How to safely quit drinking alcohol in 3 steps

Quitting alcohol - Centres for Health and Healing

Drinking can become problematic in anyone’s life. Even if you were once able to drink in moderation, you may find yourself becoming a day drinker, or relying heavily on alcohol to cope with stress or difficult emotions.

Before you quit drinking, you have to first develop an action plan. Action plans give you guidance through the labyrinth of recovery. While there are many resources that can help you in the initial few days, quitting alcohol is a lifelong commitment.

For many, this means a complete lifestyle overhaul that can, frankly, be difficult to manage. This is because many rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. It offers an escape from difficult feelings like loneliness, depression, anxiety and unhealed trauma.

But there is hope. With this 3-step approach, you can learn how to stop drinking alcohol and regain control over your life. Whether you decide to stop for good or imbibe socially later is up to you. However, for the majority of people, no alcohol is the best solution.

To help you work toward sobriety, these steps will include various tips to make adopting an alcohol-free lifestyle easier.

Step 1: Identify why alcohol is a problem

Identifyng why alcohol is a problem - Centres for Health and Healing

There are many good reasons to quit drinking, including no more hangovers, better health, better relationships and stronger coping skills.

Quitting alcohol can be the doorway toward greater healing. Sober, you can begin to find solutions to the underlying problems in your life. Through patience, therapy and practice, you can begin to find meaningful things in your life that replace the role of alcohol.

While the benefits of quitting are wonderful, they are only one part of your decision to get sober. Before you quit drinking, it’s equally important to pinpoint specific ways alcohol negatively impacts your life

In therapy, substance abuse counselling begins with exploration and identification. Why have you decided to stop drinking?

You could find yourself:

  • Spending too much money on alcohol and drinking outings
  • Having a social life that revolves around drinking
  • Using alcohol to numb yourself to difficult feelings
  • Drinking to cope with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues
  • Having disagreements or conflict with others about your drinking habits
  • Trying to quit alcohol but being unable to
  • Finding alcohol consuming most of your thoughts
  • Living for the weekend or other occasions it’s acceptable to drink

Guilt, shame and embarrassment are all common factors that stop people from being honest about their drinking. There could also be a great deal of fear tied to the truth. It’s okay if you are not yet fully ready to confront everything.

The good news is that you do not have to solve everything at once.

Instead, start by reflecting on ways alcohol hinders your life and what you would like to change. It does not matter if you are still able to perform your job well or maintain relationships. What matters is how drinking makes you feel.

These problems are now reasons why you should begin looking for substance abuse treatment.

This can come in many forms, but it’s always best to incorporate a professional in your recovery. They can help you get the support you need while addressing underlying factors that impact your drinking.

Step 2: Assess your health risk

Assess your health risk - Centres for Health and Healing

When you stop drinking alcohol, you may experience withdrawal. This is the body’s way of removing the last traces of alcohol from its system. For moderate to heavy drinkers, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Before you quit alcohol at once, you must first know what health risks you face. This can help you decide the best way to detox. Detoxing from alcohol should always be done with a medical professional’s supervision.

This could just be consulting with your doctor, or it may involve staying at a detox clinic until withdrawal ends.

Medical detox centers help people with moderate to severe alcohol use disorders cope with alcohol withdrawal. They provide round-the-clock medical supervision and may give you prescription medications that ease the intensity of symptoms.

Before you commit to any program, it’s best to learn exactly how alcohol withdrawal affects the body and what it could feel like for you.

What happens to your body when you quit drinking alcohol?

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary by individual. Some experience severe physical and mental discomfort while others have only mild symptoms lasting a few days.

The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Cold sweats and shaking
  • Tremors and muscle aches
  • A pounding headache
  • Dryness in the mouth and throat
  • Racing heart
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Depression symptoms
  • Irritability and mood swings

Alcohol withdrawal can last anywhere between a few days to several weeks. Some may persist for months. In cases of severe alcohol abuse, doctors may prescribe medication to help patients manage their symptoms throughout recovery.

What is delirium tremens?

Quitting alcohol suddenly can lead to a life-threatening condition in severe cases. Heavy, chronic drinkers can develop a condition called delirium tremens during withdrawal. Delirium tremens is a medical crisis that requires medical supervision and support.

Delirium tremens is caused by alcohol dependence. After a prolonged period of heavy drinking, someone’s body needs alcohol to function normally. When they suddenly quit drinking, this can trigger dangerous physical and mental health symptoms.

What does delirium tremens look like?

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion and disorientation

How much do you have to drink to get DTs?

Delirium tremens occur among people who drink heavily every day for several months. It can also impact people who drink heavily for 10 or more years.

Generally, DTs occur when people drink 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer or 1 pint of hard liquor each day.

Because withdrawal can pose a serious health risk, you should always consult with a doctor before you quit “cold turkey.” If you are a mild or moderate drinker, withdrawal may still be difficult to handle on your own.

To set yourself up for the greatest chance of success, it’s best to look for resources and options before your last drink.

Step 3: Begin to detox

Time to detox - Centres for Health and Healing

If you’re unsure whether you’re dependent on alcohol, a doctor can assess your drinking habits. This allows them to determine how alcohol has likely impacted your body and the best course of action for safely detoxing.

For people who need additional support and medical supervision, an alcohol detox clinic is the best option. Detox facilities may operate independently or be a part of outpatient alcohol rehab.

During this program, you will receive careful monitoring from trained medical professionals. They can provide medication to help prevent any serious complications and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

If you are told that it is safe for you to stop drinking on your own, then outpatient rehab is still a good idea. Having the support and guidance of professionals during this time will make it easier to cope with withdrawal.

How to deteox from alcohol on your own

If you want to quit drinking entirely on your own, then you should plan ahead to avoid any triggers that could prompt a relapse.

Rather than quit “cold turkey,” it’s usually better to gradually reduce your drinking. For example, you may start by having one less drink each time you consume alcohol.

Over the next week or two, you could go from drinking several alcoholic drinks each night to a single beer or glass of wine.

If you only drink heavily one or two days a week, then work on reducing the frequency of your outings and set a limit on how much you will consume.

Once you reach that limit, leave the outing. It’s best to set firm boundaries and have an exit strategy – this prevents you from dealing with peer pressure or being tempted to go past your limit.

Canada has low-risk drinking guidelines that can help you define a safe limit. These are:

  • A 12-oz bottle of 5% alcohol beer
  • A 5-ounce glass of 12% alcohol wine
  • A 12-ounce glass of 5% alcohol cider
  • A 1.5-ounce shot glass of 43% alcohol spirits

With this measurement in mind, you should not consume any more than 2 standard drinks per day or exceed 10 a week if you are a woman. Men should not consume more than 3 standard drinks per day or more than 15 per week.

You should also make sure you do not use these guidelines to settle for a daily drinking habit. While these can help you reduce your alcohol consumption, you should continue to drink less until you consume none.

Keep a Drinking Diary

Write down how often you drink and how much you consume in an average week. Make sure to note what you drank and what time as well as how you felt beforehand. This can give you better insight into feelings and situations that make you more likely to drink.

Contact us for alcohol recovery help

The Centres for Health and Healing offers alcohol addiction treatment, dual diagnosis treatment and an array of therapeutic and behavioural interventions that can benefit you. If you have any questions about rehab or recovery programs, you can reach us anytime through our contact page.

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