How to Stop Drinking: 7 Actionable Tips – Surely
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How to Stop Drinking [Temporarily or Forever]

How to Stop Drinking [Temporarily or Forever]

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To stop drinking alcohol, have an honest conversation with yourself (and your support system): Do you need to cut back, or should you quit drinking altogether? Once you decide which option is right for you, you’ll need to develop new routines and rely on your social supports to stick to your goal.

It’s normal to enjoy alcohol as part of a vibrant social life, but when your drinking habits begin to impact your health and relationships, it might be time to stop drinking so much.

Using alcohol for better sleep or stress relief offers only a short-term boost that can hurt you over time. In reality, drinking too much ruins your sleep quality, may worsen anxiety, depresses your immune system, and causes many other health problems.

And that’s not to mention the frustration of constant hangovers or missed time with family that alcohol dependence can cause.

Whether you’re ready to walk away from your alcohol addiction or just curious about going sober curious… Let’s get real about how to stop drinking and get back to living.

1. Be honest with yourself about your relationship with alcohol.

First, how much do you actually drink?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), you probably drink too much if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Binge drinking regularly: Consuming more than 4 drinks in one outing for women or more than 5 for men
  • Heavy drinking: Consuming more than 8 drinks a week for women or more than 15 drinks a week for men

These drinking habits may seem like no big deal, but they’re the benchmarks that scientists use to study the effects of too much drinking.

Other factors to consider include whether or not you have trouble drinking just one glass of wine, or if one drink always leads to several more once you start. Even if you’re not technically a heavy drinker, this may be a signal you’re drinking too much.

Second, why do you drink that much?

If you drink alcohol to numb your thoughts and emotions, you might be substituting the effects of alcohol for more effective coping mechanisms. 

If you can’t carry on a conversation when you’re sober, you may need to talk to someone about developing healthier social skills.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate what alcohol means to you:

  • Do certain types of situations cause you to crave alcohol? Maybe it’s dating, being home alone, or even brunch?
  • Do you drink more around a specific group of people, like friends, coworkers, or family members?
  • Does alcohol use feel like a way to avoid thinking about particular emotions or situations, like a form of numbing?
  • Is drinking a habit — something you do before bed, on a Friday night, etc.?
  • Do you feel fine without drinking but have a hard time sticking to one drink when you do? 

Sometimes, it can feel tricky to navigate through questions like these, and you may realize that you need to talk about these dynamics with a mental health professional. There’s no shame in that; it’s a brave step! 

Talking to a counselor is a great way to find the root of the issue.

You may be struggling with alcohol use disorder if you’re:

  • Developing a physical dependence on alcohol
  • Thinking about drinking regularly
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Having difficulty managing your alcohol consumption 

This condition can be life-threatening if left unchecked. You can seek medical advice from your healthcare provider or contact SAMHSA to help you regain control of your life through alcohol treatment.

If you have a substance use disorder, there’s no room for just “cutting back” — you’ll need to quit drinking entirely.

2. Consider how your drinking affects your health.

Heavy drinking and binge drinking can cause significant health issues over time, including:

If those aren’t enough reasons not to drink, we’re not sure what might be.

And here’s the good news: When you stop drinking, the health benefits you’ll experience are well worth your efforts.

Read Next: The Connection Between Alcohol and Heart Disease 

3. Define your “why.”

Write a list of reasons you’re changing your drinking habits. Having compelling reasons to abstain can be very motivating.

Common reasons many people stop drinking may include:

  • Living healthier
  • More fulfilling relationships
  • Mental health issues
  • Concerns about addiction, including family members or other loved ones who battle substance abuse problems
  • Dislike of “party culture”
  • Setting different standards for their children than they may have grown up with
  • Religious convictions

There’s not a wrong “why.” Knowing yours will give you the motivation to stick to your goals.

4. Find a plan that works for you.

Even if you don’t need addiction treatment, you still need a plan for successfully quitting alcohol. The most effective plans for giving up drinking involve a combination of habit change strategies, community support, and finding your “why.”

What is the best way to stop drinking? The best way to quit drinking alcohol is to create a plan that addresses your specific triggers and habits. Involve your support system and make sure the interventions you choose make sense for your medical conditions, the severity of your alcohol cravings, and your current lifestyle.

Here are a few options for plans to stop drinking:

Sober curiosity*

Ruby Warrington coined the term “sober curious.” Rather than a definitive “plan,” being sober curious is more about being part of a “movement.” 

You’re encouraged to determine what this lifestyle looks like for you — such as drinking less than everyone else around you, or choosing to drink only once per week. Maybe you’ll even find a sober bar nearby for a totally different social experience! 

This is very similar to the idea of mindful drinking.

*This method is not appropriate for those with an alcohol use disorder.

Moderation management*

This method of reducing your alcohol consumption encourages responsible drinking while also helping you manage episodes of heavy or binge drinking. It originally came from the non-profit organization of the same name, designed as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

Moderation management plans begin by:

  1. Identifying your current drinking habits
  2. Setting limits for moderation
  3. Abstaining for 30 days
  4. Reintroducing alcohol
  5. Identifying causes of any new episodes that occur

*This method is not appropriate for those with an alcohol use disorder.

Temporary abstinence*

It might help you to “reset” your habits by setting a goal for abstaining from alcohol for a specific period of time. You can even do this with friends by celebrating dry January or sober September

The goal during this time would be to observe your detox and get used to being sober for an extended period of time before breaking sobriety

If you experience withdrawal or struggle significantly to avoid alcohol during this time, you may need to talk to a doctor or psychiatrist. These may be signs you are in the early stages of alcoholism.

What will you do instead of drinking? Instead of drinking, FaceTime a friend in another city from the comfort of your home. Invite friends to try a new class or cook together. Consider hiking, volunteering, or developing a new skill or hobby. Make plans in advance for the best chance of success.

*This method is not appropriate for those with an alcohol use disorder.

Permanent abstinence

For anyone with an alcohol use disorder, giving up alcohol forever is the only sustainable choice for a plan to move forward.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, consider these steps to abstain from alcohol permanently:

  1. Talk to your doctor. Based on how much you’ve been drinking, going cold turkey may not be right for you and may cause symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Additionally, if you have alcohol use disorder, you’ll need medical supervision as you move toward recovery.
  2. Schedule therapy, and go regularly. Especially if you consider yourself an alcoholic or aren’t sure if you can live without drinking, an amazing counselor can go a long way to helping you stay sober.
  3. Remove temptations from your home and life. Throw away all alcoholic beverages, mixers, and even mixing tools at your home. Ensure your roommates/family members won’t bring alcohol into your home. Don’t attend events where alcohol is present, at least at first.
  4. Consider a treatment program. Not everyone will need a residential program, but outpatient services may be a great help in your journey to sobriety.

Check out this guide to sobriety by American Addiction Centers for more information on how to get and stay sober.

And remember: You can go teetotal even if you’re not addicted to alcohol. Plenty of celebrities have gone sober for other reasons, from health concerns to experiences with loved ones battling addiction.

Be prepared for questions about why you’re not drinking. People will want to know why you’re abstaining from substance use. Some phrases to memorize: “I’m focusing on my health right now!” or “I don’t like how I feel when I drink” or even “I’m just drinking water tonight.” 

The level of detail you give is totally up to you. It’s no one else’s business why you’re not drinking, so don’t feel obligated to explain yourself unless you’re comfortable doing so.

5. Talk to your loved ones about your decision.

Tell loved ones about your newfound decision, even if it’s short-term. Smart recovery requires support. When your friends and family know what your goals are, they can help you get there.

Is it possible to stop drinking on your own? It’s possible to stop drinking on your own, but it’s more difficult than quitting when surrounded by a supportive community. For your best chance at success, involve people who love and support you in your journey.

Worried about an upcoming event you’d normally binge at? Bring a friend who’s aware and supportive of your choice to stop drinking, and make sure they’re abstaining along with you.

If you’re finding your existing community is not as supportive as you hoped, support groups can be a great place to start. Look around for sober curious meetings in your area.

If you’re feeling nervous about making friends without alcohol, just remember: 33% of American adults haven’t had a drink in the last year. You may even find that your roommate or aunt has been thinking of making the same choice. You’re not alone!

6. Practice self-care.

As you make significant changes, you need to take care of yourself more than ever. 

  • When stress brings up the urge to drink, try mindfulness or stretching your body to release that nervous energy instead.
  • On a night that you might usually go out, plan a treat like a fantastic bath or a book you’ve been looking forward to. Or, make dinner with a friend who supports your sobriety.
  • Get enough sleep and water. You’ll be amazed at how much this can change your life, especially since alcohol decreases your sleep quality.
  • Journal how you’re feeling. Soon, you’ll be able to look back on your quitting journey and see how much your life and thoughts have changed.

By slowing down or quitting your drinking habit, you’re already taking great care of yourself and your health. Why not keep that healthy party going?

7. Fill empty time with new experiences.

Here’s some great news: With all the money you’re saving, and all the time you’ve gotten back from hangovers, you can start checking off your bucket list.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to start biking or are dying to start a Twitch channel. Or, take all the money you aren’t spending on drinks and sink it into a road trip or side hustle you’ve always dreamed of. Board game club, anyone?

You may be surprised at how much more fun these new activities feel than drinking. Staying busy is a key to smart recovery, and you can live your best life without alcohol.

It’s your moment.

We hope you’re feeling inspired. You better understand how to stop drinking. Now you can make the right wellness choices today for a healthier tomorrow.

Maybe you don't want to stop drinking. That's your choice as an adult human. However, there are few benefits to drinking – but a lot of benefits if you quit drinking.

If you’re finding more and more reasons to cut back or stop drinking, you’re not alone. Here at Surely, we hate the drawbacks of drinking but love the taste of wine. That’s why we created a totally legit-tasting rose without the alcohol. We’ll drink (a great non-alcoholic wine) to that!


  1. Adolescent Binge Drinking
  2. Binge Drinking's Effects on the Body
  3. Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Cancer
  4. Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders
  5. Alcohol and cardiovascular health: the dose makes the poison…or the remedy
  6. Effect of alcohol on blood pressure
  7. The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep
  8. Products - Data Briefs - Number 374- August 2020

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