Before You Hit Bottom, Make a Change Now

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume CIV, No. 12December, 2009

Cindy Green, LCSW

Last month’s article looked at the signs that point to the possibility of an alcohol abuse problem.

This month, we are addressing behavior modification and the avoidance of possible dangerous situations.

During the holidays, we are inevitably faced with additional opportunities to party and drink.

With this celebratory time of year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to examine, and possibly modify, any potentially damaging behavior.

If there is a problem, you have the power to take control.

Regardless of how many people may tell you to cut down or stop drinking entirely, the choice to make a change is yours.

If you suspect that you may be drinking to excess too often, take a hard look at the other aspects of your life and how they are affected by your alcohol intake.

Certainly, your general health and your relationships are potential targets.

Also, your ability to manage money and excel at work or school would likely be hurt.

Beyond these points, there are potentially more serious problems.

Alcohol abuse can cause poor judgment, increase your chances of being arrested and cause you and others to suffer serious injuries.

There is also much good that accompanies an adjustment to your drinking behavior. Weight loss and an overall improvement of how you feel are real benefits.

Also, there is certainly much to be said about not suffering from regular hangovers.

For each individual, the reasons for curtailing or stopping drinking will be unique and it is certainly not unusual to have mixed feelings about changing your drinking habits.

So if you’re not ready to make a dramatic change, here are some ideas of what to do in the meantime:

  • Keep track of how much and how often you drink.
  • Notice the affects drinking has on you, in both positive and negative ways.
  • Ask for support from someone you trust such as a doctor, a friend, a family member or the MAP office.

Keep in mind that it is advisable to quit completely if you have:

  • Tried cutting down but cannot stay within your limits.
  • Have a physical or mental condition that worsens with alcohol use.
  • Are taking medication that interacts negatively with alcohol.
  • Become pregnant or may become pregnant.

It also might make sense for you to quit even if these factors don’t directly apply to you.

You also should consider your family history, your age and other symptoms like sleep disorders or sexual dysfunction. Does your drinking play a role?

There are a variety of supports available to you in your efforts to change your drinking habits.

Because it can be difficult to imagine your life with less or no alcohol, it’s smart to develop support in your social networks.

Besides talking to family and friends, consider exploring Alcoholics Anonymous or another support group.

There are literally thousands of meetings in New York City and many of them vary widely.

Don’t be afraid to shop around to find one that is most comfortable for you.

People who attend support groups are usually more successful at making changes than people who try to do it on their own.

If you decide that you would like to change, talk to someone you trust about whether you’d like to quit or just cut down.

Keep in mind that it is easier to make a change before you hit bottom and find yourself in crisis.

With earlier change you are more likely to find success and cause less destruction to yourself and your loved ones.

If you feel like you could use additional help, there are a variety of professional supports available.

Counseling services range from short term weekly sessions to inpatient rehab for several weeks.

There are professionally run groups that can meet one or more times per week.

Doctors specializing in substance abuse treatment can not only provide talk therapy, but can sometimes prescribe medications that affect changes in the brain caused by alcoholism.

The MAP office can help you decide on your best option. Contact us at (212) 397-4803 or for free, confidential support.

We can help you evaluate your situation and how you might address your particular challenges.

There is no reason to do this alone. We are here to help you.