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Alcohol Problems: How to Stop Drinking

Overview

While some people can stop drinking alcohol on their own, others need medical help to manage the physical process of withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical care. Your doctor can give you medicine that will help you safely withdraw from alcohol. Other medicines might be prescribed later to help you stay sober. With a doctor's help, withdrawal from alcohol is safer.

If you think you are drinking too much alcohol and want to stop, having a plan can help you get started. Here's how.

  • Set a date to stop drinking.
  • Know your reasons.

    Make a list of your reasons for wanting to stop. You're more likely to succeed if you know exactly why you want to change.

    You might want to ask a trusted friend or family member to help you make the list complete. Keep this list so that you can renew your commitment from time to time.

  • Have a plan to deal with barriers.

    Many things can get in the way of meeting your goal to stop drinking. If your current life revolves around alcohol use, you might need to choose new friends or a new lifestyle. In your plan, include ways to deal with barriers. For example:

    • Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking. Spend time with people who support your desire to stop using alcohol.
    • Stay away from places or events that make you want to drink. Stay away from people who drink a lot or bars where you used to drink. Plan ways to avoid drinking when you are tempted.
    • Stay active. It's easier to avoid drinking alcohol when you're busy doing things that you like to do. Take time to really think about how you would like to spend your time. Have you wanted to learn a craft or hobby or play a musical instrument? Now is a good time to start.
    • Avoid temptation by getting rid of all alcohol in your home.
    • Make a list of people and places in your life that have nothing to do with alcohol use.
  • Post and share your plan.

    Post your plan in a place where you can see it often, such as on your refrigerator door or bathroom mirror. You might want to put it in more than one place. You also might want to put it on a card and keep it in your purse or wallet.

    Share your plan with others. Talk with your family members and trusted friends about your plan. Let them know how they can help you to succeed.

  • Evaluate your progress.

    In your plan, identify when you will evaluate your progress. Try a plan for 30 days so that the new behaviour becomes a habit.

    Review your reasons for stopping alcohol use. Write down the benefits that you are seeing. If you drank after successfully stopping (relapse), it doesn't mean that you've failed. Relapse is common. Start again, and use your experience to help you learn how to stick with your plan this time.

  • Stick with your plan.

    After trying this plan for 30 days, try it for another 30 days.

    Like anything else in life, it's not easy to change behaviour, even when it might be in your best interest. But the more you practice new behaviours, the more likely it is that they will become habits. If you try this plan but aren't successful, talk with your doctor about other ways to stop drinking alcohol.

  • Attend a self-help group.

    Some people attend self-help groups to help them stick to their plan to stop drinking. If you aren't sure if a self-help group is for you but would like to try, go to a group at least 3 times before you decide.

    There are different types of groups (such as men or women only, discussion, and speaker). Go to another group if the first one doesn't fit your needs.

  • Reward yourself.

    Use the money that you no longer spend on drinking, and do something fun with your family or friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, or play sports or a game.

  • Consider a treatment program.

    Some people may need more help to stop or cut back from drinking. Your doctor may suggest an inpatient program, where you stay overnight. Or they may suggest an outpatient program, where you come only during the day. How long treatment lasts depends on the program.

Credits

Current as of: March 22, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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