How to Stop Drinking Alcohol if You Think You’re Addicted

Addiction is a real disease with serious consequences, including mental and physical health problems, legal difficulties and relationship problems. Alcohol addiction is by far the most common addictive disorder. If you are questioning your alcohol consumption, understanding how to stop drinking alcohol is an important aspect of learning how to address the problem. Quitting or moderating drinking means changing habits, relying on friends and family for support, joining support groups and getting professional help if needed.

Stop Drinking Alcohol - A man sitting at a table in front of a bottle and glass of alcohol with the palm of his right hand up in front of the glass to say stop drinking alcohol or no I do not want a drink.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, is a behavioral and medical condition. It is characterized by a pattern of problematic drinking. If you have alcohol use disorder, it may be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on your symptoms and the extent to which drinking impacts your life.

It’s important to understand that alcohol use disorder is a real disease. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is complicated and involves interactions between your environment, your genetics and the chemical pathways of your brain.

Am I Addicted to Drinking?

If you are questioning your drinking habits, there is a good chance they have become problematic and that cutting back or stopping would help. This doesn’t, however, mean that you are necessarily addicted. Experts diagnose alcohol use disorder using eleven criteria:

  1. Consistently and regularly drinking more, longer, or more frequently than you planned
  2. Trying and failing to stop drinking or cut back on alcohol consumption
  3. Spending significant amounts of time, money, or effort on drinking or recovering after drinking
  4. Craving alcohol when not drinking
  5.  Failing to meet responsibilities because of drinking
  6. Continuing to drink even when it causes problems in your relationships
  7. Giving up other activities to drink more
  8. Drinking in dangerous situations
  9. Continuing to drink in spite of physical or mental health problems caused or worsened by alcohol
  10. Needing more alcohol to get the same effect
  11. Going through withdrawal when you stop drinking

If you have two or more of these symptoms and they significantly impact your life in a negative way, you may have a mild alcohol use disorder. The more symptoms you have, the more severe the addiction.

24/7 Alcohol Hotline – Get Help Now
877-959-7271

What are the Costs if I do not Stop Drinking Alcohol

Addiction to alcohol may be a serious and real disease, but it is also treatable and manageable. You can learn to stop or to lessen your drinking with support and with professional treatment.

Even if you don’t think you have an addiction yet, if your alcohol consumption has become problematic and is negatively affecting any domain of your life, consider taking steps to stop or change your habits. The consequences of not quitting drinking, or at least decreasing alcohol intake, can be very serious.

The complications of alcoholism are varied and far-reaching.  For instance, excessive drinking negatively affects your physical health. Alcoholism can lead to liver disease, heart problems, sexual dysfunction, digestive system dysfunction, bone damage, eye problems and even an increased risk of cancer. Heavy drinking also puts you at risk of accidents, which can cause injuries or deaths. Though fortunately these numbers have declined in recent years, in 2018 there were 10,511 alcohol-related fatal motor vehicle accidents in the United States.

By continuing to drink too much you may also experience negative impacts to your mental and social well-being. Drinking can cause rifts in important relationships. It may also lead you to isolate yourself in order to drink more. Alcoholism is often comorbid with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorders. By continuing to drink you put yourself at a greater risk of experiencing mental health symptoms.

Financially, drinking can drain money if you don’t stop or moderate your behaviors. There are the direct costs of alcohol and going out, but you may also pay in lost jobs or legal costs if you get into trouble with the law for drinking.

What You Get When You Quit Drinking

The benefits of moderating your drinking or quitting are numerous. Light or moderate drinking can be beneficial to those without addictive cravings for alcohol or a compulsion to use it. However, if you cannot drink moderately, quitting is the best option.

By stopping drinking you will see immediate benefits to your physical health: no more hangovers, better sleep, and a stronger immune system. By no longer drinking you’ll be able to repair damaged relationships, perform better at work, have the time and energy for activities you enjoy, and see improved mental health.

24 Hour Alcohol Rehab Hotline – Get Help Now
877-959-7271

Steps on the Road to Quitting – How to Stop Drinking Alcohol

So how do you do it? Stopping drinking may not be easy. If you’ve tried and failed more than once, consider getting professional support. Whether you go into inpatient treatment or opt for outpatient counseling, there are important steps to take on the road to recovery:

  • Think about the pros and cons of drinking. It can help to actually write down what drinking personally costs you, what you get from it, and what will happen when you stop. You’re likely to find more cons, and seeing them in writing can be a big motivator.
  • Picture your future. Where do you want to be, and what kind of person do you want to be in five years? If in five years you are still drinking the way you are now, will that allow you to accomplish what you’d like to do?
  • Set realistic goals. Start small with things you can achieve, like having one less drink on a Friday night. One success can propel you to set and achieve the next goal.
  • Tell people about your goals. Friends and family can provide accountability and support.
  • As you drink less, keep a financial record. See how much you’re saving by not drinking and then make a plan for that money.
  • Remove alcohol from your home to reduce temptation to drink it. Drinking often becomes a routine, and when you don’t have easy access the routine is a little easier to break.
  • Make new habits. Changing habits is hard, but if you can replace drinking with something else it’s a little easier. If your habit is to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine, try replacing it with a cup of tea or a walk around the block.
  • Spend less time going out. If a night out with friends is when you binge drink, do it less often. Have quiet nights in with a few friends or family.
  • Avoid certain friends if necessary. This might be difficult, but if you have friends who don’t support your choice to drink less or to stop drinking, you may need to stop spending time with them for your own health.
  • Make healthier choices in other areas of your life. You’ll be stronger in your sobriety or in drinking less if you are healthier overall. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and make good food choices.
  • Consider joining a support group, either in-person or online. Social support from others who are on the same journey can be useful.
  • Know when you need more help. If you use these strategies, and you still can’t change your drinking habits, you may need professional help.

Getting Professional Addiction Treatment

There is no shame in needing professional treatment for alcoholism. You may know how to stop drinking alcohol, but if you can’t actually do it, addiction experts can help. Remember that this is a disease, not a personal failing. There are effective treatments that involve therapy and counseling, alternative therapies, support groups, and even medications.

You may or may not be addicted to alcohol, but if you are questioning your drinking habits you may need to make some changes. With proper knowledge and proper support from friends, family and professionals, it is possible to stop drinking or to drink less. Doing so will help you avoid more serious consequences, and will allow you to reap the benefits of a commitment to your health.

24 Hour Alcohol Abuse Hotline – Get Help Now
877-959-7271

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohole abuse Find Addiction Rehabs is here to help. Call anytime 7 days a week 24 hours a day.

References:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (2019). ASAM Definition of Addiction.

Hasin, D. S., O’Brien, C. P., Auriacombe, M., Borges, G., Bucholz, et al. (2013). DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 834–851.

Khan, R., Morrow, L.J., McCarron, R.M. (2008). How to Manage Medical Complications of the Five Most Commonly Abused Substances. Current Psychiatry, 8(11), 35-47

National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration. (2019) Research Note: 2018 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes Overview.

Petrakis, I.L., Gonzalez, G., Rosenheck, R. and Krystal, J.H. (2002). Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol Spending Calculator.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).