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How to Quit Drinking Alcohol

Table of Contents

Discovering how to quit drinking alcohol is more straightforward than you might believe.

According to NSDUH 2020, 28.5 million over-12s in the United States were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder in 2020 with less than one in ten connecting with professional addiction treatment.

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Alcohol may be socially acceptable, but it’s the most abused addictive substances in the U.S. For the millions of people unable to consume alcohol in moderation, the adverse outcomes can be wide-ranging and damaging. Sustained alcohol abuse can trigger physical dependence and addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder. 

Even for those who conform to moderate drinking guidelines, alcohol can make you feel physically sluggish and mentally foggy. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the chance of experiencing anxiety, depression, insomnia, and conflict in your interpersonal relationships. 

Fortunately, while there is no cure for alcoholism – alcohol use disorder is a chronic and relapsing brain condition – it typically responds favorably to evidence-based treatment. 

Learning how to quit alcohol or how to reduce your consumption will lessen the risk of physical and psychological health conditions developing over time.

How to Safely Quit Alcohol: Preparation

Quitting alcohol is physically and emotionally challenging. Before you think about eliminating alcohol from your life, focus on self-care so you are in the best possible shape to tackle detox and recovery. 

Think about the way you eat. Consume as many healthy whole foods and as few processed foods as possible. Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat lots of protein and complex carbohydrates for energy. Stay well hydrated by drinking small glasses of water throughout the day. 

Supplement a healthy diet with thirty minutes of daily aerobic exercise appropriate for your fitness levels. Walking, hiking, jogging, or working out in the gym will boost your mood and strengthen your body. 

Alcohol abuse often disrupts sleep patterns and triggers insomnia. Pay attention to your sleep health and try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. By focusing on the quality and quantity of sleep you get, you can start each day feeling energized instead of fatigued. 

Active alcoholism often causes people to spend less time doing things they once enjoyed – indeed, this is one of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder as classified in DSM-5-TR (the latest edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Before you take steps to quit drinking, why not rediscover old interests or take up a new hobby? Creating a healthier and more fulfilled routine will help to fill the gap left when alcohol is removed from the equation. 

Try journaling as a means of ordering your thoughts and offloading your frustrations. Maintain this habit as you quit drinking and move into ongoing recovery. 

All of these self-care tips will help you to build the strongest foundation from which to attack detoxification, withdrawal, and treatment for alcohol use disorder. 

Next, honestly appraise your relationship with alcohol, highlighting your reasons for drinking.

If you find yourself unable to control the amount of alcohol you consume and you often drink to excess, try to establish the underlying reason. 

Ask yourself if you are using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress or mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Self-medicating these symptoms will offer nothing but fleeting relief, worsening the symptoms over time. 

Record your alcohol intake for one week so you can accurately establish the existence or extent of a problem with alcohol. 

Before taking concerted action to quit drinking, it pays to understand what the process involves. 

What Happens When You Quit Alcohol?

Have you been drinking alcohol for a prolonged period? Do you consume large amounts of alcohol? If so, you should not detox at home without medical assistance. Severe alcohol withdrawal – delirium tremens – can be dangerous and potentially deadly. 

An assisted medical detox will streamline alcohol withdrawal in a supervised clinical setting. FDA-approved medications can mitigate cravings and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox also minimizes the chance of complications during withdrawal. 

Alcohol detox unfolds over approximately one week. Here’s what to expect when you quit drinking: 

  • First few hours of detox: When you quit drinking alcohol after sustained use, you will experience the first withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of the last drink. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, and tremors. The more severe the alcohol use disorder, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms.
  • First day of detox: Uncomfortable alcohol withdrawal symptoms will continue. Mood swings and depression commonly present on the first day of detox. Sleep is frequently disturbed.
  • Second and third day of detox: Withdrawal symptoms continue, typically peaking on the third day of detox. The symptoms of delirium tremens – severe alcohol withdrawal – can manifest during this phase of detox.
  • Remainder of first week of detox: For those who do not experience delirium tremens, withdrawal symptoms will subside. Sleep patterns should start improving.
  • Second week of sobriety: With the detox phase complete, you should start to feel physically better, and you will be ready to tackle ongoing therapy for alcohol use disorder.
  • After one month of sobriety: Blood pressure levels should normalize after the first month of sobriety. Your skin and eyes will look brighter and clearer.
  • After three months of sobriety: Energy levels should improve along with overall health as you complete a course of treatment for alcoholism and move into long-term sobriety. Mood and cognitive function should continue to improve.

Now you have a clear idea of what to expect when you stop drinking, how you can you do this as safely and comfortably as possible? 

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol Safely

Before quitting alcohol, remember not to abruptly stop drinking at home without any medical guidance. 

While every alcohol addiction is unique, you can draw from these pointers to kickstart and streamline your journey to sustained sobriety. 

  1. Restructure your feelings about quitting alcohol
  2. Voice your concerns to trusted loved ones
  3. Create a new routine and change your environment
  4. Pack plenty of patience and prepare yourself for the possibility of relapse
  5. Engage with treatment for alcohol use disorder

1) Restructure your feelings about quitting alcohol

Rethink your attitude concerning alcohol. The only thing you will be giving up is a laundry list of negative outcomes if you are addicted to alcohol. 

If you view sobriety as a sacrifice or a form of deprivation, you are much more likely to relapse. Alcoholism has high relapse rates in line with other chronic diseases, with up to 40% of those in recovery experiencing at least one relapse. 

Instead, look at your recovery from a more positive lens. Do not acknowledge that you are giving something up. You are deliberately choosing to remove a toxic and harmful influence from your life. 

2) Voice your concerns to trusted loved ones

Dealing with an addiction can be lonely and isolating, so now is a good time to reach out to friends and family. State your commitment to recovery and voice any concerns you have about the process. If you need help, ask trusted loved ones rather than suffering in silence. 

3) Create a new routine and change up your environment

You could also begin to build a sober social network, especially valuable if many of your friends consume large amounts of alcohol. Start gradually breaking old habits and replacing them with healthier alternatives. 

When drinking alcohol is a core component of your routine, it becomes more of an automatic behavior than a considered choice. Switching up your routine can help to make you more conscious of your alcohol consumption instead of reaching for another beer. 

Small changes to routine and environment can help you to edge slowly into life without alcohol playing a central role. The rewards can be enormous. 

Remove all alcohol from the house to reduce the chance of relapse once you quit drinking. 

If you have been using alcohol as a coping mechanism, explore healthier methods of dealing with stress. 

Keep in mind that recovery from alcoholism is not a time-limited event, but rather a lifelong process. Start by making adjustments right away and view recovery as an ongoing process. 

4) Pack plenty of patience and prepare yourself for the possibility of relapse

When you quit drinking, be prepared for the possibility of relapse. If you experience a relapse, think of this as a roadblock to navigate around rather than allowing it to derail your recovery. 

6) Engage with treatment for alcohol use disorder

Now you know what to expect when you quit drinking, it’s time to take the most vital step – connecting with professional addiction treatment. 

Treatment for alcohol use disorder is available in the following settings: 

  • Inpatient rehab: The most intensive form of addiction treatment, inpatient rehab is also known as residential rehab. Those with severe addictions, co-occurring mental health disorders, or unstable home backgrounds can stay at a treatment center for 30 to 90 days, creating a firm base for ongoing recovery.
  • Outpatient rehab: Outpatient treatment is more affordable and less restrictive than residential rehab. Those with mild or moderate alcohol addictions can attend weekday therapy sessions at a treatment facility at different levels of intensity to give you the support and structure you need.
  • Virtual rehab: Remote rehab allows those unable to attend a treatment center to engage with online therapy sessions.

Whatever level of treatment intensity makes the best fit for you, rehab allows you to engage with the following evidence-based treatments:

 

  • MAT: Alcohol use disorder responds positively to medication-assisted treatment with one of three FDA-approved medications (disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone). MAT is typically delivered alongside behavioral interventions.
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) help you to identify your personal triggers for alcohol abuse. A therapist will also help you to create coping strategies you can use in place of drinking alcohol.
  • Counseling: Individual counseling at rehab will allow you to explore the specifics of your addiction by working closely with a counselor. Group sessions provide education about all aspects of addiction in a setting where you are surrounded by peers undergoing similar experiences.

When you complete your course of treatment, the best rehabs will provide you with a robust aftercare plan and relapse prevention strategies to maximize your chances of sustained sobriety when you quit drinking.

Take steps to quit drinking right away by reaching out to California Detox at 949.567.8790.

FAQs

There is no universal approach effective for stopping drinking. If you have a very mild alcohol use disorder, you may find a home detox followed by a traditional outpatient program is sufficient to kickstart your recovery. If you have a severe alcohol use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, by contrast, you may require several months in residential rehab to unpack both conditions. To harness the best way for you to quit drinking, consult your physician and request a diagnosis for alcohol use disorder. Next, engage with detox and addiction treatment services at an appropriate level on ASAM’s continuum of care for the best chance of sustained recovery without relapse.
Perhaps the most effective means of motivating yourself to quit drinking is to reframe the way you approach your recovery. Instead of thinking about quitting anything, consider instead that you are choosing to remove an element in your life that no longer serves you. Viewing recovery and sobriety as a sacrifice or giving up something can make it seem like an uphill struggle. Embrace this new journey and think of everything you are gaining instead of what you are losing.

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