In this blog post, we are going to explore how to stop thinking about drinking alcohol.
When you stop drinking, it can be very difficult to stop thinking about it. Many people that have stopped drinking say things like:
“I can’t stop thinking about drinking”.
All of a sudden, you notice alcohol more regularly. You see the advertisements, you notice your friends’ pictures on Facebook and it seems to be everywhere.
And, as a result of noticing it more regularly, you end up thinking about it more regularly too.
Firstly, you have to realize that this is totally normal. It happens to everyone including myself.
Through being a drinker, you have conditioned yourself over many years. Your brain has become accustomed to expecting alcohol.
Years of conditioning isn’t exactly wiped away in an instant…It takes time.
If you’re alarmed that you’re thinking about alcohol more regularly, you don’t need to be. And, if you’re thinking “When will I stop thinking about drinking alcohol?” you’ll be glad to know that it’s part of the journey and you’re in the right place.
Follow along with this post, and you’ll learn exactly how to stop thinking about drinking easily. Make sure to read the whole post, as I’ll be sharing some resources with you at the end.
Tip 1: The Reticular Activating System
Have you ever heard of the reticular activating system (RAS)?
This is absolutely fascinating stuff.
It will help explain why you think about drinking more when you stop.
The RAS is a net-like formation within the brain, consisting of nerve cells and their connections. This formation lies within the brain-stem – between the brain and the spinal cord.
“The groupings of neurons that together make up the RAS are ultimately responsible for attention, arousal, modulation of muscle tone, and the ability to focus.” (Source)
Now, why are we talking about neuroscience and the brain, when you want to learn about alcohol?
The RAS is responsible for pretty much anything we do. And, that includes thinking about drinking.
The RAS is the reason you can focus on reading a book in a busy place. It’s also the reason you can learn a new word, and then start seeing it everywhere you go.
A few months ago, a friend of mine let me try out his motorcycle. It was a 650cc Kawasaki, and I only had a 125cc scooter at the time.
After trying the Kawasaki, I was hooked. I started thinking about purchasing a big bike, and all of a sudden I could see big bikes EVERYWHERE.
I hadn’t noticed the bikes before, but now I could see one every 2 minutes(?!)
Were the bikes there before? Of course. But my RAS wasn’t focused on them.
As soon as I had brought my awareness to big motorcycles, my RAS was in overdrive and all it could see was bikes.
(PS: I bought the bike as a treat for the money saved from not drinking)
Interestingly, alcohol can actually dampen and depress the RAS in the brain.
So, logically, when we stop drinking, our RAS can go into hyperdrive.
We’re all of a sudden more aware of the alcohol around us.
We notice alcohol more regularly and because we are no longer drinking, our RAS is much more active.
So, we can see that thinking about alcohol is part of the process. You’re becoming more aware of your environment and surroundings as you get sober. It’s entirely normal, so don’t stress!
Tip 2: It Gets Easier As We Get Further Into The Journey
Unfortunately, when people stop drinking and start thinking about alcohol more often, they think that there is something wrong with them.
You can’t stop your RAS from sending these signals to your brain. It’s impossible. But, if you are prepared for it, you’ll be in a better position to handle them.
When you stop drinking, you are breaking a pattern that your brain has become used to. Alcohol has probably been a part of your life for years.
The good news is, over time, you virtually stop thinking about it.
It gets easier and easier as you get further into your journey.
The trick, when it comes to how to stop thinking about drinking, is not to panic. It’s 100% part of the process.
Accept it, and understand that it will get easier over time.
I know it gets easier over time from my own experience, as well as from speaking to hundreds of ex-drinkers. It gets easier.
Tip 3: Awareness Of The Thought
Another thing worth noting is not to fight the thought.
What do I mean by this?
Some people get the thought of drinking alcohol, and they end up getting angry, scared, or upset. They start beating themselves up and think they can’t do it.
If I were to make a suggestion to those people, it would be to bring awareness to the thought, and see it for what it is.
It’s a thought – and you don’t need to act on that thought.
Once you bring awareness to that thought, remind yourself what it’s like to be free from the prison of alcohol.
Exercise: When you start thinking about drinking, accept the thought, and bring awareness to it. Then, once you have awareness, start celebrating that you have caught the thought, and celebrate that you are living your best life without alcohol!
Tip 4: Go Towards A Better Life
As mentioned, the thoughts about alcohol will eventually subside.
But, when you’re experiencing the thoughts, how can you make them disappear faster?
The best way to make this happen faster is to focus on building a better life without alcohol.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that you have two options when you stop drinking.
Option 1: Feel sorry for yourself, feel deprived, and feel like you’re missing out.
Option 2: Immediately call yourself a non-drinker and go STRAIGHT into building a great life for yourself.
The majority of people that follow Option 1 will fail.
How do I know? Because I’ve tried that method in the past and fell flat on my face. I quit using sheer willpower. It worked – but not for very long.
Feeling deprived and feeling like you’re missing out is the easiest way to fail.
The best advice I ever received before stopping drinking, was to immediately launch myself into building a better life for myself.
I focused on my fitness, my work, my friendships, and my skills – and I just started trying to improve my life.
I focused on improving by 1% each day, and those small, gradual improvements have compounded massively.
( Image is taken from James Clear’s article on continuous improvement)
By focusing on improving my life, when I do think about alcohol, I am able to change that thought.
I think to myself: “hot damn, look how much progress I am making without alcohol!”
I bring awareness to the thought of alcohol, and then immediately show gratitude for where I have come from.
I then clench my fists, and start getting really hyped up about no longer being a slave to alcohol.
I’m able to bring awareness to the thought, realize that it’s a thought, and use that as a reminder to celebrate being free from drinking a fancy marketed poison.
Tip 5: Writing A List
In the early days of stopping drinking, one of the best exercises you can do is to write a list.
In the list, you want to have two columns – one with “pain” and one with “pleasure”.
The pain and pleasure principles have been debated for thousands of years by philosophers.
Jeremy Bentham, an English Philosopher noted:
“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do”.
The pain and pleasure principles are our two biggest motivators, and they play a crucial role when trying to stop drinking alcohol.
Under the “pain” section of your list, write about all the pain that alcohol is causing you. For example, the hangovers, the shame, the lack of energy, and so on. Make this list as extensive as possible.
Under the “pleasure” section, start writing about your goals and aspirations to focus on now you are sober. When I did this, I wrote about being able to start a business that serves other people, being able to get in excellent physical shape, and be able to travel more regularly.
In the early days of my sobriety, whenever I thought about alcohol, I could review my list and get excited about what I’m working towards.
Having a tangible list that you can pull out of your pocket at any time can really help.
So, just because you are thinking about drinking alcohol does not mean you are failing.
Quite the contrary – it means you are going through the same process everyone else is going through.
Thinking about drinking is entirely normal, and not something you should be afraid of.
If you need a bit of extra help, you check out the Soberclear program by clicking this link.
Alternatively, if you are looking for one-to-one support on stopping drinking, click this link to apply for one-to-one coaching to help you build a better life without alcohol.