Deciding to stop drinking alcohol is a big step towards good health and a satisfactory standard of living, especially when this substance has taken over our lives.
Starting to reduce alcohol consumption is not an easy task, and that is why it is necessary to call on professionals and plan this process very well, in addition to the fact that the role of family and friends can be crucial in succeeding in this odyssey.
There are a number of tips to make it easier to take the first steps and be consistent. Let’s look at some tips to help you cope with the battle against alcohol abuse.
How to stop drinking alcohol?
These are several basic recommendations to know how to stop drinking alcohol , a complicated process in the case that a true addiction has already developed and that requires the therapeutic intervention of professionals.
1. Seeing a psychologist
Many psychologists are specialized in addiction problems and, given the social acceptance of alcohol consumption and its easy availability in the legal system, there are many cases of alcoholism that these professionals have to face, with different degrees of affectation.
The psychologist will study the level of affectation of alcohol in the person’s life and, in collaboration with other professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists, a treatment and a program of psychoeducation and detoxification may be established to deal with the addictive behavior .
Seeking professional help can be a first step to ensure the potential success of stopping using. Thanks to their professional knowledge and the availability of specialized tools for people who suffer from some kind of addiction, psychologists are a fundamental pillar of rehabilitation.
2. Admit you have a problem
Many people believe that alcoholism is a black and white issue: either you are an alcoholic, understood as the typical stereotype of someone who drinks all the time, or you are not. The truth is that the reality is much more complex and many people who consume alcohol on a daily basis but in lesser quantities, as long as it poses some kind of problem in their daily lives, need professional help.
Although the phrase “the first step is to admit you have a problem” may seem like a cliché, the truth is that this helps enormously in the recovery of the alcoholic person .
If you see that you are obsessing about whether you drink too much, you compare yourself to an acquaintance in this respect, if you consider that alcohol is making it impossible for you to lead the life you would like to have, then you must do something about it, because it is clear that it is a problem for you and certainly for those around you.
3. Let people know about your intentions
Tell everyone you know that you’ve decided to stop drinking alcohol. Informing them that you want to improve your health is something that can help you to be more consistent and committed to yourself .
This will also encourage your family and friends to want to help you and make them aware of the seriousness of the problem. In this way, you can ask them not to offer you wine or beer at celebrations or suggest activities where there is no alcohol.
4. Write down why you do it
Stopping drinking produces both short and long term benefits, however, everyone prefers instant gratification rather than having to wait for results after months.
It is difficult to move forward if you are not clear about where you are going or why you are doing it . Write down on a piece of paper the reasons why you want to stop or reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages and put it somewhere clearly visible in the kitchen or your room.
Some benefits of stopping alcohol in the short term are being able to enjoy more lucid and interesting conversations, not wasting money on drinks, not wasting time because you are hung over or having a better sleep.
5. No alcohol at home
It may seem an obvious and extreme measure, but it is the best way to avoid consumption at home. Get rid of all alcohol and even, if necessary, get rid of colognes or medications that contain this substance.
You’ll feel bad about wasting all this, but think that you’re doing it for your health , and that all the money you’ve just thrown away will end up saving you in the long run by avoiding having to go to the doctor for liver problems or paying fines for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Non-alcoholic drinks are not a good alternative. An alcoholic whose favorite drink is beer will not be able to stop thinking about alcohol. On the contrary, he or she will feel like drinking something without that touch that gives beer its special flavor and will feel even more like drinking.
6. Drink Diary
This technique is very useful to put into perspective how much you drink . Ideally, you should write during the first three or four weeks since you made the decision to stop drinking all of your alcohol.
In a notebook you write down every day how many glasses you drank, what kind of alcohol it was, where and at what time it was made, as well as how you felt and with whom you were drinking.
This will allow you to see in more detail in which situations you drink, if you have really reduced your consumption during the last month and who are the people who encourage you to drink.
7. Get rid of those who encourage you to drink
Just as people around us can help us in this process, others can contribute to our failure. Whether it’s because they don’t understand the seriousness of the issue or because they too may have a problem but don’t want to acknowledge it, there are certain people who will encourage us to keep drinking and take away the iron from abusive drinking.
It is possible that alcohol is the only thing that keeps us together with certain people in our environment , either because they are the friends with whom we go to the bar on weekends or with whom we used to drink all our lives.
Extreme situations require extreme measures. If these people can turn out to be a big problem for our health, it is necessary to break all relationships. True, that sounds easier than doing it, but the effort must be made.
8. Identify what led you to it
The reasons that have led you to depend on alcohol can be many and varied, and finding out about all of them may require deep reflection.
It is useful to make a list in which all the situations, places, people and reasons that have contributed to the consumption of alcohol are noted .
It is very necessary to be aware of how you felt before and after consuming in each of the contexts. It is not the same to drink in a bar with your friends because you are celebrating as it is to drink at home alone after a discussion with your partner.
This will allow you to work with the psychologist on strategies for learning how to cope with adverse situations, and avoid drinking.
9. Keep busy
The less you drink, the less hangovers you get. Less hangovers means more hours of indisposition and therefore more time. To avoid falling into boredom, which can lead to drinking again, it is essential to find activities that are both entertaining and satisfying.
Play a sport, join a language school, paint, enjoy family time or just go for a walk. Take up the slack. They’ll keep you distracted from the need to drink and allow you to take advantage of the time you have now when you’re sober.
10. Drink slowly
When you are having a tea, a coffee, a juice or any other drink, do it slowly, tasting it. This will increase your feeling of satiety and prevent you from wanting to fill your stomach with beer or wine.
It will also help you train your patience, which can eventually become a protective factor when the urge to consume alcohol arises .
11. Learn to say NO
Alcohol consumption is normal in our society, so it is difficult to avoid someone offering us a drink. The situation may arise when someone offers us a drink and insists on it.
In this type of situation it is very important to look straight into the eyes of the person offering the alcohol, and with a determined but kind and polite air say a brief and concise “no, thank you”.
Don’t give unnecessary explanations or too long an answer. If you have a friend nearby who is aware of your problem, ask him/her to help you to face the situation together.
12. Participates in a support group
Support groups are a great tool to move forward in stopping drinking alcohol, being one of the most famous Alcoholics Anonymous .
By sharing experiences, feelings, anecdotes and unpleasant events related to drinking, those who attend these groups give each other support, and allow them to see that there are more people in the same situation and that it is possible to move forward.
In addition to face-to-face groups, there are Internet forums and online chats where you can hear the testimonies of hundreds of people around the globe.
13. Don’t give up
You may fail on more than one occasion. Keep fighting! It is normal not to overcome an addiction the first time , but over time they have managed to learn strategies that have led to success.
Each attempt will provide you with new knowledge and greater self-reflection. Think of setbacks as obstacles in the way, not as the restart of the whole process.
14. Reward yourself
It is very important to understand how difficult it is to overcome an addiction, so if you make progress, it is very beneficial to reward yourself in some way.
Obviously, these prizes cannot include alcoholic beverages, but you will be able to afford to buy many things with all the money you have managed to save by not spending it on alcohol every week.
Sometimes, even if you’re going to a professional, quitting drinking is simply impossible.
Whether it is because the environment does not allow it, the family also has problems with drinking or there is not enough willpower available, our health can deteriorate and give us the feeling that there is no solution.
For this reason, there are centres where it is possible to stay away from the world without having temptation at hand , and under the care of professionals in the field of addictive substances.
- Swift R., M., Aston E., R. (2015) Pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder: current and emerging therapies. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 23(2,:122-133.
- O’Connor P., G. (2016). Alcohol use disorders. Philadelphia, USA: Elsevier Saunders.