Why can’t you quit alcohol, even though you want to?
I always assumed it’s because alcohol is so incredibly addictive and in many ways that’s absolutely right. Alcohol is indeed one of the most addictive substances available. But it’s not that simple.
‘Because I’m Addicted’ Is Waaaaay Too Simplistic
Addiction is a mega huge word that describes a plethora of self sabotaging behaviours and thoughts. We can’t just shout ‘ADDICTION!’ at alcohol and hope to win the battle. Yes, many people are dependent on alcohol and cannot stop drinking without physical withdrawal. If you are one of those people (my Dad was but I was not) then you must seek medical advice before quitting alcohol.
BUT, overcoming physical dependency on alcohol will still leave you emotionally addicted / dependent / attached. I know so many people who have gone through detoxes in hospital and through treatment programmes only to ‘pick up’ again months later.
I know MANY more who have never been physically addicted to alcohol and yet cannot stop their nightly habit. Addicted or no, if you don’t tackle the way you think about alcohol then the behaviour – drinking alcohol – simply will not change. So…
What Stops You From Quitting Alcohol For Good?
When I trained as an inner-child therapist I learnt a question that could get to the bottom of even the most tangled thought processes.
What stops you?
Those three words can unlock fears and mistaken beliefs so effectively that I still use them on myself when I’m behaving in ways that don’t serve me (being a bit of a twat and repeating self sabotaging behaviour I know is making me feel worse).
So, I ask you this question now. What stops you? Why can’t you quit alcohol, even though you want to? What has stopped you up until this point?
Maybe you have decided that you want to quit alcohol because you have accepted that it’s no good. You understand the damage it’s doing to you and you want to improve your health, mental wellbeing and self-esteem and yet you’re still drinking.
Or maybe you have quit alcohol but secretly you’re wondering how long you can keep it up. This is sometimes referred to as being a ‘dry drunk’ – You’re not actually drinking but it’s only the physical tie you’ve broken, and your head is still at the bar.
Crowd Sourcing From The Internet’s Finest – Ex Drinkers
So, why haven’t you said a triumphant and final ‘fuck-you’ to booze yet? I crowd sourced this question in the same way that I reached out to people to get The Alcohol Spell Criteria together. Just like that question, this one generated a tonne of answers, all of them really on point. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ex-drinkers are the best!
10 Reasons People Can’t Quit Alcohol Even Though They Want To
Each reason will be linked as they are posted so you can navigate to the ones that ring bells for you.
- Fear Of Missing Out
- Fear of no more alcohol treats and rewards
- Fear of not sleeping as well without a drink
- Fear of being judged for being an alcoholic
- Fear of losing your drinking identity
- Fear of losing your victim identity
- Fear of facing your feelings without alcohol
- Fear of parenting without alcohol
- Peer pressure and socialising without alcohol
- Ignorance of the risks
We’ll look at each one of these in detail and expose the reality versus the ideal of alcohol. As you know, with alcohol, nothing is ever as it seems!
Spot the common theme! You can crack on with the list above or stay here and just dig a little deeper into an understanding of what runs our thoughts….
Our Beliefs Run Our Thoughts And Our Thoughts Run Our Behaviour
So, the answer to the question – What stops you from quitting alcohol even though you would like to? – can nearly always be reduced down to a limiting or mistaken belief.
I drink 2 bottles of wine every night even though I want to stop – behaviour
I don’t stop because I think I’ll fail at quitting – thought
I am a failure – mistaken belief
Some Common Mistaken Beliefs
- I’m not good enough
- I have no control
- I’m useless
- I’m cursed
- I can’t be fixed
- It won’t work for me
- I’ll fail
- I’m worthless
- I don’t deserve happiness
One or more of the above statements might resonate with you. You don’t need to have experienced childhood trauma to believe, for example, that you’re not good enough. It’s a very common belief and it will negatively influence some of your thoughts and behaviours.
We Can Thank Our Parents And Carers For Most Of Our Beliefs – Good And Bad
Mistaken beliefs develop throughout childhood. We inherit them from parents, carers and other adults from our early lives, who in turn inherited theirs and so on. Hopefully most of us have enough positive, helpful beliefs to balance out the negatives but when mistaken beliefs create issues like keeping us trapped in addictive behaviour it’s time to fix them.
If you can identify limiting and mistaken beliefs then you can begin to move forward and make meaningful changes. But they are tricky little buggers to find!
It’s much easier to reach your beliefs with the help of a trained therapist and I strongly advise you to seek a counsellor or therapist if you are in a dark place with addiction. Beliefs are often so deeply hidden away in the recesses of our unconscious minds that it can be hard to find them, let alone change them.
This is why we’re going in via the front door: behaviour and then thoughts.