Substance Use

How to Quit Drinking: Stop Drinking Alcohol in 10 Steps

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There are many negative consequences to drinking excessively, including the inability to stop drinking without life-threatening withdrawal symptoms — which often make quitting challenging. When aiming to quit alcohol, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so you must consider your unique circumstances and needs.

If you’re looking for ways to stop drinking safely or thinking about going alcohol-free, it’s crucial to do so safely. To lower your risk of complications, seek the assistance of an evidence-based detox and treatment facility.

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What is Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, is a condition characterized by a compulsive and uncontrollable craving for alcohol despite its harmful consequences. (1)

Individuals struggling with alcohol dependence may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Increased tolerance to alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control alcohol intake
  • A preoccupation with drinking that disrupts daily life

According to the 2021 data from SAMHSA, 29.5 million people aged 12 or older were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, which is expected to grow. It can be an uphill battle for these individuals when trying to quit. (2)

Alcohol use disorder is a brain disorder divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. People with severe AUD may suffer from mental health issues and serious health conditions like liver cirrhosis (late-stage alcoholic liver disease). (3)

At this point, your body is dependent on alcohol, making it challenging to quit without professional intervention.  (4) (5

Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

Ultimately, quitting alcohol offers a wide range of benefits, encompassing improved physical and mental health, stronger relationships, and financial advantages. (6) Below, we will explain the benefits in more detail:

  1. Improved Health: Quitting alcohol can lead to substantial health improvements, reducing the risk of conditions like liver cirrhosis, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and pancreatitis. It can also alleviate common alcohol-related health issues such as high blood pressure and digestive problems.
  2. Better Relationships: Sobriety often strengthens relationships with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It reduces the likelihood of conflicts and misunderstandings that can arise due to alcohol use. Improved communication and emotional stability can result in more meaningful connections.
  3. Enhanced Mental Clarity: Abstaining from alcohol can lead to improved mental clarity and cognitive function. It helps reduce brain fog, enhance focus, and contribute to better decision-making. (7)
  4. Increased Physical Fitness: Without the calories and negative effects of alcohol, physical fitness tends to improve. Individuals may experience weight loss, better sleep quality, and increased energy levels. Regular exercise often becomes more achievable.
  5. Financial Savings: Eliminating alcohol-related expenses, such as purchasing drinks, dining out, or alcohol-related activities, can lead to substantial financial savings. This extra income can be redirected toward savings, new hobbies, spending time with family members, or other personal goals.

How Long Does It Take To Quit Alcohol?

This question has no single answer, as many variables play a role, especially when underlying mental health conditions that contribute to drinking are a concern. The recovery process will depend on personal variables, including how long you have been drinking and how frequently you consume alcohol. However, the initial withdrawal symptoms can last several days. 

The most severe symptoms typically surface within 24 to 48 hours. You must be monitored during this period to avoid complications, which is one of the primary benefits of a professional detox center. (8)

You can focus on your addiction’s root cause after the withdrawal process. For some, this process takes months. For many, the recovery process is an ongoing journey. Having the support of a healthcare team and a helpline for alcoholics is important as you work towards sobriety. (9)

What Happens When You Stop Drinking?

People with alcohol addiction might notice troubling symptoms when trying to quit. The central nervous system (CNS) in a person who drinks too much becomes used to the continual presence of alcohol. Since alcohol has a depressive effect on the body, the CNS adjusts by dulling communication with the brain and nerve cells. (5

This is known as alcohol withdrawal. (10) These symptoms vary on a case-to-case basis and can include the following:

  • Trembling or tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Pallor
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: (10)

  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Dementia (older adults are at a greater risk for dementia)
  • Cancer
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • High blood pressure

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol: 10 Steps

Knowing the dangers, it isn’t advisable to suddenly quit alcohol altogether, especially if you’re a heavy drinker or are experiencing health problems. But there are safe ways to begin the process. (11)

Step 1: Set Realistic Goals

The initial step in the journey to quit alcohol involves committing to this goal in writing. It’s a powerful practice that solidifies your decision and clarifies your motivations. As you list the reasons to stop drinking, consider a range of factors that drive your commitment.

These may include a desire to increase your health by reducing the associated risks, mend strained relationships with loved ones, practice more self-care, and create a more harmonious family life. Personal aspirations like regaining control over your life, boosting self-esteem, and achieving financial stability by eliminating alcohol-related expenses are also important considerations.

Step 2: Identify Your Triggers

The second step is to identify your triggers, those situations, or individuals that may lead you to drink. One common trigger is people, and it’s important to recognize and manage this. It’s important to stay away from individuals who excessively drink, have a substance use disorder, or exert pressure on you to continue drinking, especially after you’ve expressed your desire to quit.

These individuals can exacerbate the temptation to consume alcohol and hinder your progress. Building a support network of friends, health professionals and loved ones who respect your decision to quit can be invaluable in managing these triggers.

Step 3: Decide Your Approach

In the third step, it’s time to decide how you want to proceed. You’ll have to make a crucial choice between two options: moderating your drinking or completely abstaining from alcohol. While some people can quit drinking without assistance, many individuals find they need some form of help along the way.

Quitting abruptly, often referred to as “going cold turkey,” is generally not recommended. Instead, it’s safer and more effective to work with a healthcare professional or seek support from a group as you work to stop drinking. (12)

If you’re encountering the effects of alcohol withdrawal, it’s important to reach out for guidance and medical advice from a healthcare provider to ensure a secure and successful path to sobriety and self-care.

Step 4: Know Your Why

In the fourth step, identify your personal reasons for quitting alcohol. This entails introspection and self-reflection. Write down your motivations, whether they are to improve health, repair relationships, regain control, or find financial stability.

Having these reasons in writing keeps you focused on your goal and reminds you of the positive changes you’re working towards, reinforcing your determination to lead a sober life.

Step 5: Track Your Drinking Habits

On this journey, it’s essential to keep a record of your drinking habits by maintaining a drinking diary. This diary allows you to track the frequency and quantity of your alcohol consumption, helping you gain insight into your drinking patterns. 

Analyzing these patterns can highlight specific triggers or situations that lead to drinking.

Step 6: Prepare for Detox

The sixth step involves preparing for the detox process. This is a critical phase of your journey, and it’s essential to do it under medical supervision.

You can find support by seeking a healthcare professional to rid potential symptoms of alcohol withdrawal or substance abuse, ensuring a safer and more comfortable experience.

Step 7: Engage in Alternative Activities

Engaging in hobbies, joining social groups, and incorporating regular exercise into your routine can provide positive and healthier outlets for your time and energy. These activities not only help you stay distracted from cravings but also contribute to your overall well-being and improved mental health.

Step 8: Build a Supportive Community

Focus on building a strong and supportive community. Engaging with support groups and sharing your journey with trusted individuals can be incredibly beneficial. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous in person, or on social media, provide a safe space to discuss your experiences, challenges, and successes with those who understand what you’re going through.

Sharing your thoughts and emotions with trusted individuals through support groups not only strengthens your commitment but also helps you feel less isolated in your pursuit of sobriety.

Step 9: Prepare for Setbacks

Coping strategies are crucial during moments when you may be tempted to drink. It’s normal to encounter challenges during your journey to sobriety, and maintaining motivation can be tough. 

However, with the right coping mechanisms in place, you can navigate these hurdles effectively and stay on the path to recovery.

Step 10: Seek Professional Help if Necessary

In the last step, understand the importance of seeking professional help if required. Recognize that there are various types of professional assistance available, and it’s key to know when to seek it.

Whether you need the support of a therapist, counselor, or addiction specialist, professional help can provide tailored guidance, wellness, and strategies to help you overcome any obstacles you encounter in your journey toward sobriety.

How to Get Help for an Alcohol Addiction

If you’ve attempted quitting alone or with family support and continue to struggle with excessive drinking, outside support can be invaluable. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide a platform to share your alcohol addiction challenges and receive supportive guidance to maintain your sobriety. Many treatment centers offer these programs to help individuals lead a sober life.

For a more comprehensive approach, consider detoxification at an inpatient rehab facility, where medical professionals provide medical and mental health support and wellness. Subsequently, you can choose either ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment programs tailored to your specific needs.

Zinnia Health offers inpatient detox programs at different facilities across the country. We provide group counseling, one-on-one support, alternative treatments like yoga and meditation, and aftercare services to ensure you have a successful sober life after leaving. If you’re ready to begin your journey and reclaim your happiness, our phone number is (855) 430-9439. We’re here to help you on your path to an alcohol-free life.


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(855) 430-9439
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