How to Quit Binge Drinking
How to Quit Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is a behavior that can cause serious problems. Whether it’s mental discomfort, physical withdrawals, or the fatigue and depression that may follow, many people want to find a way to stop bingeing. Binge drinkers may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal between binges, with many not even realizing that it’s anything more than a hangover. Many binge drinkers eventually fall into alcoholism and addictive behavior as well.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is the behavior of drinking amounts of alcohol that produce intoxication over a short period of time. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as consuming about four drinks within a two hour period.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one out of every six American adults binges in a given month. Adults under 35 are most likely to binge, and men are twice as likely to engage in this pattern of drinking than women. When people binge, they drink an average of eight drinks. Furthermore, some people may binge for a weekend, and not just a single night.
Binge drinking may be done in a social fashion, especially among young people and college students. Some sub-cultures regularly engage in drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as a social norm, and this can lead to increased rates of binge drinking among these people. It can also make it more difficult to quit drinking alcohol when there is this social pressure.
Binge Drinking and Alcoholism
Many people who want to know how to quit binge drinking also wonder if they’re an alcoholic. Some people who binge do indeed meet criteria for alcohol use disorder, while others do not. Many who binge will develop a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol, but not everyone. There are many factors that play a role in whether or not an individual becomes addicted to alcohol.
These may include:
- Family history of alcoholism or addiction
- Length of use
- Age at which use started
- How often a person binges
- The presence of mental health disorders
- Individual body chemistry
- Social environment
- Childhood trauma and adversity
Dangers of Bingeing
Binge drinking may seem relatively safe, as many who binge give their bodies a break between episodes. However, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause dangerous effects in the short-term, and longer lasting side effects as alcohol impacts the body. Those who binge may experience:
- Development of dependence and addiction
- Blackouts (loss of memory)
- Alcohol poisoning
- Impaired judgement
- Bodily injury
- Impaired brain development
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Memory loss
Over time, the dangers of binge drinking grow in severity. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause cardiovascular problems, severe memory loss, dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and pervasive mental health disorders.
Quitting drinking is often harder than it sounds. It’s one of the reasons so many people get stuck in the cycle of binge drinking. We think we can quit any time we want, but in reality its harder than it seems. People may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, which can be dangerous and even lethal in more severe cases. If you’re quitting alcohol after long-term drinking, it’s advisable to seek professional help in order to stay safe.
There are many support groups out there to help you quit drinking. Perhaps the most well-known is Alcoholics Anonymous, the original twelve-step program. There are also groups like SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and Celebrate Recovery which offer different perspectives on recovery from addiction and alcoholism. You may also find therapist-led support groups. A support group offers a community of people who have also quit drinking. You can find support, a sense of belonging, and new friends in your newfound life without alcohol.
Finding New Hobbies
Many of us who binge drink do so at certain times. Maybe you tend to drink heavily on weekend nights, at festivals, or on a specific night or event. It can be helpful to find new hobbies to fill your time. If you are quitting drinking, you don’t want to be just sitting around thinking about drinking. Instead, find something new to do. Investigate new activities, hobbies, and events. See if you can find something that is fun to do without alcohol!
Alcohol is a sedative, and people often use it to relax and calm down at the end of their night or week. When you quit drinking, it may be beneficial to find some way of letting loose. You can investigate relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, ways to have fun like exercise and adventures, and ways to celebrate the end of the week like a good meal out or a concert.
Risk and Reward Management
It’s important to acknowledge what stopping drinking is doing for you. When you do drink, note the risks. What is drinking doing to your health, your relationships, and your judgement? When you stay sober, give yourself a little reward. This is the idea behind sobriety chips in twelve-step programs. By giving yourself some kind of small reward, you’re encouraging the sober behavior.