Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

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Hazel
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Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Sun Oct 13, 2019 6:41 pm

What dharmic practices do people recommend for strengthening resolve/determination when overcoming addiction? I am on day 3 of not drinking and it's about now I throw in the towel and start drinking again. I'd like to take a break for awhile to see what it's like, but I am just thinking about it in terms of "quitting" in 24 hour intervals.

I am specifically looking for strategies that fall within Buddhist practice.

Thank you all so much!

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Re: Quitting alcohol

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:12 pm

Hazel wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 6:41 pm
What dharmic practices do people recommend for strengthening resolve/determination when overcoming addiction? I am on day 3 of not drinking and it's about now I throw in the towel and start drinking again. I'd like to take a break for awhile to see what it's like, but I am just thinking about it in terms of "quitting" in 24 hour intervals.

I am specifically looking for strategies that fall within Buddhist practice.

Thank you all so much!


Do you feel like you have a problem with alcohol, or are you simply trying to follow precepts? If it's the former, you should consider making some changes and checking out resources offered by the recovery community and/or professionals. If it's the latter, it's mostly about your motivation, contemplating how much time you waste on obtaining and drinking alcohol, as well as any negative consequences (such as the possible loss of awareness and presence in life) might help motivate you.

You might want to check out the various books and Dharma-based groups out there, if you think you need help:

https://recoverydharma.org/

This is a spinoff from Refuge Recovery, the leader of Refuge Recovery was accused of abuse, which I did not know until recently. The book itself is pretty good, if you are looking for that sort of thing. The link above has it's own book which I thought was pretty decent.

Eight step recovery is also a good book, but I found it to be a bit on the over complicated side for a Dharma-based recovery book.

https://www.addiction.com/7837/book-rev ... -recovery/

Something interesting along these lines: I am actually a substance abuse counselor, and even completely secular versions of treatment make heavy use of mindfulness, breathing techniques etc. to help people address cravings and deal with their triggers to use alcohol and drugs. So if you are having trouble with alcohol craving, you can check out one of these resources or you can look up "urge surfing" which is basically a meditation on maintaining mindfulness of one's cravings as they come and go:

https://portlandpsychotherapyclinic.com ... ope-urges/
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Matt J
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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Matt J » Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:31 pm

First off, bring mindfulness to the process. Be keenly aware of the mind states that arise and pass. This is especially helpful as you become aware of the rationalizations and justifications your thinking mind will come up with in order to get you back to drinking.

Second, I would advise setting small and attainable goals. First, 24 hours. Then, 72 hours. Then a week. Reward yourself at these points.

Third, leverage other resources. Counselors, groups, etc. like what JD has put out there. Take an integrated approach.

Fourth, know that your mind, your inner voice and narrator, is probably lying to you to get you to drink. Don't listen to it, it is a liar.
Hazel wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 6:41 pm
What dharmic practices do people recommend for strengthening resolve/determination when overcoming addiction? I am on day 3 of not drinking and it's about now I throw in the towel and start drinking again. I'd like to take a break for awhile to see what it's like, but I am just thinking about it in terms of "quitting" in 24 hour intervals.

I am specifically looking for strategies that fall within Buddhist practice.

Thank you all so much!
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Könchok Thrinley » Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:41 pm

Hm, this is something I myself have struggled with. Once the habbit is there it is quite hard to get rid of it. It really depends on the reasons why you drink. If you drink just because there is nothing else to do, then maybe it is a good time to have some sort of hobby. If you drink as a form of escape it is a good idea to create a new way of dealing with what you escape from. There is no one size fits all.

If you suspect you are an alcoholic then definetly seek out a qualified help. There is no shame in that, quite on the contrary it is a very important and brave step.

If it is not that bad then you can just stop, really. Nothing else helps. I had some trouble with alcohol, partially because there were at least 2-3 generations of alcoholics in my family, so unfortunately there are some predispositions. Also I had trouble dealing with emotions.

The good news is, you can work with that. Dharma is all about dealing with emotions and changing habbits. The bad news is... the habbits die hard. Week or two back I broke my sobriety because I just could not handly myself. But that happens, what is important, just like with practice, is starting with a clean slate and not hurt yourself with guilt.

So my advice is, take a vow and create a really strong aspiration. Think about how alcohol hurts you, how those drunken nights and days of hangover do nothing but waste your time and what worse they shorten your life span. What a waste!! Think about the downsides of alcohol. Then think of the benefits of sobriety. Having clear mind, no blackouts, no guilt, no hangovers, etc. And make a vow.

If you can't handle it. Seek out help.

These are my 2 cents.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by KeithA » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:39 pm

I can't recommend Recovery Dharma highly enough. There are many local groups and an online group, as well.

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by practitioner » Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:23 pm

I also highly recommend Recovery Dharma. Above all though, finding a group of other people in recovery is the most important, whatever group that may be. Trying to quit all alone never works.
One should do nothing other than benefit sentient beings either directly or indirectly - Shantideva

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:28 pm

practitioner wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:23 pm
I also highly recommend Recovery Dharma. Above all though, finding a group of other people in recovery is the most important, whatever group that may be. Trying to quit all alone never works.
I'd second this last bit especially, learning from others in recovery tends to be absolutely invaluable for most people, whatever from it takes.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:52 am

I struggled for 15 years with drinking, and nothing ever stopped the desire.
Then I took the five precept vows from a Tibetan Lama,
and the craving just stopped. That was around 27 years ago. Still sober.
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Hazel
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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Mon Oct 14, 2019 3:17 am

Thank you all for your responses!
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:12 pm
Do you feel like you have a problem with alcohol, or are you simply trying to follow precepts?
A little of both. I have been through the recovery process for a different drug (which I am now 2 years clean of, thank goodness) and this feels nothing as difficult/momentous as that. I was completely out of control with that other drug, but with alcohol I've been able to take an occasional night or two off and have frequently had sessions where I didn't binge drink. In fact, over the last year or so I am steadily drinking less. On the other hand, I still have struggled to drink completely on my own terms beyond simply "not during the day", I drink to the point where I feel shitty in the morning very frequently, and I'm beginning to suspect my drinking makes my depression and ADHD worse.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:12 pm
You might want to check out the various books and Dharma-based groups out there, if you think you need help:

https://recoverydharma.org/

This is a spinoff from Refuge Recovery, the leader of Refuge Recovery was accused of abuse, which I did not know until recently. The book itself is pretty good, if you are looking for that sort of thing. The link above has it's own book which I thought was pretty decent.
I found Refuge Recovery quite useful when I quit the previously alluded to drug and am happy it splintered instead of dissolved. Prompted by your post, I went to tonight's online meeting.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:12 pm
Something interesting along these lines: I am actually a substance abuse counselor, and even completely secular versions of treatment make heavy use of mindfulness, breathing techniques etc. to help people address cravings and deal with their triggers to use alcohol and drugs. So if you are having trouble with alcohol craving, you can check out one of these resources or you can look up "urge surfing" which is basically a meditation on maintaining mindfulness of one's cravings as they come and go:

https://portlandpsychotherapyclinic.com ... ope-urges/
That article is fascinating, thank you.
Matt J wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:31 pm
Second, I would advise setting small and attainable goals. First, 24 hours. Then, 72 hours. Then a week. Reward yourself at these points.
This is something I'm desperately trying to stick with right now. I have a gig at a bar Wednesday and thinking about quitting in terms of Wednesday is just way too overwhelming and makes me want to give up immediately. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
Miroku wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:41 pm
So my advice is, take a vow and create a really strong aspiration. Think about how alcohol hurts you, how those drunken nights and days of hangover do nothing but waste your time and what worse they shorten your life span. What a waste!! Think about the downsides of alcohol. Then think of the benefits of sobriety. Having clear mind, no blackouts, no guilt, no hangovers, etc. And make a vow.
Thank you for your response, this is quite solid. I have taken a 24 hour vow every afternoon for the last three days and I plan to keep doing that. The formula you are describing (think about downsides, think of benefits of sobriety, then make a bow) seems very useful.
KeithA wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:39 pm
I can't recommend Recovery Dharma highly enough. There are many local groups and an online group, as well.
practitioner wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:23 pm
I also highly recommend Recovery Dharma. Above all though, finding a group of other people in recovery is the most important, whatever group that may be. Trying to quit all alone never works.
There are so many local ones! I just did an online one after the prompting I got from you folks about it.

Thanks again :-)

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Mon Oct 14, 2019 3:19 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:52 am
I struggled for 15 years with drinking, and nothing ever stopped the desire.
Then I took the five precept vows from a Tibetan Lama,
and the craving just stopped. That was around 27 years ago. Still sober.
Wow! I guess your struggles were in preparation for that moment :-).

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Sādhaka » Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:50 am

You could also try cutting out carbs and sugar for awhile, to become fat-adapted (i.e. where your body is running on fat & protein only, instead of carbohydrates & sugar).

Also intermittent-fasting (and throwing some longer fasts in here & there if you get some days off from your occupation/job/vocation/etc.) will help you to do this.

Once you’re fat-adapted, drinking will make you feel lousy as you’re drinking it, not only the next day. You’ll have little to no desire to drink.

I recently had been drinking fairly large amounts 5 or 6 days a week (I never really got hangovers though due to the higher quality of what I was drinking and how filtered it was); and I was able to stop cold-turkey by getting back on my meat-based-diet and intermittent-fasting lifestyle. Although I also have had some previous experience with intermittent-fasting and becoming fat adapted, so it was easier for me to get back on the wagon.

You could try a general keto diet for this; but I prefer a more raw-carnivore (grass-fed meats/oysters for zinc/wild-caught salmon) diet (with raw dairy & raw egg yolks in the mix). I do eat raw unfiltered honey, but since I also generally do 20 hour intermittent-fasts, I can get into ketosis pretty easily even though I’m getting some carbs & sugar from raw milk & raw honey.

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Jones » Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:21 pm

I am very new to Buddhism so I don't feel like I can give Dharmic advice, but, I am an alcoholic. I have been sober over 2 years now. I consider my addiction as a teacher. It teaches me patience and strength. It teaches me that I can stare something in the eye and resist it. It teaches me that everything is impermanent and that the beauty of change. That change being the craving going away, if only temporarily.

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by DharmaN00b » Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:01 pm

Jones wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:21 pm
It teaches me that everything is impermanent and that the beauty of change. That change being the craving going away, if only temporarily.
That could be the temporary amnesia. Drink to forget! In science talk, neurones that wire together, fire together. Did i recall that correctly?

Those that do not taste, do not know. Happy to let bygones be bygones, close the chapter and open a new one. Breathing in clean air!

this is Dharmas and everyday life! :woohoo:

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by DharmaN00b » Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:19 pm

DharmaN00b wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:01 pm
Jones wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:21 pm
It teaches me that everything is impermanent and that the beauty of change. That change being the craving going away, if only temporarily.
That could be the temporary amnesia. Drink to forget! In science talk, neurones that wire together, fire together. Did i recall that correctly? So now we don't drink to forget, we forget to drink!?

Those that do not taste, do not know. Happy to let bygones be bygones, close the chapter and open a new one. Breathing in clean air!

this is Dharmas and everyday life! :woohoo:

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by DharmaN00b » Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:20 pm

How did this happen?

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:45 pm

Day 6. Headaches seem to have cleared up! Had a gig in a bar last night that I was really worried about and kept dry despite it - didn't even have an urge to drink, I'm sort of amazed by that considering I have had an urge to drink pretty much every other time in the last 6 days, today included. Going to the gig was like being transported to a world of no drug craving, which was a weird experience. I did a ton of meditating and praying about not drinking before hand, pretty much begging for strength. I think that plus having something to do while at the bar (i.e. work) was the key to success. Another weird thing was I came home feeling drunk/high despite not imbibing.

Thank you all for the support!

Thinking of turning those thread into a journal of sorts.

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:17 pm

Hazel wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:45 pm
Day 6. Headaches seem to have cleared up! Had a gig in a bar last night that I was really worried about and kept dry despite it - didn't even have an urge to drink, I'm sort of amazed by that considering I have had an urge to drink pretty much every other time in the last 6 days, today included. Going to the gig was like being transported to a world of no drug craving, which was a weird experience. I did a ton of meditating and praying about not drinking before hand, pretty much begging for strength. I think that plus having something to do while at the bar (i.e. work) was the key to success. Another weird thing was I came home feeling drunk/high despite not imbibing.

Thank you all for the support!

Thinking of turning those thread into a journal of sorts.
I don't know how much you were drinking, but six days for headaches to clear up makes it sounds like it was more than just casual. It may not be the habit your previous one is, but it sounds like it was fairly significant, I'm glad you've stopped. Poly substance abuse is a real thing, it doesn't happen with everyone, but keep in mind that if you went far enough down the road of addiction with one drug, you have an increased liability with others. More and more they are discovering that addiction is neural experience and rewiring that is similar regardless of the drug.

I think they have done some experiments with what you are talking about, people can get partial "highs" from just being triggered by environmental cues. Keep in mind that what drugs do is affect neurotransmitter activity, so to some degree simply memory or common sight, smell activity can partially make the same thing happen. I was a massive pothead for years, as well as having a number of years of abusing alcohol pretty significantly. Today I can drink something non-alcoholic that seems like beer, and I get a mild feeling of drunkenness. Pot is way more intense, I can literally just think about the smell and I feel high for a few seconds. As long as this is not triggering you to drink or use anything there is nothing harmful about this kind of feeling.

It's interesting because years of meditating have made it such that I could (if I wanted to), kind of trick myself into feeling high or drunk, induce a euphoric rush, etc. Honestly though, this pales in comparison to how one can feel in moments of contemplation/samadhi, etc., and regular practice has almost eliminated my desire to be high or drunk. An impulse occasionally, but I think about smoking cigarettes (I quit that 13 years ago) -way- more often than alcohol etc.

Here's an article on addiction covering some of this stuff:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/n ... ransmissio
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Hazel
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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:55 pm

Thank you for the response :-)
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:17 pm
I don't know how much you were drinking, but six days for headaches to clear up makes it sounds like it was more than just casual.
When I go periods of not drinking, I start getting a headache on day 3... then immediately start drinking again. This time I made it past that point and day 4 was headache hell, then day 5 was mostly back to normal. I am unsure if it is withdrawal or just coincidence (especially where I'm back to a headache today), honestly - I wasn't drinking too too much. 3-8 drinks every night, lately with an occasional week with a night or two off. I never pass out or anything like that. It just feels/felt like something I HAVE to do or I got frustrated and anxious with a worsening of those feelings over time until I drink.

Damn, typing this is making want to drink. :toilet: . That's the hard part, knowing that all the bad feelings go away (in the short term) if I drink. On the other hand, the Dharma focuses on the big picture (like the HUGE multiple-lifespans picture) and for that there is a path and it doesn't include intoxicants. Cheers to the cessation of suffering!

I also noticed that muscles in my hand started spasming, around the same timeframe, but that could have also been coincidence. Was obnoxious, so I'm glad it stopped. Again, could be coincidence. It sounds like from most of what I read, withdrawal is pretty immediate and for me things were only emotional until day 3.

I'm a sensitive snowflake, so maybe I'm just more sensitive to this sort of thing.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:17 pm
Here's an article on addiction covering some of this stuff:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/n ... ransmissio
Thank you!

Correct link is https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/n ... ansmission
The "n" got cut off (maybe by the forum software).

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Hazel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:49 pm

Day 15. I want to punch sobriety in the face. On the other hand, holy crap 15 days.

Bought a sobriety tracker on my phone to show me how many days I've gone without drinking. This choice I've made is starting to feel more like a permanent thing, but I still can't think very far ahead without getting overwhelmed and wanting to quit quitting.

I have the thought "do I really want to spend the rest of my life craving something I can't have?" and then I realize that's what I was already doing. There's some Dharma there.

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Re: Quitting alcohol. Dharmic advice?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:53 pm

Hazel wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:49 pm
Day 15. I want to punch sobriety in the face. On the other hand, holy crap 15 days.

Bought a sobriety tracker on my phone to show me how many days I've gone without drinking. This choice I've made is starting to feel more like a permanent thing, but I still can't think very far ahead without getting overwhelmed and wanting to quit quitting.
Sorry to be so cliche, but one day at a time. There's a reason they harp on that, trying to project too far into the future "I can't imagine not drinking forever" etc. is a trap, you gotta take everything in bite size chunks. You don't need to imagine it or work it out conceptually, just need to get through the day without doing it.
I have the thought "do I really want to spend the rest of my life craving something I can't have?" and then I realize that's what I was already doing. There's some Dharma there.
We are all doing that all the time. Actual cravings IME will diminish greatly over time, though they can always be activated. Smoking is a great example. I quit smoking 13 years ago, I was a heavy smoker. Just yesterday I couldn't stop thinking about smoking. Still, they are so much easier to deal with than they were in the beginning, and they don't happen nearly as often.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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