How to Stop Drinking Alcohol
Once someone realizes they have a drinking problem, their next thought is often, "how to stop drinking alcohol." Learning how to stop drinking alcohol is not about one lesson or idea, learning how to quit drinking requires a change in attitude, thought and behavior. Answering "how to stop drinking alcohol," begins with the commitment and the desire to quit.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Prepare to Stop Drinking
While it may seem easy to decide to stop drinking one moment and simply not drink ever again, in reality that approach isn't effective. When looking at the question of how to stop drinking, first set the goal to stop drinking and then prepare your environment to stop drinking.
How to stop drinking by preparing ahead of time:
- Set a date on which you will stop drinking and announce this date to others so you can be held accountable.
- Remove temptations, like alcohol and anything that reminds you of alcohol, from the home and office.
- Let everyone know you intend to stop drinking and don't be around those who don't support your goal to stop drinking.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Get Help to Stop Drinking
The question of how to stop drinking won't get you far without considering help to stop drinking. Problem drinkers may be able to stop drinking without much support but alcoholics are addicted to alcohol and require help to stop drinking. Even for a drinker who has not progressed to alcoholism, he or she is much more likely to succeed with help to stop drinking.
Help to stop drinking may be in the form of:
- A professional rehabilitation program
- Self-help alcohol addiction treatment
- Alcohol abuse therapy
- Support groups
- Faith community outreach
The best place to start looking for help to stop drinking is at the doctor's office as they can refer you to the type of help to stop drinking that suits your situation the best.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Stop Drinking Safely
When mulling over how to quit drinking, it's important to consider the help needed to stop drinking safely. Alcoholics will go through withdrawal when they stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can include symptoms like headache, shaking, anxiety and other problematic symptoms. While withdrawal starts within hours of when an alcoholic stops drinking, the withdrawal symptoms themselves may be at their worst in a day or two and then start to improve in five days.x
For some people who stop drinking withdrawal is unpleasant. For others, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. All alcoholics should get help to stop drinking from their doctor to see if they are at risk for severe withdrawal known as delirium tremens, or the DTs. The alcoholic's doctor may decide to prescribe medication or recommend supervised alcohol detoxification when the alcoholic quits drinking.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Build a Life Outside of Alcohol
One of the most common causes of relapse after a person has quit drinking is continuing the same lifestyle as before recovery. If an alcoholic has the same behaviors, goes to the same places and sees the same people as he did before he quit drinking, it will feel natural for him to start drinking again in all those familiar patterns. Additionally, once a person has quit drinking, a void appears in their life that alcohol used to fill. Part of how to stop drinking is learning new ways to fill that void.
How to stop drinking by building a life outside of alcohol might include:
- Integrating ways of taking care of yourself in everyday life. Focusing on sleeping, eating and exercising will keep a body healthy after an alcohol abuser stops drinking.
- Making new friends and a new support system. The old friends may not be interested in supporting a goal to stop drinking and being around someone unsupportive can cause a relapse into drinking. Meeting new people that have never known the person as an alcoholic can create new, positive relationships.
- Getting a new hobby. One of the great ways to fill the time previously devoted to drinking is by getting a new hobby or volunteering. Doing enjoyable and rewarding activities helps to stop drinking by reducing alcohol's appeal.
- Continuing treatment. No one learns how to stop drinking in a day, or a week so continuing treatment puts the focus on maintaining recovery and adds additional support should the alcoholic have to deal with a strong urge to drink.
- Learning to deal with stress in a healthy way. Many alcoholics drink in response to stress and when they stop drinking, their way of dealing with stress is gone. Learning new ways to deal with stress is essential to successfully stop drinking. Meditation, relaxation exercises and yoga can be helpful.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Know What To Do When Triggers and Cravings Occur
Learning how to stop drinking alcohol is a process that continues throughout recovery. Even once the alcoholic is sober, many things around him may entice him to drink; these are called triggers. Triggers are any thing, place, person or situation that creates a craving in the alcohol addict to drink. Cravings may also occur due to stress or no discernable reason at all.
To stop drinking, manage cravings and remove triggers:
- Remove anything that makes you want to drink. This can mean real changes in lifestyle. Drinking buddies, pubs you used to hang out at, places where you hid alcohol or did secret drinking all need to be removed when looking at how to stop drinking.
- Avoid situations where alcohol is served or be prepared to say "no" when someone offers. Just because your priority is to stop drinking, that doesn't mean that others know or even care. Be prepared committed to saying "no" to stop drinking in public.
- Know who to call when you feel the urge to drink. The urge to drink can happen at any time so planning ahead and knowing what to do, and who to call when it happens is key to stop drinking.
- Remind yourself of all the reasons you chose to stop drinking. Cravings and triggers happen but these can be fought with the knowledge and experience gained through recovery.
- Understand that no craving lasts forever. When an alcoholic chooses to stop drinking it may feel like he will always feel the urge to drink, but this isn't true. Every craving comes, reaches its peak, and then leaves again.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol - Stop Drinking. Don't Give Up.
Part of learning how to quit drinking is understanding that there may be slip-ups and backslides along the way. These short-term mistakes cannot allow the derailment of the main goal to stop drinking. If a setback occurs during recovery, the important thing to do is to reach out, get help to stop drinking, learn from the relapse and move forward into sobriety. There is no shame in admitting to a setback and by learning from it, it is less likely another setback will occur.
Last Updated: 20 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD