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1. Overcome Denial – Admit you Have a Problem

Refusal to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness, used as a defence mechanism. ― Oxford Dictionary.

I lost count of the times I emptied my fridge of beer and wine, then poured it down the sink, but I did it all too often despite telling myself I’d stop.

Truth is, I knew I should probably give up drinking after the second or third blow-out when I was just 18-19 years old. But I didn’t.

On one particular occasion at the end of year college ball, which we’d all been looking forward to going to, I found myself wandering home completely drunk having binged on the aperitifs trying to calm my nerves and instead I lost the plot completely and didn’t manage to stay much past 8pm. I missed a spectacular night.

Why then, did it take me nearly another 15 years to finally admit to myself and recognise that I had a problem? That I should simply quit drinking, knowing that it just isn’t right for me and move on?

My conscience and awareness of what was right and wrong knew that drinking was bringing the absolute worst out of me. When I drank I was aware that everything I stood for went out the window. My behaviour was in complete disharmony and I didn’t like that, not at all.

Reasons to drink

Everyone coming here will have their own reasons for drinking. These though, were mine:

  • It’s sociable, I went out and met friends, like everyone
  • It’s relaxing, everyone unwinds with a drink, don’t they?
  • It’s enjoyable, especially out with friends
  • I fit in more, become a better person, (so I think)

It was also down to me being completely in denial. I didn’t have a drink problem, not if I took it easy, or ate a full meal before going out. I wasn’t opening bottles in the morning just to get out of bed. I could take it or leave it, so long as you didn’t ask me to not drink on a Friday or Saturday night!

Denial took years to accept

I was firmly in denial, I couldn’t accept the thought of living but not being able to drink with friends again, ever. I knew I had difficulties with drink, and that I couldn’t drink like my friends could. I’d recognised that fact at least.

Learn from the past

Every time I drank, a little voice kept telling me that I was proving to myself that I couldn’t, till finally my ‘Big Bang’ came and I got so drunk, so quickly and so nearly ruined a new good job (drinking at the Christmas Party), that I found myself at cross roads. That was it, I could not drink again. I had to surrender to it. I was never going to be able to drink normally, so I had to give it up. This was now the only option I faced.

Reasons to stop drinking

I sat down and wrote the following reasons why I should stop now and never drink again:

  • The hangovers would stop. I’d have more time on the weekends.
  • I could wake and face the world without shame – I would no longer make a fool of me.
  • With that, I’d have much greater self-esteem.
  • My health would be bound to suffer if I continued.
  • If I drunk drove again I could end up hurting someone, or get myself killed, or the ultimate shame – have to go to prison
  • I really, really wanted to become a better person
  • Lastly, I wanted a family

Right away I could see that there were many more reasons to stop than to continue. The reasons for continuing were shallow and short-term. The reasons for stopping finally pulled me round, and I stopped drinking.

Get rid of temptations

Since that morning after my last blow-out I’ve not touched a drop. I’ve not wanted to, nor have I regretted giving up. I poured everything I had in the house away, down the sink. I vowed as I watch it disappear that this really was the last time.

I am a better person now and I have a family and most of all I have my self-respect and self-esteem that gives me inner happiness on a scale I never imagined existed.

This is the first step

Surrendering to denial was the first step on this process for me. You really can’t get much further if you believe you haven’t got a problem, that is somehow a problem with everything around you. They’re just excuses that you  must get passed in order to continue.

Finally accepting that I wasn’t drinking nor behaving like most normal people do when they drink was for sure the hardest step for me. Once I admitted it I began to really start to believe that I could do this and I was willing to accept that sobriety was the only way forward for me.

That was in December 2006, it was as true then as it is today.

Read more now on the next step, Getting Support – Step Two.

Quick jump to the other steps:

  1. Overcome Denial
  2. Getting Support
  3. Rewarding Yourself
  4. Change Your Life
  5. Reap The Benefits

Comments

  1. Hi, congratulations on being sober for so long. I would love to give up drinking for all of the reasons you have listed, and like it for all the reasons you have listed. Your blog and steps are just what I have been looking for. Wish me luck!

    • I’m wishing you all the luck in the world. It’s a hard thing to do, but do worth doing. Imagine the view from a mountain top, it’s breath taking, just like giving up drinking!

      Good luck and keep in touch, would love to hear how u are getting on.

      JB

      • Hi my name is Dawn,
        I have been a binge drinker for 20 years, I usually black out at least once a week. I know I drink to ease my anxiety, loneliness, and boredom and to make up for areas in my life where I have failed.
        My husband is a heavy drinker also which does not help the situation whatsoever… when I am strong he is weak and vice versa, when we do drink together its pretty much the only time we can actually sit and talk.
        I need to give up as I have reached 40 years old, I am concerned about my health and I have pretty much alienated myself from people, I want to be around for my grand children and be a positive influence and to get rid of all the negativity in my life.
        Thank you for your blog I have found it inspiring.
        Regards 🙂

        • Good luck Dawn, you’ll find the negativity really drops away when u give up drinking. It’s such a better life now.

          Glad u find the blog inspiring!
          James

  2. Hello. I am 29. I am married, own a house and have a 2 year old. I will also be trying for my second child this summer. I enjoy drinking beer with my friends and find that I will have a few every night. Back when I was college i would drink so much and black out at least once a month. i am finding that as soon as i drink hard alcohol or wine it tend to drink fast and too much. If i stick to beer i am usually fine. This past weekend i feel i have made a fool out of myself in front of family and friends. It is not the first time this has happened, but i want it to be the last. My wife and i have fought before and most of it stems from my drinking. She does not drink much or any. I feel i would be a better father and a much better husband.
    I feel so ashamed to say I have stopped drinking because I guess it will admit that I do in fact have a problem. Is this normal? I want to go to an AA meeting of something but don’t want to tell my wife where I am going. How would I explain?
    Also, both of my parents are alcoholics. I grew up with my Dad and he drinks every night. He can control himself better than me, but I have seen him pretty wasted at times. My mom is the same way, except she is in denial about it. She also has had issues with drug abuse and that was why I was unable to see her while I was young.
    Let me know how you quit as I need some advice.

    • Hi Greg,
      Thanks for posting your comment on my blog. I think you need to find someone you trust to talk to and be open about the problems. It sounds like you want to give up drinking and see that it will make you a better husband and this is really great to read. But I’m not really in a position to advise you, can you talk to your doctor or try to find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in your area, where you’d be able to get access to more help.

      I quit binge drinking by just realizing like you, that I’d got to a point where drinking was making me feel ashamed. I decided if I didn’t quit, I’d end up dead from an accident or something. So i tried many times to stop, and eventually I did.

      Go find some local help, but come back to tell me how you got on.
      i hope you can overcome these issues and help your wife and child have a stable family life together.

      JB

  3. I have been wanting desperately to quit drinking for about six years now. I used to make excuses for my fairly occasional binge drinking. I was still productive, fit, thin, didn’t seem to be suffering any healthbissues due to the etoh.
    However, my life changed drastically (good changes, but changes nonetheless…which has been difficult for me) and at 43 I now have a wonderful husband, a Darling 3 year old, am able to be a stay at home mom. But my drinking has escalated and is getting out of control. I drink wine mostly…not even tempted by anything else…but I drink far too much about five days/week. I quit my running, weight lifting, swimming and other physical activities I used to love. Thus unable to lose the 15 lbs. that are driving me even further into depression and hopelessness. I am moody and over reactive often. I really honestly don’t even like myself any longer.
    I am able to quit for a few days at a time and immediately feel better. But I get lonely, bored and discouraged and go right back to the wine.
    Its going to b very hard to quit as most the people I know drink often and much…even tho they are all productive professionals…as I was in my career. I tend to watch them and justify my own drinking . I just found this blog and feel like maybe some support would really help. 🙂 thank you

  4. Jorge Calvillo says:

    Hello James, I’m Glad you stopped drinking. I’m 29 years old and I too have completely stopped drinking. I’ve made a self realization after realizing how unproductive it was. I’ve gone exactly 98 day without a drop. My weight has dropped an amazing 17lbs. I feel a lot more fit and healthy. Everyone wants to know how I’ve lost so much weight. The benefits haven’t stopped there. I think a lot better and feel a great deal of motivation towards many things in life. Alcohol and Smoking reduce your life and people don’t understand that. Why put a poison in your body??? Good Luck to all and if anyone needs motivation on quitting contact me jorgecalvillo12@yahoo.com
    James your the man!!!

    • Hi Jorge,
      Great to hear from you and read your comment. I think you’re right about people not realising how much alcohol holds you back. I’m doing so much more now than I ever was before and my quality of life [check out this latest post about general health improving – https://stopping-drinking.com/overall-health-improves-as-fitness-replaces-drink/ ] is a lot better. Good luck getting to 100 days, it was a big moment to reach this point for me. Once I passed that milestone I knew I could do it!

      Keep in touch,
      James

      • Hi – I’m 60. I quit for 5 years when I was 36. Then at dinner one night on a business trip I thought, why not? I wish I hadn’t had that single drink. On again – off again – on, off, on, off… I’m off now, again, but there are those moments: Christmas, Thanksgiving, being at a party where everyone else is drinking. It can be very hard. Like you, the pro’s vs. con’s seem to help intellectually, but I wish I had the magic bullet to kill this once and for all. What happens when my daughter gets married and I want to propose a toast? I’m so totally ambivalent about this….

  5. Hi James and all

    today is the 02/01/15 I turn 41 this year, I have a 11 moth old son (I know late starter) and would dearly like to have another one! Today I have decided not to give in to binge drinking anymore just like you had some really life threatening experiences and just feel that there is no benefit gained from this lifestyle anymore I want different benefits now. But it scares me to think how I will have a barbeque with personal mates without a beer in my hand…your journal idea makes sense to me by having pros and cons wish me luck I will post progress from time to time.

    30 days is my first goal!

    Rgds
    Russell

  6. Hi James

    My wife and I have been married for 12 years in January. I have been a binge drinker since about the age of 16 and I am 37 now. I normally drink one night during the week and then on Friday and Saturday (drunk both nights).
    We have 2 boys one who is 11 years old and the other one 9 .
    Our marriage has been rocky for about 1.5 years now and we have now just hit an all time low and my wife wants to ‘take a break’ and take our 2 kids to her family for Christmas. I will have family to spend Christmas with but not my wife and kids.
    I have not listened to my wife for many years as I have always maintained that she too has to make changes for our marriage to be happier.
    Unfortunately it is only now because there is a serious threat of losing my family that I haven taken the decision to quit.
    I have stopped for periods of up to 6 weeks before but that was only because of training or Lent.
    I am only on day 3 now but I am determined and I am going to try and use weight loss, fitness and a chance at saving my family as the motivation to keep me strong! .

    • Hi Bazza,
      Sorry to hear this…sometimes it isn’t till something serious like this happens, that we really consider the change in ourselves that is needed.

      Giving up drink sounds like the biggest mountain you could climb, but taking it a day at a time is the best way to tackle it.

      Put a picture of your family on your phone or in your car and use it as your focus, just like looking at the mountain top keeps you climbing.

      Good luck on your journey and feel free to get support here.
      Best,
      James

  7. For years I convinced myself that I didn’t have an alcohol problem, I was a binge drinker who didn’t know her limits. Instead of seeing it as a problem I kept saying that I could learn when to stop but never did. Even when I was living in Brazil for a year on one awful I got so drunk that I ended up being raped and then pushed out of a car. Did I learn then NO!!! I was ashamed of myself blamed so I drank like I always did but to deal with what I was going through.
    Then I met my now husband who doesn’t really drink maybe only twice a year. So I don’t drink as often as I did because on I few occasions I nearly lost him because of my behaviour when I was drunk. But when I do have a drink I can’t stop I haven’t changed at all. I was at a work mates wedding at the weekend and did my usual of over drinking and am still suffering from the effects of it today have never been so sick. So today finally I see that I do have an alcohol problem and its not just a name for someone who drinks every day it’s when you don’t know your limits. So I now know that I have to give up drinking altogether, which on social occasions I will find hard as I’m someone who tries to keep in with the crowd. But I need to do this for me and my family.

    • Hi Fiona,
      Thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s true, that no matter how low we go, alcohol is there waiting to encourage us to continue as if nothing happened. Making the decision to completely give up is not easy, but 10 years on i wouldn’t have it any other way. I live a happy sober life now. You can do it. Focus on a day at a time and feel free to post here as many times as you’d like for support or advice.

      All the best on your journey.
      James

  8. Hi James,

    Alcohol and I have a long history. First drunk at age 13, trashed to the point of hallucinating once or twice in college, taking pre professional exams hungover, realizing that research in the law library would be easier without my ever-present hangover. At some point, around the time I became a parent, I started regulating better, no alcohol on weeknights except sometimes, no alcohol except wine and beer and the occasional JD, limit drinking if I would later need to drive home. The Saturday/Sunday hangover was just part of it. This Lent, I gave up alcohol as I often do, but instead of counting the days until I could drink again, I felt that I had climbed into a life boat, safe and sound. Then on the anniversary of my mother’s death, near the end of Lent, I gave up and drank. Soon, I was back to my old habits, counting the minutes until Friday night followed by the Saturday hangover. But ten days ago, I decided – enough! I went to an AA meeting. I felt a little funny about being there since, I was “managing” alcohol, but it my heart, I know it was starting to get the better of me. Wish me luck. I am early in the journey, but you give me a lot of inspiration.

    Lori

    • Hi Lori,
      Thanks for posting your comment and I’m so glad that you’ve been inspired so far, not just by what i’ve written, but all the comments from those who’ve visited these past years.

      Even though you have started on this journey, your half way there already…by this i mean that once you realise you have to give up, then it’s just a matter of giving up. It took me years to get to the point of giving up drink for real. At first, you just take it a day at a time. Focus on that and write a diary, or use this blog and the comments as a way of writing how you feel and i’ll reply when i can to help motivate you.

      Starting AA meetings is a good first step, you’ll get a sponsor through this, someone you can call and talk to regularly. Talking and sharing is such a helpful part of the process.

      Do keep in touch Lori.
      James

    • Steve Green says:

      Hi Lori, and well done on taking the first steps. For many, admitting that they have a problem is the hardest thing, many people don’t even realize that it IS a problem for a long time.
      I can certainly relate to much of what you have gone through, the attempts at moderation, and counting the time down to the next evening’s session. I found that my own attempts at moderation lasted a while, but I always ended up back to drinking every night, and wishing I hadn’t.
      I am now 14 months sober, and my only regret is that I didn’t see through the falseness of alcohol sooner. I absolutely love the new me.
      And I am sure that you will love the new you too.
      There is so much to be gained through quitting alcohol.
      You have my best wishes for the future.
      Steve.

      • Hi Steve, great to hear from you again and great to see you supporting some new faces. :o)
        Those 14 months have shot by…congratulations!

        James

        • Steve Green says:

          Thanks James. it doesn’t seem like 14 months since I first posted on here does it?
          Tempus does indeed fugit. 🙂
          Best wishes.
          Steve.

          • No it doesn’t. Time does indeed fly. But the best thing is that time isn’t wasted so much now. Gone are those days spent hungover and in its place are busy days now with my kids!

  9. Hi James,

    This is a very interesting topic for me, overcoming denial. I’m a 37 year old woman and alcohol is ruining my life. I’ve lost relationships, put on a ton of weight and lost my sparkle and joy of life. I drink two bottles of wine several nights a week, my only pleasure in life now is drinking. I know on a rational level this is wrong, there has to be more to life than this but I can’t seem to admit in my heart that I have a problem! It’s like I’m wearing blinkers!

    I just wish my eyes could be opened and I could see the truth and stop this poison ruining my life. I want to have a family in the future and if I don’t take control of my life now, this will never happen. Life will only get worse.

    I’m looking forward to reading more around the blog. Thanks for your support.

    Laura

  10. Hi Laura, Many thanks for posting your comment. In many ways you’re already starting to admit there is a problem, first by finding my blog and second writing your comment. You can start to take control of your life right now, today by saying to yourself that you’ve reached the limit. There are some books i recommended here, these all helped me. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, probably more so. I always suggest starting a diary to help you focus on each day and step in the process. I also suggest writing comments here on the posts that interest you – do it daily, or how ever often you want, but writing how you feel and sharing this, all helps.

    In a way, it’s best to forget what has happened in the past and use this point forward as a way of carving our a completely different future for yourself…what do you have to lose?!

    Let me know what you think.
    James

  11. Steve Green says:

    Hi Laura, one of the biggest hurdles we have in quitting alcohol is that we are constantly told in the media etc, how much fun and self confidence it brings, once you see past this lie it makes quitting alcohol so much easier. I am 14 months sober now, and wouldn’t go back to drinking again for any money.
    I found one book in particular very helpful when I first quit, a book entitled “No More Hangovers” by Allen Carr, and if you would like to look at it you can find it here:-

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/No-More-Hangovers-Allen-Carr/1848375557/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493754378&sr=1-1&keywords=no+more+hangovers

    Best wishes.
    Steve.

    • Steve’s right Laura – we’re bombarded by images and ads that tell us drinking is ok…it’s ok for us that it isn’t. A sober world can be full of fun and confidence.
      James

  12. I have been trying to come to terms that I’m not in control of my drinking for some time. I’m soon turning 36 and have noticed my drinking habits have worsened over the last two years. I used to have a 9-5 job and hardly drank in the week but weekends were just a long binge and Mondays filled with anxiety as I had to begin the week with a hangover. There were plenty of sick days, always a Monday but I managed to keep my job.
    I took a year out with my partner to travel and we drank nearly everyday. I often think how stupid it was that we were wasting days with a hangover when we could be embracing our exprerience more but another cold beer and I’d be feeling fine again. When we returned I worked in my Dads pub and Guest House. I needed to be there to help him but hated the work and found myself binge drinking most nights. I think it was also a result of feeling under so much pressure to help him and deal with the added problem that my sister had gone back to heroin and my eight year old nephew was suffering.
    My mother is a heavy drinker. My partner is a heavy drinker and the biggest problem I have is that I do love to drink-It’s not just the feeling. I have a wine qualification and cooking and drinking good wine are a huge part of my life.
    The problem is… I know I don’t have the willpower to just have a glass or two. It’s always the bottle and maybe another or a few more cans of craft beer. I love selecting wine and craft beers to go with my meals. The thought of giving it up altogether just seems so depressing but I see how my drinking negatively effects me in so many ways. I suffer from anxiety and depression and alcohol makes my symptoms so much worse. I have contemplated Suicide often after a heavy night. I just wish I could drink in moderation. I go to the gym and eat healthily and occasionally if I open a bottle I can have one glass but more often than not I binge drink until I black out. I admit I’m not happy with my drinking habits but I’m struggling to admit that I would need to stop completely. I don’t see how I can get myself to AA.

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  1. […] bad habits you first have to understand how bad they are for you in the first place, and then admit that you might have a problem. For example, there are likely a few habits that you have that have set off warning bells in your […]

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