Motivation to stop drinking

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

Are you exhausted from the relentless cycle of alcohol-fueled nights that morph into groggy mornings filled with regret? Do you long for the days when life was vibrant and fulfilling without the haze of inebriation?

You’re standing on the precipice of change, desperately seeking the motivation to finally conquer alcohol. But the struggle is real, and the road to sobriety can seem like a daunting, never-ending journey.

Alcohol can be a powerful foe that consumes lives, relationships, and dreams, leaving you feeling imprisoned within your own mind. It whispers seductive lies, promising comfort and escape, only to deliver sorrow and despair. And when it feels like you’re drowning in the tide of temptation, finding the motivation to stop drinking can be as elusive as a mirage in the desert.

In this article, we will explore the depths of this challenging battle, unraveling the threads that bind you to alcohol. This article will also arm you with actionable tools to help you reclaim your life.

Alcohol Causes Stress

Imagine standing at the edge of a vast, treacherous swamp. The air is thick with the stench of decay and the buzzing of insects. You can see, on the other side, a serene meadow where the sun shines brightly, and the air is clear and sweet. The swamp is your stress and anxiety, and the meadow represents freedom from these emotions. You long to reach the other side, but the swamp stands in your way.

Enter alcohol, like a slick salesman, promising to be your bridge over this murky quagmire. It offers relief and escape, assuring you that with its help, you’ll glide effortlessly over the swamp and land safely on the other side. You hesitate, but eventually, you take the first step onto the bridge.

Yet, as you walk, you begin to notice something strange. The bridge isn’t taking you directly to the meadow. Instead, it seems to be leading you deeper into the swamp. The ground beneath you grows muckier and more treacherous, and the air becomes more suffocating. You’ve been duped.

This is the illusion of alcohol as a stress-reliever and escape mechanism. In reality, alcohol is the problem masquerading as the solution. It convinces you that it will alleviate your stress, but all it does is create a temporary reprieve while compounding the issues you face. The swamp, representing your stress and anxiety, is actually intensified by alcohol, making it harder and harder to find a path out.

As you become more reliant on the false promises of alcohol, the swamp grows deeper, and the meadow becomes more distant. The very thing you thought would help you escape is now the cause of your entrapment.

Breaking free from this trap involves recognizing alcohol for what it truly is: a deceptive, self-serving trickster. The first step towards true freedom is to understand that alcohol doesn’t provide genuine relief, but rather exacerbates your stress and anxiety. It may offer a brief respite, but ultimately, it leaves you worse off than before.

Once you’ve unmasked alcohol and seen through its facade, it becomes easier to find the motivation to resist its allure. Instead of leaning on a false crutch that does more harm than good, you can begin to seek out healthier coping mechanisms and support systems. These alternatives, such as exercise, meditation, therapy, or engaging in hobbies, can help you genuinely navigate the swamp, ultimately reaching the meadow you’ve been longing for.

In the words of Alan Carr, “The relief that drinkers experience when they drink is the lifting of the withdrawal symptoms created by their previous drink.” By understanding this illusion and shifting your mindset, you can break free from alcohol’s vicious cycle and begin your journey towards a brighter, more fulfilling life.

Remember, the bridge alcohol offers is nothing but a mirage. Reclaim your power, step off the false path, and seek out the true solutions that will lead you to the meadow of freedom, happiness, and genuine stress relief. With determination and support, you can conquer your addiction and experience the world beyond the swamp – a world where alcohol no longer dictates your life.

Drinking is not just a habit, its a learned behavior. If you’ve been using alcohol to avoid negative feelings your brain subconsciously believes you need it, even when it has become the source of the stress.

Stopping drinking is not about giving up alcohol; it’s about gaining freedom.

It’s crucial to shift your mindset and view sobriety as a gift rather than a sacrifice. Embrace the idea that you’re not giving up something pleasurable, but instead freeing yourself from the chains of addiction and welcoming a more vibrant, fulfilling life. With this positive outlook, you can unlock the door to genuine freedom and take charge of your destiny.

The “Reversal of Desire” tool is a powerful technique developed by psychotherapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels to help individuals overcome fear, procrastination, and self-doubt by turning their avoidance into an empowering desire for the very thing they’re trying to avoid. Let’s begin with a guided visualization of this tool.

Find a comfortable and quiet space to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths to relax your body and mind.

Now think about not drinking for the next 30 days.

Visualize yourself in that situation, fully experiencing the discomfort, fear, or anxiety that might come up. Try to feel it as intensely as you can. Notice where in your body you feel the tension, and how your mind reacts to the situation.

Now, imagine this pain as a cloud, hovering in front of you.

As you visualize this cloud in front of you, take a deep breath and choose to actively desire the pain. Say to yourself, “Bring it on!” or “I want the pain!”

Visualize yourself craving this discomfort, knowing that it is the pathway to growth and self-improvement. Embrace the pain with open arms, and feel your desire to face the challenge grow stronger.

Now, visualize yourself stepping into the cloud. See yourself embracing it with confidence, courage, and determination. As you’re inside the cloud, silently scream, “I love pain!”

Now step out the other side of the cloud, feeling how the fear and discomfort transformed into excitement and a newfound sense of strength. Say inwardly, “Pain sets me free!”

Bask in the feeling of accomplishment and growth. Recognize that by facing your fears and discomfort head-on, you’ll become more resilient, capable, and empowered.

Whenever you find yourself avoiding a task, challenge, or situation, remember the power of the “Reversal of Desire” tool. Use this visualization to transform your fear and discomfort into a powerful desire to overcome and grow.

As you practice this technique, you’ll find that you become more confident, resilient, and capable of facing life’s challenges head-on.

Alcohol Causes Fear and Stagnation

Picture yourself standing at the edge of a vast canyon, where the ground beneath you drops away into a seemingly bottomless abyss. Across the chasm lies a beautiful, lush oasis, representing all the goals, aspirations, and dreams you have yet to achieve. Between you and the oasis stretches a rickety, swaying rope bridge. Fear grips you, and you hesitate to take that first step.

Enter alcohol, like a smooth-talking, charismatic friend, who whispers sweet assurances into your ear. It promises to bestow upon you the courage you need to cross the bridge, to conquer your fears and reach the oasis. You take a deep breath, and with alcohol’s promise in mind, you set foot on the bridge.

Yet as you make your way across, you find your steps growing unsteady, your vision blurring, and your grip faltering. What was supposed to give you courage is now undermining your ability to navigate the precarious crossing. The bridge seems to sway more violently, and your heart pounds harder in your chest. The very thing that was meant to embolden you has left you vulnerable and exposed.

This is the illusion of alcohol as a source of courage. In truth, alcohol is a great pretender, offering the perception of bravery while simultaneously robbing you of the very qualities needed to face life’s challenges. The false sense of courage it provides is nothing more than a mirage, clouding your judgment and impairing your ability to act decisively and confidently.

Courage is not the ability to act without fear. Courage is the ability to act, despite fear being present. When alcohol numbs the fear, you can take action, but you haven’t used courage, since the fear was taken away by the alcohol. So by definition, alcohol does not actually provide courage, since courage cannot exist without fear.

The key to genuine courage lies not in the numbing embrace of alcohol, but in acknowledging and confronting your fears head-on. Instead of seeking solace in the deceptive promises of alcohol, you must look inward, tapping into the reservoir of inner strength and resilience that lies within you. By facing your fears and challenges sober, you develop the skills and fortitude necessary to navigate life’s uncertainties and build genuine courage.

Remember that true courage comes from embracing vulnerability and conquering your fears without relying on alcohol as a crutch. The path to self-assurance and personal growth lies in realizing that alcohol is not the solution, but rather a hindrance to reaching your full potential.

To cross the bridge and reach the oasis of your dreams, begin by developing healthy coping strategies and surrounding yourself with supportive individuals who empower and encourage you. Practice self-awareness, mindfulness, and self-compassion as you face life’s challenges head-on. With each sober step you take, you’ll find your footing growing more confident, your grip steadier, and your resolve stronger.

As you leave behind the illusion of alcohol-induced courage, you’ll discover the resilience, determination, and true bravery that have been within you all along. With this newfound strength, you can traverse the most daunting bridges, conquer your fears, and reach the lush oasis of your dreams, free from the deceitful grip of alcohol.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help build a genuine sense of courage and progression.

What skills or resources do I need to develop to better manage my emotions and stress without relying on alcohol?

How can I track my progress and celebrate my achievements in overcoming addiction?

What challenges have I faced in the past, and how have I successfully overcome them?

What specific, achievable goals can I set for myself in my journey to sobriety?

How can I create a plan to develop new skills and coping mechanisms, and who can support me in this process?

For a more in-depth breakdown of actionable coping skills, see my article on Coping Skills for Addiction.

Alcohol Causes Isolation and Disconnection

Imagine yourself standing alone in a dimly lit room, feeling a sense of disconnection and loneliness. A door appears, and behind it, you can hear the sounds of laughter, lively conversation, and the promise of camaraderie. Eager to join in and escape your isolation, you reach for the door handle, only to find that it’s locked.

Enter alcohol, like a cunning locksmith, offering you a gleaming key that it claims will unlock the door and grant you access to the connection and companionship you crave. You accept the key, believing it will be your passport to a world of social ease and belonging.

You unlock the door, and at first, it seems that alcohol has delivered on its promise. You mingle with others, and the conversations flow more smoothly, the laughter comes more easily. But as the night wears on, you begin to notice something amiss. The connections you’re forming feel superficial, lacking the depth and authenticity you truly long for. The door, once a welcoming entrance, now feels like a barrier, separating you from genuine connection and understanding.

This is the illusion of alcohol as a facilitator of connection. While it may momentarily ease social anxiety and lower inhibitions, it ultimately creates a false sense of belonging that fades as quickly as the effects of the drink itself. Instead of fostering deep, meaningful relationships, alcohol often leads to superficial interactions and, eventually, a sense of isolation.

True connection is built on vulnerability, openness, and authenticity – qualities that are often masked or diminished by alcohol. To create lasting, meaningful relationships, we must be willing to show our true selves, to share our stories and emotions without the numbing filter of alcohol. It is in these moments of genuine human connection that we find the sense of belonging we truly desire.

Remember that the path to authentic connection lies not in the temporary, illusory effects of alcohol, but in embracing our true selves and forging relationships based on honesty, empathy, and shared experiences. By discarding the crutch of alcohol, we can develop deeper, more satisfying connections with others that will not vanish when the buzz fades.

To foster real connections and overcome isolation, seek out social opportunities that align with your interests and values. Surround yourself with people who share your commitment to living a life free from the influence of alcohol. Engage in activities that promote conversation, shared experiences, and genuine connection, rather than merely superficial interactions.

As you pursue a life of sobriety and authenticity, you’ll discover that the door to true connection was never locked at all – it simply required the courage to step forward, unencumbered by the deceptive promises of alcohol. Embrace your genuine self and cultivate meaningful relationships, and you’ll find that the sense of connection and belonging you’ve been seeking was within your reach all along.

Here are some helpful questions you can ask yourself to develop a genuine sense of connection:

Who in my current support network understands and supports my journey towards sobriety?

Are there any relationships in my life that might be hindering my progress? How can I address these challenges?

What activities or groups can I engage in to connect with like-minded individuals and foster a sense of belonging?

How can I strengthen my existing relationships and nurture new, supportive connections?


In this article, we explored the deceptive nature of alcohol, drawing upon the insights of Alan Carr. We examined how alcohol creates the illusion of stress relief, courage, and connection, while in reality, it exacerbates stress, undermines genuine bravery, and leads to isolation. We also discussed how understanding these illusions can help break free from alcohol’s vicious cycle.

We emphasized the importance of shifting one’s mindset to view sobriety as a gift rather than a sacrifice. Embracing vulnerability, honesty, and authenticity is essential to forging deep, meaningful relationships and overcoming isolation. By leaving behind the illusions created by alcohol and focusing on self-determination, individuals can reclaim their power and build a fulfilling, alcohol-free life.

Once you’ve decided to head down the path of recovery, you can check out my article on Staying Motivated in Recovery. In that article, I highlight the power of intrinsic motivation and provide actionable steps to build this form of long-term motivation.

Also, if you are physically dependent on alcohol, consuming it on a daily basis, I highly recommend connecting with professional support before deciding to stop. Alcohol withdrawal can be a significant health risk. For more information on this topic, see my article on Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.

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