happy new year

6 Therapists On How To Stay Motivated In The New Year

happy new year

If 2021 couldn’t come soon enough for you, you’re not alone. With all of the challenges that came with 2020, 2021 holds the promise of a much-needed reset. While flipping the calendar doesn’t change the state of our surroundings, it can inspire us to look inward and make meaningful personal changes, especially regarding our relationship with alcohol. To help you start the new year off strong, we polled 6 Monument therapists about how to make your 2021 aspirations a reality.  

Q: What advice would you share with someone who has set new sobriety or moderation goals in the New Year?

Sabrina LCSW, CASAC: “Let yourself visualize what you want to achieve by changing your drinking habits, and set some very concrete goals to start. Make decisions about how you will portion your drinks and what activities will replace time spent drinking. The more you can begin with tangible adjustments, the more likely you will be able to sustain your goal.”

Kelly, MAC, LMHC: “When making decisions, ask yourself ‘is this going to help me reach my goal for sobriety or moderation?’ Try measuring your progress by looking at all the right decisions you made in a 24 hour period. Then try to turn those good decisions into habits. And be compassionate towards yourself!”

Marjorie, Psychotherapist: “Establish boundaries between yourself and places and people that might trigger your unhealthy drinking habits. Build a support network with loved ones, and explore alcohol support groups, medication to stop drinking, and alcohol therapy. Every aspect of progress, whether small or large, is still progress. Soak in the happiness of small victories, as they often lead to larger successes. And remember: we are all human and inclined to make mistakes. Any error or setback only allows you the opportunity to try again.”

Adrianne, MA, LPC, CAADC: “Take it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. Sobriety is a process, not an event.” 

person thinking by window

Failure is absolutely a necessary part of growth.

Q: What are common misconceptions people have about making changes around the New Year?

Sabrina: “We live in a very quantifiable world so we often think we need to measure a habit change by counting days, drinks, etc. These are definitely great indicators of progress, but they don’t show the entire picture. Changing your drinking requires both a habit change and a relationship change. For example, changing your drinking might require building healthier coping mechanisms, or addressing co-occuring conditions through therapy, which are not as easily measured. You will continuously learn more about how these two areas intersect, which makes everyday a new day.” 

Mark, BC-TMC, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC: “A common misconception is that failure is an unwanted consequence. Failure is absolutely a necessary part of growth. The way we learn from our setbacks determines how our brain can devise a way to overcome the next challenge.”

Navigating relationship challenges while managing your drinking

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Sabrina: “Oftentimes the changes we make in the New Year are fueled by regret or the urge to compensate for indulgence during the holiday season. On the surface you may feel genuine excitement for a fresh start, but your motivation may be driven by a feeling of inadequateness. You are not alone in this. Try to lead with a recognition of your strengths and ability to make meaningful changes.”

Q: How can you make your New Year’s motivation last?

Marjorie: “Remember why you started. Be honest with yourself as to WHY you made your goal. This sense of honesty will be the single most motivating factor to keep you going. Understand that if you desire change, you need to change what currently isn’t working.”

Sabrina: “Recognize your preferred ‘style’ of growth. Can you start with this hardest part of a task first or do you prefer the “small wins” to begin? How do you like to structure your to-do list? Align with your natural rhythm for progress. This may also mean trusting your inner guide when you realize that a new framework may help with defining what success, capacity, and health look like for you.”

desk with notes and coffee

Mark: “One key to success is to stay organized and accountable. Document your drinking with a chart to increase awareness of the frequency, amount, and duration of time that you drink. Regularly attend meetings such as the alcohol support groups offered by Monument. Try asking the group for resources such as books and articles to read. This is a process: you are not expected to be an expert and get everything right the first time.”

“Every storm runs out of rain”

Q: And finally, what is a lesson you’re taking with you from 2020?

Kelly: “That we are more resilient than I ever imagined.”

Marjorie: “I’ve learned that ‘every storm runs out of rain.’ For me, this means that challenging days or situations will surely subside. Thus the main lesson I am taking from 2020 is, with every challenge experienced, there develops a sense of clarity and, with clarity, comes the opportunity for growth.”

Mark: “As a therapist, I have learned that the human spirit is tremendous, especially when faced with difficult times.”

Gretchen, LMFT: “To slow down and observe the strength in collective healing. These will be lessons I keep for a lifetime.”

Adrianne: “Life is short!”

person looking at lake and mountains

Now is the time to reflect on what gave us meaning in unprecedented times. As we embark on a new year, we may also take with us a new perspective and determination to authentically care for those around us, and importantly, genuinely care for ourselves. At Monument, we’re here to help you maintain and celebrate your moderation or sobriety goals. Whatever 2021 has in store, you are not alone. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

man on bench

Is Dry January Helpful? Here’s What Therapists Have To Say

man on bench

Many people around the world set out to complete the first 31 days of the new year without alcohol. This is what’s commonly known as ‘Dry January’. Whether participants are looking to reap the health benefits of drinking less, save money, or gain perspective on what sobriety might feel like, everybody’s reasons are valid, and any reduction in drinking is an act of self care. It’s important to note that Dry January isn’t always a walk in the park, and you don’t have to do it alone. For some additional perspective about how to get the most out of Dry January, we polled 6 therapists on the Monument platform. Here’s what they had to say. 

Q: What are the benefits of completing Dry January?

Sabrina, LSW, CASAC: “Think of it in terms of your mind-body-spirit. Time away from drinking gives your body the ability to replenish all the neurotransmitters, chemicals, and signals that get disrupted by frequent alcohol consumption. Also, with more mental clarity comes a greater sense of ability to fulfill all of your roles. And from a spiritual perspective, finding deeper meaning with your life inspires a more lasting value on your health.”

Gretchen, LMFT: “Time without substances reveals the peace that sobriety can offer us.”

Adrianne, MA, LPC, CAADC: “The greatest benefit is getting through the most difficult part when many others are, too: those first 30 days. With that experience, you will have new confidence, patterns, and skills to maintain a healthier relationship with alcohol throughout the rest of the year, and beyond.” 

Marjorie, Psychotherapist: Save money: Per the Journal of Health Psychology, 79 percent of those who participated in the study reported saving money during dry January. Improved sleep: per the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, removing alcohol from your life may restore and improve sleep. Weight Loss: Alcohol consumption is known for its empty calories. Per the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alcohol consumption can increase weight gain.” 

Kelly, MAC, LMHC: “You have the unique opportunity to authentically get to know the amazing person you are.”

couple in snow

Reaching Out Is One Of The Best Things You Can Do 

Q: What can you do when you feel like giving up on your Dry January goal?

Kelly: “Answer the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Let this reason surround you through reflection and reminders. It can be as simple as writing it on a sticky note. Practice grounding, deep breathing, and asking for support when you need it.”

Sabrina: “Let yourself listen to the triggers that make you feel like quitting Dry January. Triggers are teachers, and you can learn from them, and address them. That way, when confronted with a trigger, you can recognize it and put healthy coping mechanisms like breathwork and meditation into practice.”

Adrianne: “Reaching out is one of the best things you can do. Call a close friend, or join the conversation at Monument! We have an online community, free therapist-moderated alcohol support groups, and holistic alcohol treatment programs. You don’t have to look far to find a supportive network.”

Q: Can Dry January put too much pressure on someone? Would you also suggest trying moderation for one month?

Mark, BC-TMC, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC: “A totally dry January is realistic for some, and moderation is realistic for others. The thought of remaining sober for 30 days straight can be daunting. Just starting the process is a success, even if you only remain abstinent for 5 days. Then try for 6 days. This is a journey of progress, not perfection.”

Sabrina: “Sometimes it is too dangerous to start Dry January if one is at risk for withdrawal or prone to conditions that need to be monitored by a medical professional. Moderation can be a great alternative as it allows for a growing, exploratory change rather than a rapid one.”

Kelly: “It’s a very personal decision. Some may find that setting moderation goals for January instead provides them a beneficial, reachable goal. It’s all about taking that first step towards a healthier self.” 

couple with coffee

Dry January can normalize reducing alcohol intake for everybody.

Q: Is participation meant to be done on your own, within a group, or supervised with medical experts?

Mark: “Participation is typically most effective with a combination of group sessions, individual sessions, and a medical consultation. Use as many resources as you can and your chances for success will significantly increase.”

Gretchen: “From his research, Johann Hari concludes that the opposite of substance abuse is actually connection. Finding a community to share in your goals can be incredibly powerful.”

Sabrina: “Countless evidence-based studies show group support increases success rates for sobriety and moderation goals. It’s absolutely ideal to find the group atmosphere that works for you and begin changing the patterns that keep you feeling stagnant. I would also strongly advise talking to a doctor first to make sure Dry January is right for you. ”

Managing your drinking through quarantine

Managing your drinking can be especially challenging during times of heightened stress and isolation. Join the discussion about how to moderate your drinking or stay sober through quarantine.
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Q: Who is the best candidate for adopting a Dry January goal? 

Sabrina: “Dry January can normalize reducing alcohol intake for everybody. People might think that  Dry January is designed for someone who does not have prior dependency symptoms and wants to take advantage of the positive effects that come from abstinence, but in reality, Dry January can be a motivating time for all to work towards a new relationship with alcohol, support each other, and seek the resources that can help them get there.”

Mark: “Before beginning Dry January, take a fair assessment of your overall alcohol intake. It can be unsafe to stop drinking if your body has become dependent on alcohol, and changing your drinking may require finding the appropriate level of support, especially for beyond one month. Monument believes in providing stigma-free and evidence-based treatment, such as alcohol therapy and medication to stop drinking.”

2 people 1 blanket

After completing Dry January, many people notice major shifts in their physical health, mental wellbeing, and confidence. It can be a great way to kickstart long-lasting change, and establish the tools that will help you achieve it. Dry January isn’t easy for everyone, and that’s okay. You are not alone. No matter where you’re starting from, we’re here to get you to where you want to be in January, in the new year, and beyond. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

How To Tell Your Family You’re Not Drinking During a Holiday

Making the choice to change your drinking is an incredibly meaningful step, and one to be proud of. Perhaps because of family dynamics or our culture surrounding alcohol, you may feel hesitant to share your decision with your loved ones. Taking a step back to think about how we all have different relationships with alcohol may help you start the  conversation. With time and authentic communication, you will be able to share, and even celebrate, your path with your loved ones. Remember, your decision to change your drinking is your own, and regardless of anyone’s perception of your choice, there are always resources and a supportive community to turn to. We’re here for you.

Reflect On Where You Are  

Connecting with family and friends through holiday rituals is often a treasured experience. However, the combination of increased temptation to drink, and the potential of facing questions about your drinking can naturally begin to attach anxiety to these events. Assess where you are with yourself, and if you’re ready to put your goals into practice in a holiday setting. Our resources ‘How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much’? and My Family Gets Drunk During The Holidays, Now What?’ may help you in your reflection. Taking space away could be the best way to maintain your goals and nurture your mental health. There is nothing wrong with putting your wellbeing first. The holidays may also present a special opportunity to share how you’re cultivating a new relationship with alcohol with those close to you. Fostering a mutual understanding may take time and vulnerability, but choosing to open up is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and others. 

Understand We All Have Different Relationships With Alcohol 

Drinking alcoholic beverages is a habit. And humans like their habits. Consider what your habits and routines bring to your life. Often a sense of comfort and security accompany our closely held routines and this increases the importance of them. How alcohol shows up as a habit is different for everybody. Some people can naturally develop a healthy relationship with alcohol, and may not initially understand reasons for abstaining or purposefully moderating. Other people, especially those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol themselves, may respond negatively to the notion of cutting back. Perhaps you too have felt this way in the past. It might be worthwhile to reflect on why they might react that way. Understanding another’s perspective can help create distance from the possibility of criticism. Others’ reactions often have more to do with themselves than with you. 

Managing your drinking through quarantine

Managing your drinking can be especially challenging during times of heightened stress and isolation. Join the discussion about how to moderate your drinking or stay sober through quarantine.
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You’re on a mission to change your life, and it likely means a lot to you that others will support and grasp the significance of the change. The more we let others in, the better they will understand why we’ve made the choices that we have. That process may take time, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Join one of our therapist-moderated alcohol support groups to connect with others who can relate to your experience. There are lots of questions about drinking less this holiday, and our community can provide first-hand answers. 

holiday dinner table

Prepare For The Conversation 

Think about what you want to say ahead of time. You’ll feel more prepared and confident. Starting  the conversation might sound like this: “I’ve decided to change my drinking behavior. I’m doing this for my health and also because I want to rebuild my self confidence and learn to fully love myself again. I’m asking for your support, not necessarily your approval, but if you want to offer that that would mean a lot to me. I know you must have lots of questions and I will answer them the best way I know how. I’ll join you in holiday celebrations, but I won’t be drinking alcohol.” It doesn’t hurt to practice this on your own until you have confidence in your statement. Consider what you genuinely want them to know. Whatever words feel natural are the right ones. Find a calm time to have the conversation, before the festivities kick off. 

Then … have the talk! Here are more tactical therapist tips about how to navigate this important conversation. 

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself what you are ready to share with your family, and if you can be around holiday drinking. The best solution however, might be honesty. Hold tight to your values about sobriety or moderation, and deflect any criticisms or debate. No matter who you share it with, changing your relationship with alcohol is a major point of pride, that is well worth taking the time to rejoice in.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

holiday items

Your Questions About Drinking Less This Holiday, Answered

holiday items

The holiday season can create extra pressure to drink for a variety of reasons. However, with that discomfort comes opportunity. Opportunity to seek support from those you love, and create healthier, more meaningful holiday traditions. After answering questions like ‘My Family Gets Drunk During The Holidays, Now What?’ and ‘How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much’?, we asked Monument Community members to submit their most pressing questions about navigating this winter without or with less alcohol. Here’s what Sabrina Spotorno, a therapist on the Monument platform, had to share in response.

Q: What if you haven’t told your family you’re trying to get sober? 

A: It’s common to feel some hesitation to open up to your family, especially if you fear they might be discouraging. Cultural norms recognize the value of sobriety and moderation, yet sometimes shame the practice of it. When we speak openly, we shape our culture. You have the power to show just how normal it is to want to examine and change our relationships with alcohol as we center our lives in health and authenticity. You deserve to feel recognized for making a positive life choice. And if you’re not at that point (yet,) not saying anything is okay too. If you do want to share, here are some tactical tips for having the conversation. 

Remember: you’re allowed to set your boundaries around drinking regardless of what anybody else thinks or feels. 

Q: I’m craving a seasonal drink that’s become a holiday tradition. Any suggestions to resist this temptation?

A: Keep in mind that just like a past relationship, we tend to romanticize the fantasy more than the reality. Reflect on the core emotion that drove that craving. Then let yourself explore ways to cultivate that same feeling with loved ones, new experiences, or comforting rituals. You have the power to make your own new traditions. And a great place to start is by finding a speciality alcohol free (AF) drink for every festivity. Check out our recipe book Delish AF for inspiration! 

woman in snow

Q: Reflecting on past holidays (when I was drinking heavily) brings about feelings of deep shame. How do you manage feeling like a failure?

A: One tool for confronting self-shaming is to ask yourself: what would your wisest self (your self of today) tell your self of holidays past? Maybe you would tell them how their mistakes guided you towards a clearer picture of what you want in your life and what needs to be processed in order to keep going. This can at first seem like a self critique, but gradually leads to reparenting that younger self, remembering they are worthy of compassion, and are capable of growth. As Brené Brown would say, “owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” Be brave, you deserve to see the light that came out of those challenging times.

Q: How can I spend New Year’s Eve with a small group of friends where everyone is getting drunk?

A: Since you’re in a smaller group this year, being upfront about your moderation or abstinence goals might feel unavoidable. This may also be the exact time to experiment with being more explicit about your goals with a smaller crowd, where there’s greater opportunity for more intimate conversations. If you’re with really close company, you might even consider asking them for support in your journey to change your drinking. (Here are a few tips!)

Ask yourself this: what do I want to do this New Year’s Eve? How do I pace myself if I am going to moderate? Or what  alcohol-free drink am I going to bring to feel just as festive ? Coming prepared with a fun game or a great playlist is a productive place to start. 

And if you’re stressed about how others will perceive you, remember you can always chat with us in the community or in our online alcohol support groups. We value your authenticity!

Holiday Group: Getting Through Today Without Drinking

The holidays can be filled with joy, loneliness, pressure to drink, and more. Your feelings are valid. Join us for an encouraging conversation about how to get through today without alcohol.
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Q: I’m thinking  I want to cut back but am nervous about starting out during the holidays and quarantine. How can I reach my moderation goals during a time of  increased temptations?

A: This may sound counterintuitive, but the more temptations you have around you, the more potential you have for information gathering as well! Moderation is all about visualizing the boundaries you want to set for yourself and actualizing them to your fullest capability. So now is actually an ideal time to take note of when you want to drink (virtual happy hours, holiday dinners, etc.), and put that boundary setting into practice.  

Also remember to cultivate your sources of comfort. Replacing alcohol as a temporary relief leads us to discover new, nurturing ways to relax and find authentic joys. And as stressful as it can get, the holidays can also offer simple pleasures, like baking seasonal treats or watching cheesy holiday movies.

holiday treats

Q: How do I tell my family I don’t drink anymore before our holiday celebration?

A: More often than not, the more direct you can be about your boundaries, the better. It might be difficult at first, but setting clear expectations from the beginning avoids any escalation later on. This may look like: “I just want to give you a heads up that I won’t t be drinking at the celebration. Please know that if you or anyone else asks if I want a drink I understand that you don’t mean harm, but I will first say no, and then if you’re insistent, I’ll have to walk away.” Communicating your decision firmly helps both you and your family honor your goals.

Q: I feel tired all the time and am lacking motivation for the holidays. I drink everyday and feel like I’m in a vicious cycle, how can I make a change when I’m exhausted?

A: Thank you for keeping it real here! I would encourage you to listen to your body’s signal of needing a break. Is there extra time and care you can give yourself to get some genuine, judgement-free, rest? Remember you don’t have to do it alone. I highly recommend joining one of our free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups as a place to listen and be heard. Everyone brings support, encouragement, and resources. (You don’t even need to turn your video on, you can even listen while you’re in bed.) If nothing else, it will provide an energy boost to know you are cared for and can do this! And if you’re interested in more one-on-one support, you can also explore personalized alcohol therapy. A therapy program tailored to your needs can address co-occuring conditions like anxiety and depression, and empower you to change your relationship with alcohol along the way.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful questions. With communication, boundaries and compassion, you can maintain your sobriety or moderation goal through the holidays and into the New Year. And what better gift could you give yourself?

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

bottle on beach

The Effects of Binge Drinking: Risks and Long-Term Effects

bottle on beach

Anyone can be susceptible to the risks of binge drinking. If you have binge drinking tendencies, you are not alone. Our CEO & Co-Founder Mike identified as a binge drinker, which ultimately motivated him to seek treatment, and go on to build Monument. While binge drinking is  most commonly discussed as it relates to college students, the dangers and long-term effects are relevant to all age groups. The CDC reports one in every six U.S. adults binge drinks approximately four times a month and consumes about seven drinks per binge. It also claims binge drinking is highest among a younger (ages 18-34) demographic and is twice as common among men than it is among women.

However, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health conducted a study about how binge drinking behaviors have changed over time, which showed that the greatest increase in binge drinking behavior was among women without children, ages 30-44. The trend of binge drinking among this group doubled from 21 percent to 42 percent over a 12-year period.

Regardless of age group, the effects of frequent binge drinking are harmful and take their toll on people at different stages in life in various ways. Looking at it from a situational perspective rather than a demographic one, peer pressure is often the main factor in binge drinking in young adults, while high stress and life challenges can lead to excessive drinking habits as a person ages. If either scenario rings true to you, you are not alone. And you can make a change.

First, it’s helpful to understand the primary risks and long-term effects of binge drinking, and inversely, how changing your habits can prevent them. Potential risks include:

  • Impaired vascular function
  • Liver and other organ damage
  • Memory lapses and blackouts
  • Drunk driving and other risky behaviors
  • Heightened tension within interpersonal relationships
  • Alcohol dependency

street crossing

Impaired Vascular Function

A research study led by the University of Chicago, Illinois evaluated how the risks of binge drinking impaired vascular function among college students, ages 18-25. The study found that binge drinking has negative effects on vascular functioning. Binge drinking was identified as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and sudden death. This supports increasing evidence on the dangers of binge drinking alcohol and how it negatively affects the heart.

John Hopkins Medicine addresses the various ways excessive alcohol consumption can lead to heart problems, including high blood pressure or heart failure. It can also lead to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that weakens the heart muscle, and long-term effects of binge drinking may be a contributor to obesity. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health adds to this by highlighting that statistically, people who routinely binge drink are 72 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those that do not.

Liver and Other Organ Damage

In addition to the heart, binge drinking poses short- and long-term effects on the liver, brain, and other organs. From 1999 to 2016, U.S. annual deaths from cirrhosis of the liver increased by 65 percent and death from liver cancer doubled, with the greatest increase in mortality among people ages 25-34, according to research led by the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

One of the first noticeable effects of binge drinking is the decline of cognitive functioning. Unrestrained consumption of alcohol in a brief period of time doesn’t allow the body to metabolize alcohol fast enough. This leads to side effects, such as slurring, slower reaction time, short-term memory loss, and other damage to the brain. Another danger is alcohol poisoning, which alters the heart rate, body temperature, and can result in seizures or trouble breathing.

Memory Lapses and Blackouts

Gaps in memory due to intoxication are referred to as blackouts. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are two types that can occur. Fragmentary blackouts are when a person experiences spotty memories and missing periods of time that occur when drinking alcohol. En bloc occurrences are characterized as complete amnesia when memories don’t form and normally are unable to be recovered.

Either of these may occur when a person’s blood alcohol concentration is above approximately 0.16 percent and happen more frequently when alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly. Since the CDC defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or above,” this type of heavy drinking behavior can easily result in memory lapses or complete blackouts.

Continuing to consume alcohol past this point may not always result in a blackout, but still leads to other dangerous side effects.

car in woods

Drunk Driving and Other Risky Behaviors

The CDC reports 29 people in the U.S. get in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes every day. Moreover, the Washington University School of Medicine says excessive alcohol consumption poses an increased risk for a person to experience or participate in violence, including physical assault, and is linked to unsafe sex practices and increased risk of contracting STDs and HIV/AIDs, or unintended pregnancy.

The act of binge drinking can quickly have a domino effect. For example, drinking and driving could result in legal problems, which in turn leads to financial issues, problems at work, and other stressful situations. If you’re here now, you might be interested in exploring how drinking less can give you more, and taking more ownership over your decisions and life. That’s incredibly admirable, and we’re here to support you along the way.

Heightened Tension Within Interpersonal Relationships

The dangers of binge drinking can begin to take a toll on how you interact with others. This includes friends, family members, romantic partners, and colleagues. Since drinking impedes regular functioning and critical thinking, it can inhibit your ability to function fully at home, work, and in your day-to-day life.

Consider your relationship with alcohol and how you’d like to alter it for the sake of your health, safety, and overall well-being. Although you may not drink on a daily basis, binge drinking is measured by how much you drink in a given time. The long-term effects of binge drinking can have just as much impact as consuming alcohol several days  per week.

Navigating relationship challenges while managing your drinking

elationships are complex. And the challenges that come with changing your drinking can add additional complexity and stress. Join an honest discussion about cultivating healthy relationships through sobriety or moderation.
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Alcohol Dependency

Everyone reacts to alcohol differently and many don’t realize their behavior is classified as binge drinking. It’s often perceived as an intermittent indulgence or action that doesn’t detract from daily life in the same way drinking on a daily basis or to the point of passing out does. However, one of the major effects of binge drinking can be alcohol dependency.

Over time, binge drinking and other excessive drinking behavior cause the body to build up a tolerance to alcohol. The amount necessary to feel buzzed or intoxicated continues to increase, causing a person to drink more, which can eventually lead to alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

typing

How to Be Cautious of Binge Drinking Habits

Social pressures and everyday stressors often play a role in excessive drinking behavior, and  can occur at any life stage. Taking note of your particular habits, including when and how often you drink, can help shed light on why you drink. From there, you can start making any necessary behavioral changes.

Changing your drinking habits may feel challenging, especially if there are co-occuring mental health conditions  that haven’t been addressed. Fortunately, there are active ways to create a healthy relationship with alcohol by moderating or abstaining. Long-lasting  moderation or sobriety can be achieved through a variety of tools and resources tailored to your unique needs and goals.

Modern Treatment for Binge Drinking

Monument provides personalized, evidence-based online alcohol treatment including alcohol therapy and medication to stop drinking or cut back. We connect you to physicians and therapists specialized in helping people change their drinking habits to come up with a sustainable plan that aligns with your goals and preferences. Your Care Team will empower you to  reshape your relationship with alcohol in a way that positively changes your drinking habits and allows you to maintain accountability and control while learning how to stop binge drinking.

With a combination of specialized counseling, an anonymous peer community network, and physician-prescribed medication, we meet people where they are and get them to where they want to be.

Through our online support forum, your identity remains anonymous while you connect with others who are navigating similar challenges and triumphs. Whatever changes you’d like to make when it comes to your relationship with alcohol, we have treatment that’s been proven to work and accessible support to guide you every step of the way. Everyone deserves the opportunity to get more out of life by drinking less, and we can do it together.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Sources: 

https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/moms-are-binge-drinking-more-so-are-all-adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727916/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/alcohol-and-heart-health-separating-fact-from-fiction

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/binge-drinking-linked-with-higher-heart-attack-risk/

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts

https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2817

https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

person walking by tree

How to Stop Binge Drinking & Start Changing Your Habits

Expert Guidance. Community support. Click to get started for free

person walking by tree

Binge drinking is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as occurring after consuming four or more alcoholic beverages in women and five or more in men on the same occasion on at least one day in the past month. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 26 percent of adults reported excessive drinking in the past month.

Binge drinking can quickly spin out of control despite best efforts to drink in moderation or stay sober. If you’re struggling to cut yourself off after a couple of drinks, you are not alone. For many, binge drinking isn’t only a matter of self control. There are many factors that influence our relationship with alcohol, including social factors, genetic predispositions, mental health conditions, and beyond. There are many scenarios in which a few drinks with your friends can quickly lead to excessive alcohol consumption, which has both short- and long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Learning how to stop binge drinking is possible, and may involve reshaping your relationship with alcohol by making behavioral changes, setting goals, and seeking effective treatment.

If you’re wondering how to stop binge drinking, read on for our helpful guide to changing your behaviors.

12 Tips to Stop Binge Drinking

1. Make Behavioral Changes 

A key part of learning how to stop binge drinking is identifying the environmental factors that surround it. Start by asking yourself a few questions: 

  • What activities do I partake in that often lead to heavy drinking? Can I stop doing these activities, or reduce their frequency? Are there certain circumstances that have led to increased binge drinking? 
  • What other biological, psychological, or social factors might be perpetuating my excessive drinking habits? 

By recognizing your drinking patterns, you can begin to take the necessary steps to stop binge drinking and start making behavioral changes that promote a healthier relationship with alcohol. And you don’t have to do it alone. For many, working with a therapist on a specialized alcohol therapy program can be a really effective way to make a long-lasting change. In addition to your online alcohol treatment program, you can also make changes to your daily routine to help take control of  your relationship with alcohol.  

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2. Refrain from Drinking on an Empty Stomach

Drinking alcohol without having any food in your system can cause your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s BAC to .08 or above.” While commonly this means five drinks for men or four drinks for women in a two-hour period, without any food to help absorb and break down the alcohol you can reach the .08 level much quicker.

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3. Alternate Drinking Alcohol with Water

For every alcoholic drink consumed, drink a glass of water. This can help to maintain a lower BAC, reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning, and prevent impairments associated with intoxication, including hangovers. Choose a drink with lower alcohol content that you can enjoy over an extended amount of time, such as a glass of wine instead of a few shots right in a row.

4. Change Your Environment

Consider if you should avoid situations where heavy drinking is involved or limit your time with friends or places where binge drinking behavior is likely to take place. It’s easy to fall into the trap of peer pressure, regardless of your age group. If you’re around people who are excessively drinking, you’re more likely to be pressured to continue drinking, too. This is common among both work outings and celebrations.

If you want to stop binge drinking, make temporary changes to your environment, or implement permanent alternatives to activities that involve drinking in order to distance yourself from alcohol.

man on hill

5. Set A Maximum Number Of Drinks In A Given Sitting

Reaching for a glass of wine or a beer may feel like an instinctual way to wind down the week. However, for some, one drink can quickly become three or four. While there’s no set number of total drinks that signifies a ‘drinking problem,’ there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and the inability to control one’s alcohol consumption can be an indication of alcohol use disorder. Plus, the physical and mental effects of binge drinking are just as dangerous as any other type of unhealthy drinking behavior even if you don’t consume alcohol on a daily basis. To avoid binge drinking, consider setting a maximum number of drinks for yourself and having someone hold you accountable. If you find yourself continuously passing your limit, you may want to explore tools like medication to stop drinking, or personalized alcohol therapy. Checking in via an online alcohol support group is also a great way to practice accountability.

6. Create New Social Habits Sans Alcohol

Many people use alcohol as a “social lubricant” when getting together with friends and family. Meeting for a happy hour or partaking in a prolonged dinner with several bottles of wine may be part of the norm of your current lifestyle. As part of learning how to quit binge drinking, it’ll require exploring other social options that don’t involve an alcoholic drink. Going on coffee dates, hiking, participating in sports, and catching up over delicious alcohol alternatives are just a few of the ways you can still maintain social relationships without relying on alcohol as the binding factor. You might also be pleasantly surprised how alcohol-free socializing creates more meaningful connections.

7. Share Your Plan with Your Circle 

Communicate your intentions and goals to those with whom you surround yourself with the most. Let them know you’re focused on drinking less. Here are tips for telling your friends and family you’re getting treatment to change your drinking. You’ll likely be greeted with support and understanding. However, if anyone in your network  expresses negative feelings towards your desire to change your behavior, this gives you a chance to recognize potentially toxic behaviors in others that may not align with what’s best for you.

8. Set Personal Goals

Setting achievable goals is a great way to practice accountability and create lasting change. Align your goals to what you’d like to achieve with regards to your relationship with alcohol and your image of your ideal self. Monument treatment plans connect you with licensed physicians and therapists who can help you set goals based on your needs and preferences. While everyone’s goals are personal and unique to them, our next tip is an example of an achievable and attainable goal you can set for yourself to break free of binge drinking patterns.

9. Limit Number of Drinks Per Week

Consciously limiting how many drinks you consume each week is an act of mindfulness and self-care. Set a number and an end date when setting goals for reducing your alcohol intake. By starting smaller, you can build upon newly formed habits. For example, you can set a goal that cuts your number of drinks in half by the end of a three-month period. Calculating your alcohol consumption sheds light on patterns of when and how often you choose to drink. It can also be helpful to set goals with your therapist, and create a plan for achieving your goals.

10. Find Healthier Coping Mechanisms

Binge drinking can be a result of social pressure, but may also be a response to uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. For example, people navigating co-occuring mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may seek alcohol to self-soothe and seek relief. While alcohol can provide temporary relief, it ultimately makes those negative feelings worse, and can create a cycle of binge drinking. If you’ve used alcohol to cope, there is no shame in that. You deserve better tools. Therapy is an incredibly effective tool for both changing your relationship with alcohol, addressing co-occuring mental health conditions, and learning to tolerate uncomfortable emotions without drinking.

person by sea

11. Start a Healthy Habit As a Replacement

In addition to building new coping skills, you can replace rewards that involve alcohol with a healthy habit. (Spoiler: it can still feel rewarding!) Rather than end the week with a night out drinking, go for a walk, take a class, or enjoy a good book. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Schedule an at-home movie marathon. Reorganize your living space to make it more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing for you. Start to shift your mindset to turning to other ways of entertainment and feel-good, celebratory moments.

12. Seek Effective Treatment for Binge Drinking

While binge drinking alcohol may not seem problematic because the occurrence doesn’t happen frequently, every time you binge drink, it poses a risk to your health. Bingeing has both short- and long-term risks, including alcohol poisoning, increased risk of a stroke or heart attack, and damage to the heart, brain, and liver.

It’s important to know that a binge drinking habit can be treated with evidence-based care. You can make a change to reduce those risks and lead a healthier life.

As you may already be aware, binge drinking alcohol also causes delayed cognitive function, memory loss, and can result in blackouts. The physical reactions of binge drinking can then lead to other incidents like driving accidents, physical violence, and problems with friends, family, and colleagues. The incidence of bingeing behavior also presents an increased risk for alcohol dependence and misuse.

Fortunately, binge drinking can be treated with holistic methods including community support, specialized alcohol therapy, and prescription medication to stop drinking. At Monument, we’ve brought all of these tools online so you can make progress on your own terms, and own time.

Get Community Support 

Self-reflection and intention setting are great tools to identify your path forward if you want to stop binge drinking and moderate your alcohol consumption or get sober. And you don’t have to go down the path alone. For many people, peer support and outside accountability are key tools in their treatment toolkit.

Monument’s anonymous forum connects you to other people navigating similar challenges. It’s a judgment-free community where you can feel comfortable asking questions and getting the motivation you deserve as you make progress with learning how to stop binge drinking.

desk and computer

Engage In Evidence-Based Methods

It’s easier to achieve a goal with the right tools, resources, and people to empower you along the way. The same goes for treatment for binge drinking. By working with therapists and physicians who are trained in treating unhealthy substance use, together you can create a customized plan that works toward your goals in a way that feels right for you. 

Monument plans support goals for sobriety and moderation. Your Care Team will recommend a combination of prescribed medication, alcohol therapy, and community support to get you from where you are to where you want to be.  

Go Online on Your Own Time

A modern, online approach allows you to receive guidance and support whenever you need it, and on your own schedule. Your life doesn’t have to stop while you make progress. (No in-person meetings or expensive rehabs required.) This type of treatment allows you to change your relationship with alcohol in a way that’s easily accessible, and more affordable than most therapy options.

Taking action toward changing your relationship with alcohol is something to be proud of. We’re here to support you along the way, and empower you to get more out of life by drinking less. You can do this! 

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Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help

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Naltrexone 101

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If you think your relationship with alcohol has become unhealthy, you are not alone. The good news is that excessive drinking does not have to be permanent. Deciding that you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption is the first step towards developing a healthy relationship with alcohol that can transform every aspect of your life.

You might be wondering whether there is a medication to stop drinking that you can take to help you reach your goals for cutting back or getting sober. And while many people don’t know about these options, the answer is yes. 

There are FDA-approved medication options that have been proven effective in reducing alcohol consumption. Naltrexone is a great option for people who want to reduce their cravings for alcohol, which naturally helps them reduce alcohol consumption and achieve goals for moderation or sobriety. 

What is Naltrexone?

Even if you haven’t heard of naltrexone until now, the medication has been around for a long time. So what is naltrexone used for? Naltrexone was initially marketed in 1984 for the treatment of opioid use by reducing opioid cravings. 

Based on naltrexone’s positive results as an opioid treatment method, it was not long before it was found to help treat  alcohol use disorder as well. 

How Does Naltrexone Help People Drink Less?

Today, naltrexone is one of the leading medications used to treat alcohol use disorder. The ability of naltrexone to reduce alcohol consumption was initially observed in the 1980s. Since then, several clinical trials have demonstrated the ability of naltrexone to reduce alcohol dependency. 

So what does naltrexone do to treat alcohol use disorder? Naltrexone can help you change your alcohol usage habits in two ways. It helps you either:

  • reduce your alcohol usage
  • abstain from drinking alcohol altogether

Currently, naltrexone is sold under the trade names Vivitrol and ReVia, among others. In addition, the medication is being marketed as naltrexone hydrochloride. Your physician can walk you through your options for naltrexone, including recommended dosage, when to take it, and what to expect.

While researching naltrexone, you might come across another related medication called naloxone. This medication is different from naltrexone and is not used to treat alcohol use disorder. Naloxone is a short-acting drug that works similarly to naltrexone, but it is only used to treat opioid dependence. Naltrexone functions in the body longer compared to naloxone and is better suited to treat alcohol use disorder. While both of these medications have been used in opioid dependence neither of them is an opioid medication so there isn’t risk of dependence or withdrawal upon cessation of the medication. They both work by blocking opioid receptors in the brain.

How Effective is Naltrexone? 

Naltrexone is effective in reducing alcohol consumption, and can also help prevent a setback from occurring while you are in the process of changing your drinking habits. 

A review of 19 clinical trials examining the effect of naltrexone on alcohol use disorders found that short-term treatment of 12 weeks or less lowered the amount of total alcohol consumption and the number of drinks consumed per day. It also increased the duration of sobriety in people who took the medication, with a longer time taken to relapse during treatment with the naltrexone. While naltrexone can be effective even in shorter time periods, as mentioned above, your physician will likely recommend taking it for approximately one year to maximize your likelihood of achieving long-lasting goals. 

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Further studies have also shown that even if you experience a setback after the naltrexone treatment period is finished, the likelihood of resuming former habits of unhealthy alcohol use is lower. 

These are all significant factors for someone who wants to overcome unhealthy alcohol consumption. Overall, naltrexone has been thoroughly analyzed in clinical studies and found to be a safe and effective way to help you change the way you use alcohol. 

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Naltrexone in Combination with Therapy

There are also studies that have shown the effectiveness of naltrexone in combination with specialty alcohol therapy, including cognitive behavioral interventions (CBI). CBI includes treatment modalities such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy. All therapists on the Monument platform are proficient in these modalities. It’s been found that prescribed naltrexone with therapy like medical management (MM) or combined behavioral intervention (CBI) produced some of the best outcomes when it came to reduction of drinking.

However, medication may not be for everyone. We recommend you speak with your physician to help determine which approach will best achieve your goals.

person looking out

How Does Naltrexone Work? 

First, let’s take a look at how alcohol works in the body when consumed. Alcohol alters several neurochemical pathways in the brain and when ingested, it can reach the brain within just a few minutes. The feelings of euphoria or reward that you feel when alcohol is consumed are caused by how alcohol alters these neurochemical pathways. The brain’s major biological pathways affected by alcohol are called the glutamate, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, and opiate systems. 

Initially, alcohol stimulates the dopamine and opiate systems in the brain that give you feelings of craving, reward, and dependence when you consume alcohol. Research has shown that overuse of alcohol lights up these areas of the brain much more in people who overuse alcohol than in more mild drinkers. Natural substances, called endorphins, present in the brain are also released during intoxication with alcohol. These endorphins contribute to pleasure and dependency on alcohol.

The effects of alcohol on an individual’s brain also explain why drinking in moderation versus drinking in excess have such different effects on the body. While low doses of alcohol can increase energy and feelings of pleasure through the release of dopamine in the brain, large amounts of alcohol have the opposite effect. Alcohol is a depressant. Excessive alcohol consumption causes drowsiness through the stimulation of a different neurochemical pathway (the GABA pathway) in the brain. 

Naltrexone prevents endorphins from binding to the receptors in the brain when you drink alcohol. So instead of the short-term pleasure you feel when you drink caused by alcohol-stimulated endorphins and dopamine, you will feel less reward or pleasure after drinking alcohol with naltrexone. 

Without any special feeling, you start to crave alcohol less. This helps you reduce the amount you drink, and some people are even able to stop drinking altogether  with the help of naltrexone. 

person outside

Is Naltrexone Habit-Forming? 

One of the most significant advantages of using naltrexone to reduce alcohol consumption is that naltrexone itself is not habit-forming. This means people can safely start and stop naltrexone without experiencing withdrawal symptoms of the medication. While there are many types of prescription drugs that can be habit-forming, when it comes to this prescription medication to stop drinking, naltrexone addiction is not something you have to worry about. 

Does Naltrexone have Side Effects?  

As with any medication, naltrexone has the possibility of causing some side effects. However, if side effects occur it is likely that they can be mitigated by adjusting when you take your medication, your dosage, and other controllable factors. Your physician can walk you through your options. The most common side effects of naltrexone are nausea and headache. During clinical trials, there were no cases in which patients stopped taking naltrexone because side effects were too severe. 

Is it safe?

Is naltrexone safe for everyone? Most people can take naltrexone, except for people with specific co-occurring medical conditions. Everyone should consult with a physician before taking naltrexone, and people with a history of liver disease should disclose this to their treatment provider before taking naltrexone because a high dose can be toxic to the liver. 

To learn more valuable information about the effects of naltrexone treatment, check out our blog that explains what drinking on naltrexone is like.

How Naltrexone Can Help

Naltrexone is a great tool for many people who are looking to change the way they consume alcohol, especially when paired with online alcohol therapy and a supportive community. Many clinical studies support this, and it’s important people know about this option. Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition, and can be treated effectively with a medical solution.

That’s why the Monument approach includes medication, like naltrexone, as a tool in your treatment toolkit. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how naltrexone can work for you, we encourage you to join the free Monument Community where you can hear about naltrexone experiences from other members. We can also connect you to a licensed physician as part of our alcohol treatment program to discuss your options. 

If you decide medication isn’t for you, you can explore other treatment options like support groups and a personalized alcohol treatment program. We’ll work with you to customize a plan that aligns with your preferences and lifestyle, and helps you reach your goals for sobriety or moderation. You can do this! 

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Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2565602/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64042/

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/combine/faqs.htm

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21154349/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28247556/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945872/ 

Important Safety Information

Naltrexone has the capacity to cause hepatocellular injury (liver injury) when given in excessive doses. Naltrexone is contraindicated in acute hepatitis or liver failure, and its use in patients with active liver disease must be carefully considered in light of its hepatotoxic effects. In the treatment of alcohol dependence, adverse reactions include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, nervousness, abdominal pain/cramps, nausea and/or vomiting, low energy, joint and muscle pain, headache, dizziness and somnolence. This is not a complete list of potential adverse events associated with naltrexone hydrochloride. Please see Full Prescribing Information for a complete list

man at the ocean

What is Drinking on Naltrexone Like?

man at the ocean

Changing your relationship with alcohol looks different for everyone. Some people set goals for sobriety and complete abstinence, and others are looking to cut back on their drinking and moderate. Regardless of your goal, you don’t have to do it alone. You can engage in community support, work with a therapist on a personalized alcohol therapy program, and take medication to stop drinking, which has proven successful for many individuals looking to make a change. 

Prescription medication that reduces the feeling of reward or pleasure after you drink can be a very effective tool that many people aren’t aware of. One of the most common medications for treating alcohol use disorder is called  naltrexone. Many people use naltrexone to combat alcohol cravings and reduce their intake, while others use it with the goal of achieving and maintaining complete sobriety. No matter your goal, you might be wondering what you may experience while drinking on naltrexone. To answer this question, it’s important to understand how naltrexone works.

Understanding How it Works

Naltrexone limits your ability to feel rewarding or pleasurable effects after drinking alcohol, and thus reduces your craving for it. The way naltrexone treatment works is by altering what alcohol does to your brain. Normally, alcohol stimulates the release of biological molecules, called endorphins, in the brain that make you feel that happy and euphoric feeling when you drink. Naltrexone belongs to the class of drugs called opioid antagonists. An opioid antagonist blocks endorphins from binding to their receptors, so you no longer feel the same feelings of elation when you drink. Therefore, it’s important to note that when drinking on naltrexone, you may not feel the same pleasurable effect you used to feel when drinking alcohol.

How Soon Does Naltrexone Start Working?

At Monument, you will connect with a physician who will prescribe medication if they deem it safe and appropriate based on your medical history and goals. If indicated, your physician will likely dose naltrexone at the FDA-recommended daily dose of 50 mg. Naltrexone’s duration of action is approximately 24 hours. Therefore, an individual will have a therapeutic dose throughout the day.

In general, oral naltrexone is absorbed well by the body, making it very effective for most people who take it. Once you take naltrexone, the medication reaches its maximum effect in about one hour, so it begins working very quickly. 

on the street

What Happens if You Drink While on Naltrexone? 

A common question is whether or not it is harmful to drink alcohol while taking the medication. The short answer is this: while there is no risk of a dangerous reaction between naltrexone and drinking alcohol, naltrexone does not prevent the negative effects of alcohol use, such as judgment impairment, slowed thinking and worsened motor skills, among others. 

How naltrexone works is by lessening the experience of pleasure from drinking. This does not mean that the alcohol you consume will not affect you. Drinking on naltrexone still subjects you to the same types of psychological and behavioral risks of drinking without naltrexone. Since naltrexone prevents you from feeling the same way you usually do when you drink alcohol, it can be difficult to realize that you are intoxicated. So, to be safe, you should still avoid activities that you normally would not do when you drink, like driving, operating machinery, or engaging in activities that rely on motor skills and coordination of movements.

While it doesn’t counteract the negative side effects of drinking, naltrexone does reduce alcohol craving, and is an effective tool for ultimately reducing your alcohol intake and living a healthier life. This stems from your brain creating lower feelings of reward and pleasure when alcohol is consumed. As for many others, one of our members shared seeing success with naltrexone to slowly reduce alcohol intake. Over time, the pleasurable effect decreased and deliberate alcohol consumption turned into healthier habits or no drinking at all.

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Do You Still Feel Drunk While Taking Naltrexone? 

Drinking while on naltrexone is unlikely to make you feel the same level of intoxication or ‘buzz’ you experience when drinking without it. 

However, when drinking on naltrexone, the alcohol can still:

  • impair your judgment
  • impair your ability to think and perform actions normally 

Keep this in mind if you reach for a drink while taking naltrexone. 

People who drink alcohol after taking naltrexone have described the feeling as lacking the ‘buzz’ generally associated with alcohol intake, with some people describing it as drinking any other beverage.  

Can Drinking on Naltrexone Make You Sick? 

You might be wondering what it feels like to take naltrexone and drink alcohol. This medication will not make you feel sick if you drink alcohol while taking it. 

In contrast, another medication used to treat alcohol use disorder, disulfiram, increases alcohol sensitivity when consumed. This increased sensitivity can cause you to become very ill, as disulfiram causes the same effects of a hangover almost immediately after alcohol is ingested. Naltrexone does not have the same effect. 

Clinical trials have shown that naltrexone is safe and well-tolerated when taken while still drinking.

With that said, naltrexone alone can still have side effects which should be considered and discussed with a physician before deciding to take it. The most common side effects are nausea and headaches. When someone experiences a side effect, they tend to be mild and lessen/resolve with time. 

on computer

Is Naltrexone Right For You?

How do you decide whether naltrexone is right for you? You don’t have to make this decision alone. At Monument, we connect you to a licensed physician to discuss your options. They will learn about your medical history, preferences, and goals, and let you know what is safe and appropriate. If medication isn’t right for you for any reason, don’t be discouraged. You can achieve your goals with the support of other alcohol treatment options like community support and specialized therapy. 

We understand that finding the right approach to change your drinking habits can be challenging, and we’re here to connect you to expert clinicians to guide you along the way. You can do this! Talk to a physician to determine if naltrexone is right for you.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Sources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15200577/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11139409/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2565602/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1869208

Important Safety Information

Naltrexone has the capacity to cause hepatocellular injury (liver injury) when given in excessive doses. Naltrexone is contraindicated in acute hepatitis or liver failure, and its use in patients with active liver disease must be carefully considered in light of its hepatotoxic effects. In the treatment of alcohol dependence, adverse reactions include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, nervousness, abdominal pain/cramps, nausea and/or vomiting, low energy, joint and muscle pain, headache, dizziness and somnolence. This is not a complete list of potential adverse events associated with naltrexone hydrochloride. Please see Full Prescribing Information for a complete list.

The most common side effects of Disulfiram may include drowsiness, tiredness, headache, acne, and metallic-like taste in the mouth. Call your doctor if you have signs of serious side effects such as decreased sexual ability, vision changes, numbness of arms or legs, muscle weakness, mood changes, seizures, or confusion. Do not take Disulfiram if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. If you begin to have signs of an allergic reaction, then seek immediate medical attention. Avoid consumption of alcohol while taking this medication, as it may lead to adverse side effects. Talk to your doctor about the history of your medical conditions including if you have or have had diabetes, underactive thyroid, brain disorders, liver or kidney disease, personal or family history of regular use/abuse of drugs. Certain drug interactions may lead to serious adverse side effects. Let your doctor know about any other medications you are taking. This is not a complete list of potential adverse events associated with Disulfiram. Please see Full Prescribing Information for a complete list.

desk

The Value (And Traps) Of Resolution Setting

desk

The New Year is a popular time to set out on making major life changes. Many of us resolve to work out consistently, change jobs, or quit alcohol. But New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to fulfill, and the pressure surrounding them can sometimes do us more harm than good. As 2021 approaches, keep these insights in mind as we navigate another season of planning for the year ahead. 

Where Resolutions Fall Short 

Resolutions are hard to keep, but why? Here are some of the common traps we fall into when we make big resolutions: 

Start And End Dates Confine Us

Significant lifestyle changes often happen gradually, and are complete with many ups and downs. Resolutions, however, force a strict timeline on behaviors that are more productive when they’re ongoing and dynamic. Changing your relationship with alcohol, for example, might mean something different to you over time. Working toward sobriety is more than a start date on a calendar: it’s a continuous act of self-love. 

Perfection Stunts Progress 

Resolutions can impose an unnecessary amount of pressure on an already challenging goal. The high bar we set for ourselves can cause feelings of shame and guilt in the moments we can’t quite meet it. I often see patients make strict resolutions, and when they slip up, they abandon the essence of the goal altogether. We are only human, and can still make long-lasting lifestyle changes without a 100% success rate. 

Unrealistic Expectations Discourage Us

Another trap that eager resolution-makers can fall into is setting resolutions that are unsustainable or exceptionally hard to accomplish. Going to the gym every single day may last for a couple of weeks, but once burnout sets in, we’re discouraged from ever returning. Goals are completely possible to achieve when we go into them with a thoughtful and attainable plan, even if it means ramping up or taking baby steps. 

So if our resolutions consistently make us feel less-than, why are we drawn to them year after year? Because we want to continue to grow and evolve, and that’s an admirable aspiration. However it’s the idea behind resolutions, one of self-improvement and self-care, that’s worth holding onto. We should honor our desire to be our best selves. Instead of making unattainable resolutions, setting intentional and manageable goals is how we’ll get there. 

desk

How Goal-Setting Enables Change 

While New Year’s resolutions can leave us feeling unaccomplished, goal setting can pick up the slack. Realistic goals help us work on our behavior and become the best version of ourselves. Writing our goals down is a highly effective way to identify what we want to change. Goal-setting can also encourage us to look back at the past, and honestly reflect with ourselves. The key is to not let pressure and unrealistic expectations cloud our goal-setting. Here are my tips for setting goals that set us up for success in the new year, and beyond. 

Don’t Skimp on Self-Compassion

Changing our drinking habits, or workout routine, or profession, can be really challenging. If it wasn’t hard, we would already be doing it! In order to succeed, we need to understand that we will make mistakes, and we need to be able to practice compassion in those moments. Try not to be too critical of yourself, especially when you fall short. Take stock of how far you’ve come, adjust your short-term goal, and move forward. Accept that it’s going to be a process, not a test you have to ace. 

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Be Intentional When Setting Your Goal 

Make sure your goal is something you believe in, and have the power to achieve. Break up your goals into the short and long term, and formulate a plan for each goal that is within your reach. It can be helpful to pursue this with a therapist, who can work with you to set intentions and create a plan. You may also feel pressure to have the same resolutions as your peers. While having support is essential, remember that everybody’s goals and values look different. Something that may be a realistic short-term goal for a friend may make more sense as a long-term goal for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Look At The Big Picture 

Assigning numbers to our goals is an easy way to get discouraged. Keep your goals flexible and cultivate a broad understanding of what you want to achieve in the coming year and beyond. To have a healthier relationship with alcohol is an overarching, achievable goal that leaves room for adjustment. As opposed to a list of resolutions, consider opting for a vision board, collection of mantras, or other visual reminders. These tools will help steer you toward your aspirations as you navigate all the unpredictability a year can bring. 

sunset hang

Use All Of The Tools Available 

Whatever your personal goals may be, you’re more likely to achieve them with support. There are others who want you to succeed, have similar ambitions, and can help you on your path. At Monument, you are not alone in your goal to change your drinking. I encourage you to get and give support at one of our online therapist-moderated alcohol support groups. You can join with your camera on or off, and you’ll never be called on to speak. Explore how Monument can help you with medication to stop drinking, and alcohol therapy treatment. You have tools in your toolkit, and you should use them. We’re here for you. .  

After all of the additional uncertainty, stress, and pain this year has brought, maybe you decide to take resolutions off the table entirely, and that’s perfectly okay. The New Year can often feel like a fresh start: but you always have the power to decide to make a change. Goal-setting, big and small, is an empowering way to transform your life. When we nurture ourselves as we work on our goals, it’s amazing just how much we are capable of. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

winter berries

How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much?

winter berries

Let’s face it; the holidays, especially the winter holidays, can be tough. People are tired, stressed, and spending… and overspending. Not to mention, the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have created a demanding new reality for all of us. When it comes to a desire to drink less or abstain, you may run into a complex set of obstacles. However, you can overcome them. 

Every person has a unique relationship with alcohol and because of that, there is no universal answer or number for how much holiday drinking is too much. While generally recognized guidelines (one drink a day for women, two for men) provide a broad recommendation for year-round limits, they don’t account for the biological, physcological, or social stressors that might be at play, and how they can affect your relationship with alcohol.

Through self-reflection, resources, and support, a clearer picture of your drinking habits will form. And ultimately, you’ll be able to answer ‘How much drinking is too much for me?’ on your own terms. Here’s how to begin that process. 

Let’s look back with compassion.

Oftentimes, we are nervous to look deeply at ourselves, and the reasons we drink. This is natural, as it can be a painful process. One of the most helpful tools for making a change is identifying and labeling your past and present emotions. Building this awareness will encourage an even stronger determination toward your goal. 

Let’s reflect on the last time you drank more than you wanted to around the holidays. Look back with honesty and kindness. Know that you’re already progressing toward something better by making it here.

If you can, try to recall the event from the very beginning: the environment (even including the weather), the location, and the other people there. Next, discern your emotional perspective: were you sad, joyful, lonely, or energized? I encourage you, if it’s helpful, to write these details out on paper. Putting pen to pad can be an incredibly effective way to access and process past experiences (particularly complicated ones).

outdoor meal

Ask yourself the hard questions.

Oftentimes, you can arrive at the answers yourself. However, many of us also benefit from extra support. I recommend that you explore your alcohol therapy options. Industry-leading methodologies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Contingency Management are clinically proven to help folks assess their drinking behaviors — both past and present. 

Now, as you examine your past behavior with alcohol, explore what your expectations were: 

  • What needed fulfillment?
  • Were you expecting camaraderie or friendship; did you feel like you had to keep up with everybody? 
  • Did you need soothing or support? 
  • Were you looking for fun or to check out?
  • Did you pace yourself or drink quickly?
  • Did you skip opportunities to eat or drink other non-alcoholic beverages?

These questions will help you reflect candidly on your drinking behavior. Retracing your alcohol use over the course of the night will prepare you for the next holiday event, where you can implement your new goals for yourself. 

Holiday Group: Getting Through Today Without Drinking

The holidays can be filled with joy, loneliness, pressure to drink, and more. Your feelings are valid. Join us for an encouraging conversation about how to get through today without alcohol.
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Perhaps the most significant issue to contemplate as you get ready for future holidays, moderating or abstaining, is to think about the consequences of your alcohol use. As you do, you will likely find yourself gaining an understanding of how much alcohol is best for you to consume — if any. Ask yourself:

  • How much did I drink? 
  • Did I truly enjoy myself?
  • Did I act in a way that matches my values?  
  • Did I travel safely?
  • Did I become angry, depressed, or anxious?
  • Did I disregard my own good intentions? 
  • Did I harm others in a direct or indirect way?
  • Did I become ill? Did I continue to drink thereafter?

person in the snow

Ultimately, the amount we drink or the decision to abstain rests with every individual. As you contemplate these tough questions, you will also encounter your own innate wisdom for a healthy lifestyle, and what a healthy relationship with alcohol looks like for you. With some early preparation and a firm commitment to change your drinking habits, it is absolutely feasible to stick to your plan. I have no doubt! 

Remember, you’re not navigating this alone. Reach out to your support network, read more about family holiday drinking, come to one of our online therapist-moderated alcohol support groups, and explore how Monument can help you with medication to stop drinking, and alcohol therapy treatment. We’re here for you. 

This holiday, treat your drinking intentions as top priority. As you begin to evaluate your drinking patterns, you can reinforce your motivation and understand, from within, exactly why you’re sober or drinking less this year. And that’s something to be proud of.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.