How can I stop struggling with alcohol?

My father is an alcoholic, and I see tendencies of that in myself. I am recently married, and I feel it affecting our relationship. I'm not sure why I do it, but I want to stop. How can I find the willpower?

Jason Lynch, MS, LMHC, LCAC, ADS
Jason Lynch, MS, LMHC, LCAC, ADS
Individual & Couples Therapy

Congratulations on taking the first step on the road towards recovery by acknowledging the problem and asking for help! The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as "a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual's life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences." Notice that nothing in the definition speaks about willpower or motivation. That's because addiction is a disease - just like diabetes or high blood pressure. Imagine I gave a huge piece of chocolate cake to a diabetic. After he eats the cake, I say to him "Use your willpower to lower your glucose to 100." Do you think he would be successful? 

All addictions are behaviors. Behavior can be understood in terms of function and reinforcement. All behavior is either an attempt to get something or an attempt to get away from something. If you apply this logic to addictive behaviors, the use of mood-altering substances is an attempt to create a particular feeling or emotion, or an attempt to numb one. When a behavior is reinforced, we are more likely to engage in the same behavior again in the future. Let's assume that I'm feeling very anxious. I drink some alcohol and notice that my anxiety decreases. My brain takes note of this and the next time I'm feeling anxious I am more likely to reach for a bottle. Now, imagine this happening hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  

Addiction recovery is about identifying and treating the underlying reasons for the use. A qualified addiction therapist will assist you in developing a relapse prevention plan that addresses these underlying issues and helps you to identify triggers for your use. Additionally, you will learn how to avoid triggers and gain healthy coping skills to use instead of relying on alcohol. 

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. Recovery can be difficult and requires a willingness to change just about everything in your life. But the rewards are tremendous!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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