Saying No to Alcohol: The First Step in Giving Up Control

Contributor: Park Royal Hospital clinical team member, Erica Smith, MA, NCC

Sad depressed woman sitting outdoors after drinking AlcoholBattling an addiction to alcohol can cause individuals to face countless challenges in all aspects of their everyday lives.

Even once these individuals have made the brave decision to take part in treatment, the road to recovery can seem like a never-ending, uphill battle.

The Social Normality of Alcohol

The fact that consuming alcohol is a widely accepted, and sometimes even expected, practice for individuals over the age of 21 in the United States can make it increasingly difficult for people in recovery from an alcohol addiction to be sheltered from the use of this substance entirely.

For this reason, even though an individual may desire to not be exposed to the consumption of alcohol after having received treatment to combat an alcohol abuse problem, the troubling reality is that he or she may find it impossible to do so.

As a result, individuals who are in recovery must practice and gain the confidence needed to say no to alcohol, regardless of whatever situations they may find themselves in.

One of the most important first steps in getting to the point where a person can consistently say no in situations where temptation to use alcohol exists is to be able to give up control; to admit that one is powerless over his or her desire to use alcohol.

Admitting We Are Powerless

Step One of the 12-Steps as identified by Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is, “We admitted we were powerless overall alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

pregareAccording to the teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous, individuals must accept this first step or else it will be impossible for them to receive any benefit from participation in the rest of the program going forward.

By admitting that one is powerless over alcohol, he or she is admitting defeat and is giving up the sense of control that he or she tried to have over the consumption of alcohol.

This is an imperative step in the healing process as it sets the stage for people to be able to admit that they need help and gain the support they need to say no in the future.

Saying “No” To Temptation

Being able to say no when the temptation to consume alcohol arises can seem like an easy thing but, in reality, can be one of the most difficult challenges that someone who has struggled with an addiction to alcohol can face.

For this reason, individuals must reshape the way that they think about alcohol when making the commitment to abstain from alcohol consumption. In doing so, there are some important factors that one should keep in mind.

Close up of person walking on streetAccording to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), building up drink refusal skills is necessary in order to help prevent giving in to the temptation to drink.

NIAAA states that developing these skills can assist in altering unhelpful thinking and reaction patterns, ultimately helping individuals to develop their own plans as to how they can successfully resist the pressure to drink.

One part of developing these plans comes from recognizing that there will always be pressures to drink.

Planning for and Recognizing Alcohol Situations

By recognizing and understanding this, individuals are able to come up with potential scenarios that they may be confronted with and then decide how they will handle those scenarios beforehand.

By making these decisions ahead of time, people can feel confident when walking into situations where they may be presented with the temptation to drink because they already have a plan of action in place as to how they will respond.

In addition to saying no, the NIAAA also offers the following suggestions as to ways that individuals can reduce their risk of giving into the temptation to drink:

  • Always have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand. By having something already physically in your possession, the temptation will be easier to fight because you are less likely to set down a drink in order to pick up a new one.
  • Ask for support from other people who may be in attendance with you. Let them know that you do not want to drink alcohol and ask for their assistance if you feel that the temptation has become too strong.
  • Plan an escape if the temptation to drink becomes too strong. Having a plan in place ahead of time can help make you feel more comfortable because you know that the option to leave is always there.

Struggling with an addiction to alcohol is not something that is easily overcome. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available that can be of great assistance in helping individuals develop the skills necessary to become confident in their abilities to reach and sustain sobriety.

And, even after engaging in treatment, receiving ongoing support from professionals in outpatient programs or other individuals in various support groups is key to remaining successful in ongoing recovery.




About the Author:

Park Royal Hospital clinical team member, Erica Smith, MA, NCC. Erica has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the American School of Professional Psychology.

About Park Royal Hospital:

Park Royal Hospital is a premier provider of treatment for psychiatric disorders and substance abuse concerns. As a leader in providing clinical excellence, Park Royal Hospital offers adults and senior adults the life-changing care they need in order to get their life back on track. With inpatient and outpatient programs that offer individualized treatment that is tailored to meet the needs of each individual who is entrusted into our care, Park Royal Hospital is proud to be a place of hope for those who need help turning their life around and finding life-long recovery.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on May 28, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 6, 2021
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