How to Quit Drinking Alcohol and Start Living Your Best Life

how-to-quit-drinking

Drinking alcohol can help you feel more comfortable in social situations or wind down after a stressful workweek. It’s when you overindulge that drinking becomes an issue.

Most people drink without developing any problems, but that’s not the case for all. Around 16 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Do you worry that your drinking may be getting out of hand? Have you wondered if you might have a problem saying no to alcohol?

Read on for 10 realistic tips on how to quit drinking alcohol and start living your best life.

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol: 10 Realistic Tips

Quitting drinking by yourself can pose a challenge, but not if you prepare the right way. Use the following tips to stop drinking alcohol if you think you have a problem.

1. Learn the Signs of Alcohol Addiction

The CAGE questionnaire is a great place to begin figuring out if you have a negative relationship with alcohol. Medical professionals use the test to identify patients with potential alcohol problems. Ask yourself these 4 questions:

  • Have you ever thought that you should Cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
  • Have you felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

If you answered yes to 2 or more of the above questions, or only to the last question, you show high sensitivity for alcoholism.

2. Be Honest with Yourself

If you’re researching advice on how to quit drinking, you likely already suspect you need help. Just be honest with yourself.

Have you experienced two or more of the following symptoms for at least a year?

  • You spent a large part of your time drinking or being hungover
  • You craved alcohol at random times during the day
  • You drank more/longer than you initially intended several times
  • Your drinking or hangovers interfered with social, family, school, or work responsibilities
  • You continued to drink despite these interferences
  • You chose to drink over other activities or hobbies you enjoy
  • You continued to drink despite it negatively affecting your mood or physical health
  • You blacked out more than once
  • You put yourself and others at risk while drinking (i.e., drinking and driving)
  • You tried to stop drinking but did not succeed
  • You experienced symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when you stopped drinking

If yes, you need to stop asking if you’re an alcoholic and admit that you need help. That’s the only way to move forward and start the process of quitting alcohol.

3. List Reasons to Stop Drinking Alcohol

Making a list of the reasons why you want to stop drinking alcohol can help you make the decision and stick with it. Here are a few examples of reasons to quit harmful drinking and seek help.

Save Money

Consider how much money you spend on alcohol every week. It’s easy to drop $100 or more, especially if you go out rather than drinking at home. You could save that money instead and use it to plan a vacation or get out of debt.

Get More Time

If you drink for 3 hours a day, 3-4 days per week, then you’re missing out on around two months of productive time. That doesn’t even include the time lost to hangovers.

Enjoy Social Situations More

When you get so drunk you can’t remember anything the next day, how do you know if you really had fun? A drink or two might make you feel more comfortable talking to new people. But too many drinks will make those conversations meaningless if you remember them at all.

Sleep Longer and Better

Alcohol makes you tired since it is a depressant. It also negatively impacts your sleep patterns including how long you stay asleep and how rested you feel when you wake up.

Missing Out on Friends and Family

Think of the important family functions you’ve missed by being too drunk to show up. What about the ones where you spent the whole time drunk? Overdrinking means you miss out on making real connections with the people in your life who mean the most.

Come up with your own list of reasons to quit drinking and carry it with you everywhere. Refer to it anytime you want to give in to cravings.

4. Reevaluate Your Social Circle

Saying no when surrounded by friends and family drinking alcohol proves difficult for most people, but especially an alcoholic. Step away from your social groups during the first stage of the process to avoid temptations.

You also need to reevaluate your social circle and take a hard look at the people who you spend the most time with. Do you only ever see them at the bar or while drinking at a party?

Unfriending someone might not seem kind. But if it’s between their bad influences and your health, you need to make that tough decision.

True friends will not run when you say you need to take a break from drinking or stop entirely. They should support your decision and respect your wishes.

5. Avoid Drinking-Focused Locations

If you really want to quit drinking alcohol, you need to change up your routine. Don’t head to the same bar at the same time as you normally do. That will make you feel tempted to drink like you normally do as well.

Find new situations for socializing outside the bar and without alcohol. Attend a group exercise class or join a team sport. Arrange a game night with friends who don’t drink or who agree to not drink with you around.

Quitting drinking is a great time to find new hobbies or develop new skills that you always thought seemed cool. Now you’ll actually have the time, money, and energy to do them.

6. Identify Your Triggers

Do you reach for a drink when you’ve had a hard day at work? What about when you want to celebrate something with friends?

Think back on the occasions where you felt the need to have a drink. What triggered the craving?

Identifying the situations or emotions that cause cravings will help you figure out the why and when of your overdrinking. You can then avoid these situations or develop new coping mechanisms that don’t involve alcohol.

7. Don’t Keep Alcohol at Home

Nutritionists recommend not keeping junk food in the house if you want to lose weight. The same idea applies to your drinking.

If you want to cut down on alcohol, you cannot keep any in your home. It’s too easy to reach for that cold beer in the fridge or that open bottle of gin sitting on the counter.

Talk with the other adults in your house, whether roommates, parents or your spouse. Let them know your plan so they do not bring any alcohol into the house either.

8. Prepare for the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

One big reason alcohol abusers do not want to cut down on drinking is fear or alcohol withdrawal.

When alcohol enters your brain, it causes you to feel relaxed and happy. Drink too much and you get the negative brain effects like difficulty walking and slurred speech.

This happens because alcohol suppresses various neurotransmitters in your brain. Your liver uses enzymes to break down the alcohol you ingest to keep you from absorbing too much.

Once you stop drinking, the alcohol no longer suppresses these neurotransmitters and they become hyperactive. This results in the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin about 2-6 hours after you finish your last drink. The worst symptoms occur within the first 72 hours and may last up to a week.

Not everyone suffers from withdrawal symptoms. It depends greatly on the length and severity of your addiction as well as your body’s unique chemistry.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect during alcohol withdrawal and the typical symptoms based on time since your last drink.

2-12 Hours After Your Last Drink

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting

12-24 Hours After Your Last Drink

  • Hand tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Disorientation
  • Risk of seizures (severe cases)

24-48 After Your Last Drink

  • Auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • High fever
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures (severe cases)

Be aware that the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can lead to life-threatening side effects like delirium tremens. It appears within the first 2 days after your last drink and causes hallucinations, high blood pressure, confusion, shaking, and sometimes death.

The Risk of PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, also known as prolonged withdrawal syndrome or protracted withdrawal, refers to when withdrawal symptoms last longer than a few weeks. It’s also characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Depression and pessimistic thoughts
  • Psychosocial dysfunction
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Impaired concentration
  • Memory issues
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Overacting emotionally
  • Feeling numb
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Increased proneness for accidents

PAWS can last up to several months or years after you quit drinking. You may experience some or all of these symptoms and they may come and go without much warning.

A doctor can prescribe medicine to help with the most severe symptoms.

9. Keep a Positive Attitude

Despite the uphill battle you have ahead, you need to keep a positive attitude. Refer to your list of reasons why you want to quit drinking if you feel yourself start to slip.

Reach out to friends or family members who support your decision for reassurance or distraction. Never forget this is a life-long decision you’re making for your health and well-being. Be kind to yourself and don’t quit immediately if you make a mistake.

Recovery means making a choice every day to stay sober. Keeping a positive and hopeful attitude will make this daunting task easier.

10. Seek Professional Treatment If Needed

Finally, if you’ve tried to quit drinking alcohol on your own before and failed, you may want to consider seeking professional treatment.

There’s no shame in reaching out to the appropriate sources to get help. It means you’re willing to do what it takes to get healthy.

You won’t find one single answer to what treatment will work best for you. However, if you do decide to enter a recovery program, here are your main options.

Individual Counseling

If you haven’t tried to quit drinking alcohol in the past, you may want to start with individual counseling. A counselor supports you while you quit drinking and offers you advice when you start withdrawing from alcohol.

An alcohol abuse counselor can also help you address the underlying issues contributing to your alcohol abuse and find better coping mechanisms.

Outpatient Treatment

Do you need to still take care of things at home and work while you get sober?

Consider outpatient treatment where you go into a center several days a week at times convenient to you. You’ll participate in group therapy sessions as well as one-on-one counseling.

Outpatient therapy works best for people with less severe alcohol addiction.

Inpatient Treatment

Severe alcohol abusers should consider checking into an inpatient or residential drug treatment center. These offer you round-the-clock care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you quit drinking.

You still participate in support groups and counseling, but you also get the added benefit of medication-assisted interventions. Most inpatient treatment programs last between 30, 60, and 90 days with some lasting as long as a year.

Get the Right Help to Start Living Your Best Life

Now you should have a better understanding of your relationship with alcohol. Use these 10 tips on how to quit drinking alcohol to figure out whether you need to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.

Don’t be ashamed if you think you can’t quit drinking all by yourself. There are many great alcohol abuse treatment programs out there like Coastal Detox to guide you through the process.

Located in South Florida, Coastal Detox is one of the best alcohol detox centers in the US. They offer drug and alcohol detox services as well as residential, inpatient treatment, and recovery management programs.

Contact Coastal Detox to get the help of caring medical professionals and start your journey to quit drinking alcohol today!

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.