Maybe you’ve found yourself reaching for a drink without thinking about it. Or maybe you’ve started to drink when you feel stressed or sad. Maybe you’ve cut back on activities you enjoy to make time for drinking (or recover from a hangover). Maybe you’ve been cited for driving under the influence. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to stop drinking alcohol. But how? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are a few steps to help you decide how to stop drinking alcohol.
Assess Your Readiness
You may be ready to take the plunge right now. Or the thought of not drinking might be terrifying. If you’re experiencing alcohol use disorder, you absolutely should quit as soon as you can, but it might not be realistic to quit impulsively.
If you’re addicted to alcohol, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. Symptoms can include:
- Delirium tremens
Your withdrawal symptoms are based on several factors, including how much you drank, how often you drank, and your health. Your health care provider or an addiction treatment center can help you plan for how to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
You might want to tough it out alone. You might feel ashamed of your drinking, or you might be worried about friends and family judging you. It’s tough to stop drinking without support, though. Here are a few sources of support to consider:
- Friends/Family: Do you have people in your life who would support you in staying sober? Friends and family can be powerful allies. Consider what people in your life might be willing to listen to you, sit with you when you struggle, and advocate for you when you need help. If you don’t have family or friends that can help, that’s okay too. There are other resources available. If you don’t have helpful family or friends, support groups serve as a family of choice for many recovering from alcohol use disorder.
- Support groups: Perhaps the best known support group is Alcoholics Anonymous, which is free to attend. Meetings are led by others in recovery, and you work through steps to help you live a sober, healthy life. There are other support groups too; you may find them at local organizations. If you work with a treatment program, you’ll often meet with your peers in treatment for support. Other people walking the same path can be a tremendous source of help, and helping others who are struggling can be empowering.
- Medication: Medications can help you cope with withdrawal symptoms and reduce your urge to drink. Naltrexone, for example, blocks the “good” effects of alcohol, making drinking less desirable. Your health care provider can help you decide whether medication would be helpful. Many people with addiction also have other mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, so your health care provider may suggest medications for those conditions.
- Treatment programs: Treatment programs provide intensive support to help you get sober and stay sober. Programs vary when it comes to how they are structured. Some are residential, and you live at the treatment center and focus exclusively on recovery. Others are outpatient, which means you go to the treatment center during the day or in the evenings, but you live at home. Outpatient programs allow more flexibility so that you can maintain your day-to-day responsibilities. Both types of programs can be effective; it just depends on which one is the best fit for you and your needs.
Make a Plan
You’ve decided you’re ready to stop drinking, and you’ve considered options for support. Now it’s time to commit. Decide on a few concrete steps. You might:
- Set a quit date.
- Commit to talking to a loved one about getting sober.
- Choose a few treatment centers to contact.
- Set an appointment with your healthcare provider.
- Start reconnecting with things you’ve stopped due to drinking: hobbies, exercise, self-care.
- Make a list of potential triggers and decide how to avoid those triggers. You might want to practice saying “no” to someone offering a drink. When you feel an urge to drink, you might call a friend, take a walk, pray or meditate, or engage in a hobby you enjoy.
You can take a lot of steps on your own, but a treatment center can help. At New Life Addiction Counseling and Mental Health Services in Pasadena, MD, we provide outpatient treatment to those experiencing drug and alcohol addiction. We believe in treating the whole person, including any underlying mental health issues you have. Our programs are flexible and we accept most commercial insurance plans, including Maryland Medicaid.
You don’t need to decide how to stop drinking alcohol alone. We’re here to help. Contact us today.