Stepping away from a powerfully addictive and socially ubiquitous substance isn’t easy. As such, you need as many things to help you stop drinking as possible. In this article, I’m going to list some that have been transformative for me – and that could be a great help to you too.
At the time of writing this article, I’ve been alcohol free for around nine months – and it’s no exaggeration to say I’m LOVING it.
It’s a huge surprise to me. I only intended to take a month off, but the benefits of quitting started to pile up. While I’m making no long term commitment, I’m now focussed on chalking up an alcohol free year. The way I feel right now, I wouldn’t be all surprised if it ends up being a permanent change.
Another thing that’s surprised me is how many people have asked me questions about stopping drinking. Not drinking is so easy and natural to me now, I forget how daunting and challenging it can seem at the start.
If you’re somebody looking for things to help you stop drinking (and if you’re reading this article, you probably are!) I have three good bits of news for you:
- It all gets WAY easier.
- You CAN enjoy all the things you think just won’t be the same without a drink.
- There are probably some benefits to quitting that you’ve not even thought about yet.
But before you get to enjoy the benefits, you do need some strategies to get you through those initial weeks and months.
So without further ado, let’s look at the things that worked fantastically well for me.
7 Things to Help You Stop Drinking
1. Read The Right Books
There are hundreds of books out there about quitting alcohol.
I read MANY of them before I found the ones that properly clicked for me. The one that really stands out is Alcohol Explained (and I have a full review of that here). I wax lyrical about it to anybody who cares to listen, because it delivered a total mindset shift.
Reading the right stuff can turn you from somebody who thinks they ought to give up drinking to somebody who wants to. That’s a very powerful thing, because it makes everything else much easier. It turns it into a project rather than a battle.
All the other things in this list are incredibly useful – but in my case at least, it was reading a few select books with an open mind that really allowed me to make such a positive change.
Check out this list of the best quit lit books. Choose one or two, and commit to reading them in full.
2. List Your Personal Pros and Cons
One thing that really helped me is to list all of my own personal pros and cons around drinking.
I ended up with two long lists, but the cons list was by far the longest! It included having hangovers, gaining weight, lowered immunity, increased anxiety and cost.
What I find particularly interesting, looking back at the list, is that most of the things on the pros side seem completely delusional now. I can’t believe I thought that alcohol was helping me unwind when I’m now much more “unwound” all the time!
It’s totally worth listing the pros and cons of continuing to drink. They will be specific to YOU. If you’re actively looking for things to help you stop drinking, your cons list is probably already quite long.
3. Scare Yourself with the Facts
Alcohol is really bad for you.
I say that not to be a sanctimonious non drinker – but because it IS really bad for you. If alcohol wasn’t diluted it would kill you to drink it at all.
As a committed drinker, it’s easy to scroll past the dangers and focus on those occasional stories about how x glasses of red wine per week are actually good for the heart – yada yada.
But alcohol isn’t something the body really wants in any quantity. If you’re drinking it excessively you are likely doing yourself harm – perhaps harm that’s not become clear yet, but may do one day in the future.
My point here is to take the blinkers off and inform yourself of the facts. Articles like this one on the dangers of alcohol are all you need.
4. Find a Community
When people think about finding a community around quitting alcohol, most assume the main option is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is ONE option, but there are many others – and plenty that don’t require you to declare that you are “an alcoholic.”
I’m a huge fan of the Reddit StopDrinking Community. It’s friendly, busy, and non judgemental. Among its nearly 300,000 members you’ll find people who’ve not had a drink in decades, and people who’ve screeched in after a week-long bender, desperate for help.
Simply reading the threads was hugely helpful for me, but you can choose to be as active as you like.
Support from others is really helpful, especially if your friends and family drink and seem likely to continue. You’ll quickly discover there are thousands of people out there taking a better path, and that they’re happy to have you join them.
There are plenty of options – and while we’re on the subject, I should mention AA once again. It’s not something I chose to do, but it works for many people. Increasingly, you can choose to join online meetings instead of going in person, which makes it more accessible. Read The Big Book to find out more about the principles of AA
5. Choose Some Enjoyable Alternatives
Since quitting alcohol, I’ve become quite the authority on spritzer waters, alcohol free beers and craft sodas. Here are a few of my favourites:
More recently, I’ve been trying out a fascinating range of alcohol free spirits called Three Spirit. There’s a full review of those here.
My point here is that you do need alternatives – and ideally alternatives that feel like a treat. This is especially important if you’re socialising, because it’s good to have a clear idea of what you’ll be having when other people drink.
The good news is that you can try out plenty of these things with the money you save on alcohol. Also, if – like me – your last experience of alcohol free drinks was several years ago, you will be amazed by how much the industry has moved on. There are some genuinely tasty options out there now (although, as yet, a drinkable alcohol free wine is not something I’ve been able to find!)
6. Get Used to Doing Things Sober
I’ve found it best to take a “rip the plaster off” approach to doing the things I would usually accompany with alcohol.
I’m not suggesting you head to the local bar on your first week of not drinking – but I am saying that you probably shouldn’t delay too long.
It’s all about breaking associations. Once you’ve had friends round / had a barbecue / been to the beach / celebrated a new contract / eaten steak / eaten cheese etc. without alcohol a couple of times, it’s no problem to do it again.
Some of these trigger things are harder than others to deal with, but none of them are insurmountable. A few months after I stopped drinking, I went on a staycation and didn’t drink. I’ve already broken the association that holiday equals drinking – and it’s easier than it sounds. There are still plenty of reasons to look forward to a holiday!
7. Embrace your Passions
Earlier in this article, I mentioned unwinding. I used to do that with a drink.
Now I’ll go for a walk and listen to some books on Blinkist, or I’ll fire up my DJ decks, or I’ll play some video games with my sons.
I do WAY more of this stuff now.
It’s taken some effort to embrace real hobbies again, but it’s SO worth it. Drinking alcohol is a pretty rubbish hobby. Doing creative and mindful things is way better for you, and once you adjust it feels much better too.
Think back to when you were a child or young teenager, and how you’d have things you loved doing. Presumably you still enjoyed them without alcohol (unless you started VERY young!)
The best news of all is that you can get that feeling back! I used to love going to the bookshop every couple of weeks as a child. Now I can do it as often as I like, and I can afford WAY more books!
People who’ve just quit drinking often complain of feeling bored and having too much time. Once you get used to filling it, everything changes for the better – so think about the things you never got around to doing, and make them a priority.
When I look back on how much I used to like alcohol, and how daunting it felt to quit, I only wish I’d knew then what I know now.
There’s a much uttered saying in the sober community: “Sobriety delivers everything alcohol promised.”
I think it’s true. You’ll only really know whether to believe me if you try it yourself. Hopefully these things to help you stop drinking will help.
Here are a few more articles that may be of interest: