Alcohol Problems: How to Stop Drinking


While some people can stop drinking alcohol on their own, others need medical help to manage the physical process of withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical care. Your doctor can give you medicine that will help you safely withdraw from alcohol. Other medicines might be prescribed later to help you stay sober. With a doctor's help, withdrawal from alcohol is safer.

If you think you are drinking too much alcohol and want to stop, having a plan can help you get started. Here's how.

  • Set a date to stop drinking.
  • Know your reasons.

    Make a list of your reasons for wanting to stop. You're more likely to succeed if you know exactly why you want to change. Keep this list so that you can renew your commitment from time to time.

  • Have a plan to deal with barriers.

    Many things can get in the way of meeting your goal to stop drinking. If your current life revolves around alcohol use, you might need to think about making some changes. In your plan, include ways to deal with barriers. For example:

    • Try to spend less time with people who drink a lot or give you a hard time about not drinking. Spend time with people who support your desire to stop using alcohol.
    • Try to avoid places or events that make you want to drink. Stay away from bars where you used to drink. Plan ways to avoid drinking when you are tempted.
    • Make a list of people and places in your life that have nothing to do with alcohol use.
    • Stay active. It's easier to avoid drinking alcohol when you're busy doing things that you like to do. Think about how you would like to spend your free time. For example, you could volunteer, take a class that interests you, or play sports.
    • Avoid temptation by getting rid of all alcohol in your home.
  • Post and share your plan.

    Post your plan in a place where you can see it often, such as on your refrigerator door or bathroom mirror. You might want to put it in more than one place. You also might want to put it on a card and keep it in your purse or wallet.

    Share your plan with others. Talk with your family members and trusted friends about your plan. Let them know how they can help you to succeed.

  • Evaluate your progress.

    In your plan, identify when you will evaluate your progress. Try a plan for 30 days so that the new behavior becomes a habit.

    Review your reasons for stopping alcohol use. Write down the benefits that you are seeing. If you drank after successfully stopping (relapse), it doesn't mean that you've failed. Relapse is common. Start again, and use your experience to help you learn how to stick with your plan this time.

  • Stick with your plan.

    After trying this plan for 30 days, try it for another 30 days.

    It's not easy to change a habit. But the more you practice new behaviors, the more likely it is that they will become habits. If you try this plan but aren't successful, talk with your doctor about other ways to stop drinking alcohol.

  • Try going to a self-help group.

    Some people attend self-help groups to help them stick to their plan to stop drinking. If you aren't sure if a self-help group is for you but would like to try, go to a group at least 3 times before you decide. Try another group if the first one doesn't fit your needs.

  • Reward yourself.

    Plan to treat yourself every time you reach one of your goals. It could be watching your favorite movie or just having some quiet time to yourself.

  • Consider a treatment program.

    Some people may need more help to stop or cut back from drinking. Your doctor may suggest an inpatient program, where you stay overnight. Or they may suggest an outpatient program, where you come only during the day. How long treatment lasts depends on the program.


Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
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