How to Stop Drinking Alcohol

Kathleen Esposito
Outdoor Sign

There are many reasons people wish to stop drinking alcohol. They can range from financial reasons to social reasons to health reasons, such as a pregnancy. For some people, giving up alcohol is as simple as that - they make a decision and they stop immediately. However, for many it is not that simple and an action plan needs to be put into place.

Casual or Social Drinkers

If your social drinking is getting in the way of your life, there are several strategies you can use to stop.

Keep a Diary

In this diary, note the time of day, where you are, who you are with and how you are feeling on each drinking occasion. Do you notice any commonalities, such as being alone, being stressed, or being with a certain group of friends? Try to determine what triggers you to consume alcohol. The National Institutes of Health cites this as an important first step.

Replace Old Habits

Once you've determined what your triggers are, come up with a new way to deal with them. Author Charles Duhigg spoke with NPR about how important this is to stopping drinking. With your mind focused elsewhere, it's likely the feeling will subside.

  • If you drink when you are stressed, go for a walk instead when you feel the urge.
  • If you drink when you're lonely, call a friend instead or attend a support group meeting.
  • If your drinking is triggered by spending time with a certain group of friends, try to steer them toward other activities. If this is impossible, you may have to find a new group to spend time with.

Remove Temptations

If you walk past the liquor store every day on the way home from work, change your route. Get rid of all of the alcohol in your home. Either pour it out or give it to someone.

Share Your Goal

According to the University of Wisconsin Medical Center, it's paramount to tell others you trust that you are trying to eliminate drinking from your lifestyle. That way they can hold you accountable. It's likely some, instead, will minimize your efforts -- especially if they want you to continue drinking with them. These are not people you need in your support network right now. You can even tell them that.

Reinforce Your Goal

When you're feeling weak, remember the reasons why you want to stop drinking. Write them down and look at them every day, or even every hour, if you need to.

Chronic Drinkers

If you are a chronic drinker, it's likely your body has developed a physical dependence on alcohol. This is usually exhibited through increased tolerance and physical cravings for alcohol. It may be harder for you to stop drinking because of physical withdrawal symptoms.

This is not a reason to give up hope and just keep drinking, though. Millions of chronic drinkers have successfully given up alcohol. However, you need to make a solid plan for your detox and recovery.

Seek Support

Making the decision to stop drinking is a huge step for a chronic drinker. It's much easier to move forward with people to help you through the process. A friend or family member can serve as this support -- as long as they are not in an addiction themselves. If you do not have a suitable support person, find a support group. Don't be afraid to reach out. Support groups exist just for this reason.

Know What to Expect

Common symptoms of withdrawal include hand tremors, rapid pulse, sweating, nausea, and insomnia. Most chronic drinkers will experience one or more of these. Withdrawal tends to be worst during the first three weeks but will gradually improve during this time, in most cases. Depression and/or anxiety are also common.

Get Medical Attention as Needed

A small minority of chronic drinkers - between five and 15 percent according to William Cohen, author of Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders - will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucinations, seizures and psychomotor agitation. These individuals need medical attention to safely and successfully detox. Don't be afraid to call 911 if your symptoms start to escalate. Your life could depend on it.

Examine Your Motives

Once you are able to stop drinking, it's important to explore why you drank both to prevent relapse and to increase your quality of life. There are many approaches you can take, such as reading self-help books, working individually with an addictions counselor, going to mental health therapy, attending a treatment program or attending support group meetings. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It's a trial and error process to see what works best for you.

Keep Your Head Up

Giving up alcohol often requires a complete lifestyle change. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done. Just remember that it has long-term benefits for both your physical and mental health and can have a positive impact on many areas of your life.

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol