Alcohol use disorders are a challenge faced by many Americans of all ages. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that thousands of adolescents and teens, some as young as twelve, have an alcohol use disorder or struggle with alcoholism. Those experiencing alcohol use disorder may feel overwhelmed when trying to quit, and may not know how to stop drinking without necessary resources and support.
Data from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates more than fifteen million people over the age of twelve had an alcohol use disorder in the previous year.1
Alcohol addiction is a disease characterized by the inability to reduce or stop drinking alcohol. Someone with an alcohol addiction will continue to drink despite knowing their drinking has harmful consequences. Addiction affects the brain. Long-term alcohol abuse will lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, some of which may be permanent.
When someone has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, there are many different effects of alcohol on the body. The short-term effects of alcohol are often those that resolve within hours of your last drink. Common examples of this include headache, nausea, vomiting, and other physical effects of alcohol use typically associated with being hungover
The long-term effects of alcohol on the body evolve out of long-term problematic drinking. Without help to stop drinking, someone who drinks frequently and excessively for an extended period may experience new or worsening medical and mental health challenges such as stomach and liver cancer, heart problems, liver failure, anxiety, depression, and alcoholism.
Drinking too much can have a lasting impact on all aspects of your physical, psychological, and social health. Most people are familiar with the physical difficulties of long-term excessive drinking, such as brain damage (including dementia and other changes to brain structure and function), cancers of the breast, liver, colon, and mouth, liver problems, fetal alcohol syndrome, accidents, and injuries. This is why it is so important to know the steps regarding how to stop drinking, which can enable you or a loved one to lead a fulfilling, sober life.
Although the physical impacts of drinking too much can often provide the needed motivation to quit drinking, the psychological effects of addiction make it difficult to decide when it’s time to begin an alcohol detox program.3
When you consider the question “How to stop drinking?” and pursue abstinence, you will also experience various emotional and behavioral challenges. It is not uncommon for the first few days of quitting alcohol to be accompanied by emotions such as anxiety and depression. Some people may experience deep and powerful despair and thoughts of self-harm.
The challenging emotions that often accompany your journey to stop drinking alcohol underscore the benefits of quitting alcohol at a professional detox and rehab program, where trained professionals can help you or a loved one manage some of the more challenging detox symptoms.
In addition to physical and emotional challenges associated with quitting moderate drinking, many people encounter many social, financial, and legal consequences of drinking too much. Legal issues such as violent crime, DUIs, and even homicide, resulting from driving a vehicle while intoxicated, do occur. Although there are many notable health benefits to quitting alcohol, choosing to stay away from alcohol can also keep money in your pocket and legal issues at bay.
Current research does not indicate specific alcohol addiction causes. Instead, the risk of developing alcoholism may increase based on the presence of certain factors. These factors are all important to consider when one is learning how to stop drinking, as causes of alcoholism can influence recovery methods.
Some of these factors include:
Although there is no “alcoholism gene,” some studies indicate several genes may be responsible for increasing one’s risk for a substance abuse disorder. Studies show family history plays a significant role in alcohol use disorders, but it does not have to run in your family to increase the risk. When considering “how to stop drinking,” it’s important to factor in if there’s a genetic predisposition at play.
In some cases, being around someone who drinks frequently can be a significant influence. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests children of people with an alcohol use disorder have a two fold greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. 4
Trauma during early childhood can lead to several mental health conditions during adolescence and early adulthood. It is common for youth to turn to substances to dull emotional pain, potentially leading to addiction.
Alcohol addiction statistics indicate as many as one in three of those who seek treatment for a mental health condition also have an alcohol use disorder. Sometimes they attempt to reduce the emotional pain associated with mental health symptoms through alcohol. Although this may work in the short term, it can lead to alcohol dependency and addiction over a long period.5
The phases of quitting alcohol look different for everyone. This is because alcohol addiction affects everyone differently. The easiest way to stop drinking for you might not help a friend or loved one stop drinking alcohol. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to stop drinking in a uniquely personalized way.
Each person who decides to get sober needs to find their personal reasons to quit drinking to ensure they have and can maintain the motivation to stop drinking for life. Below are a few tips on how to stop drinking that you or a loved one can incorporate within your recovery journey.
Quitting drinking takes time and commitment to maintaining sobriety. Consdering just why you are learning how to stop drinking and how those priorities are so important to your quality of life can help you to maintain determination throughout, even after triggers or potential relapses.
The best way to successfully stop drinking is to plan when you will stop and where you will turn for detox and treatment help. Alongside this, understanding the reasons why you want to stop drinking may provide the motivation you need to avoid alcohol long-term and avoid potentially relapsing down the line as well. This also includes limiting your overall exposure to alcohol.
Look for help quitting alcohol from a treatment program or a peer support group. Withdrawal symptoms might also occur when you stop drinking. In a treatment program, skilled professionals can help you manage withdrawal symptoms and keep you safe. They can also use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, like those at Soledad House, to reduce these symptoms early on in the recovery process.
Starting by reducing how much you drink may help you successfully avoid alcohol altogether in the future.
However, not drinking alcohol can be difficult when you are dependent on its effects. Learning and practicing self-care tools can help you manage the stressors accompanying rehab. Examples of self-care may include finding new activities to replace alcohol or finding new activities to replace alcohol or social drinking. This can also include practicing saying no to alcohol, which will allow you to socialize without feeling stress or anxiety about alcohol being involved.
Getting sober is difficult, but there are many positives to quitting alcohol. Reward yourself for any successes, even the small ones. Remember that there will be setbacks on your journey to recovery. There is no easy way to stop drinking, but it is crucial not to give up on the progress you make.
Know that when you learn how to stop drinking, there will be roadblocks on your path to wellness, but tribulations do not equate to failure.
Quitting alcohol for good has many benefits; learning how to stop drinking and establish long-term sobriety can be transformative to both mind and body. In a matter of days, your body begins to heal from the toxic effects of alcohol and bounce back to what it was like before. In time, you or your loved ones will notice improvements in your physical and emotional health, including: