There’s never an easy way of how to stop drinking alcohol, and whenever I hear people talking all negative about people who drink and how they don’t want to quit drinking, I become a bit rather sad. This is not because I see the issue of drinking as being beneficial or something near that, but it’s just so hard to see people viewing this whole thing as a joke when in fact, it’s not even close to that.
People abuse alcohol not because they always intended to. Some might drink for fun, which I view as a different ball game, while others also try to seek solace in drinking which to them brings about some form of fulfillment. Almost all the people who drink seem to have different reasons why they drink. For some, it may be due to emotional relapses, psychological relapses or even mental issues. In all this, identification of an appropriate and sound strategy in overcoming ones drinking problem is key in getting out of the habit. Putting a stop to drinking is really not a one day show. It takes a lot more than just telling yourself that you want to quit drinking one day, quit the bottle for some few hours, only to return to it the next day. It’s a lot of effort going in and coming out. Before you decide to quit drinking, what are some of the things you need to consider to bring this habit of yours to a definite end? Below are some useful pointers to help anyone out there battling with their urge to put a stop to drinking.
Before you begin on the whole process of recovering from your drinking habit completely, you might take a little more time in achieving this especially when you’ve been drinking for a very long time. It might start slowly while trying to control the urge, and a few slip- offs is quite expected but don’t let that get to you as this is very normal at the initial stages. But with time, you’ll outgrow this stage and come out just fine. The steps below can guide you know how to go about putting a stop to your drinking habit….
- 1 How to Stop Drinking – Accept You Have Alcohol Addiction
- 2 How to Stop Drinking Alcohol – Make You Intentions Known
- 3 How to Stop Alcohol Addiction – Avoid Temptations
- 4 How to Stop Drinking – Limit Your Intake Gradually
- 5 What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
- 6 The Effects of Alcoholism
- 7 Tips to Stop Drinking Alcohol on Your Own
- 8 How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good
- 9 How to Stop Drinking and Start Recovery
- 10 How do I stop drinking?
- 11 Set goals and prepare for change
- 12 Cutting back vs. quitting alcohol altogether
- 13 Alcohol addiction treatment options
- 14 Withdrawing from alcohol safely
- 15 Get support
- 16 Find new meaning in life
- 17 Plan for triggers and cravings
- 18 Handling setbacks in your recovery
- 19 How to help someone stop drinking
- 20 Where to turn for help
- 21 Recommended reading
How to Stop Drinking – Accept You Have Alcohol Addiction
First of all, you need to identify the fact that you have a problem. Becoming fully aware of your drinking defects makes it easier for you to know just what you are up against. It guides you towards the right path in examining how bad your drinking has gotten and what harm it has brought you. Sometimes, we all need that physical shock in one way or another in order to recognize correctly our problems and how they’re really affecting us. It’s a wakeup call perhaps if you’d like to call it that way. Identify your alcoholism problem.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol – Make You Intentions Known
Secondly, there’s the need to make your intentions known about wanting to quit drinking. Make it known to your family, your immediate colleagues at the office, your friends, etc. These are the people you hang around all the time or most of the time. If you going to quit the bottle, at least they need to know….., so that they don’t get in that position where they tempt you to drink. It can get really hard fighting the urge at some point especially when all your drinking pals hit the bar and order your favorite beer just for you. Let your true intentions be known to all who care to help you overcome this situation.
How to Stop Alcohol Addiction – Avoid Temptations
Also, avoid temptations as much as possible. Likely activities that trigger your drinking mood or strong urge to drink need to be avoided completely. If you used to hanging out with the boys and take in a few shots during the night, you need to stay away from that. Give all those activities a break. Just lay low and try other activities that don’t involve alcohol intake for a change. Cut back on your urge to drink and fill it with fun-filled activities like going for work outs or taking swimming lessons for a change, going to the movies instead of the club at night.
How to Stop Drinking – Limit Your Intake Gradually
Try cutting down on your drinking habits gradually at this point. You’ve successfully managed to progress through the top steps listed above, now it’s time to put that into real test. Limit your intake of alcohol gradually. It can’t just end in one night or day.., it takes a slow and steady process. At first, you might feel the urge to want to fight back and break into the habit of drinking once more. But just exercise control and authority over the situation. If you were taking four glasses of wine daily, now cut that into two and start taking a minimum of say two to three glasses. From there, train yourself to take in less and while doing this, learn to control yourself as not to get intoxicated. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you when you drink alcohol and lose it – it might end you in an alcohol rehabilitation center. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Eat right and live right.
Whenever people tell me they want to quit drinking, I don’t usually sweet talk them about the process going to be all rosy and smooth. It’s not the case. There will arise those moments when you feel you can no longer continue or go on with the whole getting clean process. It’s tough to just do away with a habit that’s virtually become a part of you. It’s almost like throwing away one part of you that you like so much. And everybody else is just telling you how easy it is and how you can do it and all of that sweet talk…, hmm, it can be frustrating sometimes. But you need to realize where you stand in all this and how useful getting clean can be of an immense benefit to you and those who care about you. It’s not just you that matters, its everybody else who’s been affected by your drinking that matters as well. Just make yourself that promise to stay clean and follow the process of becoming clean. Its your determination to make it that will lead you there. Stay focus and keep moving. Be strong and don’t let anybody pull you down. If you feel you’re at the point where you need to be in one of the alcohol treatment centers please do.
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol was By: Chantelle Iris Nunoo
Alcohol addiction is a complicated problem. Millions of people around the world struggle with it, many for their entire lives. Alcoholism impacts every aspect of a person’s life. An alcoholic suffers mentally, emotionally and, ultimately, physically and once it’s takes a toll, almost everyone wants to know how to stop drinking alcohol.
There is no stereotypical portrait of an alcoholic. Men and women from all sorts of different racial, financial and educational backgrounds suffer from the same problem. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one.
Seeking out information online is a great first step toward overcoming alcohol addiction. This brief guide will offer tips on how to stop drinking alcohol and explore the best route of treatment. You can also use this advice if you’re trying to help someone stop drinking.
First, let’s start off by defining alcoholism.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, an estimated 3.2 percent of the Canadian population, about 886, 000 people, ages 15 and older had a drinking problem or were dependent on alcohol in 2012. The medical term for a severe drinking problem is “alcohol use disorder.”
AUD can also be referred to as alcoholism. Many people often struggle to discern whether or not they really have a drinking problem since alcohol consumption is so common in our society. Binge drinking, for example, is almost like a rite of passage for teenagers and college students.
Alcohol abuse disorder has to be diagnosed by a professional. Psychologists and psychiatrists use a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose their patients.
There are three levels of alcohol abuse disorder according to the DSM: mild, moderate and severe. In order to be diagnosed, a person must meet at least two of the 11 symptoms within a 12-month period.
The 11 Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse Disorder (DSM V)
- When you drink, you often consume more than you wanted to.
- You often try to stop drinking but can’t.
- You spend a lot of time trying to get alcohol, drinking or hungover.
- You often crave beer, wine or other types of alcohol.
- Your drinking has impacted your work and/or school performance and family life.
- Continued drinking even after negative effects on your social life.
- You still drink even though you know you might have a problem.
- You have built up a tolerance and require more alcohol to feel drunk and you feel sick without it.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Most people want to avoid the word “alcoholic”, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. This is a word that can actually help you. Acceptance is the first step in figuring out how to stop drinking.
When you admit that you have a real disorder, it becomes much easier to seek out the right treatment. But why should you stop drinking? Let’s observe some of the ways alcoholism affects the body and mind.
The Effects of Alcoholism
We’ve all drank too much beer or had one too many glasses of wine before. When this happens, the worst thing that happens is a nasty headache the next morning; nothing a few hangover remedies can’t cure.
Constant drinking, on the other hand, can easily ruin a person’s life. Binge drinking doesn’t just cause financial strain; it pushes away family and friends, causes emotional distress and eventually costs you your health.
Has your alcohol problem caused you to lose people you love? Has your family and close friends stopped talking to you? The ones who are still around may constantly bring up your drinking or make you feel like an outsider because of your problem.
This type of emotional strain and isolation leads to depression. To deal with depression, people who already have a drinking problem tend to drink even more.
Let’s break down some of the most common side-effects of alcohol abuse. You have probably already experienced some of these. Knowing the others will give you a clearer view of why you should learn how to stop drinking as soon as possible.
Heavy drinkers aren’t usually happy people; it’s the reason most start drinking excessively in the first place. Learning how to stop drinking means coming face-to-face with all your demons. Alcohol addiction carries a variety of unpleasant emotions: failure for not being able to stop, depression over the loss relationships due to drinking, low self-esteem and so on.
There are no instant remedies for these feelings, but learning how to stop drinking alcohol involves learning how to solve problems and cope with your feelings in a healthy, productive way. Doing so will ensure that you’re able to tackle life’s challenges confidently and, most importantly, sober.
Heavy drinking has many negative side-effects on the body. In fact, alcohol contributed to 8 percent of all Canadian deaths (under age 70) in a study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Liver damage is by far one of the most dangerous and common side-effects of alcoholism.
The liver helps filter toxins out of the blood, break down fat and properly digest food. Too much alcohol can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis and increase the likelihood of liver cancer.
Alcoholism can also increase blood pressure and cause hypoglycemia. You may also experience digestive problems, short-term memory loss and even full blackouts. Many addicts are afraid that the alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be too much for them to handle, but while withdrawal ends within two weeks, the physical problems of long-term drinking last a lifetime.
Don’t let the health benefits of alcohol fool you. A glass of wine with dinner may promote a healthy heart, but so does eating right and exercising regularly. You can live a 100 percent healthy life alcohol-free.
Tips to Stop Drinking Alcohol on Your Own
Even if you plan to stop drinking on your own, most alcoholics can’t simply cut themselves off. People with real drinking problems usually won’t be able to resist the cravings or painful withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal can also be dangerous and should not be done unsupervised.
However, there are steps you can start taking today to cut back on your alcohol consumption. Following these self-help tips over time can help you cut your drinking down little by little and, ultimately, break your addiction.
An alcohol rehab clinic is the best route for many people. Rehab clinics have professional alcohol detox programs overseen by trained medical staff who have experience working with substance abusers.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Drinking
On a sheet of paper, draw a simple pros and cons table. Under pros, write what alcohol gives you. In the cons, write what it has taken away. This can be something as small as a few extra dollars spent on a beer last night or as large as a relationship.
If one of your pros is that alcohol helps you relax, one of your cons might be that your relaxation takes away from the time you could be spending with others. It also takes away your energy and keeps you from facing your problems.
Set Limits To Your Drinking
Trying to quit “cold turkey” usually doesn’t work for most people. Instead of refusing to drink at all, you should begin by setting limits. This helps you regain control bit by bit. You can start by assessing how much you drink per day.
If you drink 5 drinks a day, try cutting it down to three drinks per day and only with meals. Then, you can make a plan to only drink on the weekends. As time goes on, you can get your drinking down to just one alcoholic beverage per day.
In order to be successful, you will have to avoid bad influences. This means you have to distance yourself from your drinking buddies and make an effort to start hanging out with other people. It’s a great opportunity to try and reconnect with people who your alcoholism pushed away.
You should also keep a calendar on your fridge so you can mark off each day you’re successful in your limitations. If you slip up once, don’t worry. No need to scrap the whole thing. Just wait for the next day.
Form New Positive Habits
Most alcoholics develop a drinking routine. In order to stop drinking, you need to break your old habits and replace them with healthier alternatives. If you always drink at home after work in front of the TV, it’s time to unplug. Make a commitment to do a different activity to unwind. This can be going for a walk, writing, reading a book or spending time with family.
In the beginning, it’s a good idea to avoid long periods of free time alone. When you’re out in public or with friends (who are not heavy drinkers), you will find it much more difficult to indulge your old habits.
Tell Others About What You’re Doing
If you let other people know that you’re trying to stop drinking, you’ll feel more inclined to keep your word. A support system is vital to a successful alcohol recovery. You can tell your most trusted friends and family or even other drinking buddies who you know want to quit themselves.
Get a New Stress Reliever
It’s very hard to stop drinking at first because the stress makes you want to drink more. However, the most important thing to do when you first start your new recovery plan is to find a new outlet.
Running is an amazing way to focus all of your emotions into one activity. Taking up exercise as a form of stress relief is a great excuse to finally join a gym.
Some other healthy ways to relieve stress are:
- Photography. It’s artistic and gets you out of the house.
- Swimming. Water is soothing and you can get in shape while easing your anxiety.
- Writing. Keep a journal about your recovery or start creative writing.
- Music. Listening or playing an instrument can help calm your mind immensely.
- Cooking. Time to learn some new healthy recipes!
Note: It is normal for people who are dependent on alcohol to experience symptoms such as a headache, nausea and sweating when they start to detox. However, if you experience any of the following, you should seek emergency help either at the ER or a detox centre (our rehab, for example, has an inhouse withdrawal management where detox is done):
- Severe vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Seizures or convulsions
- Extreme agitation
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good
You aren’t hopeless. No matter how long you’ve been drinking or how many times you’ve failed to stop, today is a new opportunity.
You can save yourself from physical and emotional problems and start a new life, no matter what anyone else says. The best way to learn how to stop drinking is to admit you need help and reach out to those who can assist you.
Our rehab assists hundreds of people like you who are chained to Alcohol. Because we’re private and fee-based, we have the capacity to custom-tailor a powerful treatment plan just for you. This helps because when we attack the addiction from the root, our success rates go way up.
Give us a call today. It’s 100 percent free of charge. We’ll talk with you for as long as you want about our treatment plans, pricing and anything else you’re curious about. Recovery is a long, bumpy road; gaining information and prepping for the trip will make your journey much easier.
If you want to stop drinking, reading this guide means you’re already on the right path. Now you just have to take the next step. Make the choice to take your life back today.
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How to Stop Drinking and Start Recovery
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how heavy your drinking or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time. Whether you want to quit drinking altogether or cut down to healthier levels, these guidelines can help you get started on the road to recovery today.
How do I stop drinking?
Most people with alcohol problems do not decide to make a big change out of the blue or transform their drinking habits overnight. Recovery is usually a more gradual process. In the early stages of change, denial is a huge obstacle. Even after admitting you have a drinking problem, you may make excuses and drag your feet. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence about stopping drinking. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to change or you’re struggling with the decision, it can help to think about the costs and benefits of each choice.
Evaluating the costs and benefits of drinking
Make a table like the one below, weighing the costs and benefits of drinking to the costs and benefits of quitting.
Costs of drinking:Costs of not drinking:
|Is Drinking Worth the Cost?|
|Benefits of drinking:||Benefits of not drinking:|
Set goals and prepare for change
Once you’ve made the decision to change, the next step is establishing clear drinking goals. The more specific, realistic, and clear your goals, the better.
Example #1: My drinking goal
- I will stop drinking alcohol.
- My quit date is __________.
Example #2: My drinking goal
- I will stop drinking on weekdays, starting as of __________.
- I will limit my Saturday and Sunday drinking to no more than three drinks per day or five drinks per weekend.
- After three months, I will cut back my weekend drinking even more to a maximum of two drinks per day and three drinks per weekend.
Do you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back? If your goal is to reduce your drinking, decide which days you will drink alcohol and how many drinks you will allow yourself per day. Try to commit to at least two days each week when you won’t drink at all.
When do you want to stop drinking or start drinking less? Tomorrow? In a week? Next month? Within six months? If you’re trying to stop drinking, set a specific quit date.
After you’ve set your goals to either stop or cut back your drinking, write down some ideas on how you can help yourself accomplish these goals. For example:
Get rid of temptations. Remove all alcohol, barware, and other alcohol-related paraphernalia from your home and office.
Announce your goal. Let friends, family members, and co-workers know that you’re trying to stop or cut back on drinking. If they drink, ask them to support your recovery by not doing so in front of you.
Be upfront about your new limits. Make it clear that drinking will not be allowed in your home and that you may not be able to attend events where alcohol is being served.
Avoid bad influences. Distance yourself from people who don’t support your efforts to stop drinking or respect the limits you’ve set. This may mean giving up certain friends and social connections.
Learn from the past. Reflect on previous attempts to stop or reduce your drinking. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently this time to avoid pitfalls?
Cutting back vs. quitting alcohol altogether
Whether or not you can successfully cut back on your drinking depends on the severity of your drinking problem. If you’re an alcoholic—which, by definition, means you aren’t able to control your drinking—it’s best to try to stop drinking entirely. But if you’re not ready to take that step, or if you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but want to cut back for personal or health reasons, the following tips can help:
Set a drinking goal. Choose a limit for how much you will drink. Make sure your limit is not more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, or two drinks a day if you’re a man—and try to schedule some alcohol-free days each week. Now write your drinking goal on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
Keep a “diary” of your drinking. To help you reach your goal, keep a “diary” of your drinking. For example, write it down every time you have a drink during the week. Try to keep your diary for 3 or 4 weeks. This will show you how much you drink and when. You may be surprised. How different is your goal from the amount you drink now?
Watch it at home. Try to limit or remove alcohol from your home. It’s much easier to avoid drinking if you don’t keep temptations around.
Drink slowly. When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Take a break of 30 minutes or one hour between drinks—or drink soda, water, or juice after each alcoholic drink. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so make sure you eat food when you drink.
Take breaks from alcohol. Pick a day or two each week when you will not drink at all. Then, try to stop drinking for one week. Think about how you feel physically and emotionally on these days. When you succeed and feel better, you may find it easier to cut down for good.
Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction treatment options
Some people are able to stop drinking on their own or with the help of a 12-step program or other support group, while others need medical supervision in order to withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. Which option is best for you depends on how much you’ve been drinking, how long you’ve had a problem, the stability of your living situation, and other health issues you may have.
|Examples of alcohol treatment programs|
|Residential treatment involves living at a treatment facility while undergoing intensive treatment during the day. Residential treatment normally lasts from 30-90 days.|
|Partial hospitalization is for people who require ongoing medical monitoring but have a stable living situation. These treatment programs usually meet at the hospital for 3-5 days a week, 4-6 hours per day.|
|Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) focus on relapse prevention and can often be scheduled around work or school.|
|Therapy (Individual, Group, or Family) can help you identify the root causes of your alcohol use, repair your relationships, and learn healthier coping skills.|
Tips for finding the best addiction treatment
There’s no magic bullet or single treatment that works for everyone. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s important that you find a program that feels right to you. Any alcohol addiction treatment program should be customized to your unique problems and situation.
Treatment doesn’t have to be limited to doctors and psychologists. Many clergy members, social workers, and counselors also offer addiction treatment services.
Treatment should address more than just your alcohol abuse. Addiction affects your whole life, including your relationships, career, health, and psychological well-being. Treatment success depends on examining the way alcohol abuse has impacted you and developing a new way of living.
Commitment and follow-through are key. Recovering from alcohol addiction or heavy drinking is not a quick and easy process. In general, the longer and more intense the alcohol use, the longer and more intense the treatment you’ll need. But regardless of the treatment program’s length in weeks or months, long-term follow-up care is crucial to your recovery.
Get treatment for other medical or mental health issues. People often abuse alcohol to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety. As you seek help for alcohol addiction, it’s also important to get treatment for any other psychological issues you’re experiencing. Your best chance of recovery is by getting combined mental health and addiction treatment from the same treatment provider or team.
Withdrawing from alcohol safely
When you drink heavily and frequently, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol and goes through withdrawal if you suddenly stop drinking. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe, and include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually start within hours after you stop drinking, peak in a day or two, and improve within five days. But in some alcoholics, withdrawal is not just unpleasant—it can be life threatening.
If you’re a long-term, heavy drinker, you may need medically supervised detoxification. Detox can be done on an outpatient basis or in a hospital or alcohol treatment facility, where you may be prescribed medication to prevent medical complications and relieve withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist to learn more.
Seek emergency medical help if you experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- severe vomiting
- confusion and disorientation
- extreme agitation
- seizures or convulsions
The symptoms listed above may be a sign of a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or DTs. This rare, emergency condition causes dangerous changes in the way your brain regulates your circulation and breathing, so it’s important to get to the hospital right away.
Whether you choose to tackle your alcohol addiction by going to rehab, getting therapy, or taking a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential. Don’t try to go it alone. Recovering from alcohol addiction or abuse is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance.
Support can come from family members, friends, counselors, other recovering alcoholics, your healthcare providers, and people from your faith community.
Lean on close friends and family – Having the support of friends and family members is an invaluable asset in recovery. If you’re reluctant to turn to your loved ones because you’ve let them down before, consider going to couples counseling or family therapy.
Build a sober social network – If your previous social life revolved around alcohol, you may need to make some new connections. It’s important to have sober friends who will support your recovery. Try taking a class, joining a church or a civic group, volunteering, or attending events in your community.
Make meetings a priority – Join a recovery support group and attend meetings regularly. Spending time with people who understand exactly what you’re going through can be very healing. You can also benefit from the shared experiences of the group members and learn what others have done to stay sober.
Find new meaning in life
While getting sober is an important first step, it is only the beginning of your recovery from alcohol addiction or heavy drinking. Rehab or professional treatment can get you started on the road to recovery, but to stay alcohol-free for the long term, you’ll need to build a new, meaningful life where drinking no longer has a place.
Five steps to a sober lifestyle
Take care of yourself. To prevent mood swings and combat cravings, concentrate on eating right and getting plenty of sleep. Exercise is also key: it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Build your support network. Surround yourself with positive influences and people who make you feel good about yourself. The more you’re invested in other people and your community, the more you have to lose—which will help you stay motivated and on the recovery track.
Develop new activities and interests. Find new hobbies, volunteer activities, or work that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and drinking will hold less appeal.
Continue treatment. Your chances of staying sober improve if you are participating in a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous, have a sponsor, or are involved in therapy or an outpatient treatment program.
Deal with stress in a healthy way. Alcohol abuse is often a misguided attempt to manage stress. Find healthier ways to keep your stress level in check, such as exercising, meditating, or practicing breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques.
Plan for triggers and cravings
Cravings for alcohol can be intense, particularly in the first six months after you quit drinking. Good alcohol treatment prepares you for these challenges, helping you develop new coping skills to deal with stressful situations, alcohol cravings, and social pressure to drink.
Avoiding drinking triggers
Avoid the things that trigger your urge to drink. If certain people, places, or activities trigger a craving for alcohol, try to avoid them. This may mean making major changes to your social life, such as finding new things to do with your old drinking buddies—or even giving up those friends and finding new ones.
Practice saying “no” to alcohol in social situations. No matter how much you try to avoid alcohol, there will probably be times where you’re offered a drink. Prepare ahead for how you’ll respond, with a firm, yet polite, “no thanks.”
Managing alcohol cravings
When you’re struggling with alcohol cravings, try these strategies:
Talk to someone you trust: your sponsor, a supportive family member or friend, or someone from your faith community.
Distract yourself until the urge passes. Go for a walk, listen to music, do some housecleaning, run an errand, or tackle a quick task.
Remind yourself of your reasons for not drinking. When you’re craving alcohol, there’s a tendency to remember the positive effects of drinking and forget the negatives. Remind yourself of the adverse long-term effects of heavy drinking and how it won’t really make you feel better, even in the short term.
Accept the urge and ride it out, instead of trying to fight it. This is known as “urge surfing.” Think of your craving as an ocean wave that will soon crest, break, and dissipate. When you ride out the craving, without trying to battle, judge, or ignore it, you’ll see that it passes more quickly than you’d think.
The three basic steps of urge surfing:
- Assess how you’re experiencing the craving. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a relaxed position. Take a few deep breaths and focus your attention inward. Allow your attention to wander through your body. Notice the part of your body where you’re experiencing the craving and what the sensations are like. Tell yourself what it feels like. For example, “My craving is in my mouth and nose and in my stomach.”
- Focus on one area where you’re experiencing the urge. How do the sensations in that area feel. For example, perhaps you feel hot, cold, tingly, or numb? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? How large an area is involved? Describe the sensations to yourself and any changes that occur. “My mouth feels dry and parched. There is tension in my lips and tongue. I keep swallowing. As I exhale, I can imagine the smell and tingle of a drink.”
- Repeat on each part of your body that’s experiencing the craving. What changes occur in the sensations? Notice how the urge comes and goes. You’ll likely notice that after a few minutes the craving has gone. The purpose of urge surfing is not to make cravings disappear, but to experience them in a new way. However, with practice, you’ll learn how to ride your cravings out until they go away naturally.
Handling setbacks in your recovery
Alcohol recovery is a process—one that often involves setbacks. Don’t give up if you relapse or slip. A drinking relapse doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’ll never be able to reach your goal. Each drinking relapse is an opportunity to learn and recommit to sobriety, so you’ll be less likely to relapse in the future.
What to do if you slip:
- Get rid of the alcohol and get away from the setting where you lapsed
- Remind yourself that one drink or a brief lapse doesn’t have to turn into a full-blown relapse
- Don’t let feelings of guilt or shame keep you from getting back on track
- Call your sponsor, counselor, or a supportive friend right away for help
How to help someone stop drinking
Alcohol abuse and addiction doesn’t just affect the person drinking—it affects their families and loved ones, too. Watching a family member struggle with a drinking problem can be as heartbreakingly painful as it is frustrating. But while you can’t do the hard work of overcoming addiction for your loved one, your love and support can play a crucial part in their long-term recovery.
Talk to the person about their drinking. Express your concerns in a caring way and encourage your friend or family member to get help. Try to remain neutral and don’t argue, lecture, accuse, or threaten.
Learn all you can about addiction. Research the kinds of treatment that are available and discuss these options with your friend or family member.
Take action. Consider staging a family meeting or an intervention, but don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. Offer your support along each step of the recovery journey.
Don’t make excuses for your loved one’s behavior. The person with the drinking problem needs to take responsibility for their actions. Don’t lie or cover things up to protect someone from the consequences of their drinking.
Don’t blame yourself. You aren’t to blame for your loved one’s drinking problem and you can’t make them change.
Take care of yourself. You don’t need to face this alone. Turn to trusted friends, a support group, or your own therapist to help you cope. It’s also important not to neglect your own needs. Schedule time into your day for relaxing and doing things you enjoy.
Where to turn for help
Most of these organizations have worldwide chapters:
Secular Organizations for Sobriety – SOS is a similar organization to AA but without the religious affiliation. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)
Women for Sobriety – Organization dedicated to helping women overcome addictions. (Women for Sobriety, Inc.)
Alcoholics Anonymous – Learn more about the 12 steps and find a support meeting in your area. (Alcoholics Anonymous)
SMART Recovery – Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a program that aims to achieve abstinence through self-directed change. (SMART Recovery)
Al-Anon and Alateen – Support groups for friends and families of problem drinkers. (al-anon.alateen.org)
Professional help for alcohol treatment and recovery
In the U.S.: Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator – SAMHSA
In the UK: Find support services for alcohol addiction – NHS
In Canada: Addictions Treatment Helplines – Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Overcoming Addiction: Find an effective path toward recovery – Harvard Medical School Special Health Report
Rethinking Drinking – Tools to help you check your drinking pattern, identify signs of a problem, and cut back. (National Institutes of Health)
How to Cut Down on Your Drinking – Strategies for quitting or cutting back on your drinking. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
Older Adults and Alcohol: You Can Get Help – Guide to alcohol abuse and recovery in older adults. (National Institute on Aging)
What is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families (PDF) – Learn about treatment options and what you can do. (SAMHSA)