How to Stop Drinking Alcohol
Is cracking open a cold beer or pouring yourself a glass of wine your go-to after a long day? If so, you’re far from alone. While alcohol consumption is often a relatively harmless, enjoyable habit, it can be a slippery slope into something more harmful, for many. In this regard, you may want to learn about how to stop drinking alcohol.
If you’re interested in how to stop drinking alcohol or lessening your consumption, or just trying to sort fact from fiction when it comes to healthy vs unhealthy alcohol consumption, read on to learn how to stop drinking alcohol.
Alcohol Consumption Statistics in the U.S.
In general, Americans and alcohol are no strangers to one another, and our already-high-on-average consumption in the U.S. is only on the rise in recent years.
In 2020, the research showed the average American downed around nine drinks per week, or 2.3 gallons a year. This comes at a cost of an estimated 95,000 people dying annually due to alcohol related deaths, making it the third leading cause of preventable deaths in this country. These death rates are on the rise in both men and women alike.
So just what’s considered “healthy” or normal drinking? The jury’s still out if any significant health benefits to drinking exist (we have all heard that a nightly glass of red wine has health benefits, but the data is not so clear).
To stay in the moderate range though, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise up to one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. These same guidelines also define heavy drinking as more than three drinks in any day for women and more than four drinks in any day for men.
Reasons to Consider Reducing Your Alcohol Consumption
Quitting drinking alcohol altogether is a must for those with certain health concerns or for people on certain medications. It’s also necessary if you struggle with alcoholism or alcohol dependency. This is a decision that you should absolutely seek out help with, from a trusted doctor, addiction specialist, support group, rehab clinic, or all of the above.
But even those who are not dependent on alcohol or are medically required to give it up may decide to lessen their consumption or quit altogether. There are many reasons one might make this decision, from wanting to improve one’s sleep, to saving money, to losing weight, to lessening anxiety and improving mental clarity.
If you’re dependent on alcohol and consuming large quantities regularly, the side effects become severe and the need to quit drinking becomes that much more pressing.
Side Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumptions
In general, a healthy and moderate alcohol consumption, like an occasional happy hour with friends or glass of wine several nights out of the week even, is not something to worry about. But individual health factors, tolerance, family history, and dependency must all be taken into consideration. What’s healthy for one person can be problematic for another.
When drinking progresses from light to moderate and into the category of heavy drinking, the health implications become much more severe. (A “heavy” drinker is defined as a woman who has more than eight drinks a week or a man who has more than 15. Please note, not all heavy drinkers are alcoholics or alcohol dependent.)
If left untreated, the side effects will likely include life threatening disease and ultimately, death. It can also cause:
- Increased risk of accident, like car crashes
- Impaired reaction time
- Lack of productivity
- Social problems, like changes to mood and loss of employment
- Mental problems, like trouble with memory or dementia
- Weakening of the immune system
- Increased risk of alcohol poisoning
- Increased blood pressure
- Various types of cancer affecting the throat, liver, colon, breast, mouth, or esophagus
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
Tips for Reducing Your Alcohol Consumption
Here are some tips that can help make the process of giving up drinking as smooth and successful as possible.
1. Set a Goal
Do you plan to give up alcohol cold turkey or simply reduce your consumption? Maybe you want to try dropping your consumption in half and eventually working your way to quit entirely? Figure out the way that feels best and seems most likely for you to stick to, and write it down!
2. Find New Habits and Outlets
If grabbing a drink after work or on the weekends is hardwired into your routine, replace it. Don’t simply try to white knuckle your way through abstaining. You might create new “happy hour” routines like calling a friend, taking a long walk, or enjoying a different, nonalcoholic drink.
3. Get Support
Don’t try to go at quitting alcohol alone. Tell trusted friends and family of your plans, and if needed, get support from various groups - either in-person or online. Sharing your goals with loved ones can both give you accountability, making your more likely to stick to it, and will also provide you with needed support.
4. Rise Above Peer Pressure
It’s likely that when you decide to quit drinking, you will hear some comments or pushback from those in your life. Prepare for this and have a ready-to-go response for the first time someone asks, “Why aren’t you drinking?” Get comfortable saying, “No thanks,” and it will get easier with time.
What Benefits Can You Expect?
Those who quit alcohol can expert all sorts of payoffs from simple, tangible perks like extra money in the bank account to a healthier, more energized body, better relationships, and more time to do the things you love (minus a hangover.) Long term, quitting drinking can have a host of positive effects on the health of your liver, heart, blood pressure, and immune system.
Just like alcohol consumption is a very personal matter, so is the decision to fully abstain or decrease your consumption. Everyone’s relationship with alcohol looks different and it may change over the course of your life and during certain life events.
If you’re an alcoholic or someone suffering from any substance abuse and need support, please reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's free, confidential 24/7 national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).