Change is hard. Change — the kind of transition required to leave a lifestyle of addiction to alcohol and drugs — can often seem overwhelmingly daunting. However, once you realize that you no longer want to let drugs and alcohol control your life, there are ways to make sure your decision to quit has staying power.
1. Decide to quit
Once you decide to quit, put it in writing. While it’s good to articulate that you want to quit, truly committing to making such a substantive life change requires hard evidence. Sit down and spend some time making a list of all the reasons you have to quit. How is your addiction impacting your friends and family? Your job? Your life goals? Your personal health? Next, list the “benefits” of continuing to use drugs and alcohol. It may provide temporary relief, but at a considerable long-term cost.
Be honest about the severity of your addiction. How frequently are you using, and in what amounts? Understand that addictions don’t typically occur overnight, and give yourself the grace to understand that reclaiming your life will take time as well.
2. Prepare for the transition from addiction
Again, honesty goes a long way toward ensuring your success with this step as well. Reflect back on previous attempts to break your addiction. What worked? What challenges proved the most difficult to overcome? This time of introspection will help you avoid wasting time and energy trying something that never worked on previous attempts to quit.
Establish some specific goals. Aim high, but also be realistic, and make sure each goal is measurable. For example, hoping to make it to a 12-step support meeting every day for the first 90 days of sobriety is commendable, but possibly not easily attainable if you work full time and have a family to take care of as well. Start with a definite quit date, preferably one that’s weeks away rather than months, which might give you too much time and ultimately derail your decision to quit.
3. Make yourself accountable
Then make yourself accountable to these goals. Share your concrete goals with supporting friends and family members. Discuss how you plan to achieve each goal, as well as any issues you might struggle with. This is also a good time to develop a social network of sober peers if you don’t already have one. Surround yourself with others who are also trying to break their own addiction so you can talk candidly when you are having trouble and learn from what has successfully helped others overcome their addictions to drugs and alcohol.
4. Seek professional help for addiction recovery
Finally, seek professional help, such as an intensive outpatient treatment program. Recovering from addiction requires much more than just willpower and the hope to change, and addiction recovery professionals have been trained to help you gain valuable insight. They can help you identify your triggers, discover healthier coping mechanisms than substance use, and find ways to handle underlying issues that led you to indulge in drugs and alcohol. Those in the addiction recovery field will help you navigate away from the unhealthy but familiar territory and back onto a path toward long-lasting sobriety.