How to stop drinking alcohol completely

There are many different reasons why you might want to stop drinking alcohol. These can include developing a health condition that could be affected by alcohol, religious reasons or simply because you want to have a healthier lifestyle. Whatever your reasons, this page contains some tips that may help you to stop drinking alcohol and the potential benefits of not drinking.

If you think you or someone you know might have a serious drinking problem, you should consult your GP or another medical professional about it as soon as possible. Our Support Services directory contains a list of national and regional alcohol support services that you can go to for advice.

Make your intentions known

Everyone has their own personal reason for making this change. Tell your family and friends that you’re trying to stop drinking alcohol and explain why. This way, you can share your successes with them, and they’ll understand why you’ve started turning down drinks or trips to the pub. Frequently reminding yourself and the people close to you why you want to stop drinking can help keep you on track, and may even encourage someone else to give up or cut down with you.

Avoid temptation

In the early stages, it’s a good idea to avoid situations where you may be tempted to drink. This could mean opting out of the weekly pub quiz for a while, or if you tend to drink when eating out, try going to restaurants that don’t sell alcohol or simply volunteering to drive. Similarly, try to identify the times when you would usually drink and fill the gap with something else. So if you would usually head to the pub after work on a Friday evening, you could organise to meet friends at the cinema, or if you’re giving up alcohol in pursuit of a new, healthier you, why not start taking a weekly exercise class or a trip to the swimming pool to help you wind down?

Identifying your ‘triggers’ (times when you’re tempted to drink) is important, particularly if you’ve tried and struggled to stop drinking in the past. Try to identify why you were unsuccessful – did you still go to the pub most evenings? Did you explain your reasons for not drinking to your partner? Was alcohol still readily available at home?

Give up or gradually reduce your drinking?

If you want to stop drinking alcohol as part of a move towards a healthier lifestyle, cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink as opposed to giving up alcohol completely can help bring lots of health benefits, and can be easier to stick to. Reducing the amount you drink can also be an effective stepping stone to giving up alcohol completely in the future.

Cutting down doesn’t have to be complicated. If you drink every night, start by designating a couple of days a week as alcohol-free days. This can soon become habit, the personal challenge helping remove the temptation and perhaps encouraging you to add more alcohol-free days. Always remember the low-risk guidelines – up to 11 standard drinks spread out over the week for women and 17 standard drinks for men. These drinks should never be saved up for one session and you should aim for at least two alcohol-free days in the week.

Here are some more tips to help you drink less

Reward progress

It’s important that you acknowledge the fact that making changes to your lifestyle can be difficult and that you reward yourself with something if you are making progress. It's equally important not to be too hard on yourself if you slip up every once in a while. An easy way to keep track of how you’re doing and keep your motivation up is to give yourself short-term goals. Perhaps you could aim firstly for an alcohol-free week, then an alcohol-free month, for example.

If you tend to drink in front of the TV after work, try replacing that glass of wine with something else you enjoy, or treat yourself to some new clothes or a day out with the money you’re saving on alcohol. The cost of alcohol mounts up quickly – you could try putting aside the money you would normally spend on alcohol at home or while out, and spend it on another treat at the end of the week or the month.

Use our Drinks Calculator to see how much you could save

Enjoy the benefits

Whether you’re cutting alcohol out of your life completely or cutting down gradually, you may notice a number of improvements to the way you look and feel. Among other things, you might find you have more energy, that you’re sleeping better, or that you’ve lost a bit of weight. In the long term you will also be helping to reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related health conditions including cancer, liver disease or heart disease and could lower your blood pressure.

Learn more about the benefits of drinking less