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Ready to Change

Now it is time to seriously think about whether you are ready to change your drinking habits. First, you must decide why you may want to quit drinking

Listed below, are important reasons why YOU might want to quit. Maybe you can add some others that are not on this list:

  • Lower my risk of cancer and other health problems
  • Save money
  • Have better relationships
  • Decrease depression
  • Be independent
  • Improve my sleep
  • Reduce the possibility that I will be in injured/ or cause others to be injured in a car crash
  • Participate in more activities
  • Improve my friendships

In addition, consider the ways your life might improve if you decide to change your drinking habits, and write them down.

Ultimately, this has to be your decision.

If you are not committed to succeeding, you will not! So, you must set a goal for yourself and stick to it.

Goal Setting

Once you have made up your mind to quit, it is time to act; to set a goal for yourself and identify a quit date.

The next step is to make a contract with yourself. A Contract to Quit Drinking [pdf] is available to print. Fill it out, sign it and hang it some place you can see it every day. It will serve to remind you of your promise to improve your health by quitting drinking.

Remember: in order to successfully quit drinking you must first acknowledge you want to quit.

You are not alone. Across the world, millions of people struggle with quitting alcohol every day.

Assessing High Risk Situations

For some people, the desire to drink alcohol can change with their mood or social situation. Here are some examples of what some people find to be risky situations:

  • Boredom
  • Fights with loved ones
  • Habit, every day after work
  • Smoking
  • Meals/Eating
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Stress
  • Going out with friends/family
  • Parties/Get togethers

What were the circumstances the last time you were drinking? Were you with some "drinking buddies," family or alone? Were you celebrating something or were you depressed. Look back to the Alcohol Consumption Worksheet [pdf] to help recall the situations in which you were likely to drink. Note the ones that may result in risky drinking for you.

Once you've identified high-risk situations for yourself, it is important to avoid the temptation to give in.

strong>Here are a few examples of things you can do to cope with a risky situation:

  • Call a family member, friend, or neighbor
  • Read a magazine or watch television
  • Garden, do a puzzle, or build something

Plan ahead and identify different behaviors you can take on to help you deal with the risky situations you've identified.

Coping with Cravings

If you have been chemically dependent on alcohol, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These may include being nervous, edgy, or tense. For example, you may be shaky, sweaty, have trouble sleeping, experience vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms usually pass in the first week and the first 48 hours are the worst.

However, if you experience symptoms such as insomnia, hallucinations, nightmares, hyperactivity, heart palpitations (irregular beating), or seizures, please seek medical help immediately by calling your doctor/nurse or 911. Depending on your level of drinking, alcohol withdrawal can be very serious and potentially dangerous.

Combating Withdrawal Symptoms

If you do experience negative withdrawal symptoms you may wish to try some of the following methods to deal with them:

  • Try to cut back on the amount of coffee you drink. Caffeine will just add to your nervousness and trouble sleeping.
  • Aim to reduce your stress; take a walk, or a bath, or try some of the relaxation exercises we gave you in Learning to Relax.
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, do not worry. It is better to miss out on a little steep than to start drinking again. Do not take sleeping aids. Let your body return to its natural sleep rhythms, which takes about a month. Try drinking a glass of warm milk before bed or staying up a little later.
  • Try to eat on a regular schedule, even if you are not hungry. Usually while drinking, you are not eating right. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies. If you plan meals on a regular schedule and try to include lots of fruits and vegetables you can improve your nutritional health.

Refusal Skills

Once you have made the decision to quit drinking, you may have to make an effort to stick to it. Of course, the opportunity to have "just one" will arise. It is important to remember that even moderate drinking can aggravate your head and neck condition.

Whenever you are in either one of the high risk situations identified in the prior section, or whether you are simply in a position where alcohol happens to be available, try to recall the advantages and disadvantages of having a drink.

For example, if the situation is that you have a friend over to watch television and you just feel like having a beer, you could consider the following:

Advantages Disadvantages
My friend is here and we always have a beer together. Maybe my friend won't want to visit if I stop drinking. My doctor said my drinking, even in small amounts, can cause a second cancer.
I like the taste of beer, plus it helps me relax and enjoy the television. If I do have another cancer, my friend won't be able to come over to watch television with me at all.
It's just one beer; it's not like I'm going to have the whole six pack. It might take only one beer to get me drinking regularly again.

Always keep in mind that drinking any quantity of alcohol increases your risk of a second head and neck cancer.

Review the situations you've already identified as being risky for you and think about how you will handle these situations. Thinking about these situations ahead of time will help you when/if you do encounter them.

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