For those that live in England or Wales and want to quit drinking, Help4Addiction are here for you.
*This page medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, 2021
If you need help to stop drinking alcohol it is important to understand you cannot just quit drinking ‘cold turkey’, especially if you have become alcohol dependent. This could see you suffer. Alcohol can be a devastatingly persistent addiction that can be difficult to break for many different reasons.
Understanding what it takes to overcome an alcohol addiction safely is the key to helping you quit drinking for good. There are many different steps involved to ensure that you’re not putting your health at risk by forcefully cutting your alcohol consumption too quickly.
When you drink every day, your brain and body become used to it. Without that drink, you put added strain on your heart. That’s why it’s so important to seek professional help when you quit.
How often do you have to drink to be classed as an alcoholic?
The national recommendation in the UK is that you don’t drink more than 14 units per week. However, if you drink every day at a certain time and can’t go without it, then you might also be an alcoholic. Alcohol use disorder has many faces, not all of which are easy to recognise.
What does 14 units of alcohol look like?
14 units can be roughly translated into 6 glasses of wine or pints of beer, and 14 single measures of spirits. UK spirits should be 25ml each. The government recommends that these 14 units be spread out over three or more days[i]. You can find further information on alcohol units, here.
How do I Monitor How Much I Drink?
If you do drink every day and want to stop, there are groups, support services, and centres, all able to support your decision. If your alcohol use is mild or if you would like to cut down your alcohol intake, try these tips and tricks to stop yourself drinking every day.
1 – Keep a Journal
Keeping a drinks journal allows you to keep accurate records of how much you drink. This will tell you how bad your drinking problem is, so that you can seek advice on what to do about it. You will find guidance about how to keep a drinks journal in the Help4Addiction pages.
2 – Work out your weekly intake
Working out how much you drink in a week, and how you go about drinking that alcohol, can help you determine what to do next. Use our sobriety calculator to work out how much you drink, based on the units recorded in your drinks journal. If it is more than 14 units per week, consider calling our team to talk through your options in alcohol addiction recovery.
3 – Get Help
If you are a mild drinker who thinks they can stop drinking on their own, you should read through our pages on private home detox. If you are a heavy drinker who routinely exceeds 14 units per week and you want to stop drinking, it is vital that you seek medical help first.
When you stop drinking, the pressure on your central nervous system as it tries to cope with the adjustment can be fatal.
Going through Detox
Detox should be carefully managed in a dedicated rehab clinic near you. There is a safe way and a dangerous way to detox, you can read about both in our guide to detoxing from alcohol safely.
How long does detox take?
Detox from alcohol starts a few hours after your last drink. It peaks within 24-72 hours and will have a hold on you for weeks, months, or even years[ii].
Going through Rehab
A typical day at a rehabilitation clinic involves a healthy and early start to the day. The purpose of this is to help your body get back into a natural rhythm and routine. This will help you stay focused throughout the day so that you’re less likely to suffer from the withdrawal symptoms and it also helps you be more productive.
During your stay, you’ll also likely be put through a detoxification process which aims to cleanse your system of alcohol. This will lead to withdrawal symptoms that can be severe if you have been reliant on drinking for a long time, but the medical professionals at the rehabilitation clinic will be able to assist you with medication[iii] and treatment.
You will also be able to attend therapy sessions that can help you discover why you’ve become reliant on alcohol in order to get to the root of the issue[iv]. Although cutting your alcohol consumption is one of the goals, the long-term solution to quitting drinking is finding out why you’ve been so reliant on alcohol and dealing with those concerns first.
How long does rehab take?
Steps to take Stop Drinking
First, let us make it clear that completely cutting your reliance on alcohol and quitting drinking for good takes a lot of willpower. It’s important that you understand the gravity of your task in order to fully embrace the solutions that are available to you. Let’s start by looking through the steps that you should be taking in order to finally stop drinking alcohol. Read our useful post on withdrawing from alcohol safely
Secondly, if you want to stop drinking, these are the stages of safely stopping.
Step one: Learning about the positives of quitting drinking
The first step to take is to learn about the positives of finally quitting your drinking habits[v]. This will help to motivate you and help you realise how many alcohol-related issues you’re currently facing and how they can mostly all be solved with the help of detoxing and finally overcoming your drinking issue.
Step two: Seeking the right professional help
Once you’ve realised the advantages of taking your alcohol problem seriously and finding a solution, it’s important to seek the right help. The reason why you need professional help is that you need motivation, advice, and medical guidance if you struggle to overcome your withdrawal symptoms.
One of the best ways to help you deal with an alcohol problem and to learn how to quit drinking is to undergo rehabilitation. Most people don’t realise just how effective the combination of therapy and a positive environment can have on helping them solve their drinking problem issues.
Step three: Let your intentions be known by those around you
If you decide not to attend a rehabilitation clinic and would prefer treatment at home, then it’s important to let those around you understand your intentions so that they do not force you to consume alcohol and so they won’t feel offended when you decline their offer to drink alcohol with them. Consuming alcohol is considered by many as a common thing to do especially when there’s a celebration going on, but it’s vital that you let others around you know that you don’t plan to drink because you want to improve your health and deal with your drinking problem.
Step four: Attend your rehabilitation program and take it seriously
One of the major things that people misunderstand about alcohol rehabilitation clinics is that you can always walk out and cancel your treatment unless stated otherwise by the clinic.
Most people think that you’ll be locked in the clinic until you finally give up drinking by force, but the reality is that you can walk out whenever you chose to, if you don’t think the treatment and therapy are working. The idea behind this is that if you’re not taking it seriously and you’re sneaking out to buy alcohol or are only attending because friends and family members have forced you, then you’re wasting your own time and the time of the clinic.
What do you do in rehab?
Rehabilitation often involves several activities and therapies to help you safely quit drinking. Almost all rehabilitation clinics will have medical staff on hand to ensure that you’re always able to receive medical attention for your withdrawal symptoms. For most people, cutting out the alcohol in their system entirely is a sure way to invite unwanted symptoms such as headaches, tremors, and fatigue. To overcome these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention and the professionals at your rehabilitation clinic will have access to medication that you can take for your withdrawal symptoms.
Overall, rehabilitation is a holistic approach to helping you quit drinking. It’s a complete solution that offers both physical and mental assistance and it approaches quitting drinking by helping you find the source of your issue instead of just dealing with the issues on the surface.
5 Things to do Instead of Drinking
If you are wondering how to stop drinking for good, the answer is to detox and do the therapy work. After that, it’s just a case of waiting it out. To help time pass, try some of the following things that you can do without drinking.
1 – Find local Groups to Join
Indulging in a new hobby or interest is a great way to pass that new free time. Better yet, joining a group will give you social stimulation, too. Having a community at your side can help you prevent relapsing into an alcohol addiction because it gives you supportive friends and professionals that you can speak to about something other than alcohol.
2 – Reconnect with old friends
When you are going through an addiction, you lose a lot of friends. It’s the nature of the addiction that it will make us use people. As such, they will eventually be driven away by our ungrateful behaviour. This can sometimes be rectified. Try reconnecting and see.
3 – Learn something New
Studying occupies some of the same centres of your brain that would have been thinking about alcohol, drinking, and getting more money to do those things. Learning something new gives you the little boost of serotonin that drinking might have given you, while also helping you advance your career.
4 – Get into Fitness
Since you are already primed to be concerned for your health, getting into the gym and your fitness level could be just the distraction you need. Don’t overdo it but making bodily gains could help you forget about your drinking woes. It’s a healthy habit that will help your appearance, too.
5 – Take up Reading
Reading could change your life if you haven’t been a reader before. If you have been a reader before? This is the time to get back into books. A new book is a new adventure, and everyone will give you the serotonin and dopamine rewards you need right now. Best of all, library membership is free…. Here are some reading suggestions.
Positive Changes when you stop Drinking Alcohol
You will notice many positive changes to when you stop drinking. Some of our favourites are as follows.
Some people are worried that their social standing will be affected when they stop drinking, but this simply isn’t true! There are plenty of people that are aware of their drinking issues and will politely decline a drink when offered.
2 – You’ll have more free time
You may find that once you quit drinking, you’ve got plenty of more time on your hands that can be used for more productive things. Drinking causes us to spend a lot of our time on dealing with withdrawal symptoms and it can cause havoc in our lives, so freeing yourself of alcohol addiction can feel liberating but it will also leave a void in your life.
3 – Your appearance will improve
You will start to look better. This is due to the rehydration of your body, the fact that you aren’t drinking away all your nutrients, and your newfound ability to hold a little weight. Similarly, if you have a terrible beer belly, stopping drinking will help[vi].
4 – You’ll have Money
You may well have no money due to drinking all the time. This problem has an easy solution…
There are lots of other benefits, but these are enough to give you something to work towards to get off alcohol.
Recognising and Managing your Reasons for Drinking
What makes you drink? Identifying the triggers that make you turn to alcoholism can define how best you manage your drinking problem. Recognising alcohol abuse is difficult so try the CAGE test method.
What is the CAGE test in Alcohol Addiction?
If you were to visit a psychologist about an addiction, they might ask you to CAGE test[vii] your problem to see if you are an addict. This is a questionnaire with four easy questions.
C- Cut down – Has anyone ever asked you to cut down your alcohol intake?
A – Annoyed – have you been annoyed at people for asking you to stop drinking so much?
G – Guilt – do you feel guilty about your drinking?
E – Eye-opener – Do you drink first thing in the morning?
If these all apply to you, then you should seek help for alcohol consumption. Work out whether to quit drinking completely or just cut down and contact us if you need rehab selection help.
Recognising Whether to Quit Alcohol or Cut Down?
Those who are in the early stages of an alcohol problem will find that it’s possible to simply cut down on your intake. This means that your body isn’t completely reliant on alcohol to function and that there is no physical or mental dependence on alcohol.
However, if your body has been exposed to alcohol for long periods of time and you have only recently started to deal with your addiction, then you might find that quitting altogether and staying away from alcohol is the best way to handle your drinking problem. This is especially true if you’ve tried to undergo an alcohol treatment in the past and were met with limited success, or if you relapsed after a period of sobriety.
What can you do to help a friend or loved one quit drinking?
If your friend or loved one is in danger of drinking too much, refer them to our pages to read about how much they ought to be drinking. Our sobriety calculator can be eye opening and we have all the resources needed to get them off to a good start.
Ask for Help to Stop Drinking Alcohol
Whether it’s seeking professional help such as from a rehabilitation clinic or phoning a service like Help4Addiction for a chat to discuss your options and how you can get started with your goal of quitting drinking, it’s important that you remember you’re never alone. There’s always help out there if you’re willing to accept it and you don’t need to put yourself at risk of trying to quit drinking on your own. If you want to speak to one of our experts for advice, then call free on 0203 955 7700 and we will be happy to guide you.
[vi] https://www.insider.com/stop-drinking-what-happens-to-your-skin-2018-8[vii] https://psychology-tools.com/test/cage-alcohol-questionnaire
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I stop drinking?
What happens if I don’t stop drinking?
How do you know if you are an alcoholic?
How do you know if your friend is an alcoholic?
What are the signs your partner is an alcoholic?
How do you know if it is time to stop drinking?
What happens the first few days after you stop drinking?
What happens in the first few weeks after you stop drinking?
Can you stop drinking on your own?
What should I drink as an alcohol alternative?
There is now a wealth of alcohol-free alternatives to wine that are available on the market. It may be, however, that something that tastes too much like alcohol could trigger you. Instead, try some healthy alternatives and experiment with delicious drinks that delight your tastebuds. Try a specialty hot chocolate or a fruit tea. Other, more tropical alternatives to alcohol, such as kombucha or coconut milk, are all good options.