Quitting alcohol safely
If you have a problem with alcohol, stopping drinking is easier said than done. But it can be done, whether you’re a heavy drinker or you’re alcohol dependent and an alcoholic.
Stopping drinking: heavy drinkers
The first step towards stopping drinking is admitting to yourself that you have a problem with alcohol. You might feel ambivalent and that it’s too much like hard work. So, the first thing to do is to look at the costs and risks of drinking. These might include:
- Financial costs
- Relationship/family problems
- Job performance and work issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Physical health risks
If you’re concerned about any of these, think about it. Do the benefits of drinking outweigh these costs? If the answer is no, you’re well on the way to stopping drinking.
Set yourself goals
Do you want to stop drinking completely or just cut down? If you just want to reduce your drinking, decide which days you’ll have a drink and how many units of alcohol you’ll limit yourself to. If you want a life without alcohol, set yourself a specific date for quitting.
Announce these goals to friends and family. Ask them to support you by not drinking in your presence. Avoid temptation by removing all alcohol from your home and not frequenting bars or pubs. Keep a diary which will show you how much you drink and when. Seeing how much you drink in black and white can be a big wake-up call. If you are just cutting back, drink slowly and mix your alcohol with soda or other mixers.
Get support to stop drinking
Ask for help. Friends and family can be an invaluable source of support, especially if they see that you’re doing your best to give up or cut down drinking. Make new friends and interests; if your social life revolved around alcohol, you’ll be better off with “sober” friends who will support your recovery. Try taking a class or learning a new healthy activity and don’t forget support groups. Most areas have branches of Alcoholics Anonymous where you’ll be surrounded by people in a similar situation to you who will share their experiences and will understand exactly what you’re going through.
Stopping drinking: alcoholics
If you’re alcohol dependent, your path to recovery can be more difficult and we would recommend that you get professional help. Stopping drinking abruptly will result in withdrawal symptoms that can be painful, uncomfortable and even life-threatening. Withdrawing from alcohol should always be carried out as part of a medically supervised detox programme. You might be prescribed medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. However, detox alone is not enough for long-term abstinence from alcohol. You’ll need a period of rehabilitative care to address physical health, behavioural issues, psychological well-being and social needs.
The treatment will consist of education and therapy to understand and challenge the addictive illness and to encourage an awareness of the underlying issues behind it, recognising trigger points and altering and affecting behaviours to allow a life free of the harm alcohol dependence creates.
For help and support on how to stop drinking, call us confidentially on 0808 163 9519.