A person can use various strategies to help them stop drinking alcohol. It is helpful for individuals to understand their motivations and goals behind it. Having a personalized plan can also increase the success rate of stopping drinking.

There may be many reasons why a person plans to stop drinking alcohol. However, it may be more challenging for people who live with alcohol use disorder (AUD) than someone who casually drinks. In the past year, around 10.6% of people in the United States, ages 12 and older, had AUD.

This article explores different strategies on how to stop drinking alcohol.

Learn more about AUD and ways to treat it.

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Setting a goal to stop drinking alcohol requires a person to be aware of their reasons for this behavioral change.

People may also decide to speak with a doctor about effective strategies. In addition, local or virtual support groups can help by providing an environment to safely discuss tips and challenges.

Designing a personal plan to stop drinking alcohol can also help individuals develop strategies to stay on track. Some tips include:

  • avoiding or limiting triggers, such as being in places or situations where it can be tempting to drink
  • removing or limiting alcohol at home
  • practicing self-affirmation exercises
  • tracking any urges to drink, such as triggers, emotions, and responses
  • engaging in healthy and safe activities that replace drinking
  • taking medication
  • engaging in organizational and peer support
  • combining some of the above

The following section explores some of these tips in more detail.

Self-affirmation is a powerful strategy to help motivate people to change their habits and behaviors. Self-affirmation exercises, such as recognizing self-worth, can allow an individual to focus on their important values. According to researchers, self-affirmation can help a person stay on track even in a threatening environment.

However, self-affirmation exercises may be time-consuming. Structured self-affirmation exercises that take up less time, such as answering a series of yes or no questions, can also be effective in helping people reduce or stop drinking alcohol.

Examples of affirmative yes or no questions include:

  • Am I stopping drinking for my health?
  • Will stopping drinking better my health and well-being overall?

Strategies that are easier to implement may be more effective for some people.

Learn more about positive self-talk.

Avoiding temptations requires being aware of external and internal triggers.

Internal triggers come from within. These are challenging to avoid and work through because they may appear randomly.

However, deep reflection may help uncover where internal triggers arise. These triggers may come from a fleeting thought, an emotion, or a physical sensation, such as a headache or nervousness. Managing internal triggers may require keeping a journal or alcohol diary.

External triggers come from the environment that offers an opportunity to drink. These may include:

  • people
  • places
  • things
  • times of the day

Avoiding external triggers can be obvious and predictable. For example, keeping the home alcohol-free may prevent people from drinking. Avoiding social events that involve alcohol may also help someone overcome the urge to drink. Avoidance can be temporary, and people can return to social activities when they can better manage their urges.

However, some triggers are simply unavoidable. In these situations, experts recommend:

  • reminding oneself of the intentions and motivations to stop drinking
  • talking it through with a trusting person
  • distracting oneself with a healthy alternative activity
  • challenging the thought that is causing the urge to drink
  • leaving the situation quickly, respectfully, and gracefully

Learn about the best apps to help stop drinking.

Replacing alcohol with healthy activities that do not encourage drinking can be a healthy alternative.

Engaging in physical activities, individually or in a group setting, can be a suitable distraction. Physical activities may help curb urges to drink and improve a person’s mood so they are less likely to consume alcohol in the first place.

Researchers also suggest that mindfulness-based activities may help people abstain from drinking alcohol, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and meditation.

Support can come via therapy, support programs, family, and friends. Teaming up with another person can help people stay accountable.

Designing a supportive environment may require removing items or people from someone’s life. Removing triggers helps support the goal of stopping drinking. These can be temporary changes. Once urges and cravings are well-managed, a person may consider reconnecting with certain individuals.

Keeping a drinking diary can help make people aware of how much they consume and how it makes them feel. With a better awareness of their consumption and the effects alcohol may have, a person may be more willing to quit.

People can also use a drinking diary to examine their reasons for abstaining on certain days and the effectiveness of their strategies to avoid drinking.

Noting down successes and patterns can help individuals reduce their drinking by using methods that help most and avoiding others that are not effective.

Researchers studying behavioral change have concluded that perceived rewards can help reinforce good habits. Rewards that some people report online include:

  • putting money they usually spend on alcohol in a savings jar
  • pampering with self-care activities
  • planning rewards for certain milestones

Stopping drinking can lower the risk of certain diseases, including:

People with certain chronic conditions may better manage their health if they stop drinking. Chronic conditions affected by alcohol include:

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome may occur in people with AUD. After the last drink, a person may experience mild or more severe symptoms.

Symptoms which are more likely to occur may include:

More severe symptoms include delirium and seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can also be fatal.

If mild symptoms do not progress, the person will likely stabilize and recover. However, people living with AUD may need to wean off alcohol slowly.

To prevent symptoms of alcohol withdrawal from worsening, people need to stay in a controlled and calm environment. A person should also speak with a doctor. They can help people manage withdrawal symptoms and keep them on track to stop drinking.

A person may require intravenous (IV) rehydration fluids to correct any electrolyte imbalances. Some people may also need supplements such as folate, multivitamin, thiamine, and dextrose.

Severe symptoms may require benzodiazepines to prevent serious consequences of alcohol withdrawal.

Doctors, nutritionists, and counselors can help people stay on track to stop drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has an Alcohol Program with printable resources for people to follow.

A person can improve their success rate by designing a plan to stop drinking and using the resources that work for them. Many types of support are available in the community and on the internet. However, the best strategies are those that people respond to the best. These can be different for each individual.

Stopping drinking can be challenging for some people. Affirming intentions, knowing the reasons for quitting alcohol, and setting up the environment for success are important strategies.

Avoiding external and internal temptations may require an individual temporarily distancing themself from certain people or events and deep reflections on urges that arise from within. Doctors, nutritionists, and counselors can also help support people to stop drinking alcohol.