Breaking Free from Alcohol: A Step-by-Step Guide To Quitting Drinking
Alcohol can be addictive for many people, and if you’ve noticed drinking alcohol is causing you problems, it may be time to evaluate your drinking habits. Whether you’re a heavy drinker every day or a binge drinker on the weekends, or maybe you’ve just noticed you can’t stop after one glass of wine. The effects of alcohol can be damaging to your mental and physical health, but recovery is possible. This is your comeback story, after all.
Quitting alcohol can be challenging, but it’s possible with a strong plan and the right support. You can break free from your addiction, learn how to stop drinking alcohol, and learn how to adopt healthy habits.
But where do you start? This is a step-by-step guide to help you stop drinking.
Evaluate Your Relationship with Alcohol
As with any relationship, it's natural to evaluate it when it's not working out. How’s your relationship with alcohol? Putting some thought into this will help you to determine the best plan for reaching your goal of sobriety. Consider why you drink, how often you drink, and where you drink.
Why You Drink
Think about the reasons you drink. If you think about what motivates you to drink alcohol, this may give you insight into how to curb or stop the habit of overindulging with alcohol.
For example, do you find that your drink after you’ve had a stressful day? Or do you only drink when you’re out on weekends with certain friends? Do you drink because of negative emotions? Why you drink matters if you’re going to break free for good.
How Often You Drink
Consider the frequency of your drinking habit. Do you drink every night or just on the weekends? Consider the frequency of your drinking as you evaluate your relationship with alcohol.
For example, if you can’t go a day without a drink, your plan to quit may look very different from a weekend binge drinker.
Where You Drink
Some people will tell you they aren’t alcoholics because they never drink at home alone. The truth is whether you’re consistently downing too many shots at the local pub or consuming a 12-pack on your couch, you might have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
For example, do you binge drink at trivia night at your favorite bar? Or do you drink mostly at home?
If you’re going to end your relationship with alcohol, changing some habits will support your journey. Being honest with yourself and evaluating when you drink, how frequently, and where you indulge are important for breaking free of alcohol.
Write Down Your Goal
Studies show that writing down your goals increases your chance of success. Once you decide to break free of alcohol, grab a journal, a diary, or even a scrap piece of paper. Set a realistic goal to quit drinking, and write down your goal and any thoughts you may have to achieve it.
Quit Cold Turkey or Taper Drinking?
Some find it helpful to pick a target date for sobriety and begin by cutting back on alcohol. Others decide to quit drinking cold turkey today.
There’s no wrong way to achieve your goal, and you know yourself best. If you’re unsure how long your goal will take, keep reading this guide, and by the end, you’ll have some ideas and resources to end your addiction to alcohol.
After writing down your sobriety goal, you’ll need to assemble a support system. Most start with friends and family for support on their sober journey. Your support system can come from a few places, but often people who achieve sobriety find support from joining a sobriety community helpful.
Getting support increases your chances of sobriety from addiction. The benefits of peer support have been documented in studies, and the support from family and friends who have your best interest at heart can also play a large role in your recovery to help avoid a relapse.
Between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse within the first year, so it’s important to enlist support right at the beginning of your decision to get sober. With a plan in place and strong support, you can get sober without a relapse.
Let’s talk about where you can find the best support to meet your needs.
Get Support from a Sobriety Community
When you join a sobriety community, you have the support of people who have been where you are now and are in various stages of addiction recovery, including those who have beat alcohol dependence and can share their stories with you. There is nothing like feeling truly seen and understood.
Support groups can be especially helpful when you're struggling through alcohol withdrawal, when you’re having strong cravings, and getting tips on how to manage a detox period.
There are many options for getting support for alcohol addiction. You can find support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, American Addiction Centers, and online support groups are now available through apps.
Sober Sidekick is a free app that has over 150,000 people in a supportive online community. The app offers the following:
24/7 live AA meetings online
Messaging from community members
Help and medical advice from health professionals
If you need a little motivation to get going, join sober sidekick. You can be anonymous if you choose and share as little or as much as you want as you create your sobriety journey.
Get Support From People You Trust
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from people you trust. This could include loved ones, such as family members, close friends, a neighbor, your partner, or someone from a church group — anyone you know well, and trust.
It can feel intimidating to talk about your substance abuse challenges with people who we know and love, but these people can be an instrumental part of your support system during recovery.
Fearing judgment is a common reason people with addiction don’t ask for help from family and friends. Sometimes the people closest to us have no idea we’ve been struggling with an alcohol use disorder, or that our overall wellness has been suffering.
Other times, family or friends have known about your addiction all along, and some have even tried an intervention in the past. Some people report feelings of shame due to finally asking for help. Feeling shame can be harmful, as sometimes shame can increase substance abuse.
Getting peer support in a sobriety group and enlisting the support of family and friends can help you to stay sober. Communicating your goals for sobriety will give the people around you insight into what you’re trying to achieve. They want to see you succeed!
Don’t tempt yourself with alcohol by having it around your house. Even if you don’t typically drink at home, keeping alcohol out of sight will lower the risk for temptation and potential relapse.
If you’re used to stopping off at your favorite bar for a few drinks, you may want to avoid places where you know you will be tempted to drink alcohol.
Remove temptations as part of your strategy to prevent relapse.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a drink!” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Consider when you feel stress from someone or something that may trigger you to drink. Identifying triggers ahead of time will help increase your chances of success and lessen the chance for relapse.
Examples of common triggers for drinking are:
Feelings of shame and guilt
Toxic people in your life
Places you used to drink
Grief from a loss
Rejection or heartache
Identify things, places, or people who have triggered you in the past. Avoid these to avoid relapse. Preserve your mental health and stick to your plan to break free from alcohol.
Find Healthy Alternatives to Drinking
When you’re used to drinking, quitting means filling the void with something besides drinking. Make a point to surround yourself with positive activities and people that are uplifting and won’t trigger you to drink.
Let’s discuss a few strategies that are examples of healthy alternatives to drinking.
Find a new hobby
Make new friends
Exercise increases endorphins naturally and is a healthy way to deal with the emotions that come with quitting drinking, as well as physical withdrawal symptoms. Gentle exercises, such as yoga, can be helpful for some people, while others find solace in breaking a sweat in high-intensity workouts as part of their recovery.
You’ll see mental and physical health benefits when you start exercising.
Find a New Hobby
Sometimes, people don’t realize they started drinking due to boredom, and drinking has become a habit that seems normal. One remedy for boredom when in addiction recovery is finding a new hobby to start.
A new hobby can include something you used to love but stopped doing years ago, or it can be something you’ve always wished you’d tried but never felt you had the time or motivation, like playing an instrument.
Starting a new hobby is one way to keep you motivated and is a great alternative to drinking.
Make New Friends
If you’re committing to being sober, it could be difficult to hang around friends who always have a beer in their hand. You don’t have to stop hanging around friends you used to drink with, but for some, this is necessary to ensure you don’t relapse. Friends with your best interest at heart will respect your decision to stop drinking.
Try to make new friends who are either sober or embrace a healthy lifestyle. This will help you stick to your sobriety plan. Great places to meet new friends are at the gym, through a sobriety app, or with people involved in a new group activity, such as hiking.
Making new friends will help build confidence in yourself and expose you to new, positive people to help you stay on track.
Breaking free from alcohol takes hard work and determination. It’s important to acknowledge the milestones along the way of your journey toward sobriety. A win can be as simple as going one week without alcohol or a larger milestone, such as staying sober for six months. Your wins belong to you, and you should recognize each one of them.
One way to do this is through the Sobriety Tracker on the free Sober Sidekick app. The tracker shows you when you decided to go sober and tracks the days for you in the app.
Don’t Get Complacent
Once you’ve implemented your plan to be sober and hit your milestone, be sure to reward yourself and celebrate your accomplishment. However, it’s easy to get complacent, and sometimes people relapse after being sober for long periods.
Be confident in staying free of alcohol once you’ve hit your goal, but don’t get complacent. Sobriety is a lifelong journey, and you can do it!
Ending your dependence on alcohol isn’t easy, but this guide can help to make it achievable, along with having the right support systems in place.
To break free from alcohol once and for all, don’t do it alone. Isolation is the enemy of sobriety. Join Sober Sidekick today, and be a part of a community committed to their sobriety and yours!