Quitting drinking is both a single big decision and a series of small choices.
Deciding to stop using alcohol can be life-changing and pave the way for major growth. But it’s also the small, seemingly mundane choices we make to take better care of ourselves that add up over time. It’s the habits we develop to replace the alcohol, the support systems we rely on, and the internal reserves of strength and knowledge we discover within. In other words, quitting drinking is a process.
You might be here because you’re thinking about quitting alcohol but not sure if it makes sense for you. Or you may be fairly sure that drinking isn’t doing you any favors but you aren’t clear on the next steps. Just by taking a closer look at your relationship with alcohol, you’ve begun the recovery process (even if it doesn’t feel like it).
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of how people quit drinking, why you don’t need to hit “rock bottom” to quit, things to consider before quitting, and our own approach to building an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Remember, the important thing is that you are interested in making a change—being willing to try something new is exactly how you get started!
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Quitting Alcohol 101
Before we dive in, let’s define alcohol use disorder (AUD). Put simply, AUD is a pattern of problematic drinking that runs on a spectrum of mild, moderate, and severe. There are formal clinical criteria for diagnosing AUD used by healthcare providers but it’s also important to note that what constitutes “problematic drinking” depends on each individual. Instead of getting stuck on questions like, “Am I an alcoholic?” think of how alcohol makes you feel. If you feel that your drinking is interfering with your life in a way you don’t like, that is more than enough reason to make a change. There is no single definition of what it means to struggle with alcohol. You have a right to seek help regardless of where you land on the AUD spectrum.
The ebook, How to Quit Drinking When You Think You Can’t by our founder Holly Whitaker, describes how the preconceived notions we have about alcohol, addiction, and sobriety can become blockers to changing our drinking habits. We recommend reading the full ebook (it’s free to download!) but we’ve pulled a few helpful highlights for you here:
- Treating addiction has 2 parts. When quitting alcohol, it’s important to address the root cause of why we drink as well as the cycle of addiction itself. People drink for all kinds of different reasons (too many to list) but a few common examples include using alcohol as a way to cope with anxiety, depression, trauma, and isolation, and the effects of AUD can impact every aspect of our lives. That’s why treatment requires a holistic approach—one that addresses every part of you: your mental and physical health, your relationships, your environment, and your identities.
- Focusing on what you gain, not what you lose is helpful. We don’t need to see sobriety as a sad consequence or a punishment, but rather as a privilege and an invitation to live as our authentic selves. Instead of thinking, “I can’t drink, I am losing XYZ” you can reframe your mindset and say “Now that I have this new space in my life, I have the opportunity to do so many things I couldn’t before.”
- Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from getting started. We often carry profound fears around trying to quit drinking and not being able to. The truth is, most of us stumble along the way to sustained sobriety—it’s far more normal to fail in attempting sobriety than it is to succeed right out of the gate. If you decide to get sober and then you don’t ever drink again, that’s great! But if you do end up drinking at some point and then try again, that’s ok, too. (Remember how we said it’s a process?) The only real way to fail is by giving up or not even trying in the first place.
Why You Don’t Need to Hit Rock Bottom
A study showed that it takes an average of 10 years for a person to get help for a substance use disorder, from the onset of their symptoms to when they seek treatment. Part of the reason this delay happens is due to the expectation that we need to hit “rock bottom” before we seek help. Many of us have found ourselves spending years in the uncertain space between “My drinking isn’t that bad” and “My drinking isn’t bad enough to do anything.”
“Believing the lie we are sold that you have to hit rock bottom before you quit drinking is like accepting that your only choice is to find out how bad things can get. It isn’t. You don’t have to go there—you can pivot right now and instead decide that you want to see how good things can get. Which one sounds better to you?” – Lael Atkinson, Tempest Recovery Coach
“Rock bottom” is also a deeply personal experience—many folks experience a form of crisis or reckoning that creates a catalyst for positive change. It may be a single event or it may be over a long period of time. If you’ve experienced rock bottom and moved on afterward, that’s great! But if you haven’t had your “rock bottom” moment, know that you can do something about your drinking without having to wait for it to arrive.
Preparing to Quit
First of all, if you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve decided to give quitting a try, congratulations! It may be for today, it may be for a month, or maybe longer. You don’t have to figure out that part right now.
If you’re ready to do this, but also asking, “Wait, how do I do this?” we’ve got a few tips to get you started:
- Do some research. If you’re the type who likes to get a lot of information before you commit to something (we do that, too!), there’s plenty of research you can do. You can check out our library of free resources on sobriety, and our detailed guide, So you want to quit drinking, now what? You can also check out an online recovery meeting or sobriety forum or try following some sober Instagrammers.
- Talk with a therapist. Like any major change, quitting drinking can also involve intense emotions. If you already see a therapist, let them know of your plans to quit so they can better support you. If you don’t already see a mental health professional, now is a good time to start working with one. You can find a therapist who specializes in addiction, or check out our guides on teletherapy and our resources for finding affordable mental health care (including both low-cost and no-cost services).
- Build up your support network. Support systems are crucial when it comes to changing your relationship with alcohol. Connecting with others helps us deal with loneliness and isolation (two big triggers for drinking) and it can help improve our feelings of self-acceptance. Support networks are unique to each person—they can be made up of friends, family, doctors, therapists, coaches, support groups, forums, etc.—it all depends on what works best for you!
- Stock up on alcohol-free drinks. If you used to keep wine or beer in the fridge, put some chilled seltzer or juice in its place. If you’re a tea drinker, grab an extra box of your favorite blend, since you’ll probably be brewing it more often. This may seem like a minor suggestion but it’s actually pretty important!
- Communicate your boundaries (especially with people who drink). Letting your partner/friends/family know how you are feeling can help them understand what you’re going through, and it can open up a dialogue. And if you can’t deal with having alcohol around when you’re trying to quit drinking, it’s ok! These kinds of things can directly impact your sobriety so it’s important to be transparent.
How Tempest Membership Can Help You Quit Drinking
At Tempest, we believe in an integrated approach to recovery—one treats the whole person, by addressing the root causes of alcohol use as well as the cycle of addiction. We empower our members to quit drinking and live alcohol-free, using a combination of education, community, and support.
Here’s an overview of our approach:
- You’ll learn about addiction, how to lessen cravings, and why you drink in the first place through weekly lessons, study groups, live workshops, discussions, and Q&As.
- You can connect to a welcoming community of like-minded folks who understand what you’re going through with group support meetings, identity-based groups, and our private online community.
- You’ll build new habits to replace drinking, and develop new self-care rituals for the morning, during the day, and winding down at night.
How Tempest Membership Works
Start with our annual Core Membership plan, and customize it based on the level of support you need by adding on our 4-week intensive, clinically-proven to help you quit drinking. Once you’ve enrolled, you can also sign up for one-on-one Accountability Coaching for an additional layer of support.
About Core Membership
Our annual membership plan can help you build an alcohol-free life you love, no matter where you are on your recovery journey. You’ll get practical tools, expert-led lessons, and guidance from our Care Team, and you’ll get started right away with a 7-day introduction to our foundational philosophy and empowering approach to recovery.
Our in-depth, 4-week Intensive is the only digital recovery program clinically proven to help you stop drinking. If you are totally new to sobriety, if you are drinking and would like to quit, or if you’d like to learn ways to manage anxiety and/or depression without alcohol, we recommend taking our Intensive as an add-on to Core Membership.
For more details on Core Membership and the Intensive add-on, visit our membership page.
About Accountability Coaching
If you’re looking for more personalized support, Tempest members have the option to sign up for Accountability Coaching. You’ll receive 4 sessions with a trauma-informed Recovery Coach to identify your goals and create a plan of action towards achieving them.
Other Resources to Check Out
- How to Know If You’re Ready to Quit Drinking: An overview of the common signs and questions you may encounter when trying to figure out if you should quit.
- The Most Common Questions About Quitting Drinking, Answered: The top 5 questions from the sober-curious folks in our community, answered.
- 3 Ways to Stop Drinking *Right Now*: Tips on starting your sobriety journey today.
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This may feel like a lot of information to absorb at once, so we’d just like to remind you to be kind to yourself and to go at a pace that works for you. Any goal that’s worth achieving is going to be an ongoing journey, and real, sustainable change is built one step at a time, slowly and incrementally. And by showing up today and doing this research, you’re already doing the work!
Please note, Tempest is not a detox program. If you are in acute addiction or experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, you should seek medical attention immediately.