Alcohol is everywhere in modern society. Watch a single segment of commercials, and you may see multiple advertisements that involve alcohol. However, even though our culture is steeped in the stuff, many people do not have the rosy relationship with alcohol that is depicted on television.
Instead of cracking open a cold beer on the beach with friends, many people find that they are increasingly drinking by themselves, drinking too much, and drinking to medicate symptoms of an untreated, underlying condition. They discover they cannot have just one or two drinks and instead always end up binge drinking. It can be vicious.
Alcohol use disorder can affect anyone, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 14 million American adults struggle with it. If you have been harboring concerns about your own alcohol consumption, it may be time to pursue an alcohol-free lifestyle. It takes a lot of courage to begin to investigate your relationship with alcohol, but these nine ways to quit drinking alcohol may help.
1. Identify your triggers.
One of the most constructive things you can do if you want to reduce alcohol in your life is to identify what situations or environments seem to be more conducive to drinking.
Maybe your circle of friends exclusively goes out at night to bars, or perhaps you find yourself unable to have a conversation with a family member without drinking afterward. Any circumstance that seems to increase your urge to drink or your likelihood of drinking can qualify as a trigger.
Once aware of your triggers, you can build your schedule around avoiding these triggers and make yourself less vulnerable or dependent on alcohol. For example, you can ask your friends to meet during the day at a coffee shop instead of going to a nightclub. You can find a new way to communicate with a family member—or put a pause on the communication for a little while until you complete alcohol rehab. The list goes on.
By avoiding your triggers, you may be able to naturally reduce your opportunities to drink more than you would like or more than you anticipated.
2. Join a support group.
Joining local support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can be an extremely helpful way to hold yourself accountable once you have decided to stop drinking alcohol.
In a judgment-free setting, you can develop relationships with people who have made a similar commitment and who are committed to helping themselves and their peers stay sober. Having a supportive network of people who understand precisely what you are going through can be a very effective way to stop drinking alcohol and to manage alcohol cravings as they appear.
Researchers have found that support groups can help people in alcohol addiction recovery maintain their sobriety over the long term.
3. Consider treatment with medication.
Depending on how significant your alcohol dependence has become, it can be very difficult to stop drinking on your own. Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder, is a serious condition that sometimes requires the support of medications to safely and effectively quit. So, talk to your doctor about your concerns, plans, and options.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help people with alcohol use disorder safely stop drinking or continue with their sobriety after they have already stopped. Examples of medications for alcohol use disorder include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone.
4. Talk to a friend or loved one.
If you are thinking of quitting drinking, it’s easy to feel like you are isolated from the world around you, without anyone to serve as a sounding board. However, talking to a trusted friend or loved one about your desire to reduce your drinking can be a powerful way to hold yourself accountable.
You can ask a friend to check in on you periodically to see if you are meeting your sobriety goal or simply have that friend run interference among others in your social group if they pressure you to drink. Research shows that having specific social accountability with someone else who is sober can also help you stay on track.
5. Find a counselor.
Alcohol use disorder can manifest for various reasons, ranging from genetic to environmental to situational. Regardless of the cause of a person’s alcoholism, talking to a professional with substance abuse training can help a person identify the underlying factors in their life and problematic thinking patterns that accelerate their drinking.
Then, a counselor or therapist can help a person reprogram these thinking patterns and learn coping mechanisms to help them navigate their relationship with alcohol in a better way. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of therapy used to help people with alcohol use disorder, and it can be a very effective part of a person’s journey toward reducing their alcohol intake.
6. Address underlying mental health conditions.
Mental health conditions and substance use disorders often exist hand-in-hand. This is because mental health conditions can trigger substance use disorders and vice versa. If you are interested in quitting drinking, you may want to evaluate your overall health to help identify if you have a mental health condition driving your alcohol use.
For example, people with an anxiety disorder who suffer from panic attacks may feel that they need to drink to stay calm or come down from a heightened state of nerves that drives up their blood pressure and mood. By only addressing the alcohol use and not treating the underlying anxiety disorder can be very difficult to stick to a goal of sobriety.
Many treatment facilities that help people with substance use disorders also have an integrated care approach that addresses the “whole person,” including treating any underlying mental health conditions.
7. Complete a formal detox program.
If you have been drinking a large amount of alcohol for a long time, it may not only be difficult to stop drinking on your own—it may be unsafe.
Quitting drinking suddenly after you have been drinking consistently for a long time can make you vulnerable to highly uncomfortable and dangerous medical problems, such as seizures. One of the warning signs that you may need assistance with quitting alcohol is if you develop withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit on your own.
These can include racing heartbeat, sweating, nausea, tremors, or hallucinations, among many others. A formalized detox program, also known as inpatient detox, can help you eliminate alcohol from your system while addressing and managing these withdrawal symptoms in a safe setting.
8. Consider long-term residential or partial hospitalization.
Detoxifying from alcohol is a critical first step to eliminating alcohol from your life. Once you clear the alcohol from your system, the challenge of staying sober begins. Many people find being newly sober is a highly vulnerable period in alcohol use disorder.
Having the structure and support of a residential rehabilitation program, or a partial hospitalization program (PHP), can make all the difference when it comes to rewiring your mind, learning new skills, staying accountable, and reducing the influence of alcohol in your daily routine.
9. Solidify a relapse prevention plan.
If you are currently struggling with alcohol use disorder, you likely understand how pervasive alcohol is in your daily life. It may be all-consuming, and you may be structuring your whole day around acquiring alcohol, consuming alcohol, or recovering from an alcohol binge.
You may also find that once you are on the other side of alcohol addiction, you have an abundance of free time once consumed by alcohol. That can be intimidating, and many people fear that they will relapse because alcohol has become so ingrained in their life that they are unsure of what to do with their free time.
Therefore, it is crucial to develop a relapse prevention plan and put it in place before you quit drinking. When you decide it is time to reduce or eliminate alcohol from your life, fill your calendar with new activities, social gatherings, exercise classes, or support group meetings that will reinforce your goal.
Having concrete events planned can give you something to look forward to and serve as a distraction if you begin to feel tempted to drink.
Quit Drinking Safely with Indiana Center for Recovery
It can be uncomfortable to recognize the signs of alcohol use disorder in yourself or your family members and take the first step toward breaking the cycle of drinking. However, by identifying a treatment facility that provides comprehensive care — regardless of where you fall along the alcohol addiction spectrum — you can have the peace of mind that an evidence-based recovery plan awaits you.
At the Indiana Center for Recovery, we are motivated to support you every step of the way when you decide it’s time to stop drinking. Our medically reviewed addiction treatment programs include dual diagnosis, addiction rehab, EMDR, integrated care, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
We also offer varying levels of care that are designed to fit your specific recovery needs, including detox, residential, and intensive outpatient. Contact us today to find out more.