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How to Quit Drinking Alcohol (in 2022 and onward)

A woman is happy to quit drinking alcohol.


A How-To Guide: Quit Drinking

Have you hit a point in your life where you’d like to quit drinking alcohol?

Whether you want to say goodbye to hangovers for good, reap the health benefits of sober living, or because you’ve hit rock bottom in your relationship with alcohol, quitting can bring many positive changes.

It’s important to keep in mind that, in a society that glamorizes alcohol, quitting drinking is no easy feat.

For someone who drinks socially, it will be much easier to stop drinking altogether than someone who is a heavy drinker or has been struggling with alcohol addiction for many years.

If you’re interested in learning tips and tricks to help you quit drinking alcohol, then you won’t want to miss this complete guide.

No matter your reason for quitting drinking, these strategies will start you out on the right path towards a life of sobriety and better mental health.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?

Alcohol Withdrawal

Everyone’s body responds differently when quitting alcohol.

If you’re not a heavy drinker, you’ll likely be able to successfully stop drinking with very few side effects. On the other hand, people with excessive drinking habits often suffer from alcohol withdrawal when they stop heavy drinking.

Alcohol abuse can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Cold sweats
  • Tremors
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • High blood pressure

Delirium Tremens

In extreme cases, severe alcohol use disorder can cause what’s known as delirium tremens. Occurring in someone with alcohol dependence, this is an extremely dangerous condition that can be life-threatening without medical supervision.

Not only can delirium tremens cause hallucinations, disorientation, and seizures, but attempting to detox from home also greatly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Keep in mind that alcohol dependence is different from alcoholism.

If you’re not sure if you’re dependent on alcohol, your best option is to speak to a doctor for professional medical advice before stopping heavy alcohol consumption and going “cold turkey”.

If your doctor believes there’s a chance you could suffer from acute alcohol withdrawal, you should opt to detox from alcohol safely in a supervised medical detox facility or an outpatient treatment program.

Once you’ve been admitted to a detox centre, you will be given medication to ease the dangerous side effects of withdrawal.

More importantly, you’ll be under the care of qualified professionals at all times helping you with withdrawal management.

Although many people will give it a shot on their own, this is ultimately the safest way for alcoholics who want to stop drinking.

Benefits to Stopping Drinking

On a more positive note, once you begin to recover and you’ve had at least one month of alcohol-free days, you’ll experience numerous benefits.

Saying goodbye to alcohol can allow you to see incredible improvements in your mental health and promote emotional well-being.

>Did you know that quitting alcohol can also give you more cycles of REM sleep each night?

That means you’ll wake up feeling more rested and refreshed than you ever did before you decided to stop drinking completely.

Powerful Tips for Quitting Alcohol

1. Know Your Why

When you decide to quit drinking, it’s important to get extremely clear on why you’ve decided not to drink alcohol anymore.

If you’re quitting for health benefits or you’re in your recovery from alcohol abuse, having a clear “why” can help you stay sober when you’re surrounded by drinking triggers.

Try writing down your reason for quitting and go into detail on why it’s important for you.

If you’re not clear, it’s much easier to give in to temptation and justify having “just one” drink, which can sometimes cause you to fall off the wagon again.

2. Reflect on Past Attempts to Quit

If alcohol abuse has been going on for a while, you’ve likely already made attempts to quit before. What worked before? What didn’t?

Apply what you’ve learned from your past experiences and use it moving forward so you can successfully stop drinking alcohol.

You may wish to write it down and set some goals for yourself moving forward.

3. Remove Temptations

You should always remove any temptations of alcohol from your home or workplace, including bar-related items or anything else that may trigger you to want to drink.

That means you don’t need to keep that 6-pack of beer or bottle of wine around for entertaining guests.

f you’ve just recently decided to stop drinking, the last thing you want is anything alcohol-related around your home or office if the alcohol cravings hit.

4. Reach Out to Friends and Family Members

You may have heard that connection is the opposite of addiction, which is why it’s important to connect with family members or other people you trust.

Never keep your feelings hidden inside surrounding your alcohol use disorder – this can create mental health issues over time.

Having at least one healthy person to talk to who knows about your alcohol misuse and your goal to stop drinking alcohol is beneficial to cut out alcohol completely.

Plus, sometimes it’s easier for a loved one to recognize certain things that you can’t see for yourself while you’re going through substance abuse issues.

Take a moment to reflect on which people you have in your life will have your back no matter what.

Even if you only reach out to a select few, such as a partner, parent, sibling, close friend, or coworker, a support network is critical in your recovery journey.

Especially when you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms, having someone who can be with you or check in on you will help you immensely.

5. Consider Going Public With Your Sobriety

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if your friends and family knew what you were going through rather than having to make up excuses as to why you don’t want to drink alcohol at events?

This is a personal decision, however, research from Harvard Health Publishing suggests going public with your sobriety is an important step in staying sober.

Rather than trying to tease or pressure you, you’ll likely be congratulated for quitting alcohol. When you’re open, people will be more likely to respect your situation.

6. Develop a Sober Circle of Friends

While it’s important to practice saying no to drinks in your day-to-day life, not resuming your previous social life is critical to your sobriety.

Just because you’re quitting alcohol doesn’t mean your friends have decided to stop drinking too. In that case, developing a sober circle of friends is the best way to stay on track.

To avoid alcohol use, create a network of people you can socialize with, in place of drinking buddies.

That means cutting out any bad influences who don’t support you in your recovery journey. Your circle of friends may shrink, but at least you’ll know that the people who stay in your life truly have your best interest at heart.

7. Keep a Journal

People often develop alcohol addiction to numb their feelings and quiet the noise in their heads.

When you stop drinking alcohol, those thoughts and feelings become louder than ever. Rather than reaching for a drink as a coping mechanism, consider starting a journal or diary.

Since sobriety can be an emotional rollercoaster, articulating your thoughts and feelings on paper is an amazing tool to help you stay sober.

It is an incredible stress reliever, can help you identify drinking triggers, and allows you to get to know yourself more without the use of alcohol.

The best part is, there are no rules to keeping a journal. You can buy a cheap 25-cent notebook or even keep a journal in a word processor on your smartphone.

You can write about whatever you like, with anything from goals to daily events to writing down what you’re grateful for each day.

8. Get Moving

A special health report from Harvard Health Publishing found that a combination of exercise and other forms of alcohol treatment can help you when you’re craving alcohol and increase your chances of beating addiction.

With alcohol addiction, even after you stop drinking alcohol, the body craves the release of endorphins that you get when you drink.

That’s why it’s so difficult to stop when you’re used to heavy drinking. By taking up exercising instead of relying on alcohol consumption, you get endorphins in a much healthier way.

So consider hitting the gym after work or biking outdoors to replace sitting down on the couch with a beer. Managing alcohol cravings will become easier and you may even find that you start to crave exercise instead.

9. Practice Mindfulness

What is mindfulness? It’s an ancient Buddhist teaching that focuses on being present in the moment.

Rather than avoiding painful emotions and numbing them with alcohol use, you learn to accept how you feel and allow yourself to be at peace with it.

There’s a reason that this powerful tool is incorporated into many addiction treatment programs. Taking up a mindfulness practice can strengthen your recovery after excessive alcohol use

When you learn to better manage stress through mindfulness, not only will you see an improvement in your mental health, but you can also begin to manage alcohol cravings.

So, how does it work? Just like alcohol addiction changes the structure of your brain, so does practicing mindfulness.

Rather than simply reacting to your urges, by practicing breathing exercises, you’ll be able to take a moment and think things through when you’re craving alcohol. Above all, you can develop a sense of self-compassion, which is a wonderful thing when you’re in recovery.

For more information on how to get started, take a look at these simple mindfulness practices.

10. Find New Hobbies

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you’re sober is filling your time with new activities that don’t involve alcohol. However, this part of the recovery process is crucial to avoid falling back into your old drinking habits.

If getting together with your drinking buddies for happy hour was your favorite pastime, consider trying your hand at some new hobbies.

Since so much time was spent on alcohol-related activities, such as finding alcohol, drinking, and recovering, now you’ll have plenty of time for other hobbies to replace that.

Not sure where to start?

First, you might want to think about what you were passionate about in the past. It’s never too late to pick up an old hobby that once brought you enjoyment.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a new sober hobby to distract yourself from alcohol cravings, consider some of these ideas:

  • Reading: Whether fiction or nonfiction, reading deepens your knowledge of the world, empowers you to empathize with others, and can even give you insight into your own life. You can check out books at your local library, borrow from a friend, or even join a book club for an added social benefit.
  • Studying: Why not take a part-time online course or at a local college to learn something new? You may even open some new doors and create new opportunities for yourself along the way.
  • Learn to Play a Musical Instrument: When you try your hand at learning a new instrument, it can benefit you in many ways. Not only do you get the chance to express yourself creatively, but playing an instrument can also help relieve stress, improve patience and memory, as well as build confidence. These are all vital components to staying sober in the long term.
  • Gardening: This is a great activity for both connecting with nature and being present in the moment. It’s an excellent form of mindfulness meditation because it allows you to feel calm and connected. As we mentioned above, mindfulness plays a key role in sobriety.
  • Drawing or Painting: Immersing yourself in art and learning to express yourself creatively plays a big part in relapse prevention. Whether you decide to take a class, watch YouTube tutorials, or pick up a book from your local library, this is one of the easiest and most affordable hobbies to get started with.
  • Learn a New Language: This is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture. If you have dreams of traveling to a faraway country, why not learn the native language? Not only is learning a language mentally stimulating, but it can provide an excellent distraction from alcohol cravings.
  • Volunteer Your Time: Many recovering addicts find it rewarding to give back, whether at a charity or a nonprofit organization within the community. If you have gone through a 12-Step program, you may even consider becoming a sponsor down the road so you can help others who are also trying to better their lives.

These are just some ideas to start with.

No matter which hobbies you decide to try, filling your time with positive activities can do wonders in helping you stay sober.

11. Learn to Manage Cravings

Have you ever heard of “urge surfing?” This incredibly powerful technique ties into practicing mindfulness.

It can be used to avoid engaging in any destructive behavior you’re trying to quit, such as substance use, gambling, binge eating, or picking a fight with your spouse or partner. In the case of alcohol misuse, urge surfing is helpful when you have a strong urge to drink.

The problem with fighting an urge is that it will continue to build and cause you increasing pain until you decide to eventually give in. With urge surfing, rather than fighting the craving, you acknowledge that it’s there and ride it out.

The key to allowing the urge to pass you by is viewing it with curiosity and without judgment. This will take practice, especially following a long history of substance use, but it works by providing you with a new way to manage cravings.

12. Visit a Sober Bar or Event

Do you miss the bar scene? For people who love nightlife and meeting new people, this can be a difficult step when it comes to cutting out alcohol completely.

Depending on where you live, some provinces have bars and events that serve non-alcoholic beverages only.

Pouring delicious craft mocktails and non-alcoholic beer, they provide the same chance to socialize and have fun while staying sober and safe. Who knows, you might even meet a new sober circle of friends or find a new relationship with someone who prioritizes sober living.

13. Find a New Favorite Drink

Finding a new favorite drink in your day-to-day life is important for staying sober.

What else can you look forward to having when you come home after work in place of a beer or glass of wine? Consider brewing a pot of herbal tea or sipping on a decaf coffee when you wind down for the night.

Another helpful tip for staying sober is to come armed with enjoyable non-alcohol beverages when you attend events or family functions

Preparation is key here! You can always choose to drink soda or you could opt for a healthier choice, like fruit-flavoured sparkling water or pre-made mocktails.

If people see you’re already sipping on something, they’ll be less likely to offer you an alcoholic drink.

14. Join a Recovery Support Group

Joining a recovery support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) greatly increases your likelihood of staying sober.

You’ll receive support in a non-judgemental environment where you’re free to share and listen to others. AA is known for its 12-step program and accepting community.

If you live in a rural area, have other commitments, or simply don’t feel ready to go out and speak about your alcohol problems in public just yet, you can join an online sobriety group.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a free online support group, however, there are plenty of other options to explore as well.

A popular CBT-based approach is SMART Recovery, which focuses on science-based, self-empowered recovery.

This is an excellent choice for people who aren’t interested in completing a 12-step program. Be sure to do your research and find the community that resonates most with you.

Above all, hearing the stories of other recovering alcoholics is incredibly uplifting as you start your own journey to sobriety. There’s nothing more motivating than hearing from people who have just reached three, five, or ten years sober and turned their lives around.

15. Learn How to Handle Setbacks and Don’t Give Up

While some people may be lucky enough to stop drinking alcohol cold turkey – and stick to the new lifestyle choice – others may have a more difficult time.

Alcohol cravings will creep up on you and if you’re not aware of your drinking triggers, then you risk resorting back to your old habits.

If you do have a slip-up, it doesn’t mean you have to fall off the wagon completely. Don’t beat yourself up over one setback and most of all, don’t let it be an excuse to spiral out of control

Acknowledge the slip-up, put it behind you, and move on. Make sure to have a plan in place for how you’ll make a better choice next time.

16. Consider Medication

If you’re still having trouble quitting with all of the above tips, you may want to look into asking your doctor to prescribe medication that can help you curb cravings for alcohol.

There are several options available on the market right now that have successfully helped people in both quitting and reducing alcohol.

The common medication used is Naltrexone, which can be taken orally each day or in the form of a monthly injection.

It’s effective for many people struggling with alcohol addiction because of its powerful ability to reduce the desire to drink alcohol. Unlike other medications, it won’t make you sick if you do drink, but you will likely find your cravings start to go lessen.

Your doctor will determine which medication is suitable for you.

Most importantly, never take anything that hasn’t been prescribed to you by a medical professional, because you’ll be putting yourself at risk for possible side effects.

Your doctor will go over your medical history and alcohol use first to determine if you’re a suitable candidate.

17. If All Else Fails, Seek Treatment

Have you tried your best to quit alcohol using the above steps, but can’t accomplish it on your own?

Addiction can be a struggle to go through without professional help, but you always have the option to go to rehab if you haven’t been successful on your own.

In the end, only you can know if treatment is right for you. If you believe you need help, then it’s a good idea to seek professional medical advice from your doctor first.

If you think treatment is right for you, Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres is the most effective alcohol and drug rehab facility in Toronto and Ontario and all across Canada.

Take a look at some of our treatment options below, including both residential and virtual programs:

Residential Treatment

Our residential treatment program in Ontario, Canada is highly effective for people who want to stop drinking and require the highest standard of care during the process.

If you decide you need treatment to change your relationship with alcohol, this is an excellent option to consider. You’ll be under supervision at all times in a supportive, substance-free environment.

Once enrolled in our residential program, you’ll be welcomed into a home-like environment.

At Trafalgar, we offer incredible amenities to make you feel at home, such as yoga, fitness, recreation, and art therapy that you can use at your convenience throughout your stay.

Each week, you’ll attend three individual therapy sessions for self-reflection with a Master’s level therapist.

You’ll also spend time in three group therapy sessions each day to connect with others going through the same thing. You’ll also have the option for withdrawal management, family therapy, and partner support therapy.

Virtual Treatment

Are you looking for an alternative to residential treatment? Then you’ll want to check out our Virtual Rehab Addiction Program.

This highly effective form of treatment can be used to beat both alcohol addiction and mental health issues from the privacy and comfort of your own home all across Canada (British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan).

Our program is flexible and more affordable than traditional treatment. It’s also a great opportunity for working professionals, parents, and Canadians who can’t attend residential treatment in Toronto or Ontario.

You’ll have access to the same program structure as you would in residential treatment, all in one secure online platform.

Your treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs, with both individual and group therapy virtual sessions.

Many of our guests have seen incredible success and found our virtual treatment program to be highly effective for stopping alcohol use for good.

All you need is a computer with an Internet connection to get started!

Change Your Life Today

Regardless of where you’re at in your recovery journey, you’re on the right path by deciding to leave alcohol behind. To discuss your treatment options, contact us at Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres today.

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Dr. Christine Courbasson

Clinical Psychologist & Senior Clinical Advisor

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Nathaniel Israel, MA, RP

Clinical Director, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program

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Kinga Burjan, MA, RP

Clinical Director, Virtual Integrated Programming

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