Why Experts Recommend Therapy To Stop Drinking

Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m the CEO & Co-Founder of Monument, an online alcohol treatment platform for anyone looking to change their relationship with alcohol. I built Monument based on the tools I wish I knew about when I first decided I wanted to change my drinking habits. (You can read more about my personal experience here.)

The most challenging part of my journey thus far wasn’t actually getting sober— once I found a prescription medication that worked for me, I felt much more in control of my drinking habits. What’s been harder for me to manage are the emotions and behavioral changes that have surfaced in my sobriety.

We need to learn to sit with our emotions, whether they are negative, positive, neither or both.

No one told me about the anxiety, anger, and impulses that might come with getting sober, and now I work through that with therapy. And no one told me how common this is … research has shown that approximately 50% of people receiving treatment for problematic drinking also had one or more anxiety-related condition. You are not alone.

Counseling has helped me develop coping mechanisms and better understand those negative emotions. I wish I had been told that I might feel this way and why when I first decided to change my drinking, and am hoping to save at least one other person from those feelings of isolation and confusion.

So, I asked Monument advisor Laura Diamond to help explain why therapy can be so important in the treatment journey. Laura is the Counseling Supervisor of the dual-diagnosis inpatient detox and rehabilitation unit at The Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai West Hospital. She is also a licensed psychotherapist in New York. Here’s what she had to say: Alcohol use disorder is complex and is often accompanied by co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression, and is intensified by trauma, stressors and societal impact. Each of these aspects cannot be treated solely by one treatment method, but the right combination of treatment tailored to your specific needs can alleviate and resolve multiple issues simultaneously.The psychotherapeutic aspect of the treatment (therapy) is essential, with a combination of therapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and contingency management yielding promising results for alcohol use disorder. These evidence-based interventions provide safe spaces to assess an individual’s readiness for change, foster emotion regulation, process experiences and restructure negative thought patterns.

Therapy also provides a platform to work on modifying self-destructive behaviors, obtaining healthier coping responses, building relapse prevention skills, establishing boundaries, improving communication skills, and increasing self-efficacy.

It also helps individuals gain the skills to be mindful and to focus on the here and now. It is hard enough to be present and to identify what we are feeling in any particular moment. This is impacted even further by substance use, as habits are formed by using a substance any time an individual does not feel like they can tolerate feeling “uncomfortable.”

Distress tolerance, a perception of someone’s capacity to manage negative or uncomfortable emotions, is one of the fundamental components of recovery. We need to learn to sit with our emotions, whether they are negative, positive, neither or both. Many times, the only way to do this is by implementing some form of mindfulness and learning to self-regulate.

One of the most useful steps to take during your recovery process is committing to a therapy program that is specifically tailored to you and your needs.

For me, medication was a great entry point into changing my drinking. Now, I continue to put in the work with therapy to build healthier habits in all aspects of my life.

At Monument, with the expert insights of Laura and our other medical advisors, we’ve put together holistic treatment plans that provide options for therapy, medication, and peer support such as online alcohol support groups. We connect you to licensed therapists specialized in helping people change their drinking. You can meet every week or every two weeks depending on your preferences. If you’re interested in alcohol therapy to change your drinking, you can learn more about your options here. For more expert resources about how to stop drinking, explore our complete library at https://joinmonument.com/resources/.

Regardless of your path forward, I hope you know that you are not alone in this journey, and that it is rarely linear. Your emotions are justified, and most likely, are pretty common. I am rooting for you, and am honored to be on this journey together.

How To Tell People You’re Getting Treatment To Change Your Drinking

If you’re considering getting treatment to change your drinking, or have already started, congratulations. You should feel proud of that choice! From my 14+ years of experience as a licensed therapist helping people change their relationship with alcohol, I learn one lesson time and time again: everyone is different. Including why we drink, and why we want to stop.

So when it comes to deciding to enter into treatment, the journey is very personal and individualized. Whether you are using therapy, support groups or medication to stop drinking, you’re taking an important step. We’re often not sure who to share this information with, what we should or shouldn’t share, or how to talk about it. We might be fearful of how people will react, or afraid of what they won’t say. So, sometimes we keep that information to ourselves. However, a supportive and understanding network can make a significant difference on this journey, and when you feel comfortable, and if you’re able to, I’d encourage you to confide in your people.

Here are 5 tips that can help you start that conversation with your network:

  1. Not Everyone Needs To Know (Right Now): Fear and nerves about how people will react to hearing that you are getting treatment is incredibly common. Remind yourself that not everyone needs or deserves to know that you are getting treatment, and definitely not all at the same time. Think about your network — friends, family, coworkers — and begin the discussion with people you believe will be supportive. There will be time to tell others. You don’t need to inform everyone right away or at the same time.
  2. Plan It Out: Practice always helps. Think through the key points you want to share, the language you want to use, and other details of the conversation. If you’re working with a therapist, they can help you create your plan, and even role play the conversation. (If you’re interested in working with a therapist to change your relationship with alcohol, Monument has experienced, licensed therapists who can help you achieve your goals. Learn more here.)
  3. Set The Tone: The environment can make a significant difference in setting the tone of the conversation. Make sure that you’re having the discussion at a good time for both you and the other person. Whether you are having the discussion over the phone or in person, you should find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted, and will have enough time to talk. If you’re not comfortable having the discussion face-to-face, you can also write a letter or email.
  4. Expect Questions: Spoiler alert, people will have questions, and it’s important that you are honest in your responses. It’s likely that the people closest to you will not be surprised by your decision and will ask how they can support you. Then it’s your turn to let them know!
  5. Use Your Words: There is no script or glossary for how to talk about your relationship with alcohol. To describe why you’re getting treatment to change your drinking, use words you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to label yourself with words you don’t identify with. For example, our Co-Founder and CEO Mike never identified as an alcoholic, but still sought out treatment to change his drinking. Use words you identify with. There’s no right or wrong vocabulary.

Telling people you’re getting online alcohol treatment can be overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and even frightening. Change is often uncomfortable, and this will likely be no different. But know that you are making a decision that can give you more out of your life, and give those around you more of you. You should be incredibly proud of that.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments, or find me posting in the Monument Community.

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.