Drinking alcohol is a socially acceptable activity in the United States and worldwide. But drinking too much can harm your body, mind and emotions. Alcohol use disorder can also affect your relationships and work performance. If you're exploring how to stop drinking, consider several helpful steps.
Maybe you think you drink only a beer or two a night. But spend a week measuring precisely how much you drink, and note where, why and with whom you drink. You might be surprised at the amount of alcohol you actually consume. In fact, you might have an alcohol addiction, and that revelation could be a powerful motivator to quit.
The temporary effects of alcohol make it an attractive beverage. For example, you might drink to relieve stress, fit in with friends or numb emotional pain. And you may have asked is alcohol a stimulant before realizing that it temporarily lowers your inhibitions and boosts your confidence. When you understand why you drink, you can find alternative ways to cope with your triggers and manage your habits.
Alcohol affects your body chemistry and contributes to health conditions that could potentially affect you now and in the future. Possible physical health concerns include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, digestive discomfort, insomnia, and certain cancers.
And if you wonder is alcohol a depressant, it does act as a central nervous system depressant. In this capacity, alcohol can inhibit normal brain function along with memory, concentration, judgment, decision-making abilities, and risk tolerance. In addition to physical side effects, overindulgence could affect your coordination and lead to falls and injuries. And alcohol consumption is linked to anxiety, violence and vehicular crashes.
Knowing how alcohol impacts your social and career relationships can fuel your ability to stop drinking. So, review your behavior and performance during the past few months, and note any trends. For example, perhaps you have a shorter fuse with your family or share inappropriate jokes at work events when you drink. These effects can cause problems at home and work, which is a good reason to embrace an alcohol free lifestyle.
Depending on how much you usually drink, stopping cold turkey could create health challenges. You might experience headaches, anxiety, shakes, sweating, mood changes, or other alcohol withdrawal symptoms. You may even develop a substance abuse problem as you cope with everything you used to hide under alcohol.
Talk to your doctor about your options, which might include slowly reducing your alcohol intake, using medication to relieve discomfort, or implementing lifestyle strategies and tools to manage your specific withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend a detox facility or treatment center where you can receive 24/7 care and support.
Talking about your decision to give up drinking can boost your courage and motivation to continue pursuing sobriety. And you might find allies who are also interested in changing their drinking patterns. That's why it's wise to tell your friends, family members and co-workers that you want to stop drinking. If your current social circle is not supportive of your sobriety journey, find a community of non-drinkers at a local support or recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Don't store any alcohol in your house, garage, office, or vehicle. This includes alcohol you might stock for special occasions, guests or parties. And avoid people who drink heavily or may not support your new habits. Removing the temptation can help you achieve your goals.
Chances are pretty high that you're going to receive invitations to drink alcohol. Often, a simple "No thanks" will work. But if you need to share details, say something like, "I'm drinking less for health reasons" or "I want to remember tonight when I wake up tomorrow."
You could also be prepared to offer alternatives to drinking. For example, suggest shooting hoops instead of heading to the bar. And bring your own non-alcoholic beverages to social events. Likewise, be prepared to leave an event early if you experience a strong urge to drink.
After years of drinking, your body, mind and emotions are programmed to crave the stimulant and depressant effects of alcohol. But you can retrain and reprogram yourself with a plan to manage cravings.
Think through common situations and triggers, and choose alternative activities for each scenario. For example, you may decide to drive a different route home from work so you don't pass your normal bar or stock your at-home fridge with sodas and sparkling water.
Also, plan to write in a journal, do yoga or meditate when you feel stressed, lonely, overwhelmed, or sad. Hobbies can offer distractions, too, as you manage cravings.
Remind yourself often about why you quit drinking. Maybe you want to save money for a dream vacation, improve your health or reconnect with your family. Write these goals on notecards or print pictures that represent your why. Then, place these reminders throughout your home, office and vehicle as you stay motivated to remain sober.
With assistance, you can change habits, find new coping strategies and stay motivated to remain sober. Possible support includes a 12-step sobriety program or online support groups. You may also wish to see a mental health or addiction professional and participate in behavioral therapy. Likewise, take a class or workshop that teaches you how to reduce stress, cope with your specific triggers, or learn a new non-alcoholic hobby.
Changing a habit like drinking takes effort and can bring up feelings of frustration, sadness or anger. And despite your best efforts, you may crave the stimulant effect of alcohol and relapse.
Be kind to yourself as you make this change. Stay curious about why you want to drink, and keep trying new coping strategies. Nurture yourself with your favorite movies, music and hobbies, plus nutritious meals, regular exercise and adequate sleep. You can start a gratitude list, too, of all the benefits you're gaining, such as improved relationships, better concentration or new friends.
Every few months or after a slip-up, revisit your sobriety plan. Review what's working and consider areas where you could make improvements. For instance, you may notice that you no longer crave that post-work drink a day but still struggle to give up wine before bed. Or perhaps you're lonely and want to create a goal of making new friends who don't drink. As you update your plan to ensure it remains effective, remember that you can always begin again to make the changes that matter to you.
While changing your behavior and habits around alcohol can be challenging, you can do it. Take these steps as you practice sobriety.