How Do You Stop Drinking and Stay Stopped?

If your drinking has left you in a state of despair or hopelessness, now more than ever, you need to know that recovery is definitely possible. But to achieve something that you have never achieved before, you are most likely going to have to do some things that you have never done before. The most important of those is to ask for help. After you’ve asked for help for the first time, then you need to make it a daily practice. Over time, it becomes a habit.

If you have a desire to stop drinking but have not been able to get beyond the thought that lingers somewhere in the back of your mind that someday you will be able to drink successfully, then according to John Malone, CEO of The Sydney Retreat, this is precisely the time when you should be reaching out. He believes that one of the main ingredients for a sober life is connecting with people who have already recovered and have experienced what it takes to get sober. They have also experienced the thinking that contradicts their experiences as drinkers and found the truth to concede that they can’t do it alone.

Interaction with recovered alcoholics; people with runs on the board; people who know what it’s like to move from a life of alcoholism and addiction to a life of full recovery – that’s what works,” John Malone said. 

When do you know that your willpower is not enough?

With the very best intentions and by summoning all of the willpower you can muster, you may: commit to change; swear off forever; resist in increments; start drinking later; stop drinking spirits and stick to wine and beer; only drink on weekends; clear out your liquor cabinet and buy only small amounts of alcohol at a time – you could add to the list ad nauseam but the result is always the same, you’re drunk again and you can’t quite understand how your plan failed.

An alcoholic, even an alcoholic with some desire to stop drinking, finds it almost impossible to not be tempted by the ease and comfort that comes from taking another drink. A litany of disastrous experiences may crowd your mind. You may even have a number of hurt or angry loved ones left in your wake. But still, for some incomprehensible reason, you think that the next drink will be different so you roll the dice again …

If you are swearing off alcohol only to find yourself drunk again soon after you told yourself you were done with drinking for good, then you might need intervention to interrupt the pattern. John Malone believes that most people will need to get a break from their lives if they are going to get sober.

“I have mixed with a lot of people who are trying to get sober and I know how difficult it is,” he said . “Some people need a break away from their family, their friends and their neighbourhood so they can focus for a month solely on their recovery.” 

But drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres have traditionally had high attrition rates because the medical model that they are based on has little or no time to address the reasons behind why an alcoholic drinks and what they need to do to stay sober.  People leave with the false belief that if you stop drinking then the easy part is staying stopped. But as John Malone points out, the two are not the same.

“People go into rehab for a month or so, then they come out and for good reason or bad they pick up a drink and they’re off again.” 

John Malone believes the 12 steps combined with ongoing education and connection with sober alcoholics and addicts is the best form of relapse prevention.

“The model that the Sydney Retreat emulates (The Retreat in Minneapolis) has a success rate of 59%. After 12 months, 59% of people haven’t had a drink. That’s extraordinary – between 5 and 10% is quite common (for most drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres).” 

Once sober and familiarised with the process and tools of recovery, the most important characteristic that you’ll need to stay sober is consistency. Get a sponsor and have regular phone calls and meetings together. Keep attending 12 step recovery meetings and find a group that you feel comfortable enough to join.

Getting sober means that you and parts of your life may need to change. Removing yourself from environments that are not conducive to your recovery is fundamental and the same applies to relationships. If they are unproductive and threatening to your sobriety then they may need to end.

I was sober for a while and then I drank again, what happened?

When an alcoholic in recovery relapses the main reason given is reduced or non-attendance at  recovery meetings. And while this is true to a large extent, members in recovery who have relapsed at one time or another will tell you, there is usually something going on a long time before the sober person stopped attending meetings and took a drink. Meetings are just a part of the recipe; there are other ingredients and if any of them are missing a relapse is possible if not likely.

It probably starts with your thinking followed by a reduction in your willingness to share what is going on in your life. The term “lurking notion” is used to describe the persuasive and ultimately destructive thinking that manipulates you into taking another drink, even if your experience tells you that the results could be harmful or even catastrophic. These are precisely the conversations you need to have with your sponsor: allaying your fears; shining a light on your darker thoughts; addressing your confusion; clearing your mind.

If you don’t get a sponsor then as we discussed in a previous article, denial and delusion are powerful opponents to the principles of recovery. A lurking notion overtime becomes obstinance and eventually you will start to think it’s reality. To consume the substance that is largely responsible for your problems in the belief that it might be your saviour is delusional. But that is what the alcoholic does to the exclusion of everything else in their lives, they succumb to the delusion.

Too often an alcoholic will act on these destructive thoughts only to rediscover what they already know – that once they start to drink they can’t stop and in the process they have a personality change that compromises their values and standards of behaviour. You might argue that it is a lesson that needs to be learnt – yet again – but in the light of what can happen when an alcoholic takes a drink, it’s a dangerous and unnecessary game to play. Especially when the knowledge and process of surrendering can occur without the risk associated with taking a drink.

As you will often hear in recovery meetings, if you don’t go away then you don’t have to face the prospect of coming back. An admission to The Sydney Retreat is just the beginning. An exciting life of recovery awaits you. The feeling that you are a bystander in life will leave and before you know it great things will come to pass. It all depends on your commitment and consistency to what is largely, a very successful design for living.


The Sydney Retreat bases its treatment programs for alcoholism and addiction on the 12 step program of recovery as pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

By joining The Retreat and applying the 12 Steps of recovery you will soon learn that a life of meaningful recovery is entirely possible. The Sydney Retreat’s twelve step facilitated recovery model has an exceptionally high success rate compared to other forms of recovery.  If you have a problem with alcohol and or drugs, this is a unique and affordable opportunity that will change the direction of your life. Get help today.

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