In a recent year, more than 14 million U.S. adults reported having an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The NIAAA also reports that an estimated 443,000 teens also suffer from this condition. “Alcohol use disorder” (AUD), or alcoholism, occurs when a person becomes addicted to alcohol. Like other forms of substance abuse, alcoholism affects both mental and physical health, but it also takes a toll on the individual’s personal relationships with family and friends, career, and finances. Many individuals who have this condition may also engage in risk-taking behaviors like drunk driving, which can have serious legal consequences. If you suspect that you have a drinking problem and are wondering how to stop drinking, the following strategies to quit drinking may help you achieve the sober lifestyle you crave.
Signs of a Problem
Drinking alcohol is both legal and socially acceptable. For these reasons, some people may not even realize that their pattern of drinking is paving the road to alcoholism. Based on the number of symptoms a person experiences, their AUD may be mild, moderate, or severe. Knowing the signs and symptoms of an alcohol use disorder can help you put your problem into perspective as you learn how to stop drinking so much.
- Being unable to control the amount of alcohol you consume
- Feeling preoccupied with drinking
- Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol
- Spending a substantial portion of time drinking or recovering from drinking
- Losing interest in formerly enjoyed activities or friends
- Drinking to cope with negative emotions or stress
- Drinking to improve your mood
- Wanting to cut down alcohol use but failing to do so
- Failing to meet work or school obligations
- Continuing to drink even though alcohol has caused health or lifestyle problems
- Experiencing a tolerance for alcohol and needing to drink more to experience its effects
- Suffering from blackouts
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink in a certain period of time
If you experience these symptoms, you likely have a drinking problem and need to take steps to quit.
Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
Drinking substantial quantities of alcohol on a routine basis can be ruinous for your physical and mental health. First of all, ceasing your drinking automatically cuts your risks for suffering serious trauma like falling or getting into a car crash (since alcohol plays a role in roughly half of traumatic injuries). But that’s not all. Individuals who stop drinking alcohol typically experience the following:
- Improved mental focus and alertness
- Better relationships with family, friends, and colleagues
- Reduced risk for heart attack
- Improved liver health
- Weight loss
- Younger-looking skin
- Better job/school performance
- Improved energy levels
- Improved sleep
- Better overall health
- More money
- Sense of accomplishment
People who suffer from alcoholism will experience mental and physical health problems related to their drinking at some point if they do not stop consuming alcohol or cannot consume it within safe parameters. To safeguard your health and experience other benefits of an alcohol-free life, it may be time to embrace strategies to stop drinking.
What’s the Best Way to Stop Drinking Alcohol?
The best way to stop drinking begins with a change in mindset; you have to want to quit drinking. Wanting in itself doesn’t typically do the trick altogether, but it is the best place to begin a path toward lasting sobriety. The sad truth is that many alcoholics simply don’t want to stop drinking. They don’t want to give up a drinking lifestyle and they may not consider their drinking issues to be as substantial as they are in actuality.
Wanting to stop the perpetual reliance on alcohol, wanting to stop thinking about drinking when you’re at work or school, and wanting to stop feeling like you need a drink (or several) to cope with negative emotions is a great place to start. You may not know how and you might feel overwhelmed, but wanting to stop drinking is the best place to begin your journey to wellness. Learning to manage a substance addiction requires commitment and dedication. Wanting to achieve that goal is what will ultimately allow you to prevail.
Tips to Quit Using Alcohol
1. Don’t Think— Dump the Drink
If you’re like many people who have a substance addiction, you likely have a supply of alcohol. As soon as you commit to quitting, dump your supply. If you have a fully stocked bar, a fridge full of beer, or bottles of liquor in various rooms of your home, get rid of it. The temptation and cravings to drink will be powerful. If alcohol is within easy reach, you may be too tempted to avoid it.
2. Get Professional Help
Most professionals don’t advocate for quitting alcohol cold turkey. That’s because alcohol withdrawal is serious: The symptoms can be intense and include DTs, seizures, nausea, dehydration, and even thoughts of suicide. It’s best to go through rehab under the watchful care of medical professionals who can administer medications to reduce the severity of withdrawal and its symptoms. Medical professionals can also recommend a post-detox treatment plan to help you prevent relapse.
3. Disengage from Non-Supportive Friends
If your friends engage in a lifestyle that is unhealthy for you (partying, binge drinking, etc…), you have to dump them. Harsh? Removing yourself from an unhealthy friends group is not as harsh as the damage that a drinking lifestyle may be doing to various aspects of your health and general well-being. Choose to spend time with friends who respect your choice and support your choice. Friends who tempt you to continue drinking with them are doing you a serious disservice.
4. Avoid Places Where Alcohol Is Consumed
Many people recovering from alcoholism struggle not to relapse because they don’t necessarily realize how much of their life has revolved around alcohol. If much of your free time is spent at a bar, you need to find new places to spend your time— places where there isn’t any alcohol. When trying to protect your sobriety, you’ll need to avoid parties where alcohol is likely to be found as well as clubs, bars, and any other locations that could prove problematic for your recovery.
5. Find a Support Group
Alcoholism is sadly commonplace, but support for alcoholism recovery is also increasingly available too. Your physician or rehab center is likely to provide you with a list of nearby support groups or aftercare programs who can help you achieve long-term recovery. These groups often meet weekly and tend to discuss a wide array of topics related to drinking. The information and helpful strategies they provide as well as the camaraderie that exists between members can help you stay on your recovery journey.
6. Find a New Hobby
Many people who attempt to quit drinking feel as if they are beginning life anew. Old hobbies might have to be temporarily abandoned because they’re too easily associated with drinking; for instance— golfing and drinking, baseball games and drinking, dancing and drinking. Consider beginning a new pastime that involves zero drinking right from the start. Embrace cooking. Embark on a new exercise regimen. Take a carpentry or jewelry-making class. A new hobby can fill up your time, helping you avoid thinking about alcohol.
7. Care for Your Mental Health
Many people who have suffered from an AUD may have turned to alcohol to help them cope with stress, anger, sadness, or other negative emotions. These emotions will continue to be triggers for drinking until you can learn to cope with them in healthy ways. Bad relationships, high-stress jobs, loneliness— these aren’t easy problems to contend with, and they can wreak havoc on our mental health and, ultimately, sabotage recovery. Talk to a counselor about how you can safeguard your mental health and find ways to cope with negative emotions in a healthy manner.
How to Avoid Environments Where Alcohol Is on Hand
Avoiding places where alcohol is consumed isn’t easy, especially when you’ve spent a considerable portion of your life near alcohol. To successfully avoid these environments, you’ve got to replace them with other healthier environments. Yes— spend time at an alcohol recovery center and then, possibly, in a sober living community. Travel and choose your itinerary wisely— museums instead of wineries. Spend time with supportive family members and friends who understand your need for being in an alcohol-free environment. Finally, think about getting outdoors where you might try hiking, gardening, or simply reading in a park.
If you are ready to quit alcohol, then you’re ready to better your life and health. Let FHE Health help you in that process. We can provide you with an initial evaluation and help you choose a recovery plan that meets your needs.