#3 You don’t have to be a chronic addict to need help to quit drinking
In the five years I've been sober I have discovered that people have a lot of misconceptions about drinking. I know this because I used to have them, too.
Here are the four misconceptions I would most like to correct because they cause the most damage. Read them and then tell your friends!
1. You don't have to be an ‘alcoholic’ to quit drinking
The term ‘alcoholic’ is outdated and misleading. In AA people identify as ‘alcoholics’ to combat denial and the ‘forgetting’ that is part and parcel of having a drink problem. Within AA, the word ‘alcoholic’ is used in a way that empowers the individual. The word, within that space, is not stigmatized.
Outside AA, people often use the ‘alcoholic’ to describe somebody who maintains a lifestyle of drinking a severely unhealthy amount.
In the field of addiction, the term has long fallen out of favor. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is more likely to be used.
This is a conscious effort to move away from the unhelpful binary idea that a person is ‘alcoholic’ or ‘not-alcoholic’.
Alcohol use falls along a spectrum, with abstinence at one end and alcohol dependence at the other.
There are a broad range of ways to abuse alcohol in the middle.
So the idea that a person would have to be an alcoholic in order to qualify to quit drinking is a damaging idea.
2. You don’t have to experience a dramatic ‘rock bottom’ to quit booze
This is a common misconception, and it’s very dangerous. In what other situations would you wait until you were in extreme trouble before taking action? With a mysterious lump? With your weight? Financially?
There is absolutely no need to let things become dire with your drinking before you quit. There is no need to suffer anything worse than a hangover.
And if you are tempted to put off the problem until it gets really serious, understand that this reveals the nature of the problem you are facing. And that alcohol already possibly has you in its grip.
3. You don’t have to be a chronic addict to need help to get sober
I was super embarrassed about needing help to quit drinking. I felt like such an amateur drinker compared to the people who had lost children or family members or been to prison or gotten divorced. But the truth is, it’s incredibly hard to stop drinking.
Even if you aren’t physically dependent, you may have become psychologically dependent. And if you aren’t psychologically dependent, you still might struggle to simply stop.
Alcohol is so central in our culture, that steering clear of it is impossible.
This is why so many support groups exist to help people quit drinking. See the end of this post for a list of resources.
4. You don’t need alcohol in order to have a good time
This one is hard to believe, but I promise it is true. You only need alcohol to have a good time with people you wouldn’t ordinarily have a good time with. I swear!
A picnic in the park with your favorite food and your favorite friend is a good time. The sun, the laughs, the togetherness and talking, that is what makes it enjoyable.
And yes, I realize I sound like a giant dork.
It can take a while to arrive at this truth, as you are used to the high of alcohol, but once you adjust to life without it, you get back in touch with your natural chemistry.
And you may be astonished to realize that you can have a better time without the unnecessary complication, price tag and negative health consequences of booze.
Please don’t wait until your drink problem is becoming insurmountable.
Ask for help. Or if you’re worried about a loved one, ask them if they have thought of getting help. Remember that you don't have to experience anything worse than a hangover to quit drinking or just cut back.
If you’re ready to try something different: go to your doctor, try Smart or AA or Hip Sobriety or Soberistas. Listen to Recovery Elevator and SHAIR podcasts. Read This Naked Mind. Try Moderation Management.
There is a whole community of people waiting to help you. Reach out. Something better is waiting.
Chelsey Flood is the author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers, and a lecturer in creative writing at Falmouth University. She writes about freedom, addiction, nature and love, and is working on a non-fiction book about getting sober, and a new YA novel.