Last Updated on October 16, 2020
If you’ve decided it’s time to give up alcohol for good, you’re certainly not alone. Over a million Americans seek treatment every year for alcohol addiction, and many eventually find lasting success. That said, the path can appear long and intimidating, especially if you’re just starting.
Fortunately, there are more resources for getting sober than ever before. With a little research, and the right support system, we believe you can succeed. Here are 7 things you should know about getting sober from alcohol:
1. There Are Many Paths To Sobriety
Whatever your personal needs may be, there is likely to be a solution that will be a good fit for you. Here are some of the most common places to start:
One of the most popular options is joining a support group. It’s free, it gives you some structure, and it lets you connect to others with similar struggles. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the best known of these, but there are a number of other options as well. These include secular groups like SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and S.O.S. Some online treatment programs like Ria Health also offer virtual meetings through an app.
Although not as well known a solution as AA, there are several medications that can help you quit drinking. Naltrexone helps reduce your motivation to drink by lessening the pleasurable effects of alcohol. Acamprosate helps block alcohol cravings once you’ve already quit, helping you avoid relapse. Gabapentin, baclofen, and topiramate have all also been shown to reduce people’s interest in alcohol.
Treatments based on these medications can be very effective. The Sinclair Method, which makes use of naltrexone, boasts a 78 percent success rate.
A catch-all term for supervised programs designed to help you quit, rehab comes in many forms. Inpatient rehab can mean checking into a residential treatment facility for a period of time. Outpatient rehab often means visiting a nearby center on a regular basis while continuing with your daily life. These programs can be helpful, but they can also be expensive. It’s also important to do your research first, because not all programs are evidence-based.
Quitting On Your Own
This option can take a lot of discipline. But depending on your personality and drinking patterns, it may be possible. If you go this route, make sure you have some good friends and allies checking in on you. Consider using a journal, or one of the many stop drinking apps on the market, to give you some structure. You might also consider beginning during a “sober month,” like Dry January or Sober October, to make things easier.
Read More: 9 Tips For Quitting Alcohol
2. Be Careful Around Detox
Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. For those with lighter drinking habits, the symptoms may be manageable. But for those with heavier habits, it’s best to either cut back gradually, or have a medical professional monitor you.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
And in more severe cases:
- Mental confusion
Know your risks, play it safe, and have a plan. And if you’re quitting without the support of a program, make sure you have a friend or loved one keeping an eye on you throughout the withdrawal process.
Read more about Avoiding Alcohol Withdrawal
3. Permanent Change Can Take a Long Time
Once you’ve decided to make a change, it can be tempting to try to get it over with as quickly as possible. Getting sober, however, is almost never a quick process. Sure, withdrawal might be done within a week. But there’s a reason many people continue to identify as alcoholics long after drinking their last drop.
Alcohol cravings are a big part of this. Aside from physical addiction, alcohol also impacts the reward system within a person’s brain. This means that many people continue to have drinking urges for months, or even years after quitting.
It’s best to expect this, and plan for it. One solution involves taking anti-craving medication to retrain your brain chemistry or block drinking urges. You might also find a recovery coach who can help you learn ways to reset your habits. Finally (and this is a difficult one), you may need to eliminate certain friendships or activities that trigger you to drink.
Read more about Managing Alcohol Cravings
4. Support Makes It Easier
As mentioned above, there are many reasons why it’s best not to go it alone. One is staying safe during detox. Another is getting accurate information and appropriate care when you need it. Then there’s the psychological part: Getting sober is a big change, and it can make a big difference to have someone to talk to.
Within your personal life, try to identify friends and family members who might be willing to support you through the process. In particular, it can help to find at least one “safe” person who you can call in times of emergency. Perhaps you even have someone who can help you stay on track from day-to-day, remembering medication, or keeping you focused on your sobriety at social events.
Then, there is the important role of coaching and support groups. Whether it’s AA, one of the secular alternatives, or an online option, talking to others who are going through the same thing provides important moral support.
If you find yourself on the other end of things, helping someone else get sober, there are several helpful things you can do. These include providing a friendly ear, helping them identify the care they need, and making sure they stay safe.
Read more about How To Help An Alcoholic
5. Many Have Succeeded Before You
Getting sober may feel impossible at times, but we promise you—it isn’t. Many people, including some well known celebrities, have battled alcohol abuse and found lasting success. Getting sober is a common struggle, and you’re not alone.
It’s also not unusual to try several times before succeeding. In fact, whichever path you may be on, there’s guaranteed to be another person who’s been there first and gotten to the other side.
Hearing these stories can be helpful and inspirational. There are a number of online forums where you can find others’ stories, from app-based communities like Sober Grid and Daybreak, to dozens of reddit groups. You can also simply google “sober stories” and see what comes up. Check out some of our member’s success stories here.
6. You Don’t Have To Quit All At Once
Some people do well with immediate abstinence. But if that’s too difficult for you there’s also nothing wrong with that. Everyone is different, and there are a number of approaches that allow you to moderate first, then seek full sobriety afterwards.
One of these options is the Sinclair Method (TSM). This uses targeted doses of the drug naltrexone to help people reduce their cravings for alcohol. Many people find that they can eventually stop at one or two drinks as long as they are taking the medication. Eventually, many also find that they lose interest in alcohol, and become completely sober.
Actress and TSM advocate Claudia Christian is one of these people. After using the Sinclair Method to overcome her own alcohol addiction, she was able to drink moderately for many years, before eventually deciding to stop completely. Read her story on achieving sobriety with TSM.
What matters most is what will make the biggest impact on your health. This principle is called harm reduction, and it basically means you should do whatever is achievable for you. Having two drinks a day is better than having eight. In fact, moderation can be a perfectly healthy choice for many people. If cutting back first and quitting later is the most manageable solution, go for it!
7. Help Is Available From Home
With the growth of new technology, most of the strategies mentioned above are now attainable online. Coaching, medical advice, online groups and communities, and medications are all accessible through smartphone-based rehab programs.
These online programs can be a great way to get sober from alcohol. They give you the kind of comprehensive care you might get in rehab, without having to travel or put your life on hold. Treatment is flexible, and also more affordable, making it possible to stick with it for the long term.