Ways to Stop Drinking

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How Do I Know if I Need to Quit Drinking Alcohol?

The easiest way to know if you need to quit drinking alcohol is to try to stop.

If you are successful in limiting alcohol intake, you might not need to stop long-term.

If you choose to stop drinking, most experts recommend at least a three-day alcohol sabbatical. If you experience withdrawal symptoms or your life is dramatically affected, it’s a sign you have a problem. 

Another way to determine if it’s time to stop drinking alcohol is to assess your life and ask yourself, "Am I an Alcoholic?". 

Self-reflection helps you determine if you are happy with your relationship with alcohol.

Other common signs that you have an alcohol problem include:

  • Your friends and family bring up your drinking
  • Your work or school performance is suffering
  • You find yourself drinking alone
  • You can't remember the last day you didn't drink

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs when you cannot control how much you drink. It’s a brain disorder, and requires more than just willpower to overcome. For some, controlling their alcohol consumption is an important factor in avoiding AUD.

6 Ways to Stop Drinking

Here are six ways to stop drinking alcohol:

1. Counseling

Therapy can help you self-reflect and understand the reason you drink. It can also help you change your thought patterns to avoid alcohol.

2. Change Your Friend Group

Spending time with people who always drink can tempt you to drink again. Spending time with people who don't drink helps you practice new habits

3. Remove Access to Alcohol

Take alcohol out of your house. Avoid bars and liquor stores.

4. Change Your Habits

Reshape your habits that were linked to drinking. For example, if you go to happy hour often, change locations to a cafe.

5. Support Groups

You can attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other support group meetings. This will provide you with a community of other sober friends.

6. Seek Treatment

Attending an outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation facility is the best way to stop drinking. These programs have the highest success rate of any other method.

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9 Ways to Reduce Alcohol Use

Here are nine ways to reduce, or cut back on alcohol use:

1. Commit to Reducing Alcohol in Writing

List the reasons why you want to cut back and refer to the list for motivation.

2. Set a limit goal.

For example, commit to changing your drinking habits. Limit yourself to two drinks per week or only drink one day a week. Or approach this strategy from the reverse and schedule alcohol-free days.

3. Journal about your drinking for a few weeks

Keep track of when you drink, how much, what you’re doing, and how you feel before, during, and after drinking.

4. Don’t keep alcohol at home

This will naturally reduce cravings and urges to drink.

5. Drink slowly

Set a time for how long it will take you to sip a drink and try not to finish a drink sooner than this time.

6. Counter each alcoholic drink with water, soda, or juice

This can also help reduce the number of drinks you consume in a night. 

7. Schedule activities that don’t revolve around drinking

Instead of meeting friends for a drink, go for a walk, see a movie, or play sports.

8. Let friends and family members know

Also, ask them to support your efforts. A support system greatly increases your chance of success.

9. Avoid places and people that test your willpower

Try to go places that do not encourage drinking. 

Setting Goals and Preparing for Change

Once you have decided to quit drinking, the next step is making clear drinking goals. It is best to be as specific, realistic, and clear as possible.

For example, your drinking goal may be to quit drinking entirely before a specific date. Or, your goal may be to stop drinking alcohol on weekdays, starting on a certain date.

Consider whether you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back. If you aim to reduce your drinking, determine which days and how many drinks you'll allow yourself. Try to dedicate at least two days per week when you will not drink at all.

Decide when you want to stop drinking or start drinking less, too. It may be immediately, or you may decide to try in a week. Set yourself a specific quit date.

How to Accomplish Your Goals

Once you have set your goals, write down some ideas on how you can accomplish these goals.

Some examples:

Remove temptations. Get rid of alcohol, barware, and alcohol-related items from your home and office.

Announce your goals to friends, family, and co-workers. Ask for their support or to at least keep their drinking away from you.

Be upfront and realistic about your new goals and limits. Make it clear that drinking cannot occur in your home. Avoid events where alcohol is being served.

Avoid bad influences. This includes people who do not support your goals or respect the limits you have set. This may mean losing some friends and social connections

Learn from the past. Reflecting on previous attempts to stop or limit your drinking. What worked and what did not work? What can you do differently this time for better success?

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Seeking Support

No matter your approach to quitting, support is essential. Do not try to quit drinking alcohol alone.

Recovering from an alcohol use disorder is much easier when you have people you care about to lean on for comfort, encouragement, and guidance.

Support can come from various people, including:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Other recovering alcoholics
  • Healthcare providers
  • Counselors

Be sure to lean on members of your support team. Having the support of friends and family is invaluable during recovery.

Make an effort to build a sober social network. If your previous social life involved alcohol, you might need to create some new connections. It is essential to have sober friends who will support your recovery journey.

Consider taking a class, volunteering, or attending events in your community to meet new people who can support you.

Make meetings a priority and join a recovery support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Spending time with people who understand what you are experiencing can be very healing.

You can also benefit from listening to group members' shared experiences and learning what others have done to achieve sobriety.

Maintaining Sobriety

While becoming sober is the essential first step, it is just the start of your recovery from alcohol addiction or heavy drinking. You will need to create a new, meaningful life where you do not drink to maintain long-term sobriety.

To stop mood swings and deal with alcohol cravings, focus on eating right and getting plenty of sleep. Exercising is also essential. It releases endorphins, reduces stress, and promotes emotional well-being.

Surround yourself with positive people who want the best for you. The more you are invested in your community and other people, the more you have to lose. This helps you remain motivated on the path to recovery.

Be sure to develop new activities and interests while in recovery. Seek new hobbies, volunteer activities, or other work that presents you with a sense of meaning and purpose.

When you are doing things fulfilling, you will feel better about yourself and find drinking less attractive.

Make an effort to continue treatment, even when you are sober. Your chances of remaining sober are higher if you:

  • Attend a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Have a sponsor
  • Are involved in therapy
  • Are undergoing an outpatient treatment program

Try to deal with stress healthily. Alcohol misuse often occurs as an attempt to manage stress. Look for healthier ways to keep your stress level in check.

This may include exercising, meditating, or practicing breathing exercises.

Managing Alcohol Cravings

When you are battling alcohol cravings, there are some techniques you can use to manage them.

Try speaking with someone you trust, such as your sponsor, a family member, or a friend.

You can also try to distract yourself until the urges pass.

Consider going for a walk, listening to music, running an errand, or finishing a task.

Remind yourself of the reasons you do not want to drink. When you are craving alcohol, it is easy to remember the positive feelings of drinking and forget the negatives.

Remind yourself of the negative long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption and how it will not make you feel good, even in the short-term.

Accept the urge and let it ride out instead of trying to fight or ignore it. This is called ‘urge surfing.’

Think of your desire as an ocean wave that will soon crest, break, and disperse. When you ride out the craving, you will soon see that it passes more quickly than you think.

How Long Does it Take to Quit Drinking?

The length of time it takes to quit drinking varies from person to person. Some people decide to quit cold turkey and never drink alcohol again. Others decide to give up alcohol temporarily and do so with short-term success.

However, if someone has AUD or is addicted to alcohol, quitting drinking is a long process. 

In general, it takes about 6 to 24 hours to detox from alcohol (or up to 10 days in extreme cases).

Giving up alcohol long-term for a heavy drinker with an addiction is a life-long process. 

As an alcoholic, maintaining sobriety is a daily effort. It’s important to remember that heavy drinkers require medical supervision when giving up alcohol.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?

If you're addicted to alcohol, the first days of quitting are difficult. Your body will go through withdrawal symptoms.

This include:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

The detoxification stage is difficult. But once you make it through, you will reap the benefits of not drinking.

7 Benefits of Quitting Drinking

1. Better-Looking Skin

  1. Better looking skin
  2. Improved sleep
  3. Healtheir weight
  4. Better mental health
  5. Improved immunity
  6. Enhanced nutrition
  7. Lower risk of cancer

Can I Quit Drinking On My Own?

Maybe. If you aren’t addicted to alcohol, you should be able to not drink on your own. 

It’s important to recognize that not being able to stop when you want to do so is a sign you have a problem. If you try to stop and you’re unsuccessful or you experience signs of withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention.

When to Seek Alcohol Addiction Treatment (& Options)

Knowing when to seek alcohol addiction treatment is an important part of a successful recovery. Some signs that substance abuse treatment might be needed include:

  • Being unable to limit alcohol consumption
  • Taking more time to recover after drinking
  • Spending more and more time drinking
  • Having a strong urge or craving to drink
  • Thinking about drinking often
  • Having issues at work or school because of drinking
  • Memory loss
  • Neglecting responsibilities because of drinking
  • Avoiding things you previously enjoyed so you can drink

The sooner you get help for alcohol use the less likely you are to suffer long-term consequences. 

There is no right or wrong time to seek treatment. If you believe you need help, you should seek help.

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction, including:

Updated on December 21, 2021
6 sources cited
  1. “What Is Excessive Alcohol Use? | Infographics | Online Media | Alcohol | CDC.” Www.cdc.gov, 30 Dec. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/onlinemedia/infographics/excessive-alcohol-use.html.
  2.  “SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 2000, https://www.samhsa.gov/.
  3. “The ADA, Addiction and Recovery | ADA National Network.” adata.org, https://www.adata.org/factsheet/ada-addiction-and-recovery.
  4.  “Rethinking Drinking Homepage - NIAAA.” Nih.gov, 2019, https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/.
  5. “Drinking Levels Defined | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking.
  6. Publishing, Harvard Health. “11 Ways to Curb Your Drinking.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/11-ways-to-curb-your-drinking.

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