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, once you have made the decision to stop drinking alcohol, this page contains some tips that may help.
Important: Before you stop drinking, talk to your GP or local health professional if you think that you will find it hard to stop drinking or if you are worried that you may be at risk of alcohol dependence. Our Support hub contains a list of national and regional alcohol services that can provide support, information and 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. It may even encourage someone else to give up or cut down with you.
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 regular 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.
If you drink every night at home in front of the TV, start by designating a couple of days a week as alcohol-free days. This can soon become a new habit and may encourage you to add even more alcohol-free days to the week. Always remember the low-risk guidelines – less than 11 standard drinks spread out over the week for women and less than 17 standard drinks for men. These drinks should never be saved up for one session and aim for at least two alcohol-free days in the week.
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.
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.