How Do I Know if I Need to Quit Drinking Alcohol?
You may have a drinking problem if:
- Alcohol negatively affects your life
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking
- You have a hard time stopping
Self-reflection helps determine if you need to stop drinking. If you have to ask, "Am I an alcoholic?" you most likely are.
Common Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Other common signs that you have an alcohol problem include:
- Your friends and family bring up your drinking
- Your work or school performance is suffering
- You find yourself drinking alone
- You can't remember the last day you didn't drink
- You've broken the law while drunk
- You've gotten into fights because of alcohol
- You've had to lie about your drinking
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15 Ways to Stop Drinking
If you want to quit drinking, you can try following these steps.
1. Seek Support
No matter your approach to quitting, it is much easier when you have people you care about to lean on. Support can come from various people, including:
- Family members
- Other recovering alcoholics
- Healthcare providers
Letting these people know you want to quit drinking can also help you stay accountable. You could also join a recovery support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Spending time with people who understand what you are experiencing can be healing. You can also learn from what others have done to achieve sobriety to guide your journey.
2. Understand How Alcohol Affects Your Body
Alcohol can be a detriment to your body in many ways. Even drinking moderately can sometimes leave you feeling unwell, groggy, or hungover.
Drinking too much can increase the likelihood of the following:
- Changes in behavior
- Heart disease
- Liver damage and inflammation
- Weak immune system
Over time, alcohol’s toll on your body can be hard to reverse. Knowing alcohol's effects on your body can help you stop drinking.
3. Change Your Habits
Changing your habits is a good way to start quitting alcohol. While you don’t need to overhaul your lifestyle completely, you can start adopting habits to support your goals. This includes:
- Removing access to alcohol
- Avoiding leisure activities that involve alcohol
- Avoiding bad influences or people who don’t support your goals
- Replacing alcohol with water, juice, or soda
- Adopting healthier ways to deal with stress, such as exercise and meditation
Changing old habits also means making an effort to build a sober social network. It is essential to have sober friends who will support your recovery journey. Consider taking a class, volunteering, or attending events in your community to meet new people who can support you.
4. Set Realistic and Achievable Goals
Once you decide to quit drinking, setting clear goals is important. It’s best to be as specific and realistic as possible.
For example, you can set a goal to quit drinking by a specific date. If you want to start slow, you could aim to stop drinking alcohol on weekdays. Determine how many drinks you'll allow yourself, and stick to that goal.
5. Be Persistent
For many people, successfully quitting drinking only happens after several attempts.You might have a few setbacks, but don't let them discourage you. Sobriety is an ongoing process, and there’s no endpoint.
Your long-term goal of staying healthy should keep you motivated. Don’t be afraid to ask for help too. As mentioned before, you don't have to undertake sobriety alone. Having people support and motivate you can help you stay on track.
6. Focus on The Positives
With less alcohol in your life, you'll be able to experience a lot of benefits and improvements. By focusing on the positives and thinking about the long-term benefits, you'll be able to maintain sobriety much longer.
Some people feel these benefits as early as a week after detoxification. For others, it can take months. Although you may feel alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the benefits of not drinking can be worth it.
Some of these benefits include:
- Better skin
- Improved sleep
- Improved immune system
- Lower risk of cancer
- Better mental health
- Better emotional health
7. Plan for Cravings
Eventually, you will have to deal with cravings, so you should always plan for them. The urge to drink can be triggered by various things like anxiety, pain, or even situations.
Here are a few suggestions from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to help you deal with cravings:
- Talk through it with someone you trust
- Remind yourself why you want to stop drinking
- Distract yourself with a hobby or exercise
- Ride out the cravings and accept them as temporary
- Challenge the thought with the consequences of drinking
- Leave any triggering situation or space
8. Explore Your Relationship With Alcohol
Identifying why you drink alcohol is an important step in giving it up. By understanding the root cause of your alcohol use, you can reduce cravings by avoiding that situation.
Common alcohol triggers include:
- Relationship stress
- Social events
- Work stress
- Anger or irritation
9. Don't Forget About Self-Care
Quitting alcohol can be stressful and overwhelming. If you have used alcohol to manage distress and emotional problems, the stress of maintaining sobriety can trigger your cravings.
It's common to have difficulties adjusting to big changes, especially old habits like heavy drinking. To make sure you're not overwhelmed, focus on your well-being.
Here are a few self-care practices you can use to manage stress:
- Stay hydrated
- Maintain proper hygiene
- Have a healthy diet
- Get enough sleep
- Keep yourself happy with hobbies
10. Taper Off Alcohol
Tapering off alcohol can lengthen your recovery time but it may be better for you in the long run. If you have a hard time quitting alcohol then gradually reducing the amount you drink can help you on your journey to sobriety.
There are two ways you can taper off alcohol:
- Direct taper - involves decreasing the amount of alcohol you drink over a period of time
- Substitution taper - involves replacing alcohol with another drink like coffee, non-alcoholic drinks, etc.
11. Alcohol Rehab Facilities
If push comes to shove, you can always seek treatment. Attending an outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation facility is the best way to stop drinking. Primarily due to medical supervision and care.
Treatment facilities use medication with behavioral therapy to help you detox and recover from alcohol. They also offer programs and techniques to help you maintain sobriety after treatment.
Some treatment facilities are luxury rehab centers where they provide a safe environment where you can focus on recovery. Overall, treatment centers provide around the clock suppervision and support to improve your chances of a successful recovery.
12. Try Taking A Month Without Alcohol
In 2021, Dry January has become increasingly popular. Going without alcohol for 30 days can have benefits for your mind and body. Sober October is also popular.
Taking a month without alcohol can give you a look into what your life could be if your cut out alcohol completely. Some people may even feel the beneficial effects of sobirety during or after the 30 days.
13. Avoid Loneliness
Loneliness can be a difficult thing to move through espeically if you drink to ease the pain. Being alone can make you vulnerable.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to connect and socialize with friends or family today. You can hop on an online hang out or play video games if you can't physically see your loved ones.
You can find like-minded and sympathetic people through support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART recovery. If you can't join a physical meeting, most support groups also offer online meetings.
14. Prepare For Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is one of the biggest challenges people face when they stop drinking alcohol. If you're addicted to alcohol, the first days of quitting can be difficult.
Alcohol withdrawal can make you feel physically ill without alcohol and this can cause you to start drinking. You may even relapse if you're not careful.
To Avoid this make sure you're prepared to handle withdrawal symptoms. Talk with a healthcare professional if you’re concerned withdrawal symptoms. Together, you can come up with a plan to get through it.
15. Keep a Drinking Diary
Keping track of the amount you drink and when you drink is crucial information. You can use this information to track how you're doing and how far you've come.
You can show the diary to a doctor or healthcare professional to help you maintain sobriety, especially if you're having difficulties. Having a diary to keep track of your progress can also remind you about why you're quitting in the first place.
Ways to Reduce Drinking
Quitting alcohol cold turkey isn't an easy feat to achieve, and it doesn't happen overnight. For many people, recovery is a slow process, and drinking less can be a great way to start.
If you're looking to lessen your alcohol consumption, here are a few tips you can follow:
- Set a drinking limit
- Count your drinks
- Drink in smaller amounts
- Drink low-alcohol or no-alcohol alternatives
- Limit the amount of alcohol at home
- Keep up your food and water intake
- Delay your first drink
- Stay hydrated
- Have several drink-free days per week
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What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?
Although recovering from alcoholism isn't a walk in the park, it is worth it. The long-term benefits you gain from quitting can make you healthier and happier.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be tough to deal with. Depending on your level of addiction, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Rapid heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
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When to Seek Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Knowing when to seek alcohol addiction treatment is essential to a successful recovery. Some signs that substance abuse treatment might be needed include:
- Being unable to limit alcohol consumption
- Taking more time to recover after drinking
- Spending more and more time drinking
- Having a strong urge or craving to drink
- Thinking about drinking often
- Having issues at work or school because of drinking
- Memory loss
- Neglecting responsibilities because of drinking
- Avoiding things you previously enjoyed so you can drink
Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction
The sooner you get help for alcohol use, the less likely you will suffer long-term consequences.There is no right or wrong time to seek treatment. If you believe you need help, you should seek help.
There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction, including:
- Inpatient programs
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
- Outpatient programs
- Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
- Support groups
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