Understanding Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
In today’s day and age, drinking alcohol is widely socially accepted, often used as a means to cope with difficult thoughts and emotions, or even as a social booster. However, long-term use of this substance can be extremely dangerous, both for your mental and physical well-being. Unfortunately, knowing exactly how to stop drinking alcohol can be difficult. The line between alcohol appreciation and alcohol abuse can be difficult to distinguish and all too easy to cross, especially when you are in an environment where excessive drinking is encouraged.
Keep reading to find out more about quitting drinking and the best ways to accomplish this important goal in your life!
Warning Signs for Alcohol Addiction and Drinking to Excess
When it comes to alcohol addiction, there are several signs to look out for when determining if you or a loved one has a drinking problem. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these include:
- Drinking more or for longer periods of time than originally intended.
- Repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking, even if there is a genuine desire to do so.
- Spending excessive amounts of time drinking or recovering from hangovers.
- Being unable to focus on or participate in other activities without the involvement of alcohol.
- Experiencing issues within work, school, or personal relationships due to drinking habits.
- No longer participating in previously enjoyable activities and hobbies due to drinking.
- Participating in potentially dangerous activities while under the influence, such as driving, having sex, or other actions.
- Continuing to drink despite this causing or worsening physical or mental health issues.
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence, or drinking more frequently to avoid these symptoms.
- Having to drink more frequently or in greater amounts in order to achieve the desired effects of alcohol use.
9 Powerful Tips On How to Stop Drinking Alcohol
Because of the nature of alcohol, once you have become physically dependent on this substance, it is important that you know how to stop drinking alcohol safely. While this is the case with any type of substance abuse, those who drink excessively are at a heightened risk of experiencing adverse side effects during alcohol withdrawal. In order to achieve a successful and long-term recovery from your alcohol problems, it is important to seek out the assistance of a health professional. Suddenly stopping drinking altogether, or quitting “cold turkey,” can have dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects. Fortunately, there are several addiction treatment options available to those who want to stop drinking alcohol for good.
This includes medical detox programs, inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, and various behavioral therapies. While it is not recommended for anyone to stop drinking on their own, especially if they are choosing to stop drinking altogether, there are several ways that you can start to overcome your addiction on your own. You should always speak to your doctor or an addiction specialist, such as the Find Addiction Rehabs representatives, to discuss what addiction treatment and recovery options are best for you before you stop drinking alcohol.
1) Develop a Drinking Goal
For those with less severe alcohol addictions, or who may not consider themselves to be addicted, but rather just heavy drinkers, it is important to develop a goal for managing your drinking habits. For example, you may choose to limit yourself to only having one drink per special occasion or event, and establish specific alcohol-free days.
It may also be helpful to find healthier, substance-free ways of coping with stressful situations, so as to avoid using alcohol as a crutch. It is important to stick to these specified limits within the early stages of limiting your drinking. While having two drinks instead of one may not seem like a big deal, it is setting you up for the possibility of continuing to drink more as your inhibitions lower.
2) Build A Support System
Having a support system in place can be helpful for your attempts to successfully cut back on your drinking. This should include trusted family members or friends who can offer more support and help you stay accountable for your goals, and help you get to a place where you can eliminate alcohol from your diet entirely. Of course, this also means that you will need to limit or even completely cut out negative social influences in your life. While this can be difficult, these individuals or triggers may influence you to start drinking again, which can be dangerous for both your physical and mental health.
Join a Sober Support Group
Joining sober support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can be a great way to meet friends and discuss the hardships of your alcohol addiction and recovery with people who know exactly what you are going through.
3) Find New Hobbies
Many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism when they are bored or simply cannot think of anything else to do. Finding new enjoyable activities to take up the time you may otherwise spend drinking can be a huge help when stopping drinking and distract you from these urges. While it can feel fun to drink alcohol and experience some of its pleasant effects, the after-experience is rarely ever enjoyable.
Other, more productive activities that do not involve substance abuse, however, can be enjoyable and relaxing all around. You may choose to participate in a number of new hobbies, such as sports, yoga, baking, art, or a number of others. You may also want to try activities such as DIY projects, and community or volunteer events. Attending events where there is no alcohol, or no pressure to drink can also be enjoyable, especially if you are accompanied by trusted friends, family, or co-workers who understand and are able to support your goal to stop drinking alcohol.
4) Change Up Your Routine
If you have developed a habit of drinking at certain times of the day or using alcohol as a coping mechanism, it may be a good idea to switch up your routine. You may do this in several ways, depending on whether this change will only affect you or have an impact on those around you. For example, if you frequently meet up with a group of friends to grab a drink, it may be a good idea to recommend a different, alcohol-free place to hang out.
If your companions are understanding and supportive of your efforts to stop drinking, this should be an easy switch. It may also benefit you to begin cooking from home more often, rather than going out to eat, where you may be tempted to order a drink or two with your meal. Not only will this help you avoid possible triggers, but it can allow you to build a new skill, while also saving money.
If you struggle with difficult thoughts and feelings at a certain time of the day that leads you to want to drink alcohol, finding different coping mechanisms can be a major help. Doing daily affirmations, deep breathing exercises or meditation can all help you practice mindfulness. Seeking out individual, group, or family therapy services can also help you address the underlying causes of these painful emotions.
In extreme cases of depression or anxiety, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you combat these issues. It is important to let your healthcare provider know about your history of substance abuse before starting any medications, as these can be habit-forming and may make your issues with alcohol worse.
5) Change your environment
It can be difficult to overcome old habits if your environment is not supportive of the changes you are trying to make for your lifestyle. This is why it is so important to make sure your environment is changing with you. The first and most important step in making the proper environmental changes to support your decision to stop drinking will be to get rid of any and all alcohol you may have in your possession.
his may require finding a new favorite drink or comfort food. Most people choose to drink soda or other sugary beverages to help curb their cravings for alcohol. While the sugar and additives in these drinks may not be great for your health, they are far safer than any alcoholic choice.
6) Prepare for Alcohol Detox
As described, those who have become dependent on alcohol may start to experience what is known as withdrawal symptoms. This is because it can feel physically and mentally difficult to carry on without the use of alcohol, as the body has become accustomed to functioning with it. If you are dependent on alcohol and are attempting to cut down or stop your use of this substance, you may develop a number of withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Mood swings
If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, seeking out professional help at an addiction treatment facility can help you avoid alcohol relapse and other dangerous health effects while recovering from your addiction. Find Addiction Rehabs helps our clients choose from among the premier alcohol rehab programs nationwide. A confidential call can let you know within minutes about your insurance coverage details and get you into a safe and supervised medical detox.
7) Practice Self-Care
Learning how to stop drinking and putting these tips into practice can be difficult and stressful. Of course, the same thing can be said when implementing any sort of drastic life change. This is why one of the most important things you can do to ease this process is to practice self-care. It is completely normal to have a difficult time when you are making big changes, but practicing proper self-care habits is an easy, beneficial, and mood-boosting way to help you manage any distracting feelings and prioritize the health of both your mind and body.
Prioritize Your Well-Being
Making sure your physical health is at its best can not only enhance your resilience and determination but improve your emotional strength as well. This can allow you to weather any hiccups or challenges that come your way while on your journey to sobriety. Avoiding alcohol is the number one way for you to prioritize your physical health. Of course, there are a number of other ways to ensure that you are staying happy and healthy, including the following tips:
- Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water
- Maintaining a regular, balanced diet that includes nutritional and detoxifying foods
- Getting regular exercises, such as through jogging, walking, biking, swimming, or other activities
- Getting plenty of rest, preferably around 7-8 hours of sleep every night
8) Remember Your Why
Recovering from addiction is not easy. You may run into obstacles, triggers, and temptations at every turn, and may face a number of unsupportive people who do not understand your reasons for wanting to get sober. This is why it is so important to always remember the reason why you are quitting alcohol in the first place. Constantly reminding yourself of the harm that alcohol brought to both yourself and the people around you can help you overcome even the strongest of temptations.
You may even choose to have trusted loved ones give you regular reminders of your goals and motivations, to help keep you accountable on your path to sobriety. Keeping a journal is also one of the most recommended ways of staying on track with your recovery.
9) Keep a Journal
While keeping a log of your thoughts, feelings, and daily activities may seem tedious or pointless to some people, keeping a journal can be a great way to track your progress and serve as a reminder of how far you have come in your recovery journey.
This form of self-talk not only allows you to better understand yourself and your habits, but serves as a constant reminder of why you chose to remove alcohol from your life in the first place, and how much your health has improved since making this decision.
Even if you have a hard time detailing your thoughts and feelings, journaling your experience can be a great way to keep track of your process and recovery goals, as well as serve as a lifelong source of inspiration to stay healthy and sober.
Even More Tips on 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 the 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.
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 on 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.
Find Help for Alcohol Now with Our Rehab Partners
Figuring out how to stop drinking alcohol on your own can be difficult. While many of the tips above can make this process easier, having a team of medical professionals and addiction specialists to work with you can be essential to your recovery journey. At Find Addiction Rehabs, we are dedicated to helping people like you find addiction treatment options and recovery resources that can meet all of your personal care needs. Our hotline is available 24 hours, 7 days a week to make sure you get the help you need, anytime you need it.
Don’t wait to call, seize the momentum you have to quit drinking today. Let us help you take the first step on your path to overcoming your problems with drinking. You can become a happier, healthier, and successfully sober you – so reach out now!
References and Further Resources:
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).
Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!