How to quit drinking without AA
August 2, 2012 10:58 PM   Subscribe

Help me quit drinking without using AA

I have finally admitted to myself I am an alcoholic and need to stop drinking. I am not a 'I need a drink every day' alcoholic, my problem is that when I do drink, I drink too much; to the point I am embarrassing (often in social situations) and it is at the point I often don't remember the last hour or so of the night before if I have been drinking. So I need to stop.

I realise AA works well for lots of people (my mother has been going to AA for nearly 20 years) but it is not for me. What are the alternatives to help me through this? What have you found worked for you instead of, or even alongside, AA? Programs, books, any resources would be helpful.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You could look into a dialectical behavioral therapy group. It might be covered under your insurance, though the typical course takes at least a year of weekly sessions. (I might know a few groups in NYC; feel free to MeFiMail me if you'd like some names and numbers.)
posted by brina at 11:07 PM on August 2, 2012

AA alternatives include Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and LifeRing. Allen Carr's book is also worth reading.
posted by vorfeed at 11:27 PM on August 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've gotten a lot of help at, where we (full disclosure: I am a mod there) have people who swear by AA as well as people like me, who have never been to a meeting. We do ask that you refrain from anti-AA crusading there, such as posts informing AA-goers that they are all cultists or things of that nature.
posted by thelonius at 11:47 PM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

It might help for responders to know why AA is not for you - is it the social dimension? The 'higher power' thing? Knowing could make it easier to offer useful suggestions.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:22 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was in the same spot as you, I read the Allen Carr book Brina mentions and it certainly made a big difference. The main component of quitting is willpower, but the book puts forward some brilliant arguments which can help you rationalise your decision when the inevitable "But I want a drink" voice kicks in.

Good luck!
posted by tzb at 12:26 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will not push AA on you, but do suggest you try different meetings. They are all really different.

Many AA people use SMART Recovery,too.

The Fix has lots of info on different ways to recovery You don't mention if you are female, but Women For Sobriety has helped me.
Good Luck- I wish you a happy sober life.
posted by Isadorady at 12:30 AM on August 3, 2012

I am not a 'I need a drink every day' alcoholic, my problem is that when I do drink, I drink too much; to the point I am embarrassing (often in social situations) and it is at the point I often don't remember the last hour or so of the night before if I have been drinking. So I need to stop.

I am a "I need a drink every day" drinker, but I usually have no problem stopping at one. Among the heavy drinkers I have known (and I have known quite a few who have seen their drinking habits get out of control), the trick is apportionment. Basically you want/need to drink less without stopping altogether so you have to have a plan for drinking less. It's really not very hard in theory, but it can be challenging in practice. Before you start drinking, set yourself a limit for alcohol units and stick to it. Measure out your drinks. Use a shot glass and don't pour right from the bottle. Pace yourself, stick to your limits, and quit when you're ahead. Cheers!
posted by three blind mice at 1:33 AM on August 3, 2012

I am not a 'I need a drink every day' alcoholic, my problem is that when I do drink, I drink too much

If you don't need it every day, it sounds like you don't need it at all, that you don't have a physical craving for the stuff. You don't wake up gagging for the stuff. You just can't stop once you start. In other words, you're lucky.

Your best tactic is to stop drinking at all so you stop drinking to excess. Yes, I know that sounds stupidly simplistic, but I can tell you it's really that simple if you don't have a physical need and you are willing to rearrange your social habits.

Ah, there's the rub. No drinking probably means (at least at first) no bars, no parties, no little get-togethers over beer and gossip. It's a social engineering problem. You need to drop the drinking buddies or refuse to meet them where you can drink, and you need to take up with the exercisers and so on. Can you handle that? If you can fill all of the current bar time and party time with drink-free activities (think of all the great activities that would be absurd to attempt with a martini in your hand), you'll be fine.
posted by pracowity at 2:10 AM on August 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

On the other hand, and this is intended to complement what pracowity says, rather than oppose it, if you are able to socialise with drinkers without drinking, don't necessarily look to cut yourself off from those activities, either out of shyness at not drinking or paranoia that you will. What you feel is appropriate is up to you, but if you do have or wish to avoid bars and parties, it's possibly a good idea to look for social activities to replace them. Time not drinking is not just time to fill, it's a new way of life. Group therapeutic activities are of course good social environments, and non-12 step programs like LifeRing may be useful to you.
posted by howfar at 2:39 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have just cleared a major hurdle by admitting you have a problem and by trying to resolve said problem. Kudos to you; it is a big, big step in the right direction.
How do I know this? I did it myself about 25 years ago and I have not looked back.
Now you have looked yourself clearly in the eye You have to stay resolved.
The hardest part for me was finding a substitute for when I wanted liquid intake.
I started with non alcohol beer which tasted like shit and made me fart; then moved on to pints of orange juice and tonic. In retrospect I think it was the sugar I was wanting, anyway I drank a lot of it before opting for water with gas or whatever they call it in your country.
The other problem was "friends". Eventually I had to tell a couple to fuck off because I didn't want "just one" drink and couldn't get them to respect my decision.
Respect is a big part of it. Respect for yourself. You have already proved this by admiting to yourself and to us that you have a problem and want to stop.
There is no "cutting back" there is no "half stopping".
Just like No means No. Stop means Stop.
Like you I didn't need a drink every day, I just drank every day often to excess, hell I was a sailor, a mariniero, a kick ass this is what I do sort of bloke.
Breakfast coffee and liquer why not. Midday beer ..or two..or three; glass of wine, better a bottle, cognac after lunch; mid afternoon whatever . SIX O FUCKING CLOCK somewhere in the world have a beer or two better a gin tonic or maybe a rum and tonic or a bottle of wine or two and then it gets fuzzy, but it was fun I suppose. Rinse repeat.
One day I realized I had a problem. And I said to myself. You have a fucking problem and if you have any iota of respect for yourself and those nearest to you, you will resolve this fucking problem NOW. and I did. So can you; and all those nearest and dearest to you will have a lot of respect for you no matter what other type of arsehole you are.
And so will You. I am now 61 years old and I party and sometimes go to bars, I buy my friends drinks and they buy me glasses of water and when the conversation gets too silly I say "Goodnight", and like you will be I am happy with that.
(email in profile).
posted by adamvasco at 2:42 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your best tactic is to stop drinking at all so you stop drinking to excess.

There is no "cutting back" there is no "half stopping".

That is certainly true for some people - it may even be true for the majority of people - but it is definitely not true for everyone - at least according to the exhaustive, independent, first-hand research I have done in bars. I know plenty of people who have seen their drinking become a problem and dialled it back without giving up alcohol entirely. My read on this question is that anonymous wants to stop binge drinking to excess - not stop drinking entirely - so I'm not so sure how useful the counsel of sobriety is.

If my take is wrong, then help to achieve sobriety without AA seems to be the answer sought.
posted by three blind mice at 3:17 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Europe we have different standards for what we would consider an alcoholic. People increase or decrease their intake all the time without considering it a reaction to a crisis. Few people choose to go cold turkey if they are not raging psychopathic alkies. Most simply reduce their intake and restrict the occaisions and times when they will choose to drink socially.

If you don't want to get trashed try drinking seltzer or soda water and make it a substitute for beer. If you want a small drink try mixing 3/4 soda with 1/4 dry wine for a spritzer, which tastes good but requires an awful lot to put you under the table. It works around here. If you find that a small amount of drink makes you simply want a lot more, stop. I had to cut down because of taking medications. It worked for me.
posted by zaelic at 3:38 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Tell the trusted people in your life about this and ask them to help you. One of the most important concepts in the AA system is that of a sponsor, someone you can call when you're feeling tempted to pick up. If you have people in your life that you can call, who you trust to talk to you, hang out with you, distract or ground you when you want to drink, that will be helpful. It will also lend a sense of responsibility to your decision to stop drinking.
posted by xingcat at 4:32 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may want to watch this video about Craig Ferguson speaking about his addiction and how he overcame it. (spoiler: he is and always will be an alcoholic, he just doesn't drink).

I think part of what you need to do (and AA covers this as well) is admit that you're susceptible to alcohol and always will be. It looks like you're getting very close to that point...and luckily it's not an every day addiction, but still a dangerous susceptibility. You have to give in to this admission before you can begin to let go and begin to move the problem is, a close fisted approach to addictive drugs (eg. cold turkey, rejection, etc) almost never works, as you're still likely to relapse and enter back into that cycle of guilt, humiliation, resolve, return. The reason AA has worked for so many people over the long haul is because it does not focus on just quitting an instead focuses on accepting the addiction and changing one's life. Big difference there. It changes the way people view the world, and their own susceptibilities. It changes alcohol from something that *must be avoided* to something that just isn't needed. If you can find an alternative to AA that follows that same concept, I think you'll be much better off in the long run because this is a larger encompassing issue that involves the human condition, not just a "goal" of fixing your susceptibility towards alcohol.

I realize you are not interested in AA itself. But if you could at least look into this book, The Spirituality of Imperfection you'll get a lot of information on how AA operates, and the philosophies behind it. A book like this could definitely help you in developing an insight on your own. I recommend this book because it's objectively written and is not preachy. A big thing you'll miss out on however if going at this alone is a support network of peers. So focus on finding one of those as well...people that share the same concerns....and make it a support group where you meet them in person with coordination and direction. A therapist may also be a good start towards making these connections as well. Just don't give up, and always be in the process of working towards transforming your life into something you really want.
posted by samsara at 6:02 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I read a book a long time ago called "The truth about addiction and recovery". I liked it a lot.

I think people drink for a reason and if you can solve that reason, the drinking will eventually go away. My dad fought in the front lines of two wars. He drank heavily for years. I suspect he was probably trying to suppress nightmares so he could sleep. Sometime after he retired from the military, he stopped drinking and basically never touched the stuff again.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 8:11 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing I realized that helped me the most was that I needed to stop intellectualizing and ACT to change my behavior. I stopped thinking about what's alcoholism, am I an alcoholic, what's the correct way for alcoholics to proceed, do I have to go to AA, etc. and I made a serious effort to simply stop drinking. Just stop the bleeding, and figure out the next step from there. The concept of alcoholism is really kind of vague, and even almost metaphysical. The concept "holy shit, I am in serious trouble and I REALLY need to do something about it" seemed to me concrete and irrefutable. I had been through typical efforts to control my drinking: no dice. It always crept back up to regular destructive binges. So it was clear that what I hadn't tried, namely, complete abstinence, was the next thing to do.

If you can do this, you will find that you have plenty of time on your hands to think about what it all means:) You'll also find that, having gotten sober, you need to develop strategies and support systems for staying sober. If you can't stop, then you may need to reconsider your approach and get into some kind of rehab. If I had gone on for another 6 months or a year, I quite possibly wouldn't have been able to stop outside of professional treatment.

Good luck: if you've truly reached the stage where you have to do this, you'll know it. It sounds like you are sure about that, in fact. Some people will actually try to dissuade you: don't listen to them. Sometimes they are anxious about their own drinking, and want to minimize your problem in an effort to reassure themselves that since you agree you are OK, they are OK also. Maybe they think that people who don't drink have no social life, or are depriving themselves of a great pleasure in life (since that's all drinking is for them, it's not a prison). You won't be sorry you quit; it is a difficult path, but very much worth it.
posted by thelonius at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2012

I don't have first-hand knowledge of alcoholism, but I have done some reading on addiction and AA. There seems to be a lot of bullshit involved.

My opinion? Why not just regular old therapy? Find a good psychologist and deal with your underlying issues.
posted by callmejay at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2012

I used naltrexone and "the sinclair method" with the goal of reducing consumption. My goal was reduction but after tapering down to zero I found I just didn't care to drink any more (despite still maintaining a platonic love for beer, wine, and scotch). I guess I might drink something again at some point in the future (probably to be polite) but it simply no longer appeals to me in the way it once did.
posted by cairnish at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2012

AA definitely does not have a monopoly on separating someone from alcohol.

Of particular note to me personally in this thread is this:

I think people drink for a reason and if you can solve that reason, the drinking will eventually go away.

If you ask someone why they overindulge, there are a million different reasons lurking beneath the surface. It could just be a specific set of circumstances, friends, crises, a "party" stage which has gone on too long, etc. These people can stop or moderate given a sufficient enough reason, and possibly some professional assistance depending on the underlying cause and duration of substance abuse.

If you find yourself spiraling out of control, I would suggest you talk to a psychiatrist about this. Talking with a professional, provided you have the funds/insurance can only benefit you, and it isn't a forever thing. There are prescription medications which have been proven to cut down on cravings (another reason to talk with a psychiatrist over a counselor), and you may well find that a little therapy and some medication will greatly assist you.

For me, however, my reason for drinking was, well... Me. The way I look at the world, being over analytical, antisocial, always "inadvertently" hurting others and myself in an endless search of instant gratification, among a thousand other pathological traits. Thinking backwards from adulthood to childhood, even prior to alcohol, I had pretty much always been unhappy, lonely, dissatisfied, and afraid--and worst of all, I was endlessly thinking about how unhappy, lonely, dissatisfied, and afraid I was. Alcohol was my solution to that constant mental clusterfuck of social, financial and romantic discomfort. Although I had seen others succeed at managing or stopping their drinking after divorcing the 'monster' or trying a new prescription, I was not to be helped by attempting to relieve my obsession similarly.

To put is succinctly, I would suggest you:

1. Try to leave alcohol alone for a period of 1 year. There have also been some great book titles mentioned in this thread to assist you during this time.
If that fails (or if you get miserable)
2. See a psychiatrist. Talk out your feelings and inquire about possible medicines.
3. If that doesn't work, try everything and anything left.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I quite drinking - cold turkey - on April 1 of this year - and I never attended any meetings or even spoke to anyone other than my wife about it. There have been a few times I've wanted a drink, but nothing too hard. And I drank a *ton* - literally four or five drinks every night for four years.

I've lost 25 pounds since then without exercising or dieting. And I feel great.

Just thought I'd chime in to say It Can Be Done.

Of course, I have kids and spend most of my time at home, so that definitely helped. Your mileage may vary.
posted by tacodave at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2012

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