You're not alone.
Most people feel some ambivalence about changing a long-standing behavior, no matter how much it could benefit them to do so. It doesn't matter if the behavior relates to alcohol, food, exercise, leisure time, or anything else; the change-making process works in predictable ways. It makes sense to want to explore the reasons for the change, the potential consequences, and likely outcome before committing. There's a good reason for this: the behavior is serving a purpose (or at least was at one point!)
Some reasons that people drink include:
*to connect more easily with others
*to have fun
Drinking for these reasons, for many people, are not necessarily a problem. Alcohol is used so commonly throughout time and across cultures because it's effects are predictable and usually enjoyable for most people. However, some people find that drinking becomes a way to deal with life's stresses or to forget pain. This type of drinking can bring more questionable consequences, especially when the pain or stress are not dealt with directly through healthier means. No matter the reason for drinking, some people find that it can lead to:
*risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated, or unsafe sex
*being loud, hurtful, or obnoxious with others
*losing sight of values such as self-care, healthy relationships, work goals, etc
*a lost opportunity to learn more direct and healthy coping skills
*increased tendency toward depression
*loss of self-respect
*negative impacts on important relationships
*health problems (present or future)
If you're considering changing your drinking behavior, but don't feel ready, that's no problem. Most people who successfully cut down or quit drinking entirely went through a period of questioning what it would mean for them, and the likely outcome of no longer having alcohol in their lives.
Many people have questions such as:
"How would I have fun without it?"
"How would I unwind without it?"
"What would my friends, colleagues, or family think?"
"What if it hurts my relstionships?"
"What if I don't know how?"
"What if I can't?"
I find it's helpful to explore in detail with my clients:
*what is helpful or enjoyable about the drinking
*what the potential reasons for quitting or cutting back might be--whether related to health, finances, relstionships, values, spirituality, work, or self-esteem.
*what the benefits might be
*what's gotten in the way of changing the behavior so far
*how life might be different in 5 or 10 years if they continue drinking at the current rate, and how it might be if they stopped
*how it might affect important relationships
*what else might be needed in place of the alcohol (alternative pain management techniques, grief or trauma work, healthy coping skills, different options for having fun, relaxing, and socializing, etc)
*treatment options that may be helpful
Usually, after these questions are explored in detail, those I work with have much more clarity about their relationship to alcohol, and whether or not it makes sense to take any further steps to pursue a change.
If you're interested in exploring your relationship to alcohol without feeling pressured to "hurry up and change", I'd be happy to talk more.
Teri Dillion, MA, LPC, LAC