My 5 Steps in Giving Up Drink

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.― Lao Tzu

What follows is my story and an account of how I stopped drinking alcohol drinking alcohol.

History of Heavy drinking

I used to drink a lot. I drank like a fish. For a long time it didn’t worry me at all because it was what everyone around me was doing and it was totally normal.

My friends and I would start the weekend on a Thursday night and party on through till Sunday. Monday’s were always spent recovering from one long major hangover. Usually we’d have a couple of beers Tuesday and Wednesday before starting over again Thursday. This was our way of life, this is what we did and it was great. I was after all in my twenties and this was what we do, right?

I knew there was a better way

But, deep down I didn’t like this dependence on drink. I didn’t like the fact that I always needed that drink to start me off. Drink made me more talkative and confident, all I had to do was have a beer and there it was in bucket loads. I didn’t have to try, it just came naturally – just add alcohol and I was away.

As I got older, the hangovers lasted longer and took more effort to get over. Also I’d easily make a fool of myself if I drank way too much too soon. I’d be so obviously drunk to everyone in the room except me. It was now, in my easily thirties that I knew I’d have to overcome my drinking habit, before drinking would either ruin me, cause me to lose my job or would hurt me.

About a year before I gave up, I drunk drove a couple of times and realised straight away that drinking was encouraging me to take on risks that were just too high. I knew I’d reached the high point and I’d have to somehow actually live a life without drinking. This wasn’t driving home after 2-3 beers because I’d missed a bus. This was walking home and thinking that going for a drive would be a good idea, after drinking strong beers all night.

Guilt and shame

Guilt you experience the following mornings after either driving or acting a fool is all consuming. You don’t want to open the curtains and face the world. Much easier to keep under the duvet and let the day pass you by, before leaving the house the next day a different person as if it never happened.

That is the other thing about guilt, denial isn’t far away. You feel so much guilt that the only way to get over it is to believe that all is OK, since nothing really bad happened. That is I didn’t crash the car ever, I didn’t hit anyone, I didn’t harm anyone, so everything is OK, no? Denial is quite a useful thing to have, but it’s only short term at the end of the day denial that you have a problem was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome in giving up drinking.

Represented a huge change in my life

I gave up in 2006, 10 years now without a drink or even a desire to drink or get drunk. My most proud achievement in life so far is successfully giving up alcohol. Overnight it made me a better person, forced me to believe in myself more and as a result made me happier and less stressed.

Writing this blog was like bringing my journal to life. When the comments started to come in I realised that I was not alone, what surprised me was how many people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe have so far commented and shared their stories. I set it up in January 2011 to tell the world how I did it. In writing it all down I realised I gave up drinking by working through five fairly simple steps. By passing through each of these steps I managed to come out the other end a better person, with more resources, confidence and above all happiness.

If you think you’re in a similar situation to where I was, then why not take a risk and have a go. You might find that you too can stop drinking and find a new and better life at the end.

Please ask questions

If you have a question please ask. Please leave your comment and share your story. I really want to hear from people around the world about their struggles and successes!

If you want to comment on this or my 5 steps then please do. All genuine comments are welcomed and published for others to see.

I know that I’ve got to continue working hard to keep the belief in me that stopping drinking alcohol was the right thing to do. Occasionally I need encouragement to do so, don’t be afraid of telling me so.

I’m pledging to myself that I’m going to stay alcohol free for the rest of my life.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out Amazon’s latest Best Sellers List of self-help books. It’s never too late to make a start on the next chapter of your life.

Don’t delay, start your journey and begin your first step, overcoming Denial – Step One.

88 thoughts on “My 5 Steps in Giving Up Drink”

  1. I am STILL “searching” your 5 STEPS….
    I have “read” your “story”… And totally understand “one day at a time”…
    BUT you based it on 5 steps…and I can’t seem to find THAT 😉

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  2. Hello I’m Dana here’s my story I ended up in a mental hospital in January I stayed for 8 days I came home on top of the world I had this covered so I thought but that lasted 3 wks and this past wk I fainted and hit my face in front of my daughter ambulance and police I was transported to the hospital 4 times the legal limit and I’m 5″2 and 120 pds I’m scared because I don’t know how to be happy without it. It’s been a couple days and I’m just trying to happy thoughts it doesn’t help I have depression and I’m on meds I don’t wanna go on and on but any advice will help thanks for listening…. Sign scared And afraid but tired of the hassle of chasing my next drink

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    1. Hi Dana, one of the big illusions about drinking alcohol is that most people believe that it brings them happiness, confidence etc. The actual fact is that the total opposite is true. Alcohol is a depressant, and is one of the main factors that causes depression in many people, and the sad fact is that these very same people use alcohol to try to alleviate that depression, which of course just makes the problem worse and continues the downward spiral.
      It may be difficult for you to believe just now, but quitting drinking alcohol, whilst it may not remove all the problems from your life, will certainly help to combat the depression, and give you a better, happier, and more confident outlook.
      It doesn’t take long after quitting drinking before you start to feel the benefits, physically and psychologically.
      As you are already using medication it may be better for you to seek medical help too to help you through the early stages. Get as much help and support as you can find, through online sources, friends and family, you may consider going to AA meetings too as these are the source of a wealth of help and support to so many people.

      Best wishes for the future.
      Steve.

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    2. HI Dana,
      Thanks for leaving your comment. Someone gave me advice right at the start, when I decided to quit, and that was to take a ‘day at a time’. That advice got me through the first days and weeks. I’ve used this when ever i feel i’m looking at a mountain that i’ve got to pass. Talk to your daughter and together work out how you can stop chasing that next drink. Keep in touch, James

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  3. Hi David, Like many people I found helpful advice, inspiration, and encouragement on these pages, and also James allowing me to post my own diary on here helped me enormously through the early stages. Even though when I quit this time I was absolutely determined that this time I would quit for good, I still had doubts and wobbly days, and I think where quitting alcohol is concerned there is no such thing as too much support.

    In my mind, and I am sure that this is the case for many who have made the same journey, giving helpful advice and encouragement to others trying to take the same steps is a way of paying it forward.

    Kind regards.
    Steve.

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  4. I think guilt and shame are two of the most difficult aspects of having a lonely alcohol problem. The impacts can be huge. In my clients I have seen anything from depression to severe self loathing which can trigger people just to drink more and hide in a haze of alcohol. However, I am continuously amazed at how so many brave people tackle the problem and then go on to help others. Keep up the good work. Kind regards, David Ferguson

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  5. I’m 57 recovering from my latest binge. Feel like hell. My back muscles and joints hurt so much. Yet another day calling in sick. Letting my daughter down who came to visit after promising I wouldn’t drink. This is an every other day binge cycle. Sick of feeling sick. Sick of the lies.

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    1. Hi Georgina,
      Many thanks for your comment. You sound at a low point. Have you thought about talking it through with your doctor, or joining a group in your area to get some support? In the very early days, when I gave up, i just focused on a day at a time. Tried not to think much beyond the next day, and built on that. Have you talked with your daughter, maybe you can talk through with her. Sometimes there are triggers, and becoming aware of what they are helps, so you can try to avoid them. Mine was coming home to a cold beer in the fridge.
      Feel free to write away on here, there’s loads of us who are or have been in your situation.
      James

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  6. Hey man I read your story and I’m in tears I am alcoholic and been so since I was 13 and now I’m 37 years old i know it’s not easy to quit but If you can do it I can also keep it up I’m happy for you it must be amazing in your life and that’s what I want is to be happy and successful for me and my kids I’m a day without drinking and im going to quit this habit today !!! My doctor precribe me librium for the withdrawals and today I started taking them it’s going to be a long road can you tell me how you did it man I will appreciate that …

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    1. Hi Jose, thanks for your comment! I tell u to take it a day at a time, focus on your family and why you want to give up drinking. Keep strong, especially in these early days. James

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  7. Hi,
    I have never left comments or shared my story before but reading everyone’s stories on your blog has encouraged me to reflect on my own experiences and why I need to act now & make a change in my life. I just turned 23 years old and began binge drinking 10 years ago at the beginning of high school. I have always been extremely shy and am diagnosed with clinical depression. It sounds cliché to say, but my first drink made me feel a way that was incomparable to any other feeling of happiness/confidence I had ever experienced. It filled the void of everything I didn’t feel sober…

    This comment now continues as a guest blog post – please continue reading here – The Social Butterfly…

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    1. MF,
      Thank you so much for your detailed comment. For someone who hasn’t really shared a story before, you made up for it here, so much so that i think it is worthy of turning into its own post. Let me know if you’re happy for this.

      I think for all of us there is a gradual awakening of our experiences and there comes a tipping point where most of us just want to make a 180 degree change and get onto a different path.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      James

      Like

  8. Hi everyone. Great to read all the posts. Im a 43 year old mum of 2 very happily married, job I love, great friends, why do we risk all this for poison?! I went to see a therapist and am nearly there in accepting I’ll never be able to moderate and that abstinence is my only choice. When I drink I drink until I’m plasteted, flirting outrageously, kissing strangers, colleagues, friends! I can’t control it either. So after last therapy session I said I’d try to give up, I lasted a day BUT it was Christmas and now after 2 further unhappy drinking experiences (at home) I’m ready. I gave up last year two lots of 19 weeks with 4 week hiccup in between. During each spell I’ve never felt so happy with life, oprimustic, motivated. I want that all the time. I had hypnotherapy after that but it didn’t last, I simply can’t moderate. I just hope this time I can keep it up. Sorry to ramble.

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    1. Hi Gail,you are so like me,my only choice is to just stop completely,I can’t drink like my family or friends as I just can’t stop and I will continue the next day too. I only stop when the hangover appears and I have to go to bed. I am so happy and loved in my life and will never understand why I have continued to do these binges. I have vowed never to touch it again. I finally told my partner I have a problem and I am stopping for good. I never admitted it to him before but I think he knew. I feel vey positive this time as I mean it from my very sole. I do hope you continue to do do well Gail,all the luck in the world to you xx

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      1. Hi Gail & Karen,
        Great that you’re both offering support to each other already, this is what you need and it really helps to generate that desire to really do it this time.

        Gail – use the experience you already have of getting to 19 weeks, that’s a great boost as you know you can do it. Plus you know that going back to binge drinking brings such unhappiness.

        Karen – Telling your partner is one of the best moves as you’re making a commitment out loud, and will spur you on in a big way.

        Good luck to you both. Post comments as you begin your journeys, swap notes, do what it takes to keep on it, a day at a time! :o))

        James

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  9. Thankyou for this blog,I really thought I was the only one. I am so disgusted with myself,when I start I can’t stop,I don’t know why I keep doing it. I have a wonderful partner who I love with all my life. Yesterday I made a vow NEVER to touch the poison called alcohol. Iam stirring here feeling sick and stomach pain after a binge. I can’t hurt the people I love anymore. Please keep posting so I can also read all the inspirational stories. Good luck everyone and god bless xxx

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    1. You’re welcome Karen – glad you found my blog as you’ll find with all the posts and comments so far, you’re not alone. Take it a day at a time, but always remember why it is you are giving up because that is what will help you succeed. Keep in touch and feel free to post comments as often as you like…, it does help.
      James

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  10. Love reading stories of sobriety. I am overwhelmed with guilt and shame bc of my drinking. I drink every other night now. I’m very functional even hungover but inside I am crumbling. I want to enjoy life like I used to and breath fresh air healthy and happy. Need support

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    1. Hi Amy,
      Take it a day at a time. We were all in the place you are in now at some point. It can be done, the stories and comments here are proof. Writing helped me and many others. Feel free to write comments here every day if it helps. James

      Like

  11. Hi James. Please don’t ever close this blog. Even reading older comments is sooooo inspirational!
    Well done and congratulations on giving up drinking ( you show it really can be done ) and starting this fantastic blog, best one I have come across, and really need it at the moment

    Like

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for your feedback…it’s comments like yours that make me want to keep the blog going. I’m just grateful that I can share my experience and help others, like you, draw inspiration.

      Do keep in touch and let us know how you get on!
      James

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  12. Hi. I’m 29 years old with an amazing husband. We met ten years ago and I quickly got into his live style of drinking strong beers every night. We’re both good people but we got caught up and both realize we have a problem. My shame is so consuming and have hidden my addiction from all my friends and family and have begged my husband to help me get sober, but without fail our attempts fail and when one of falls of the wagon the other is right behind them. My husband doesn’t want to go to treatment but I know now we can’t don’t alone. I’m so scared I’m going to die.

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    1. Hi Maddy, thanks for your comment, its great to hear your story. Firstly you are not alone, and writing this is perhaps the most important first step on a long, but very worthwhile one. I would really recommend reaching out to people in your community that might be able to help, perhaps your doctor or priest would be a good, neutral starting point. For me when i realised i wanted to give up, i was anxious sbout being seen going to an AA meeting thinking id be stigmatised but i think differently now. But an AA meeting could be something you go to later. But you’ve at least identified the problem, denial is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. You can do it though. I hope you write back and tell us how you get on.
      Regards, james

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  13. I am an atypical binge drinker with the episodes getting more severe as I get older. I am in a cycle where I give up for max a month and then return to drinking in a more controlled manner However over time I end up falling back into a pattern of severe binging once a week. My Mum is an alcoholic and I am estranged from her so I can’t believe I let so much of my life become consumed by alcohol and recovering from binging. I need to make this the last time or I stand to lose so much. How can I make this time different?

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    1. Great question Jemima.

      To be frank though, you have to want to give up.

      For me, i focused on a day at a time and kept repeating to myself how i had to find a life without booze and binge drinking – and how this life would be better.

      It seems as though you’re nearly there Jemima, so do stick with it.

      Write up comments here daily on how you are getting on, i’m happy to give encouraging support and there are others here who I am sure will also contribute!

      It’s nearly 10 years now, and i don’t regret giving up for a second. :o)

      Like

      1. Thank so much for the encouragement. It’s so easy for me to get lulled into a false sense of security after a period of abstinence. Also I regularly get people normalising my behaviour or laughing it off….oh I’ve done that….yeh I drink to get drunk too! However I ended up in a&e on Friday after blacking out and being sick in a toilet cubicle in a bar. I was unresponsive for half an hour apparently. I also had an accident about 10 years ago which involved falling from the top to the bottom of the stairs. I could have died…. I have such a happy life and so much to lose its terrifying me. I will keep posting. I really really appreciate the advice on this blog and the support.

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        1. You’re welcome Jemima, write away…I found it all helped including setting up this blog. It’s great to see how much inspiration it gives people all over the world :o)

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  14. Hi everyone, hi James,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I it seems to me as your feelings and thoughts came right out of my head as i just recovered from a real bloody hangover and I don’t want this anymore. Your thoughts have really inspired me and I want to achieve what you’ve already achieved. I don’t like myself when I’m drunk, and I think my friends don’t like me drunk, too. It’s the best decision for everyone. ^^

    But I don’t think that I am going to start Salsa dancing, I have to find something different. 😀

    Regards from Germany!

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    1. I’m glad you found it Patrick and that you left your comment! It’s great to hear from a like mind. I think it’s natural to reach a point in life when drinking no longer fits in. I’m in my 10th year now and it remains the best decision i ever made.

      Keep in touch and good luck!

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  15. After years, Im finally gaining control. What a delight to awaken with no hangover, and to reflect on the money and brain cells Im saving. The “toxic” in” intoxication” really describes the poison we all used to crave to excess. Sobriety ( and what goes with it…the self respect, the respectfulness of others, control, and proper judgement) is a wonderful gift we give ourselves and those around us. I see now why it is a black or white concept of consumption. Millions can drink on occasion and in moderation; I cannot. But with sobriety, I lose nothing and gain everything.

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  16. James, Thank you for this blog, I am day one of stopping drinking and smoking, after 21 years of doing so. I am very excited that i have made the decision, but am aware of whats in front of me and have already had that voice in my head trying to tell me i’m doing the wrong thing. From day one i have drunk for social confidence and this after 21 years, is still my main concern ‘How can I go to a social function and not drink’ this is the main question playing on my mind. My whole social life has always revolved around alcohol. At school i was shy and unconfident after finding alcohol in year 11 aged 18 this all changed. But now aged 39 i have had enough and it is time to be more present for my wife and three beautiful girls. I don’t drink daily but once a week or fortnight when i have that first sip I instantly have a great feeling and find it very hard to stop several drinks latter. The past few years I have been drinking alone a lot more. I plan on keeping a diary of my journey and hope to become super fit and the best possible Dad i can. Good luck to all others. Regards, Andrew

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  17. I recently just made the promise to myself to never drink again. I was never the one who needed a drink everyday. However, when I did drink I would binge drink. Causing short black outs in my memory, and always a next morning of embarrassment. Just could not understand why I never just stopped after a few drinks. I would feel so care free when I drank and felt so confident and happy that I just wanted more. But then that more would have to end at the end of the night and I would become sad and depressed. Even angry. Causing me to make unsafe choices. LIke not staying with my group of friends in New York City and just walking off by myself because my husband and I were fighting. He tried so hard to get me on the train back home. But all I could feel was sadness that he couldn’t understand me. This caused us to miss our train home. maxed credit cards to get a hotel room. We were both stranded without a phone because both phones died. All while his parents were taking care of our 8 month old baby. The next morning brought guilt and embarrassment. And confusion because I couldn’t understand why I just simply didn’t get on the train. It was a wake up call. If I don’t make a permanent change now and I continue to drink who knows how much worse next time could be? So here I am still wishing I could control my drinking. But I know for me that is not an option. I don’t know who said this but I say it too myself every day. ” one is too many and 1000 will never be enough. ” Life is full of happiness I just have to find it without alcohol. Because I don’t ever want to feel the type of regret I felt that next morning. And I don’t want to get hurt because I just simply couldn’t give up social drinking. It’s not worth it. My life and self respect is so much more. I’m glad there are blogs like this one bc feeling like I’m not alone helps. So thank you all and my prayer will be with all of you on your continued alcohol free success. God bless and in good health…
    kathy

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      1. Hi there

        I really relate to your story. I myself have always had a binge drinking problem. In my 20’s in was never a problem i just thought thats what you did but now I’m 38. I try to tell myself it’s fine i don’t drink everyday gosh i’ve even cut down to just going out and drinking once a month but the sad truth is it takes me that long to get over the guilt and depression. I am married to a wonderful man who doesnt drink and have a beautiful baby boy ….i sometimes just wish i was pregnant again because for that whole time not once did I feel bad about myself because I wasnt drinking. But now with finally becoming a mother which had always been my dream my guilt is even worse the next day after going out drinking. Once I start I dont want to stop …it’s like this is the only chance I have to drink so thats it all or nothing….I’m scared of who the person I am when I’m drinking all of a sudden I’m 20 again flirting like I’m a single lady and I’m scared if I don’t stop I might cross that line and mess up my life and my poor baby boy the next day has a hungover mum who just wants to hide from the world if it wasnt for my husband being the caring understanding man he is I dont know what I would do . I have everything I have ever wanted so why do I feel the need to go out there…it’s like I am trying to prove something to myself. I scared if I am to stop drinking all of a sudden my friends will disappear and I wont be me but I’m not me when I’m drinking, I’m a version of myself that I am starting to hate and feel I am not a good person, friend, wife and mother. I know I just need to stop completely and we have got a drinking history in my family so I know what the effects are…it’s all I have ever known ….I have rung up the alcohol help line before, been to counseling have even thought about going to church but then I brush it aside thinking it’s not as bad as I make it out to be. I know what I need to do it’s just doing it so thank you for your stories it does make me feel I am not alone and it can be done.

        Like

        1. You’re not alone Jane, and thanks so much for your comment.

          You’ll find so many people have written similar things here on these pages. A lot of us seem to struggle with moving away from young adulthood and into parenthood yet still wanting to party like a teenager!

          I found guilt stopping me from making my decision for many years, till i realised that the real friends i had would follow me, support me, no matter what. I had to do what was right for me. As soon as i made this decision, everything slotted into place and i didn’t look back.

          I’ve got a young family now, so I know how you feel, but if you asked me, i wouldn’t let anything get between me and my kids. Life is different now, more rewarding.

          It’s been a few weeks since you posted your comment, and apologies for taking so long to reply. But we’d love to hear back from you and hear where you’re at now.

          All the best, James

          Like

  18. Thanks for all the testimonies. I am 12 hours out of alcohol. Yes, 12 hours. I woke about 3 am- as I usually do after drinking, feeling guilty, anxious, etc. I could not go back to sleep- which has been my normal pattern of late. God spoke clearly to me at 3 am ‘you’re an alcoholic’. I was drinking 2-3.5 liters of wine DAILY. I can’t tell you the last day I didn’t drink. I have been in denial for years. I have a loving girlfriend who has and will stand by me; so grateful I didn’t lose her.

    I know I drink to escape pain (have seen a 60% reduction in income from my business and buried my 30 year old son in the past 2.5 years). As God’s timing usually is, today was a wonderful time to finally reveal my denial and give me the grace to see my addiction. Today, I see my counselor at noon. Tomorrow I will be at an AA meeting at noon and next Tuesday I will be at my family doctor for an annual check up- good timing for help from various sources to begin what I hope and pray will be the first steps to never drinking again. I, too, can not have ‘just one’ drink.

    Praying people welcome- that I may surrender my will (drinking) to my God and savior Jesus Christ. I believe this will be the first day of the rest of my life- alcohol free. May God have mercy and bless each of as we endeavor to walk free of alcohol. Hal

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  19. Hi James & all,
    I just stumbled by this blog while trying to read about the benefits of giving up alcohol, and I can sympathise with every one of you.
    I have not had a drink for one week short of 6 months now, and not intending to have another one ever.
    I just wanted to say to Chris Topper that I felt exactly the same about the “fun” aspect of life, I thought life without alcohol would be rubbish. The first few months I avoided pubs and social events like the plague, however I am finally feeling that life is good and I even look forward to going out for meals etc. without having to get hammered, so please do try it and stick it out for a while – because the feeling of going out in the evening, being able to drive home, remembering conversations, and all this with no hangover is amazing,,, almost like having a new life (or your old one back!) and believe me if I can feel this, anyone can :-).. Oh, and Liz – I know how you feel, I have made an arse of myself at every Christmas for the last 25 years except the one just gone, where I managed to cook a cracking Christmas Dinner ! Good to have a partner that stands by you.
    Good luck everyone, Nikki x

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    1. Hi Nikki,
      Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment and words of encouragement. 6 months is a great achievement, don’t you find that it just gets better and better?! Write back and let us know how you get on. James

      Like

  20. So glad you wrote this blog.

    My drinking started to become heavier over the past few years, started suffering black outs and hangovers from hell. I made a total arse of myself at Christmas and I’m determined never to touch a drop again. I’ve never felt so low or embarrassed in all my life. I was a binge drinker, couldn’t have just 1. I almost threw away my relationship. Luckily I have an amazing partner.

    It’s nice to feel I’m not alone. Take care everyone

    Liz x

    Like

    1. Hi Liz, Many thanks for writing your comment and glad you found it to be useful! You’re not alone – there are so many of us wanting a life without beer or drink in it!

      Let us know how you get on.
      James

      Like

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