How To Keep Your Motivation To Stop Drinking: 11 Tips

Coach reviewed by Kerri J. Reyes, MPH, LCDC on September 14, 2022

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Are you thinking about quitting alcohol? Feeling like enough is enough? The desire to quit usually happens when drawbacks such as hangovers, relationship problems, mood problems, and work issues begin to outweigh the rewards. Before starting the process, most people have at least one strong motivation to stop drinking.

But quitting alcohol is rarely a walk in the park—especially if you’ve developed a dependence on the substance. Cravings, drinking triggers, and even brain chemistry can all challenge your motivation. Many people make several attempts to quit before successfully getting sober.

Research shows a strong link between motivation for sobriety and recovery from alcohol dependence. So, how can you keep your motivation to quit drinking, even when the going gets tough?

Finding Your Motivation

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To start with, it’s important to identify your motivation to quit drinking. What is the reason you want to make a change?

The answer can vary from person to person, but in general, motivation to stop drinking comes from the desire to be in a better place physically or emotionally. We want to feel better, do better, and enjoy life more.

You might also be motivated by something more specific, such as being a better parent, being more productive at work, or just having more time and energy.

There are various sources of motivation to consider when finding what moves you to make changes to your drinking. These include:

  1. INTERNAL or intrinsic motivations. These could be things like an innate desire for better health, skin, sleep, mood, communication, etc.
  2. EXTERNAL motivations. These might include the people in support of your changes—like family, friends, loved ones, employers/coworkers, or physicians/providers.

Knowing your “why” to begin with, and having strategies for reminding yourself, gives you an important foundation for lasting recovery.

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11 Tips for Keeping Your Motivation in Alcohol Recovery

Here are some suggestions to help you get motivated to stop drinking, and keep going throughout the process.

1. Envision what an alcohol-free life looks like for you

Picture yourself looking and feeling better. Imagine how wonderful it will feel to sleep well and wake up rested and clear-headed. What would it be like to be fully present in the day ahead, and free from guilt and embarrassment linked to drinking?

2. Write down your reasons to quit

For example: “I want to be more present for my family,” or, “I want to focus better at work.” Other common reasons are saving money and having more time in your day. Make a list and keep it with you as a constant reminder of the rewards and benefits that await you if you stay the course.

3. Set achievable goals

To set yourself up for success, map out goals that are realistic. If you’ve had trouble quitting “cold turkey” in the past, for example, consider setting a weekly drink limit and reducing that over time. Achieving smaller steps along the way can help you feel successful, and boost your motivation. The SMART goal framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) can be an effective way to do this.

4. Eliminate temptation

It is too easy to keep drinking when alcohol is readily available. Remove alcohol from your home and avoid social settings that are centered around drinking.

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5. Try some affirmations and mantras

Keep a journal to jot down encouraging statements and quotes. Refer to these regularly and say them aloud to start shifting your mindset in the direction of self-love, confidence, and encouragement. The idea is to replace self-defeating thoughts with empowering ones.

Read more: 28 Positive Affirmations for Recovery

6. Find some allies for when things get tough

There is nothing like a good support system to keep you heading in the right direction. Find a local recovery community to connect with. Be open with trusted friends and family about your intentions, and ask for their support and encouragement.

7. Learn from others

Listen to sobriety podcasts, or read books about quitting alcohol. It can make a big difference to hear from others who have been down this road and have helpful advice and encouragement to offer.

8. List the things you’ll miss the most, and have a plan for coping

Rather than denying them, write down the things you know you’ll miss about drinking—then list a few alternatives for each. For example, perhaps you love the social interaction of going to a bar. What are some alternative social activities? If drinking helps you wind down, what are other ways to relax? Planning this in advance will help you manage triggers.

9. Discover new activities

Once you commit to quitting or limiting your drinking, you will have extra time for other pursuits. Whether it is hiking, painting, taking a class, or diving into a good book, the possibilities are endless! The more involved you get in new activities you enjoy, the more motivation you’ll have to continue a sober lifestyle.

Read more: 29 Things to Do Instead of Drink Alcohol

10. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Self-compassion plays a big role in meeting your goals. If you have a setback, remind yourself that you are human and doing your best. Perhaps it was just a sign to revisit and adjust your goals. Move at your own pace, and talk to yourself as you would a loved one.

11. Celebrate your successes (practice positive reinforcement)

Reward yourself for accomplishments, and for reaching your milestones. Keep track of all the money you are saving by not drinking, and treat yourself to a nice dinner or gift. Reinforce the message that you are strong, capable, and can achieve what you set your mind to!

Finding Support

Of course, if you struggle to stick with these strategies on your own, you would not be the first one. Quitting drinking is challenging, not in the least because changes to brain chemistry make it harder to stick with your motivation. Willpower, while essential to recovery, is far from the only tool most people need.

Counseling, support groups, and even anti-craving medication can make it much easier to stay the course when the road gets tough. Ria Health offers all three of these things, 100 percent online. Our coaches use techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing to help members keep on track.

Learn more about our program, or get in touch with us today.

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Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer who believes in the uplifting power of words. She especially enjoys writing about health, relationships, employment, and living one’s best life. Lisa has a Master’s in Education and previously worked in vocational and educational services. Her articles can be found on Your Tango, Thrive Global, Heart to Heart, Medium, Muck Rack, and on various professional websites.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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