Molly’s story was familiar. She wanted to stop drinking for a while but was struggling to get traction. She was tired of the 3 AM wake-ups, headaches, fatigue, and missed connections with her kids. She would quit and sail through the first few days without alcohol. But soon enough she’d start relying on will power or would pick up a different bad habit and eventually go back to over-drinking. She was confused and worried. She knew of only two explanations for this pattern and neither one appealed to her. Either she was an alcoholic with a disease, which she didn’t identify with at all, or she had a flawed character that made her weak, selfish, and unable to quit. She felt completely discouraged.

But what Molly was running into was neither of these things. She’d fallen into a common trap. She had quit because of the problems alcohol was causing her, but she was overlooking the problems it was solving for her. Molly was bored with life. She loved her kids more than anything and wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but the day-to-day minutiae left her feeling empty. She looked forward to making dinner every night so she could find relief and escape in a glass of wine. Over time one glass became two and eventually the whole bottle. Quitting solved her headaches and fatigue, but did nothing to address the reasons she drank to begin with. So when her will power ran out, and a familiar trigger appeared, she’d be right back in her habit.

Can you relate? If so, identifying the problems drinking solves for you is essential to changing your habit for good. A few questions to get you started:

When do you typically drink? Why?
What do you like about drinking?
What emotions or situations does it make easier to handle? How?

Once you become aware of the underlying problems you’re trying to solve, the path ahead will become more clear and you can finally treat the cause instead of the symptoms.