How to Stop Drinking Alcohol
In today’s society, alcohol is embraced at nearly every occasion: births, deaths, social occasions, sporting events, holidays, marriages, and more. One gets to thinking that it’s abnormal not to drink, that it’s abnormal not to intoxicate yourself with a substance that your body knows is a poison.
Our society, for the most part, has bought into the illusion that somehow it’s okay to use alcohol to lubricate social gatherings, cope with difficult emotions, deal with boredom, etc. Societal pressure (or perceived pressure) is a large contributor to why – when we come to the point in our life where we’re thinking about letting go of alcohol – it’s so difficult.
How Do I Know If I Have a Problem With Alcohol?
If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you probably do. Think of it this way: do you spend time thinking about whether you have a problem with, say, broccoli? Probably not, because you know it’s good for you and you can stop eating it whenever you want.
If you’ve lost your ability to choose how much, what, and/or when you drink, it’s a strong sign that your relationship with alcohol is out of whack.
If you’ve come to a point where you realize one of more of the following, this article can help:
- I might be an alcoholic.
- I struggle in the way that I drink.
- I don’t seem to have the ability to choose when to stop.
- I’d like to do something about my drinking.
- Alcohol no longer adds to my life.
Very important medical note: Alcohol is one of the few detoxes that is life-threatening. Withdrawal causes a spike in blood pressure and other physical side effects that can induce a stroke, heart attack, or other potentially fatal problems. If you cannot stop drinking without experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, please seek out a medically supported detox at a hospital or a treatment center. If you aren’t sure whether or not you need medical assistance, ask a medical professional.
Oftentimes our entire social community, our whole world is built around alcohol, prompting fear around the idea of giving it up. How will I be without it? Who will I be without it? Who will my friends be? How will I socialize? How will I cope without it?
These are the types of questions you may be asking yourself when contemplating removing alcohol from your life, for any reason.
Once you have made the commitment to stop drinking, how do you get there? How do you begin?
The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment for Alcohol
There are two main treatment options for alcohol treatment: inpatient and outpatient.
Inpatient treatment is almost always the best option, although access and/or cost can be obstacles for some. Most treatment centers accept some form of insurance to mitigate the cost, so if a treatment center doesn’t accept your insurance, keep looking. Most will provide help with financing options even before you go there, so advocate for yourself and ask questions. They are there to help you.
Private pay is another option if you or a member of your family can afford it. Thirty days or more is recommended for optimum chances of staying sober once you leave. A minimum of a month allows for more time away from alcohol and away from the environments where you drank. 30 days gives you a solid foundation upon which you can build a healthy recovery.
It can take several phone calls to find a treatment center that works for you financially and logistically, so keep trying until you find the right one. Many people start at a hospital emergency room where experienced staff can expedite the process and find a place that’s right for you.
If you can’t afford inpatient treatment, or there is another reason inpatient isn’t feasible, like childcare, a job, or other responsibilities, outpatient is the next best option. It’s important to point out, though, that many people struggling to stop drinking list family and/or work as reasons inpatient isn’t possible.
Something to consider is that if alcohol is making your home and/or work life unmanageable, these things are in jeopardy anyway. Continuing to drink, if you are unable to stop, will mean that eventually you won’t have relationships with your family. You won’t have a job. Most of the time, family and work will be grateful you are getting help. It is said in recovery that “anything I put in front of my recovery I will lose”. So, think of it this way: “anything I put in front of getting help I will lose”.
Outpatient treatment is similar to inpatient in structure, except you leave at the end of the day and stay at home at night. Typically, outpatient programs are about five hours every weekday for approximately two weeks, depending on what is covered by your insurance. Some outpatient programs offer different hours, or evening options, so it’s important to ask what’s available when making inquiries.
Options Beyond Treatment for Getting or Staying Sober
Therapy is most effective when used as an after-care option once treatment (either inpatient or outpatient) is completed, although some people successfully stop drinking alcohol solely through a one-on-one therapeutic process.
It is important to select a therapist with experience in substance use, and there are therapists who specialize in this field. It’s important to inquire about their experience with treating patients who want to get or stay sober and what therapeutic modality they employ.
A therapist may recommend attending 12-step meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous, along with the therapeutic process. If you would like to explore our Universal Meetings at Recovery 2.0, you can find our meetings schedule here: r20.com/meetings. Meetings are always free.
About 12-Step and Other Recovery Meetings
Many people get and stay sober because a therapist, loved one, or friend suggested attending 12-step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other group settings where you can connect with others on the same path.
Most people don’t know much about a 12-step program like AA until they’re a part of it, because anonymity is a cornerstone tradition of these programs. This can lead to misconceptions that sometimes deter people from giving them a try. The 12 Steps are a process that a sponsor of your choice guides you through – at no cost – to help you have spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional transformation in your life.
The “fellowship” of AA and other 12-step programs is also key. Fellowship refers to being part of a community of people who understand how you feel, have been through (or are going through) what you’re going through, and who offer their experience, strength, and hope by sharing about their own journey through addiction into recovery.
It’s a powerful feeling to gather with people who understand how you feel, especially after the isolation and secrecy that are often part of struggling with alcohol. 12-Step programs aren’t for everyone, but they can be miraculous for those who dedicate themselves to the process.
There are other group environments not centered around the 12 Steps you can try as well, like Smart Recovery and Refuge Recovery. Smart Recovery takes a cognitive, more psychological approach to recovery, and Refuge Recovery centers around a Buddhist spiritual approach.
These are just some examples. There are many programs you can get involved in to get the support you need to put one day of recovery under your belt, then another day, and so on as you move through the process of healing.
How Do I Know Which Alcohol Treatment Approach is Right for Me?
The options discussed above are not mutually exclusive. Try anything and everything at first and pursue the approach(es) that you connect with the most. People have the most success staying sober when they start with the solid foundation of treatment, followed by a comprehensive after-care plan that helps them avoid alcohol but also address the outside factors that influence addictive behaviors.
For example, many people have relationships that need rebuilding while they are getting sober, and outside help is crucial to the repair process. Some people have other maladaptive behaviors, like codependency, that need to be addressed for their sobriety to take root. Some have accompanying addictions to food, gambling, sex, or drugs that need to be part of the recovery process.
It’s also essential to work on healing your whole person. Diet, exercise, and overall wellness suffer when we’re in the grips of any addiction. Nutrition, movement, peace of mind, and learning to live in the present moment through tools like yoga, meditation, and breath exercises provide a strong foundation and lead to a lifetime of wellness and healthy habits to augment your recovery and allow you to thrive in life.
There are many ways to get and stay sober, to move beyond, but this is nearly impossible to do alone. It’s vital to ask for help, move out of isolation, and into a community of people who are on a path of recovery and discovery.
Recovery is possible for everybody. Do not despair. There is a way through every block.
The stigma that surrounds addiction keeps a lot of people stuck and alone. Getting sober is not only nothing to feel ashamed about, it’s something to be incredibly proud of. While the recovery process isn’t always easy, anyone who has successfully removed alcohol from their life and pursued a path of recovery will tell you that it is very, very worth it.