Posted in Alcoholism on November 21, 2017
Last modified on May 13th, 2019
What are the best ways to stop drinking alcohol?
Deciding that it’s time to stop drinking is a life-changing decision. Once you make such a decision, figuring out the best ways to stop drinking can be a challenge. Should you use Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? What about medication? Can you just stop cold turkey?
To answer these questions, let’s take a step by step approach:
- Assess your current drinking. Be brutally honest with yourself about how much and how often you drink. Stopping drinking when you have been consuming large quantities of alcohol every day for weeks or months (or longer) may require medical support and supervision. If you are just a “weekend warrior” in your drinking style, you may be able to manage quitting without medical supervision. The best ways to stop drinking depend upon how much and for how long you have been drinking, and may include some form of alcohol abuse treatment.
- Acknowledge that willpower alone (“white knuckling it”) doesn’t work. This has nothing to do with how strong you are; it’s just the reality of addiction. Withdrawal is difficult and cravings can be overwhelming. Create a strategy that doesn’t rely upon willpower or any other “just say no” approach.
- Join a support group. Many people report success with participation in AA, while others prefer different self-help groups. You don’t have to stop drinking before you go to your first meeting. The folks there can help you take that first step.
- Create a personal army of support. A classic AA slogan is “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” Talk openly and honestly about all of it — your desire to stop drinking, as well as your hopes and fears about stopping. Let people help you.
- Ask your doctor about medications to support your abstinence. There are several different options; one may be right for you. Antabuse (disulfiram) makes you violently ill if you drink. Naltrexone seems to eliminate the “buzz” you would normally get from drinking, which takes away the intoxication and pleasure in drinking. Acamprosate is helpful for folks trying to maintain abstinence by taking the edge off cravings.
- Make changes in your routines. Another helpful AA slogan is “people, places, and things.” Do not continue to hang out with drinking buddies, go to bars or other places where you drank, and don’t keep alcohol in your home. Make new plans, develop new interests or hobbies, and fill your time with fun and compelling things to do.
- Beware of enablers. There will be some people who will feel threatened by your decision to quit, because it will force them to call into question their own drinking. You know how it feels to be challenged about your drinking when you aren’t ready to face it — you will do anything to protect it. So while you are fragile and making this change, give those friends a wide berth.
What are the best ways to stop drinking? The ways that work for you!
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