How To Stop Drinking Alcohol For Good

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Stop drinking alcohol for good by keeping busy with hobbies, avoiding triggers, asking for professional help, joining local support groups, and considering ways to get rid of stress.

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In 2017, 29.2 million people in Great Britain aged 16 years and above drank alcohol, according to the Office for National Statistics [1].

Among these adults, those aged 16-24 are less likely to drink, but those who do drink have higher consumption than other age groups [1].

Surveys have shown that adults are drinking alcohol at a higher rate in 2021, which is connected to the aftermath of the pandemic [2].

Individuals are to consume ten standard drinks per week to reduce the risk of alcohol-related disease or addiction [3].

Ways to Curb Drinking Habits

There are different methods to stop drinking completely.

People with co-occurring physical or emotional problems, or ongoing alcohol abuse, are normally advised to stop drinking altogether [4], with supervised help.

Give Yourself Reasons to Stop Drinking

For motivation, write down reasons why it’s essential to stop drinking, and include reasons why alcohol is harmful.

Reasons to stop drinking include health challenges, increasing physical and emotional dependence, weight gain, degraded sleep quality, poor productivity, and fatigue.

Put the goal in writing, and list out specific reasons to build motivation to quit.

Eliminate Alcohol From Your Surroundings

Avoid alcohol by removing from the home or office.

Having alcohol in the immediate surroundings can act as a trigger by making to too easy to turn to an old coping mechanism when triggered by stress.

Stop Drinking Gradually

Alcohol has usually worked its way into life in an incremental, gradual way.

Realistically, weeding it out of life, will be an accomplishment achieved over time.

Keep a diary of drinking habits and set a goal.

Compare the daily drinking frequency to the set goal, and work on reducing intake over time.

Build in alcohol-free days to gradually get used to what abstinence feels like.

Always seek advice from your professional medical practitioner before reducing drinking.

Foster Alcohol-Free Days By [5]:

  • Refusing alcohol when offered.
  • Limiting drinking in the evening.
  • Drinking low-alcohol alternatives.
  • Quenching thirst with something non-alcoholic before drinking alcohol.
  • Eating while consuming alcohol.
  • Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Keeping track of the number of drinks consumed.

72% of UK drinkers use alcohol-free days to moderate drinking patterns [6].

Avoid Peer Pressure

Be mindful of peer pressure and stay away from those that encourage drinking.

Alcohol plays an important role in social settings, used to define occasions, indicate status, and illustrate affiliation [7].

 Giving up alcohol is difficult when others are drinking.

Ways to turn down alcohol and avoid peer pressure include [8]:  

  • Be firm with a no.
  • Have excuses ready.
  • Choose non-alcoholic alternatives.
  • Nurse a beverage without drinking it.
  • Speak with the bartender.
  • Be honest with friends.
  • Be the designated driver.
  • Change the subject.

Keep Busy With Hobbies

Keep busy with activities and hobbies that take the focus away from drinking.

Take a walk, go out to eat, watch a movie, and play sports.

Pick up new hobbies or revisit old ones.

Hobbies that help people keep busy include painting, woodworking, musical instruments, and board games.

Different activities are good alternatives to spending time drinking.

Vary the daily routine to avoid time for drinking.

Ask For Help

Ask family, friends, and loved ones for help.

10% of alcohol drinkers in the UK chose to ask for advice from spouses on giving up drinking [6].

Inform family and friends of the decision to quit alcohol for good and request support.

Asking for help causes others to revaluate drinking habits and boosts accountability.

Bring supportive friends to events, to help in turning down drinks.

Build new relationships with others who are quitting drinking.

Stay Away from Bars

Plan ahead to stay away from bars and other places that serve alcohol.

Eat meals in restaurants rather than bars.

Find a new favourite drink or replacement beverage.

Cook and eat at home.

Avoid meeting friends in bars, but opt for parks and other alcohol-free spaces.

Be Persistent

Be persistent despite setbacks, as quitting alcohol requires ongoing effort.

Alcohol cravings are intense and make it difficult to quit drinking for good.

Cravings are part of the diagnostic criteria for persons suffering from alcohol use disorder [9].

Craving alcohol consistently is caused by changes to the brain chemistry, internal and external triggers like sadness or anxiety, and habitual patterns [10].

Persistence is needed to resist cravings.

Consider Alternative Ways to Deal with Stress

Look for alternative ways to deal with stress, aside from alcohol.

58% of people in the UK drink alcohol to cope with stress, with 38% drinking to forget their problems, according to Drinkaware UK and YouGov [10].

47% in the study drink to cheer themselves up, while 41% drink when they feel depressed or nervous [10].

Alcohol makes stress worse by disrupting the chemical balance in the brain and affecting long-term mental health [11].

Some alternative ways to deal with stress aside from drink include [11]:

  • Exercise and a change of scenery.
  • Relaxation methods like yoga or meditation.
  • Do hobbies like playing music and watching comedy.
  • Keep a journal or talk to a counsellor for help.

Seek Professional Help

Access an alcohol addiction treatment programme.

13% of UK drinkers try to reduce alcohol with advice from health professionals [6].

Professional help in a rehab clinic provides [12]:

  • Supervised detox or withdrawal.
  • Medication.
  • Psychological counselling.
  • Behavioural treatments.
  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Group support.

Join a Local Support Group

Join local groups with others that have quit drinking.

Alcoholics Anonymous is an example of a support group that helps those who want to be free from addiction.

Sobriety groups provide drinkers with a safe space to facilitate recovery, although they do not provide treatment options for detox.

Is It Safe to Stop Drinking Alcohol Without Help?

Casual alcohol drinkers may be able to stop drinking alcohol without medical help, utilising local support groups and help from family and friends instead.

Those in active addiction require medical help during alcohol withdrawal due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

It’s advisable to reduce drinking gradually instead of quitting cold turkey [13].

Always consult your qualified healthcare professional before withdrawing from alcohol.

Advantages of Giving Up Alcohol for Good

After quitting drinking, the individual benefits from different advantages.

Here are the benefits of giving up alcohol for good [14]:

  • A healthier heart.
  • Liver healing and regeneration.
  • Lower likelihood of cancer.
  • Better sleeping habits.
  • Less risk of falling ill.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Lower chances of accidents.
  • Healthier weight.
  • Better relationships.
  • Improved sex life.
  • Better mental health and memory retention.

Replacements for Alcohol

A study on Alcoholics Anonymous, an alcohol addiction organisation with roughly three million attendances in the UK yearly, shows that 51% of alcoholics relapse within eight years [15].

When there’s difficulty in giving up alcohol for good, drinkers consider alternatives to alcohol [16] :

  • Kombucha.
  • Seltzers.
  • Soda and fresh lime.
  • Virgin mojito.
  • Mocktails.
  • Virgin bloody Mary.
  • Soda and cranberry juice.

Quitting alcohol for good is possible by staying away from alcohol, avoiding peer pressure, being dedicated, and setting goals.

Individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder require a professional rehab programme to quit alcohol safely.

Alcohol withdrawal is harmful and can lead to serious consequences without help from a medical professional.

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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: November 9, 2023