No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

Father with Teenage Son

Addiction to alcohol usually has one of two starting points. Either the person gets involved with alcohol because he or she thinks it makes life more fun, or the person starts drinking in order to dull unpleasant thoughts and feelings. The person who overdrinks in an effort to intensify life usually won’t benefit from the same cessation approach as the individual who uses alcohol to silence life. Thus, knowing what motivates your drinking can prove invaluable in terms of lighting on the best road to sobriety.

Strategies People Use

Just as there are two main reasons people begin abusing alcohol, there are two primary approaches people use to reduce or eliminate their drinking behavior. One strategy is replacement – staying away from people and places where alcohol is likely to be readily available and going somewhere else instead. The person who wants to cut down on drinking or quit entirely decides that the bar or nightclub is not the right environment for them. This person will make an alternate plan. Instead of going to the bar, he or she will go with friends to a movie.

The other strategy is making a self-limiting plan. With this approach, drinkers tell themselves that they will only have two drinks, for example. No matter where they go, how long they stay or what anyone else says – their rule is two drinks. Max.

Who Should Use Which Strategy

The rub comes when the person who drinks to erase pain decides to adopt the self-limiting strategy. Research reveals that this is not likely to be successful. For this person, drinking is a coping mechanism, and if the pain shows up, the limits on drinking will get tossed aside. The person who drinks to avoid hurt is also more likely to drink alone and at home than the one who drinks to intensify positive experiences. There is no one to hold the person accountable for how many drinks are consumed, so holding to the limit is much harder.

The avoidance drinker would be much better served by choosing the replacement strategy. Learning to make choices other than drinking will be the surest road to sobriety for this person. Perhaps it isn’t surprising, but the avoidance drinker tends to avoid this strategy as well. Dulling discomfort overrules every other option.

The person who drinks in order to gain something is better able to adhere to self-imposed limits on drinking. The person who drinks to escape something will probably not be able to keep to the limits. For them, learning to choose new ways to manage mood are needed. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

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