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Are You Ready to Quit Drinking? Overcoming Ambivalence to Change

Many people delay or avoid alcoholism treatment for a couple of reasons:

  1. You feel like you can’t succeed
  2. You have some ambivalence about changing

If you are like the overwhelming majority of people who abuse alcohol, at least one of the above statements likely describes your situation. Read on then to answer a couple of questions that might change your thinking on your ability to change and complete a brief exercise to help you organize your thoughts on ambivalence about change.

Could You Stop Drinking If You Wanted To?

Maybe you think you can't stop. Maybe you’ve tried before, maybe on many occasions before, and you’ve never been able to quit for long. Maybe you’ve been drinking for so long that it’s just a part of who you are now and you wouldn’t know how to live anymore without the drinking…

Whatever the reasoning, a belief in the possibility of change is an important step towards taking action for change, but before you say it’s impossible, ask yourself the following question:

  • Could you stop drinking if you were going to be paid $1 million for a day or $10 million for a week or $50 million for a lifetime to do so, so long as you maintained complete abstinence?

If you answered yes then you know that quitting is possible, it may be very hard to accomplish, but it is not impossible.

Now make a list of the things you would have to do to succeed in quitting drinking for a day or a week or forever:





Are You Ready to Change?

Hopefully after answering the million dollar question above you can recognize that quitting drinking is not an impossible task and that if you had sufficient motivation to do so you could probably put down the drink for good.

Quitting is hard,  but the 10’s of millions of recovering alcoholics walking the streets of America right now – and at least some of them were surely drinking harder than you are today – argues convincingly to the possibility of change.

So the question really isn’t can you change; it’s, are you ready to change?

Few people would become alcoholics if there weren’t at least some things they enjoyed about drinking, and so for most people, making a decision to change also means making a decision to give up the pleasures associated with drinking alcohol – and this can create some significant ambivalence.

You need to decide if:

  1. The positives of quitting outweigh the positives of continuing to drink
  2. The negatives of continuing to drink outweigh the negatives of quitting

Answering these questions and weighing the positives and negatives should help you to resolve ambivalence and make a decision to seek change, or to stay as you are. To get started, complete the following quick exercise.

1. Make a List of the Positives Associated with Continuing to Drink

For example, I enjoy the taste of wine, I feel more relaxed and confident after a few drinks, I have a lot of fun when I go out drinking with my friends etc.

2. Make a List of the Positives Associated with Quitting Drinking

For example, my health would improve, my children would respect me more, I’d save a lot of money, I would look younger etc.

3. Make a List of the Negatives Associated with Quitting Drinking

For example, I couldn’t hang out with my best drinking friends any more, no more going to wine tastings and other social gatherings with alcohol etc.

4. Make a List of the Negatives Associated with Continuing to Drink

For example, my liver function and high blood pressure will continue to worsen, I am likely to continue to get into trouble with the law for DUIs, I will continue to be a poor role model to my children, my wife may not stay with me etc.

There will always be ambivalence, but once you have made a fairly comprehensive listing of the pros and cons of quitting or staying as you are, it may be easier for you to choose the course of action that makes the most sense for you.*

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