Maybe you’re waking up hungover more than you’d like to, expecting a baby, or not getting quality sleep anymore. You may just want to hear about the many benefits that come with drinking less. You want to know how to stop drinking.
How can you quit drinking too much and get back to (safely) having fun?
Whatever your reason for abstinence, here are the 6 best strategies for how to stop drinking.
1. Get to the root of the problem.
It’s a question more and more people ask: How do I quit drinking on my own? You can often quit drinking on your own by identifying the root of the problem, creating a clear plan, finding support and new activities, and taking great care of yourself.
At the risk of sounding like the Bachelor, it’s time to “explore your relationship.” 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?
You may have a social drinking problem — alcohol may be a part of your relationships with people or your routine activity when spending time with friends.
It’s also possible that you drink alcohol to numb your thoughts and emotions. You might be substituting the effects of alcohol for more effective coping mechanisms.
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.
2. Make a plan that works for you.
For those who don’t need addiction treatment, you still need a plan to get your health back on track.
What is the best way to quit drinking? The best way to quit drinking alcohol is to create a plan that addresses your specific triggers and habits.
Let’s talk strategy.
Here are some thoughts to consider when making a sustainable plan to stop drinking:
- Talk to your doctor. Based on how much you’ve been drinking, going cold turkey may not be right for you. Additionally, if you have alcohol use disorder, you’ll need medical supervision as you move toward recovery.
- What will you do instead of drinking? Will you FaceTime a friend in another city from the comfort of your home? Will you invite friends to try a new class or make mocktails together? Could you hang out while hiking, volunteering, or cooking?
- What will you say when asked? 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.”
- How will you cut back? For sober curious individuals, you may want to cut back gradually toward your goal. For people struggling with alcohol use disorders, finding the right treatment programs will help you beat substance abuse.
- Count your drinks. If you’re slowly winding down your alcohol consumption, start by counting drinks to come to terms with the extent of your drinking. It may also help to have a glass of water between each beverage.
- Find your why. Once you’ve thought through the questions about where your drinking stems from, writing a list of reasons you’re changing your drinking habits. Having compelling reasons to abstain can be very motivating.
- Pick alcohol-free days. Choosing certain days of the week to stop drinking alcohol can be a great first step.
These simple steps go a long way toward a life not consumed by alcohol.
3. Reduce temptations.
Know where your temptations will come from. What situations and triggers can you avoid by simply planning ahead? If you struggle around certain friends on Friday nights, can you plan an activity during the day?
If you enjoy the taste, find a yummy alcohol-free wine to sip.
If particular emotions or memories are triggering, could you talk to a counselor or trusted person about the struggle to abstain? Dealing with emotional triggers can reduce the temptation to drink in the long run.
Is alcohol a stimulant? No, alcohol is not a stimulant. It is a depressant. However, alcohol is a complex substance that produces euphoric and stimulating effects early on. Only later do the more significant depressant effects kick in. Most experts classify alcohol as a depressant.
You may want to change your buying habits, not keeping alcohol in the house and stashing sober-friendly products. Making alcohol more difficult to access can be helpful. Who knows? You may just find a new favorite non-alcoholic drink!
4. Find your tribe.
Tell loved ones about your newfound decision, even if it’s short-term. A smart recovery requires support. When your friends and family know what your goals are, they can help you get there.
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’re not alone!
5. Fill the 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.
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?
What happens when you stop drinking?
For many regular drinkers, that may not seem like a lot!
If this pattern describes your drinking habits, you may be a heavy drinker, defined as more than 8 drinks a week for women or more than 15 drinks a week for men.
Heavy drinking and binge drinking can cause significant health issues over time, so now is a good time to regain control of your alcohol consumption and improve your well-being. Though the first few days can be a tough time of detox, the longer-term effects are impressive.
What happens to your body when you quit drinking? When you quit drinking, your well-being increases from the inside out. Here are 3 of the best things that can happen when you stop drinking:
1. A Healthier Heart
There’s a strong link between heart issues and alcohol use. Higher doses of alcohol affect your blood pressure and heart rate for up to a full day after drinking.
Regular heavy drinking can also lead to heart muscle disorders, chronic high blood pressure, a raised risk of stroke, and heart failure. Reducing or ending heavy alcohol consumption leads to a healthier heart.
How long after you stop drinking will blood pressure lower? It takes about one month for your blood pressure to significantly lower after you stop drinking. One study showed that abstinence in heavy drinkers led to significant decreases in high blood pressure.
2. Reduced Cancer Risk
3 months without alcohol reduces your risk of cancer. That’s right, alcohol is a cancer-causing agent, also known as a carcinogen.
Here are the cancers you’re less likely to contract as a non-drinker:
It’s amazing how eliminating alcohol consumption can impact the health of the entire body.
3. Weight Loss
It’s common to lose weight after quitting alcohol. Alcohol is often packed with empty carbs and calories, so cutting back may equal shedding unwanted pounds.
Additionally, most alcoholic beverages are packed with sugar, which feeds inflammation and insulin resistance. Cutting down on calories and sugar can reduce inflammation, promoting better overall health, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, and accelerating weight loss.
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!
- Products - Data Briefs - Number 374- August 2020
- The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep
- Adolescent Binge Drinking
- Binge Drinking's Effects on the Body
- Effect of alcohol on blood pressure - Tasnim, S - 2020
- Alcohol and cardiovascular health: the dose makes the poison…or the remedy
- Effect of alcohol cessation on blood pressure. Assessment by 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring
- Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Cancer
- Impact of Alcohol on Glycemic Control and Insulin Action