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How to Stop Drinking Alcohol: A Comprehensive Guide

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Last Updated - 06/19/2024

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Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol dependence is influenced by genetics and environmental factors, with certain brain regions and genetic variants playing key roles.
  • Environmental factors such as stress, peer influence, and family history significantly contribute to the risk of developing alcohol dependence.
  • Recognizing the symptoms of alcohol dependence is essential for seeking timely treatment, which may include medications, therapy, and support groups.
  • Alcohol misuse poses significant health risks, including liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and an increased risk of certain cancers.
  • Mental health can be severely affected by alcohol misuse, often exacerbating conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Quitting alcohol requires setting realistic goals, identifying triggers, and possibly seeking professional help and support networks.
  • Professional help is crucial in alcohol recovery, with FDA-approved medications and therapy available to aid in the process.
  • A strong support network is vital for emotional backing, practical assistance, and a sense of community in recovery.
  • Maintaining sobriety involves building a support network, identifying and avoiding triggers, and adopting healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Physical activity is important in maintaining sobriety, helping to manage cravings and improve mental health.

How To Quit Drinking Alcohol?

Quitting alcohol is a pivotal journey towards reclaiming control and enhancing well-being. This comprehensive guide unveils essential strategies—from building a strong support network to adopting healthy coping mechanisms and prioritizing physical activity—that empower individuals to achieve lasting sobriety effectively.

The Science Behind Alcohol Dependence

  • Overview: Alcohol dependence (AUD) is a complex condition influenced by genetics and environmental factors.
  • Neurobiological Basis: The central amygdala and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) play key roles in alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Genetic and Environmental Interplay: Recent studies have illuminated the roles of both genetics and environmental factors in its development. 
  • Long-lasting Effects: Alcohol and drugs can alter gene expression, rewiring the brain and leading to lasting behavioral changes.

Genetic Influences on Alcohol Dependence

  • Significant Role: Genetics contribute to 50-60% of the risk for developing alcohol dependence.
  • Specific Variants: Genetic variants like ADH1B and ALDH2 influence alcohol metabolism and reactions.
  • GWAS Findings: Genome-wide association studies identify additional genetic factors involved in alcohol dependence. Research indicates that alcohol and drugs can rewire the brain by altering gene expression, leading to long-lasting behavioral changes.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism highlights the importance of understanding the symptoms of AUD and the criteria used for diagnosis, as outlined in the DSM-5.

Environmental Factors Contributing to Alcohol Dependence

 A study found that the common environment accounted for 62% of the effects on alcohol sips in children aged 9-10, overshadowing the role of genetics at this developmental stage.

  • Familial Influence: Early exposure to familial and social environments impacts alcohol consumption behaviors. This is due to both genetic predispositions and the modeling of alcohol use behaviors within the family environment.
  • Stress: A study detailed tress can lead to increased alcohol intake as a coping mechanism.
  • Peer Influence: Cultural norms and peer pressure influence drinking behaviors, particularly in adolescence, according to a study.

Identifying Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

Behavioral Indicators: Alcohol dependence, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), manifests in various behavioral signs:

  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control alcohol use.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol.
  • Cravings or strong desire to drink alcohol.
  • Drinking more or longer than intended.
  • Continuing to drink despite problems in relationships or at work.
  • Giving up important activities because of alcohol.
  • Drinking in situations where it’s dangerous, like driving.

Physical Symptoms: Alcohol dependence can lead to physical manifestations such as:

  • Tolerance (needing more alcohol to achieve the same effect).
  • Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not consumed:
    • Anxiety, agitation.
    • Nausea, vomiting.
    • Insomnia, nightmares.
    • Tremors, hallucinations.
    • Seizures in severe cases.

Excessive Drinking Patterns: Recognizing excessive drinking patterns is crucial:

  • Binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, four or more for women in about 2 hours).
  • Heavy drinking (15 or more drinks per week for men, eight or more for women).
  • Drinking behaviors that interfere with personal or professional responsibilities.

Identifying these symptoms is essential for timely intervention and seeking appropriate treatment options such as medications, therapy, and support groups to achieve long-term sobriety and recovery from alcohol dependence.

The Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol misuse presents substantial risks to physical and mental health, contributing significantly to alcohol-related deaths. During 2020-2021, the United States witnessed approximately 488 alcohol-related deaths per day, underscoring its critical public health impact. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to various physical health problems such as alcoholic liver disease, pancreatitis, cardiovascular issues, and heightened cancer risks, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Mental health is also adversely affected, exacerbating conditions like depression and anxiety, particularly amplified by social isolation and stress from events like the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s crucial to recognize that excessive drinking encompasses binge drinking, heavy drinking, and consumption by vulnerable groups like pregnant women and those under 21.

The Physical Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Excessive alcohol consumption profoundly impacts physical health, contributing to chronic diseases and acute medical conditions. Notably, it significantly affects the liver, leading to conditions such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol misuse is also associated with an increased risk of various cancers, including those of the liver, mouth, throat, esophagus, and breast. Additionally, it contributes to pancreatitis and cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure.


  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Increased risk of cancers (liver, mouth, throat, esophagus, breast)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for moderate drinking and emphasizes that drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

The Mental Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry presents evidence that while light to moderate alcohol consumption may have protective effects against depression, excessive drinking is associated with heightened risks. 

Alcohol misuse is intricately linked with numerous mental health disorders, exacerbating conditions such as depression and anxiety. Chronic alcohol consumption worsens symptoms of pre-existing mental health conditions and may lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), often co-occurring with other substance use disorders. Binge drinking exacerbates depression and anxiety symptoms, with alcohol withdrawal potentially intensifying the cycle. Individuals with clinical depression must carefully manage alcohol use due to potential interactions with antidepressants and exacerbation of depressive symptoms.


  • Exacerbation of depression and anxiety according to anxiety.org
  • Increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) according to (NIAAA)
  • Co-occurrence with other substance use disorders

Guide to Stopping Alcohol Consumption

Quitting alcohol requires a systematic approach involving assessment of current consumption, identification of triggers, and securing appropriate support. Understanding the extent of alcohol intake through tools like the NIAAA’s drink size calculator is crucial for setting achievable goals for reduction or cessation.

Identifying Triggers:

  • Recognize stress or social situations as triggers for drinking.
  • Develop alternative strategies such as hobbies or physical activities.
  • Seek creative outlets not centered around alcohol.

Professional Help:

  • Consider therapy or support groups like AA.
  • Explore medical interventions for additional support.
  • Utilize support networks for encouragement and accountability, as research suggests.

Replacing Drinking Habits:

  • Remove access to alcohol, especially in early sobriety.
  • Engage in satisfying alternative activities.
  • Embrace the journey of recovery one day at a time.

Setting Achievable Goals in Alcohol Recovery

Embarking on sobriety involves setting realistic and self-driven goals aligned with personal values. Time-bound objectives help maintain motivation while allowing flexibility for sustainable progress.

Measurable Goals:

  • Example: Reduce daily alcohol intake incrementally.
  • Track progress and celebrate milestones.
  • Incorporate rewarding activities to reinforce new behaviors.

Addressing Challenges:

  • Prepare for withdrawal symptoms like irritability and anxiety.
  • Seek insights and coping strategies from professional resources.
  • Approach recovery with resilience and a focus on daily progress.

The Importance of Professional Help in Alcohol Recovery

Overcoming alcohol dependence often requires medical assistance and therapeutic support. FDA-approved medications and therapies like CBT are pivotal in managing cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and psychological aspects of addiction.


  • Naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram reduce cravings.
  • Facilitate abstinence and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Therapeutic Support:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) aids in behavior change, according to research 
  • Develops skills to cope with triggers and build support systems.

Seeking Professional Assistance:

  • Consult primary care providers or addiction specialists.
  • Access personalized treatment plans and referrals to support groups.
  • Engage in comprehensive care to achieve long-term sobriety.

The Role of a Support Network in Alcohol Recovery

Building a robust support network is crucial for individuals navigating the challenging path to recovery from alcohol dependence. Research has highlighted the importance of emotional backing, practical assistance, and a sense of community provided by a support network in achieving and maintaining sobriety.

Emotional Support:

  • Peers, family, and friends offer empathy and reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Emotional understanding enhances resilience during recovery.

Accountability and Motivation:

  • Group members provide motivation to adhere to recovery goals.
  • Accountability fosters commitment to sobriety through shared experiences.

Practical Assistance:

  • Help with transportation, financial challenges, or daily tasks supports recovery efforts.
  • Practical assistance facilitates smoother transitions and reduces stress.

Sharing Experiences:

  • Exchange insights and coping strategies with others in recovery.
  • Learn from diverse perspectives to navigate challenges effectively.

Building Community:

  • Develop a sense of belonging through shared experiences and mutual support.
  • Strengthen commitment to sobriety and healthier lifestyles.

Creating a Support Network:

  • Reconnect with supportive family and friends.
  • Engage in support groups and professional counseling.
  • Foster new sober friendships aligned with recovery goals.

Engagement Frequency:

  • Regular attendance at recovery meetings correlates with sustained sobriety.
  • Consistent engagement enhances the effectiveness of the support network.

Long-Term Wellness:

  • A comprehensive support network is invaluable in overcoming alcohol dependence.
  • Promotes long-term wellness and resilience throughout the recovery journey.

Effective Strategies for Maintaining Sobriety

Building a Robust Support Network:

  • Engage with friends, family, or support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery.
  • Participate in communities such as ‘Living a Sober Powered Life’ for additional meetings and resources.
  • Utilize free resources and attend support meetings to gain guidance and community.

Identifying and Avoiding Triggers:

  • Change routines and avoid social situations that may prompt drinking.
  • Recognize and manage triggers effectively to prevent relapse.

Implementing Healthy Coping Mechanisms:

  • Journaling: Helps process emotions and track progress.
  • Physical Activity: Reduces stress and controls urges by focusing on physical health.
  • Professional Help: Seek therapy and consider medication for structured sobriety support.

Education and Preparation:

  • Learn about withdrawal symptoms and societal pressures associated with sobriety.
  • Equip oneself with knowledge to navigate challenges and sustain an alcohol-free lifestyle.

Adopting Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress and Cravings

The National Center for Biotechnology Information underscores the importance of teaching patients and caregivers appropriate coping skills to improve the management of psychological distress.


  • Regular self-check-ins promote self-awareness and emotional regulation.

Deep Breathing and Meditation:

  • Promote relaxation and mindfulness to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Problem-Focused Coping:

  • Address stressors directly to find practical solutions and reduce anxiety levels.

Emotion-Focused Coping:

  • Use cognitive reframing techniques to modify emotional responses to stress.

Physical Activity:

  • Regular exercise improves mood, reduces stress, and supports overall well-being.

Social Support:

  • Build a supportive network for encouragement and accountability in sobriety.

Avoidance of Unhealthy Coping:

  • Recognize and avoid maladaptive behaviors, such as substance misuse.

The Importance of Physical Activity in Maintaining Sobriety

Staying physically active is crucial for maintaining sobriety and enhancing overall well-being for individuals recovering from alcohol dependence. Research also suggests that regular physical activity provides numerous benefits, including improved mood, stress reduction, and increased energy levels, which support long-term recovery efforts.

  • Mental Health Benefits: Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression common among individuals with alcohol dependence.
  • Cognitive Function: Enhances cognitive function and quality of life, promoting autonomy and agility according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  • Physical Health: Strengthens bones and muscles, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and contributes to longevity.

Incorporating physical activity into daily routines serves as a healthy coping mechanism to manage stress and cravings. Whether through structured exercise programs or recreational activities, staying active plays a vital role in sustaining sobriety and achieving a fulfilling, alcohol-free lifestyle.

Strategies to Identify and Avoid Relapse Triggers

Identifying and avoiding relapse triggers is a critical component of maintaining long-term sobriety. A relapse trigger can be any situation, environment, or emotion that reignites the desire to consume alcohol. To effectively manage these triggers, it is important to understand and implement several key strategies.

  • Stress Management: As stress is a common relapse trigger, developing stress management techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in relaxing activities can be beneficial.
  • Recognize Cravings: Acknowledging cravings and understanding the personal triggers that lead to them is essential. This awareness can be cultivated through counseling and support groups.
  • Relapse Prevention Planning: Creating a detailed relapse prevention plan with the help of a professional can provide structure and strategies to handle potential triggers.
  • Avoid High-Risk Situations: Steering clear of environments or social settings that are associated with past drinking behaviors is a proactive way to reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Build a Support Network: Surrounding oneself with supportive individuals who understand the journey to sobriety can offer encouragement and accountability.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation can help individuals stay grounded and present, reducing the impact of triggers.
  • Seek Professional Help: Regular sessions with a mental health professional can provide personalized strategies to cope with specific triggers.

By integrating these strategies into daily life, individuals in recovery can enhance their resilience against triggers, maintain control over their cravings, and support their commitment to a sober lifestyle.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Overcoming alcohol use disorder might seem impossible. But that’s not the case. Many people can recover if they go to a specialized rehab center that uses proven treatments. Alcohol treatment uses various methods to help with withdrawal and addiction. With these interventions, people can find health and happiness in sobriety.

Alcohol addiction treatments may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment: This treatment uses medicines to reduce AUD symptoms like cravings and withdrawal.
  • Individual and group therapy: Talking with therapists either one-on-one or in groups can help people recover. Methods include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
  • Relapse prevention programs: These programs teach people how to avoid relapse, understand the process and develop healthy coping methods.
  • Family therapy: AUDs affect the entire family. Working with a family therapist can start the path to healing the relationships damaged by alcohol misuse.
  • Recreational therapies: These therapies help people in recovery find joy in their new, sober life, improving their physical and mental health.

At Orlando Recovery Center Drug and Alcohol Rehab, we offer many alcohol addiction treatment options led by train medical professionals. Our levels of care include medical detox, inpatient rehabilitation and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). No matter where you are in your recovery journey, our team will be there every step of the way. Start your admission today.


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