encourage someone else to give up or cut down with you.
In the early stages, it’s a good idea to avoid situations where you may be tempted to drink. This could mean opting out of the weekly pub quiz for a while, or if you tend to drink when eating out, try going to restaurants that don’t sell alcohol or simply volunteering to drive. Similarly, try to identify the times when you would usually drink and fill the gap with something else. So if you would usually head to the pub after work on a Friday evening, you could organise to meet friends at the cinema, or if you’re giving up alcohol in pursuit of a new, healthier you, why not fill the gap with a weekly exercise class or a trip to the swimming pool to help you wind down?
Identifying your ‘triggers’ (times when you’re tempted to drink) is important, particularly if you’ve tried and struggled to stop drinking in the past. Try to identify why you were unsuccessful – did you still go to the pub most evenings? Did you explain your reasons for not drinking to your partner? Was alcohol still readily available at home?
Give up or gradually reduce your drinking?
If you want to stop drinking alcohol as part of a move towards a healthier lifestyle, cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink as opposed to giving up alcohol completely can help bring lots of health benefits, and can be easier to stick to. Reducing the amount you drink can also be an effective stepping stone to giving up alcohol completely in the future.
Cutting down doesn’t have to be complicated. If you drink every night, start by designating a couple of days a week as alcohol-free days. This can soon become habit, the personal challenge helping remove the temptation and perhaps encouraging you to add more alcohol-free days. Official alcohol unit guidance is that it is safest for both and women to not regularly drink more than 14 units a week and not to ‘save up’ your units but spread them our evenly over the week.
It’s important that you acknowledge the fact that making changes to your lifestyle can be difficult and that you reward yourself with something if you are making progress. It’s equally important not to be too hard on yourself if you slip up every once in a while. However knowing how to overcome alcoholism is the first step.
An easy way to keep track of how you’re doing and keep your motivation up is to give yourself short-term goals. Perhaps you could aim firstly for an alcohol-free week, then an alcohol-free month, for example.
If you tend to drink in front of the TV after work, try replacing that glass of wine with something else you enjoy, or treat yourself to some new clothes or a day out with the money you’re saving on alcohol. The cost of alcohol mounts up with surprising speed – you could try putting aside the money you would normally spend on alcohol at home or while out, and spend it on another treat at the end of the week or the month.
Enjoy the benefits
Whether you’re cutting alcohol out of your life completely or cutting down gradually, you may notice a number of improvements to the way you look and feel. Among other things, you might find you have more energy, that you’re sleeping better, or that you’ve lost a bit of weight. In the long term you will also be helping to reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related cancer, alcohol-related liver disease or alcohol-related heart disease and could lower your blood pressure.
Potential alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Going ‘cold turkey’ or suddenly drinking no alcohol at all can cause serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you were drinking heavily before.
Dr Sarah Jarvis of Drinkaware’s Medical Advisory Panel points out that “psychological symptoms are very common, and not just if you’re a really heavy drinker. You can have short-term problems even with relatively low levels of alcohol consumption if you’ve become used to drinking really regularly.” Psychological symptoms can include irritability, poor concentration, feeling shaky, feeling tired, difficulty sleeping or bad dreams.
Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms including trembling hands, sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations and lack of appetite are less common, but are often a sign that the sufferer was drinking at worrying levels. Severe physical side effects include convulsions, confusion, fever and even hallucinations. If you experience physical withdrawal symptoms of any kind, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
How to overcome Alcoholism
Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication that can help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and will be able to refer you to a specialist alcohol team for support. They can also offer counselling and psychological support, and can put you in touch with local support groups to help you stay on track.
Not being able to pay his school fee for a few semesters triggered the need to find something that made him forget, that was my friend, he said nothing. He found comfort in drinking, however it took his life and even now I can remember my friend, his laughter, the discussions of our hopes and dreams of a career and family.
If you are finding comfort in drinking, if it is taking over your life, then you are an alcoholic, start by saying it to someone.