How To Stop Drinking Alcohol: What To Do If You Struggle With An Addiction To Alcohol
Drinking, when controlled, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it also isn’t a good thing.
You might be considering stopping drinking for many reasons, from weight loss goals to fears of addiction and alcoholism, or worrying about the negative health consequences of long-term drinking.
Maybe you want to stop drinking alcohol for a short time, or maybe you want to quit drinking permanently. Either way, this article will help you.
We’ll talk about the signs of alcohol addiction, and how you can identify possible addiction in yourself and others.
We’ll also review some techniques to make it easier to stop drinking, and some long-term side effects when you ignore the signs of alcohol addiction or binge drinking.
Lastly, we’ll discuss some more treatment options you can seek if you cannot stop drinking alone. Remember, having an addiction doesn’t have to be shameful. On the contrary, being determined enough to overcome your addictions even when it’s difficult is a sign of immense strength, and you deserve to have some help if you need it.
Let’s get started.
Signs You May Be Struggling With An Addiction & Can’t Stop Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol addiction can be sneaky, especially in a culture like ours, where unsafe drinking behaviors are generally accepted as long as people don’t seem to lose control fully.
There are a lot of places in society where drinking isn’t just accepted. It’s expected. College, work dinners, certain social gatherings, or even some workplaces may expect drinking at the highest levels.
Those settings can make it seem like the signs of addiction you and others are struggling with are normal, especially if the other people around you are dealing with alcohol use disorder or alcoholism.
Some of the things discussed in this section may seem normal for alcohol use. However, remember that these are signs of addiction, even if they are normalized.
If any of these signs sound familiar to you, you may be dealing with an addiction. If many of these signs and symptoms sound familiar to you, you may need to seek help with your addiction or start talking with friends and family about the possibility of having an alcohol use disorder and ask for their added support to help you stop drinking.
- You wake up hungover at least once every week, especially if you wake up hungover more than 2 days in a row.
- You drink more than 3 drinks in a single night as a man or more than 2 drinks in a single sitting as a woman.
- You drink more than 2-3 nights a week, or more than a single drink each night.
- You feel like you need to drink to be yourself.
- You feel like you need to drink before important presentations or high-pressure situations.
- You frequently drink more to help relieve the symptoms of a hangover.
- You don’t eat as much when you’re ready to drink, because you want to save calories or want alcohol to be more effective.
- You need to hide how much you drink, especially from people you respect or look up to.
- You feel an urge to drink while at school/work, even if drinking isn’t allowed.
- You worry about how much alcohol you have, and when you’ll be able to get more.
- You’ve started buying different kinds of alcohol to get more alcohol on a budget.
- You’re changing your budget to set more money aside for drinking.
- You’ve considered stealing or have stolen items to pay for your drinking.
- You’ve intentionally started seeking out stronger drinks.
- You don’t care whether you like the flavor of a drink, as long as it’s alcoholic.
- You have blackouts when you drink or have to be told about your behavior after you sober up.
- You’ve done things you regret due to drinking but didn’t stop drinking or start drinking less.
- Your friends comment that you’re a lot more irritable either when you’re drinking, or when you aren’t.
These are only some signs of a possible addiction to alcohol. There are more.
One of the most common signs of addiction is worrying that you have one but not stopping whatever behavior makes you worried you’re addicted.
If you’re worried you might have alcohol use disorder but are still drinking as much as you used to, that’s an important sign of addiction, and one you should pay attention to.
Not everyone who drinks, or binge drinks, will develop an alcohol addiction. And not everyone who has an addiction is ready for help or to change their behaviors. So it’s important to be realistic about whether you’re dealing with an addiction or behaviors that put you at greater risk of developing an addiction.
Here are some psychological signs of addiction that may help you tell the difference between risky drinking behaviors and true addiction:
- Your performance at work or school has declined when you drink more.
- You feel anxious or irritable when you aren’t drinking, even when you don’t have a hangover.
- You spend more time and energy thinking about drinking than about other pleasurable or relaxing activities.
- Your moods change, when you’re drinking and when you aren’t, especially if you feel more tired, anxious, or depressed than normal.
- You feel out of control or desperate.
- You feel isolated or ignored.
- You started drinking in response to something stressful or traumatic and never stopped.
These signs indicate that your drinking is becoming a problem, or that you’re drinking in response to underlying problems that may leave you more vulnerable to addiction.
What Are Some Ways You Can Stop Drinking Alcohol?
There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself stop drinking.
The first step is committing to the idea that you want to stop. No amount of outside pressure is likely to work. You want to quit.
If you aren’t sure, one way to start is to make a pros/cons list of why stopping drinking could be a good idea. It’s okay to acknowledge that there can be some good things about drinking. Likewise, it would be unrealistic to ignore that there are some advantages, but if the cons outweigh the pros that means you have some good reasons to stop drinking.
Once you’ve decided you want to stop drinking, try to think of at least 2-3 people you can tell that you trust to be supportive and willing to help you stop. These can be friends, family, mentors in your life, or whoever you think is both a safe option and will be supportive.
Ask those people if you can call them when you want to drink, and start setting up regular hangouts or meet-ups to give you some social time to relax and enjoy yourself without the pressure to drink. Even something little like a coffee or tea date with friends can be a huge relief.
Consider making a list of things you enjoy that you can do instead of drinking. These could be watching a favorite movie, working on a project/skill/or hobby you enjoy, going for a walk or to a favorite park, or whatever sounds like it would be enjoyable, relaxing, or distracting.
Especially if you’re struggling to attend social events or host parties without drinking, you may want to learn how to make a few favorite mocktails and teach your friends! Alcohol is so normalized in our culture that it can be hard to find non-alcoholic alternatives other than soda or water. Mocktails can give you the same sophisticated taste as cocktails, and look just as inviting, but don’t include the alcohol.
Also, consider pausing your diet or giving yourself a few cheat days every month for favorite comfort foods and snacks. You won’t need to do that forever, but indulging a little when you’re craving alcohol, or giving yourself some comfort food when you’re having a hard time, can make it easier to stop drinking.
Just be careful to ensure food doesn’t replace your addiction to alcohol. That can cause its own problems.
Side-Effects Of Ignoring The Signs Of Not Being Able To Stop Drinking Alcohol
Choosing to ignore the signs of addiction comes with its consequences. It’s important to understand what’s at stake when dealing with an alcohol use disorder, so we include this not to make it seem more dangerous, but instead to ensure you fully understand what you’re dealing with.
Both short and long-term consequences and risks come with alcohol use disorder. It’s important to be prepared for both and to understand that your long-term risk is different than your short-term risk.
Here are some of the most common side effects of long-term alcohol use disorder:
- Increased chance of risk-taking behaviors
- Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of several cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, and colon cancers
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of liver disease
The longer, and the more you drink, the more likely you are to deal with these side effects and consequences of regular drinking. Not everyone who drinks will have these consequences, but the risk of each side effect increases the more and longer you drink.
It’s important to remember that these are the consequences of long-term use. It’s also important that your risk of these consequences decreases almost as soon as you stop drinking.
Treatment Options If You Don’t Know How To Stop Drinking Alcohol
If you’re ready to stop drinking alcohol, but are having a hard time with it or don’t know how to stop drinking alcohol, you should know that there are treatments for you.
It’s not a weakness to seek help with alcohol use disorder. On the contrary, recognizing that you need outside support and help with your alcohol use disorder is a sign of strength.
Next, consider talking with your primary care doctor about your alcohol use, and ask about local resources that can help. There are many options out there, but finding the best local resources on your own can be a challenge.
Consider trying different resources and support systems. No system is right for everyone, so it’s important to be open to finding the combination that works for you.
If you’re serious about wanting to stop drinking, especially if you’ve tried and failed before, or know that you need more support during this transition, consider going to a residential treatment center for more support through detox, withdrawal, and healthier recovery coping mechanisms.
Do you think that a residential treatment center might be right for you? Reach out a premier treatment center to learn more about our comprehensive treatment programs, how they work, and what intake and enrollment are like. We can help you return to a happier, healthier life with the addiction treatment and support you deserve.
- Eric Patterson. What Are the Immediate and Long-Term Health Benefits After You Stop Drinking Alcohol?. Goodrx.com. Published December 22, 2021. Accessed September 1, 2022. https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/substance-use-disorder/what-happens-when-you-stop-drinking
- Adam Feldman. What Are The Symptoms Of Addiction? MedicalNewsToday.com. Published October 26, 2018. Accessed September 1, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323459#psychological-symptoms
- CDC. Alcohol Use and Your Health. CDC.gov. Published April 14, 2022. Accessed September, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm