If you're not ready yet...

I've suggested to lots of clients not to try to stop drinking until they're ready. You can almost hear them sigh with relief. They see a way out. I'm the same with the dentist. If he told me I wasn't ready to have a filling yet I'd be skipping out of the surgery like a lamb, temporarily blind to future toothache miseries.

I'm urging you to hold off from stopping drinking until you're ready because failure is miserable. If you fail, you might not feel like trying again for quite a while. And when you try again you'll have a whole lot of nagging doubts about whether you can succeed at all.

Having said that, though, only a minority of people succeed completely at the first attempt. It's normal for people to try and to fail a few times. Hopefully, they'll learn from each time it doesn't work. It's more optimistic to see this as spiralling out until you leave the gravitational pull of Planet Alcohol rather than just going round in circles. But obviously the fewer goes you have at it the better.

So if, after full contemplation, you're not ready yet, make it your next task to do what we professionals call “having a bit of a think about it”. Write down the reasons you want to stop and the reasons you don't want to stop. And what you can do, and what needs to happen, to shift the balance.

Actually, talking to people who aren't sure if they want to stop drinking or not is called “Motivational Interviewing”. Don't be put off by this rather clumsy title. It's a technique where you're not put under any pressure; you're not accused of being in denial; you're not judged; there's no confrontation. The therapist or counsellor talks through with you all about your drinking and what all the possible options are.

The aim is to clarify your awareness of the problems, consequences and risks of your drinking. You're helped to consider a better future, and to think differently, realistically and optimistically about how you might make your life better. Motivational Interviewing will be provided by either free/NHS services or by a private specialist alcohol counsellor.