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How to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own

Quitting drinking can be challenging, regardless of how often you consume it. 

For some, it is difficult to give up alcohol in certain social settings, even if drinking leads to feelings of depression or guilt afterwards. For others, alcohol has become such an ingrained part of everyday life that physical dependence is developed. 

While everybody’s relationship to alcohol is different, there are things that can be done to help overcome alcohol use disorder and quit drinking. 

Some severe cases may require medical supervision to address withdrawal symptoms, most cases of alcoholism can be overcome on your own.  

5 Self-Help Tips to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own

Below are five self-help tips that may assist in quitting alcohol on your own:

1. Identify your triggers

Triggers for wanting to drink alcohol can be embedded in social situations or in response to physiological feelings. It is crucial to identify any situations or feelings that make you want to drink. 

Common triggers can include: 

  • Feelings of fatigue or stress
  • Having too much free time or feeling bored
  • Special occasions, holidays, or parties
  • Gambling or sporting events
  • Being around or watching others drink
  • Being around a certain group of people or environment that you associate with drinking 

2. Figure out how much you drink

Some of us may not be aware that we are overdrinking. Figuring out how much you actually drink will help determine if you have a drinking problem and improve your perspective.

It is essential to be honest with yourself when figuring out how much you drink. On a night of binge drinking, it can be easy to lose track of how much alcohol you have consumed. 

Try your best to accurately determine the amount of alcohol you are consuming over a period of time. This will help you figure out how much you drink overall. 

3. Set your drinking goals

Whether you want to quit drinking altogether or cut back, it is important to set specific goals and stay within their parameters. Being concise and having a set plan will help you to stick to your goals and not over-consume. 

Write your goals down, so you know exactly what they are. This will also help you to follow them better. Setting goals is one of the most important aspects of a smart recovery plan for any type of substance abuse.

4. Start writing in a journal

Journaling can be a great release. It has been shown that using a journal is a very helpful tool for reaching your goals. In your journal, you can keep track of how much you are actually drinking (making it harder to hide behind any potential denial). 

You can also keep track of your:

  • Progress
  • Failures
  • Successes (big and small)
  • Triggers
  • Feelings 
  • Breakthroughs and insights

Doing this can help to keep you on the right track. It can be a useful tool to reflect upon how far you have come or what you still may need to work on. 

The simple act of writing causes us to think about our goal and helps us stick to it. It also helps with mental health, which can further assist in quitting drinking from a psychological perspective.  

5. Tell friends and family

Tell your friends and family about your goals for drinking. It can help a great deal to have their support. When you tell people about your goals, you may be more likely to stick to them. You will have others who will help to keep you accountable. 

If you tell your friends and family about your triggers, they will also be able to help you deal with or avoid them. Having people to talk to when you are struggling can make a huge difference as well. 

6. Prepare for change

The saying “what doesn't challenge you doesn't change you” holds true in this instance; reaching your goal may not be easy, but it is possible. Being prepared is critical. To change your drinking habits, you will have to alter your current mindset and lifestyle. It is vital to have a game plan for how you will avoid or cope with potential triggers. 

You will need to make reaching your goal a priority, whether it involves one significant change or a series of small changes over time. Deciding to quit or cut back on drinking will likely mean there will be some lifestyle changes. If this seems scary or daunting, just remind yourself that change is good, especially when it leads to a better quality of life. 

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How to Know if You’re Addicted to Alcohol

It can be hard to spot the signs of alcohol misuse. There is no exact formula to know if you are misusing alcohol. You should start by looking at the amount, frequency, and reasons you consume alcohol. 

Alcohol misuse is common yet tricky to detect. If you suspect you have a problem, it is best to begin to take steps to remedy it before it escalates into a significant issue. 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can range from mild to severe, which is true for alcoholism as well. Binge drinking, the act of consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a short period, is also a sign of alcohol misuse.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Some common signs of AUD include:

  • Craving or feeling a strong urge to drink alcohol 
  • Wanting to cut down or stop drinking without success
  • Being unable to limit or control your alcohol intake 
  • Continuing to drink even though it is affecting your social, physical, or mental wellbeing
  • Choosing to drink over other obligations 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 

Look Out For Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

There are three potential stages that a person in withdrawal may experience:

  • Stage 1 (mild). Look out for headaches, insomnia, anxiety, hand tremors, gastrointestinal disturbances, and heart palpitations.
  • Stage 2 (moderate). Look out for Stage 1 symptoms as well as higher blood pressure or heart rate, confusion, hyperthermia, and abnormal or rapid breathing.
  • Stage 3 (severe). Look out for Stage 2 symptoms as well as hallucinations, seizures, disorientation, and impaired attention.

Other Signs of Alcohol Misuse

There are several other signs of alcohol misuse, including:

  • Using alcohol to cope with stress or to unwind can be a sign of alcohol misuse. 
  • Letting alcohol be a priority over other obligations, 
  • Letting alcohol interfere with your personal or professional life
  • Drinking alcohol to feel normal, or
  • Wanting to stop drinking or cut back but being unsuccessful

Is it Safe to Quit Drinking on Your Own? 

It can be safe to quit drinking on your own in many cases, though the body can quickly become dependent on alcohol and need it to function correctly. 

A hangover is actually an acute symptom of alcohol withdrawal. If you suspect that your drinking is becoming a problem, it is imperative to try to remedy the situation before the body becomes dependent on it. 

If you want to quit drinking on your own, start by slowly cutting back on alcohol consumption. If you experience any concerning signs of alcohol withdrawal after trying to lower your alcohol intake, it is best to seek professional help. 

You are also more likely to be successful in becoming sober if you seek help from friends, family, or a support group.

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Should You Quit “Cold Turkey” or Just Drink Less?

Whether you should quit “cold turkey” or just drink less will depend on the severity of your AUD. In severe cases of alcoholism, quitting “cold turkey” can cause significant trauma to the body, including death. 

If you are able to cut back on your drinking without experiencing any alarming alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you may be able to slowly wean yourself off your alcohol consumption. 

If you feel that your AUD is severe, quitting should be done with the supervision of a medical professional that can safely help the body detox. If your alcohol consumption is light to moderate, but you feel it has become a problem in any area of your life, you can usually attempt to quit cold turkey. 

People who have been misusing alcohol may be able to redirect or redefine their relationship with alcohol by merely drinking less. 

When someone with a more severe AUD decides to quit drinking, it is typically an “all-or-nothing” situation, and they will need to stay away from alcohol completely to become alcohol-free. They will not be able to simply drink less.

When You Shouldn’t Quit Drinking on Your Own

If you have alcoholism and develop severe withdrawal symptoms, professional treatment at a rehab facility is necessary. Alcohol addiction treatment for heavy drinkers or those with physical alcohol dependence should not attempt to quit drinking on their own. 

Medically supervised detox programs are essential for anyone unable to quit drinking on their own. This is typically followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment plans to address the root causes of alcohol addiction. 

Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs that involve family members and friends are also available for continued care on the road to recovery.

If you or a loved one is in need of treatment options for alcoholism caused by heavy drinking, seek immediate medical advice from a local healthcare provider.

Resources

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Carter, J., Sharon, E., & Stern, T. A. (2014). The management of alcohol use disorders: the impact of pharmacologic, affective, behavioral, and cognitive approaches. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 16(4), 10.4088/PCC.14f01683. https://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.14f01683

American Psychological Association. Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment. APA. https://www.apa.org/topics/alcohol-disorders

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse. NIAAA. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh314/348-361.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. NIAAA. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder

National Institute of Health. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. NIH. https://pgdf.org/media/AlcoholFactsStats.pdf

Rehm J. The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism. Alcohol Res Health. 2011;34(2):135-43. PMID: 22330211; PMCID: PMC3307043. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22330211/

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