Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Stop Drinking?
“I always felt terrible the next day, both emotionally and spiritually!”—Bob.
“I was constantly in trouble at home, at school, with friends and the law!”—Jerome.
BOB and Jerome both paid the price for drinking alcohol too much and too often. Both became addicted to alcohol. And while Bob was finally able to quit drinking altogether, Jerome is still trying to overcome alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction is a growing problem among young people in many parts of the world. Some estimate that in the United States alone, about five million youths have a serious drinking problem. If you are a Christian youth, though, no doubt you have avoided experimenting with alcohol, especially if teenage drinking is against the law in your community. Nevertheless, the following information can serve to strengthen your resolve not to get involved with drinking in the first place—at least until you are older and better equipped to handle it. But if you are one who has got hooked on alcohol, we hope this information will help you fight this problem. With real effort on your part and the help of Jehovah God, recovery is possible.
The first and most difficult step you must take is to overcome denial. Alcoholics typically refuse to believe that they have any sort of problem with drinking. ‘I can handle it,’ is the pathetic boast of the alcoholic. Consider, for example, the 15-year-old who said: “I’m not a problem drinker. I only have a six-pack of beer an evening.” We are reminded of the Bible’s description of the man who “has acted too smoothly to himself in his own eyes to find out his error so as to hate it.”—Psalm 36:2.
Yes, denial is deadly. So if you have a problem with drinking, you must admit that painful truth to yourself.* Do not ignore friends, siblings, or parents who tell you that you are drinking too much. They are not your enemies because they tell you the truth. (Compare Galatians 4:16.) Bob (mentioned at the outset) used to drink heavily each weekend. When a friend approached him about it, Bob rejected any notion that he had a drinking problem, and he ended the discussion. But how was alcohol affecting Bob’s life? “I was a nervous wreck if I didn’t drink and was out of control when I did,” confesses Bob. “My family life was torn apart—as was my relationship with God.”
On another occasion, Bob finally broke down and admitted to his friend that he indeed craved alcohol. Having breached the wall of denial, Bob was able to begin his recovery.
Develop the Determination to Quit
Professor George Vaillant writes that “alcoholism is . . . highly treatable, but . . . will require great responsibility from the patient.” That includes your being determined to quit drinking alcohol. A lack of resolve can mean living—and dying—as an alcoholic. What can help? Focusing on the destructiveness of alcoholism can help you to “hate what is bad” and can strengthen your resolve to stop drinking once and for all.—Psalm 97:10.
You might, for example, give a lot of thought to the high toll alcoholism exacts physically, emotionally, and morally. Granted, a drink may seem to salve your inner pain or feelings of worthlessness for a while. But in the long run, reliance on alcohol simply serves to create more problems; friendships break up, and family relationships become strained. Furthermore, because alcohol lowers your inhibitions, it can easily “take away good motive” and lead you into serious misconduct.—Hosea 4:11.
Consider, too, what large doses of alcohol can do to your body, gradually poisoning your vital organs. The Bible thus says that overdrinking results in little more than ‘misery, remorse, quarrels, anxiety, and bruises.’ (Proverbs 23:29-30, The New English Bible) Is any temporary pleasure you get worth this price?
It may also help to remind yourself that you do not need alcohol to be happy. Nor do you need an artificial high to have self-respect, good health, loyal friends, and a loving family. Success in these areas of life comes through applying God’s Word. (Psalm 1:1-3) That Word also gives you a hope for a brighter future—eternal life without emotional or physical pain! (Revelation 21:3, 4) Having such a hope gives you yet another reason to abstain from alcohol.—Compare 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Simply having the desire to recover is usually not enough, though. You will also need the support and help of others. “Two are better than one,” said King Solomon. “For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10) Trusting someone to help you with your problem will not be easy. But a recovering alcoholic named Katy gives this advice: “Learn to trust people, especially your family.” Yes, in most cases your family is in the best position to give you the love and support you need.
True, your family situation may have contributed to your getting involved with drinking in the first place. But if your parents were made aware of your situation, might they not see the need to improve things at home? So why not try approaching your parents, informing them that you have a serious problem? Instead of laying all the blame on them, ask for their help and support. Being open and honest with your folks will help your family to be “harmoniously joined together” just as God’s household is. (Ephesians 4:16) In this way all of you can begin to work together for a successful recovery.
If family support is not available, others can help.* (Proverbs 17:17) Bob was befriended by a Christian elder who met with him every week over a period of several months to monitor his progress. Says Bob: “His interest and care gave me the self-esteem I needed to stop my abusive habit.”—James 5:13, 14.
Above all, realize that you need the help of Jehovah God. Lean upon him for strength. Yes, with God’s help “the brokenhearted ones” can experience Jehovah’s ‘healing and binding of their painful spots.’—Psalm 147:3; see also Psalm 145:14.
Find New Friends
A survey in New Zealand reported that friends are a major influence on youths who abuse alcohol. You will therefore find it hard to stop drinking if you hang out with drinkers. For this reason the Bible exhorts: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers.” (Proverbs 23:20) Develop new, wholesome friendships. Just as it is true that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” good companions are a positive influence.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Kim discovered this to be true. “It was awkward,” she admits, “but I had to change my friends . . . I didn’t want to be around alcohol or drugs.” Admittedly, friends who do not drink may seem hard to come by. You will find, though, that exemplary youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses do not engage in illegal drinking. Nor do they rely on alcohol as a source of recreation or escape. They can therefore help—not hinder—your efforts to “strip off the old personality with its practices.”—Colossians 3:9.
You Can Recover!
Living without alcohol will be an ongoing battle for you. At times abstinence may be very difficult. “I still have the compulsion [to drink] really bad,” admitted Ana, “especially when I’m upset, frustrated, depressed or hurt.” It is thus not uncommon for a recovering alcoholic to experience a relapse, leading to overwhelming feelings of guilt. Should that happen, remember that “we all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) Recall, too, that Jehovah is a God of mercy who understands your weaknesses.—Psalm 103:14.
Nevertheless, be careful not to abuse God’s kindness. Learn from your mistake, and be more determined than ever not to relapse again. By showing such determination, Bob was able to quit drinking. Since then, he has been able to enjoy peaceful relations both with his family and with God. His happy life now includes service as a full-time minister. Happiness and peace of mind will be your lot, too, if you win the battle against alcohol.
The article “Young People Ask . . . Can Drinking Really Get Me Hooked?” (January 8, 1993, Awake!) can help you determine if you have a problem in this regard.
Many have benefited from the help of physicians and counselors who are trained to deal with alcohol addiction. Some experts believe that until the addictive behavior itself is halted, work on other aspects of recovery simply cannot succeed. For this and other reasons, some recommend that alcoholics enter a detoxification program in a hospital or a clinic.
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Young alcoholics tend to deny they have a problem