Whether you’re a daily drinker or simply sober curious, quitting alcohol can be a challenge. Alcohol has woven itself into so many aspects of our culture, and many more people experience some level of alcohol use disorder (AUD) than one might expect.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to quit or cut back on alcohol, we congratulate you. We also know that figuring out how to stop drinking is easier said than done. Oftentimes, it’s best to have some form of support, whether that’s a peer group, a doctor, or a full treatment program. The best solution will vary depending on who you are, how much you drink, and your goals.
These 15 tips for quitting alcohol should serve as a good starting point. But before reading further, know that quitting alcohol can be dangerous for some people. If you believe you have a serious problem with alcohol, it’s best to speak with a doctor. These tips should not substitute for medical advice.
You should also know that traditional rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous, and going it alone are not the only solutions if you drink heavily. Nor is support limited to those who identify as “alcoholics.” Learn how the Ria Health team can customize support to your goals.
How To Stop Drinking: 15 Tips For Quitting Alcohol
1. Start With a Plan
Sit down and research your options before you begin. Choose a structure that works for you, and have it medically supervised. Since quitting alcohol can involve withdrawal, or “detox,” it’s best to have a medical professional oversee it—even if you do it solo.
Otherwise, think things through in general. What will you do when you feel the urge to drink? Who will you call if you need support? Will you join a program or quit drinking at home? Know what you want your relationship with alcohol to look like going forward, make a long-term plan, and be prepared to stick with it.
2. Know Your Why
Before you get started, take some time to reflect on the reasons you want to cut back or quit. Perhaps you want to be a better parent, or you want to be better at your job. Take a look at how alcohol is affecting your health, and come up with some wellness goals to motivate you. Write these goals down and carry them with you, so you have a reminder when the going gets rough.
Read more: Finding Your Motivation To Quit Drinking
3. Know Your Triggers
This is just as important as knowing your motivation. When do you feel the strongest urge to drink? What places, experiences, and emotions make it hardest to resist picking up the bottle? Come up with some strategies ahead of time that you can use in these difficult situations, so you don’t have to improvise on the spot.
Read More: Dealing With Triggers in Recovery
4. Limit Your Exposure to Alcohol
Get rid of all the alcohol in your house. If you’re tapering off, try only keeping a minimum amount of a drink you don’t especially like, and choose a cutoff date. Delete alcohol delivery apps from your phone, let drinking buddies know that you won’t be joining them for a while, and even avoid restaurants that serve booze. Keep temptation to a minimum.
5. Find a Strong Support System
Let loved ones know you’re quitting alcohol, and find a few that are willing to check in on you or act as an ally throughout the process. Consider joining a support group; if Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t your thing, there are AA alternatives like SMART recovery and LifeRing. Finally, consider finding a therapist or a recovery coach. Experienced professionals can help you work through your drinking triggers and develop new coping strategies.
Read more: Building a Support System in Recovery
6. Have a Plan For Withdrawal
This is one of the most important tips for quitting drinking. In some cases alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous or even fatal. Some people find the symptoms mild enough that they can ride them out by themselves. But if you drink heavily, you may experience seizures, hallucinations, and even life-threatening changes in heart rate. It’s best to talk to your doctor or medical provider before attempting cold turkey on your own.
Learn more about the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and how to keep yourself safe.
7. Try Moderating or Cutting Back First
Reducing your drinking beforehand often makes it easier (and safer) to quit completely. Some people create a tapering schedule and gradually cut back. Others make moderation their goal. This can be difficult if you have a history of alcohol dependence, but there are medications such as naltrexone that can make this achievable. If you’d like to still have the occasional social drink, that may be a real option.
Read more: Moderation as an Option
8. Consider Medication as an Option
Medication-assisted treatment is becoming more popular as a way to quit drinking. There are several prescription medications proven effective in helping people moderate or give up alcohol. If you struggle with long-term alcohol cravings, or want to quit gradually, this can prove especially helpful.
Read More: Medications for Alcoholism
9. Practice Self-Care
During withdrawal, ensure you have the emotional and physical support you need to make it through. Once you’ve quit, continue to take care of your body and mind throughout your daily life. From eating a healthy meal, to scheduling some alone time within your hectic schedule, give yourself what you need to cope day-to-day. Making sure you aren’t running on an empty tank makes it easier to avoid relapse.
Read More: Practicing Self-Care in Recovery
10. Find New Activities to Replace Alcohol
Consider hitting the gym after work to replace having a beer. Seek out social groups that focus on shared hobbies—like music, sports, arts and crafts, or hiking. Try joining a meetup group to find new friends that share your interests, or join a class to learn a new skill. Filling your schedule with activities that don’t involve alcohol will help normalize sobriety, and get you moving forward to a new chapter.
Read more: 29 Things to Do Instead of Drink Alcohol
11. Start a Mindfulness Practice
Whether it’s regular meditation, yoga, tai chi, or even a smartphone app, research shows that finding a mindfulness practice can help people stick with sobriety long-term. Mindfulness helps you gain greater distance from your thoughts and urges, making it easier to avoid falling into old patterns, and improving your overall quality of life.
12. Practice Turning Down Drinks
“Know your no.” Once you begin venturing into social situations involving alcohol again, be prepared with a response when someone offers you a drink. The better you know how to handle peer pressure or awkwardness around your sobriety, the more comfortable you’ll feel in the moment.
Read More: Best Excuses For Not Drinking
13. Find Something Else You Like to Drink
Of course, being sober doesn’t mean your glass has to be empty, either. There are more tasty nonalcoholic beverages on the market than ever before. Find one you like, and use it to replace your evening drink or give yourself something to sip on at a party. This might help you beat alcohol cravings. Plus, if people see your glass is full, they’ll be less likely to offer you a drink.
14. Reward Yourself for Success
As you find yourself achieving goals or hitting major milestones in your progress, don’t forget to reward yourself. If it’s been a month since your last drink, buy yourself a nice dinner or a new piece of clothing. Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing. Remind yourself how far you’ve come, and give yourself the credit you deserve.
Read more: The Power of Positive Reinforcement
15. Don’t Give Up
Quitting alcohol is a long process for many people, and setbacks are common. Don’t let yourself be discouraged. Many others who have succeeded before you hit tough barriers along the way, or needed several tries to find the best approach for them.
The most important tip for quitting drinking is to keep going. If one option doesn’t work, start again and try another. There are many programs, systems, and methods for giving up alcohol. The truth is, one of them is bound to work for you. If the process takes a while, remember you are making a major change in your life and health. Big changes take time. That is part of why, when you eventually succeed, it can feel so liberating.
Hang in there, and keep at it!
Ria Health offers treatment for alcohol addiction via telemedicine. Our program includes medication for alcohol cravings, recovery coaching, online support groups, medical consultation, and digital tools to track your progress. The whole process is flexible, and can be conducted from the comfort of home. If you’re ready to change your relationship with alcohol, get in touch with us today, or learn more about how it works.