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Can Alcoholics Quit Drinking On Their Own

From the book, My Reclaimed Life.

Maybe. I imagine you’re probably not one of the few who can, though. My guess is if you’re reading this, you’re somebody like me and can’t quit without help. Otherwise, why are you here? I’m presuming you’ve tried and tried and self-help hasn’t worked.

So, to answer your question, and not to generalize to the whole population, if you’re here because you’ve tried to quit and can’t, my answer is, “You need help.”

Lots of people decide alcohol is becoming a problem for them and quit. One oft-cited statistic is more people quit drinking alcohol on their own than those who enter treatment or go to recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. I don’t doubt that. I would suggest, though, those who quit on their own aren’t alcoholics as I define the term. (An alcoholic is a person who has tried over and over again to quit drinking alcohol and can’t do it for any meaningful length of time by himself or herself.) I have no interest in arguing semantics. Such small thinking would keep me drunk.

Early in my daily drinking career, I went to a couple of counselors because I was concerned about my drinking. Back then, it wasn’t messing up my life much, but I knew drinking as much I did was bad. One counselor told me I needed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Then she said this, “I’ve only known one alcoholic who quit drinking on her own.”

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, that’s all I needed to hear.

I knew if it were possible for one person in the world to quit drinking on his or her own, I was the guy. I left the office relieved. Twenty years later, I noticed I hadn’t gotten around to quitting on my own yet.

The only way I could stop was to get help.

After all these years of sobriety, I continue to maintain my support system. Despite my certainty that I’ll never drink again, I don’t want to take a chance. I know a good many recovering alcoholics who decided they didn’t need help anymore and were soon drunk again.

My wife and I went to a casino once, and as I fed the slot machines, I kept wondering why I was giving my money away. When I won a little bit, I kept wondering why I was giving it back to them. After thirty minutes, we left. I’m not interested in gambling with my money, and I’m sure as hell not going to gamble with my sobriety either. I’ll keep getting help forever, one day at a time, and based on observing hundreds of alcoholics, I’m not alone.

If you refuse to believe me and trust the people who insist you can quit drinking on your own, fine—keep trying, and if you can do it, that’s wonderful. If you’re like me and go through twenty-four years of trying to quit alcohol without success and without dying first, you might want to give getting help a shot. It’s not nearly as big a deal as you seem to think it is.

In fact, it is a whole lot easier than going it alone.

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