Why It Is So Hard To Quit Drinking
One of the most common questions family members will ask someone who has a drinking problem is, “why can’t you stop drinking?!” While it is understandable that they would be frustrated with their loved ones’ destructive drinking habits, this is not a helpful thing to ask someone struggling with addiction. Not drinking may seem like a simple solution to someone on the outside but, it is much more complicated than that to someone with an alcohol problem.
So why is it so difficult to quit drinking? There are several factors that can make it a challenge for someone to stop drinking on their own, here are just a few.
1. Alcohol is a highly addictive drug.
For whatever reason, many people seem to forget that not only is alcohol a drug, it is also highly addictive. I find it ironic that so many people look down on alcoholics for not being able to “hold their liquor” instead of looking down on alcohol companies for selling a dangerous drug. The blame often gets shifted from the alcohol to the person. Some people can drink without destroying their lives, but this doesn’t mean other people who fall into addiction are bad. Not only is this mindset unfair it is also illogical. There is no other drug that is treated that way. When a person gets addicted to meth, people understand that it is highly addictive and say it makes sense. When someone is addicted to alcohol, others will blame it on the person, not the drug.
2. Alcohol is socially acceptable.
Not only is alcohol socially acceptable, but it is also seen as a requirement to have at parties and celebrations. There is no other drug that is as socially acceptable to use as alcohol. Because alcohol use is normalized, a person struggling with getting sober has a much harder time avoiding situations where alcohol will be present than someone trying to stop using heroin. The United States culture promotes unhealthy drinking habits, and drinking is often seen as a “right of passage” into adulthood.
3. Drinking alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and nutrients.
It is well known that alcohol abuse depletes the body of vital vitamins and nutrients. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), a branch of the National Institute on Health (NIH), “Nutrients are essential for proper body function; proteins, vitamins, and minerals provide the tools that the body needs to perform properly. Alcohol can disrupt body function by causing nutrient deficiencies and usurping the machinery needed to metabolize nutrients.”
“Nutrients are essential for proper body function; proteins, vitamins, and minerals provide the tools that the body needs to perform properly. Alcohol can disrupt body function by causing nutrient deficiencies and usurping the machinery needed to metabolize nutrients.”
Drinking alcohol causes a vicious cycle of making a person feel unwell the next day; this feeling is often remedied by another drink which helps temporarily while simultaneously generating more damage to a person’s body and a stronger addiction. It is not until the body has had a chance to begin the healing process and restore the nutritional imbalances that it will feel better.
4. Regular drinking increases anxiety and depression.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), alcohol abuse often leads to symptoms of anxiety and depression. The sad thing is that while alcohol will often cause these symptoms in a person drinking heavily, that person will often then use alcohol to try and deal with these feelings. It is important to remember that any relief felt by drinking is only temporary. The anxiety and depression will feel much worse the following day after a person has drank than if they hadn’t. This is just one more example of the crazy cycles that often occur in addiction.
5. Alcohol addiction can lead to physical dependence.
When a person heavily drinks alcohol over a long period, they will develop a physical dependence on the drug. If someone with physical alcohol dependence were to quit abruptly, they would begin to experience painful and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Because alcohol withdrawal has the potential to be deadly, anyone who has developed physical alcohol dependence must seek out medical advice from an informed medical doctor that can safely assist them through this process. Furthermore, because alcohol withdrawal can be a scary process, it is often a barrier to getting better. Therefore, it is essential to note that complete alcohol withdrawal can be achieved safely in the right medical setting.
6. Alcohol is readily available and heavily advertised.
Alcohol is one of the most easily accessible drugs in the United States. Liquor stores are everywhere. Alcohol is sold in restaurants, sports events, and public gatherings at most parties and get-togethers. This is why alcohol is one of the most challenging drugs to quit. It is hard to stop using something when it is constantly thrown in your face. Alcohol is a huge part of United States culture. Therefore anyone trying to get sober will have to learn how to deal with this.
7. Change can be scary.
Change is a scary thing, especially for someone who has been trapped in addiction for a long time. Sometimes people get used to being in uncomfortable situations because it is all that they know. The fear of change can make it difficult for someone to accept the help needed to get better. However, this fear will become less and less as people adjust to their new life. Over time, not drinking will become the new normal. It is just a matter of getting to that point.
8. Recovery requires a complete lifestyle change.
Although stopping drinking is not easy, staying sober is what is truly challenging. Most people can stop drinking for at least a day or two, but learning how to live a life of recovery will require a complete lifestyle change. If a person is unwilling to change their lifestyle, they will not be able to stay sober. For example, if a person is still going out to bars and hanging out with other people who are drinking, it will be challenging to stay sober.
9. Some people won’t be supportive.
Sadly, not everyone is supportive of a person’s decision to get sober and change their life for the better. The person who isn’t supportive of another’s recovery most likely has an addiction problem themselves. A person with addiction won’t support another person getting sober because the other person’s sobriety will cause them to question their relationship with drinking. It is best to cut ties with people who are not supportive of the decision to get sober. It may hurt initially, but it will be for the best in the long run.
10. Alcohol is the only drug you have to explain not using.
Plain and simple, alcohol is a drug; most people forget this and question why other people don’t drink. Many people seem to have forgotten that alcohol is a highly addictive drug that kills thousands of people every year. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to quit drinking or experience the benefits of not drinking. It may not always be easy to stay sober, but it is sure worth it.
Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC