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Are you someone who has enjoyed drinking alcohol as a way to relax and have fun with friends over the years, but have recently found that it is becoming more and more of a problem in your life? If so, you are not alone. Many people use alcohol to self-medicate to relieve stress including celebrities like Jon Hamm, Matthew Perry, Billy Joel, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato and Robin Thicke. For many of our students, they admit to ignoring the signs of alcohol dependence until a DUI offense, divorce or job loss has occurred and shaken up their world. Now they have experienced a night in jail, paid multiple fines, given up their license leaving them dependent on others, had to perform hours of community service and are taking our alcohol and drug education classes to fulfill state requirements. And, to top it off, once they are allowed to legally drive again, their insurance rates will go up. Hitting rock bottom has motivated a lifestyle change.

Before things hit this point, there are some things to ask yourself about the last year to assess how complicated the situation has become.

1. Do you have times when you drink much more than you intended?

2. Found yourself too sick from a hangover to go to work or meet other responsibilities?

3. Wanted to cut back or stop, but couldn’t?

4. Experienced cravings for alcohol?

5. Experienced a blackout?

6. Skipped a family activity or something you enjoy doing to drink instead?

7. Have to drink much more than you used to for the same effects?

8. Drink alone?

9. Need a drink to enjoy yourself in social situations?

If you have answered “yes” to the majority of these questions, you may have an alcohol dependency problem and be ready to quit drinking. The first thing to consider is surrounding yourself with support to help you accomplish this goal. This might include a recovery center or 1-1 counseling or group therapy, AA meetings, alcohol awareness classes and selecting the right friends and family to help you get through this transition.

On your own, it’s important to make a plan. Rid your house of alcohol, stay away from your drinking buddies and figure out what you will do if the craving seems insurmountable. Make a list of all the reasons that you want to stay sober and carry that list with you to refer to during weak moments. Many people say they drink because they are lonely or bored. For example, they are recently divorced and the kids are away for the weekend with the other parent, or recently widowed, or downright depressed due to health or tragic life issues that have arisen. It’s common to turn to alcohol to help pass the time, so instead make changes to your daily schedule and replace the time you spent drinking with a hobby you enjoy or exercise. You might feel uncomfortable at first due to withdrawal symptoms but think back to how horrible you felt after a night of too much drinking. You might feel out of shape at first due to your previous lifestyle, but just think that every day you exercise you will get stronger and stronger. Visualize a healthier and more well balanced future and keep reminding yourself that with determination, you have the power to stay sober.