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Top Tips for Long-Term Sobriety from Alcohol Rehab

Top Tips for Long-Term Sobriety from Alcohol Rehab
Written by Seth Fletcher on June 30, 2016
Medical editor Dr. Jonathan Siegel
Last update: May 13, 2024

Alcoholism is a disease, a complicated issue that is associated with problems of the heart, mind, and soul. If you think your alcohol use is becoming an issue, you may have to reduce your drinking. You may even see the special benefits of complete abstinence, one day at a time. It can feel difficult and even impossible to quit drinking, especially if you have become dependent on alcohol. People often drink to forget their problems or escape their responsibilities, making it difficult to let go of the bottle. Alcoholism affects every kind of person. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, education, finances, or any other variable. However, with the right level of commitment and guidance, you can stop drinking alcohol no matter how heavy a user you are or help someone stop drinking. The Canadian Centre for Addiction offers top tips on how to stop drinking for a fresh start on the path to recovery. 

Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol use disorder is a complicated problem that affects people from all backgrounds
  • Alcoholism often results in serious physical and psychological consequences.
  • You can stop drinking on your own with the right amount of commitment and guidance
  • Many people with a drinking problem may require professional help.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the medical term for a severe drinking problem. It can also be referred to as alcoholism. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, an estimated 3.2% of the Canadian population, about 886,000 people ages 15 and older, had a drinking problem or were dependent on alcohol in 2012.

Alcohol’s social acceptability makes it challenging for people to determine whether their drinking is becoming a problem. College students and teenagers, for example, will binge drink as a passage rite, while alcohol is a staple of many celebratory occasions. It takes a professional to diagnose alcohol use disorder definitively. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-V provides the criteria for AUD diagnosis. AUD could be mild, moderate, or severe, according to the DSM. A person must exhibit two of 11 symptoms under 12 months for a diagnosis.

The Canadian Centre for Addiction offers AUD treatment in a luxurious, serene environment, conducive for full recovery. Our experts will evaluate your situation and help you find the best way to quit drinking in an atmosphere that inspires lasting change.

The 11 Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (DSM V)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder V lists these 11 criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder.

  • When you drink, you often consume more than you want to 
  • You desire and try to stop drinking but cannot
  • You spend a lot of time trying to get alcohol, drinking or being hungover
  • You often crave beer, wine or other types of alcohol
  • Your drinking has impacted your work, school performance, or family life
  • Continued drinking even after negative effects on your social life or relationships
  • Recurrent alcohol use, even in physically hazardous situations like driving or operating heavy machinery
  • Giving up or reducing participation in important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use
  • Continued alcohol use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol
  • You have built up a tolerance and require increased amounts of alcohol to feel drunk, and you feel sick without it
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop or reduce your alcohol intake

If you or a loved one has two or more of the listed symptoms, they may be pointers to alcohol use disorder. Many avoid the “alcoholic” tag, but there’s no need for shame and accepting you have a problem is often the starting point to seeking treatment and support services. 

The Effects of Alcoholism

Everyone has had too much to drink at some point. Drinking too much often results in a terrible hangover the following day, usually treatable with a few home remedies. Consistent drinking, however, can ruin one’s life. Heavy drinking affects your health and finances leading to serious emotional strain.

Alcoholism will push your loved ones and friends away, while those who stick around will comment on your drinking whenever they can. The isolation and emotional distress associated with drinking can lead to depression. Heavy drinkers with depression will often drink more to deal with the symptoms. 

The effects of alcoholism can be emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual:

Emotional Effects

Alcoholics are usually unhappy people; that’s why they became heavy drinkers at first. To quit drinking alcohol, you must face your fears. Alcohol addiction comes with various unpleasant emotions: low self-esteem, depression, and sadness at their inability to stop drinking. There are no quick fixes to these problems, and learning to quit drinking means finding healthier ways of dealing with your problems. This way, you can tackle life’s issues confidently and, more importantly, soberly.

Cognitive Effects

Alcohol will impair one’s ability to think clearly. It affects one’s ability to sustain concentration, to multitask, to problem solve, and to initiate and follow-through with goals.

Physical Effects 

Drinking heavily takes a toll on the human body. A study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health showed that alcohol contributed to 8% of all Canadian deaths (under age 70). Liver damage is a common and dangerous adverse effect of heavy drinking. The liver filters toxins from the blood and is involved in fat breakdown and food digestion. Excessive alcohol consumption strains the liver, causing cirrhosis and increased liver cancer risk. 

Alcoholism also causes hypertension and hypoglycemia. Alcoholism may suffer digestive issues, short-term amnesia, and even complete blackouts. Heavy drinkers often worry about withdrawal symptoms when they consider quitting alcohol. However, withdrawal symptoms last a few days to weeks, while the health problems of prolonged heavy drinking last for a lifetime. 

Spiritual Effects

When we speak of spiritual effects we are referring to principles. For example: honesty, positive thinking, generosity, kindness, patience, tolerance, humility, and courage. When a person is under the negative grip of alcohol, there is often a lost sense of purpose and of being cut-off from the best parts of themselves, disconnected from others, and emotionally withdrawn from the sunlight of the spirit.

The Benefits of Quitting

There’s a lot of talk about alcohol’s health benefits. Indeed, some wine may do your heart some good, but eating healthy and working out offers the same benefits without the risks. If the dangers of alcoholism are not enough to make you say to yourself, “I want to quit drinking” or “I need to stop drinking,” the benefits of living alcohol-free should be an added incentive. Here are some benefits of quitting alcohol. 

Enhanced Mental Health

Alcoholism often co-occurs with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Heavy alcohol use can trigger these conditions or worsen pre-existing cases. Striving for an alcohol-free life decreases existing symptoms and improves your overall mental health.

Better Nutrition

Drinking can deprive your body of vital nutrients by interfering with digestion, storage, and utilization of food. Heavy drinkers tend to replace meals with their favourite drink, eating less than they need. Quitting alcohol and building better habits can help your body gain the necessary nutrients for proper functioning.  

Improved Sleep 

Alcohol interferes with the circadian rhythm, leading to sleep irregularities. It also increases the risk of sleep apnea and snoring by relaxing the muscles in the throat, affecting sleep quality. Quitting alcohol can help restore your sleep-wake cycle to normal and improve the quality of your sleep. 

Healthier Weight 

Alcoholic beverages contain sugar and empty calories that can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stopping alcohol use allows you to reduce your caloric intake and adopt lifestyle choices that lead to a healthier weight. 

Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Alcohol abuse and addiction are associated with a plethora of cardiovascular problems. Heavy drinkers are twice as likely to suffer a cardiovascular mishap within 24 hours as people who don’t drink at all. Your heart will be better for it if you quit alcohol.

Improved Memory and Thinking

Prolonged alcohol use can shrink the part of the brain responsible for memory and cognitive functions. Quitting alcohol for an extended period may allow positive changes in brain structure. It may also help reverse adverse effects on thinking, memory and other cerebral functions.

Improved Skin Appearance

Heavy alcohol use can cause dry skin, jaundice, inflammation, broken capillaries, and loose, saggy skin. Quitting alcohol can help reverse these effects leading to an improved skin appearance. 

Improved Immunity

Alcohol affects immune system function, preventing the production of sufficient white blood cells that ward off pathogens. People who abuse or are addicted to alcohol consumption often struggle with flu, colds, pneumonia, and other illnesses. Quitting alcohol allows your body to be better able to fight these diseases.  

Decreased Cancer Risk

There is a positive relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of certain types of cancer. Limiting or abstaining from alcohol use can reduce your chances of developing cancer. People undergoing cancer treatment can also reduce the risk of complications by quitting alcohol.  

10 Tips to Stop Drinking Alcohol for Good

If you are addicted to drinking alcohol, you may very well require medical advice or professional rehab treatment to quit alcohol for good. Giving up alcohol often comes with intense cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms that make people return to old habits. Even if you don’t quit alcohol immediately, you can start taking steps to reduce consumption and, ultimately, quit drinking altogether. CCFA offers 10 top tips for quitting drinking:

1. Consider the Pros and Cons of Drinking

Considering the pros and cons of drinking means comparing what alcohol offers you to what it costs you. Make a list of what you gain from drinking and compare it to what drinking takes away from you. If alcohol helps you relax, you should consider that this relaxation is costing you money, time, and energy you could be channeling toward dealing with your problems. 

2. Explore Your Relationship with Drinking

Maybe you’re not addicted to alcohol, but you find out that you can’t stop whenever you start drinking with friends. Perhaps you only crave alcohol whenever you’re stressed or are facing a difficult situation. Exploring your relationship with drinking means taking time to understand why you drink the way you do.

Identify Your Triggers

Your triggers are places, people, or events that make you crave alcohol. You will find sticking to your sobriety plan challenging whenever you’re around them. Knowing your triggers helps you plan ways of managing your cravings whenever you encounter them. Your plan for dealing with triggers may involve calling a friend or reminding yourself of the reasons you decided to quit drinking. 

3. Limits How Much You Drink

Giving up alcohol “cold turkey” is not possible for most heavy drinkers. Instead of trying to stop drinking entirely and failing, you should consider limiting how much alcohol you consume. Assess your daily alcohol consumption. If you take five drinks per day, consider reducing it to three and consuming it with meals. You can also limit your drinking to weekends only. If you’re committed and consistent, you may be able to reduce your drinking to one drink daily.  

You must take firm steps and avoid negative influences to limit your drinking successfully. So, you will have to avoid former drinking buddies and try to start making new friends. You may also use this period to reconnect with those who left because of your drinking habits. Keep a calendar somewhere visible so you can tick off the days you successfully limit your alcohol intake. Don’t despair or call it quits if you slip up or drink above your daily limit, simply continue the next day.

4. Set Goals and Make a Plan

It is not enough to announce that you want to quit. You must set a clear goal (in writing) with the steps for how you intend to go about it. When will you start? Who will you tell? What will you do on days you don’t meet your goals? These are some questions you must have answers to before you begin. Place a copy of your plan on your bathroom mirror, or somewhere you can always see it. Share your plan with someone you trust, letting them know how they can keep you accountable and help you meet your goals. Your plan should also include a system for measuring your progress, so you can know whether to continue with it or make necessary adjustments. 

Keep a Journal

It helps to keep a journal when trying to quit drinking. Journalling helps you understand your relationship with alcohol. Write about your drinking patterns, feelings about drinking, triggers, and the kind of life you’ll have when you overcome alcoholism. Try to write daily. Your journal entries do not have to be long or profound, they should be just enough to keep you going. 

5. Consider Changing Your Environment

Whether you know it or not, your environment strongly influences your drinking behaviour. A person in an environment with limited alcohol access is unlikely to become an alcoholic. It will be challenging to hit your sobriety goals if you always encounter triggers. Making some changes in your environment can help make your sobriety journey easier.

Remove all alcohol from your home, car, and other places you frequent. Knowing you have to make an effort to get alcohol whenever you have to drink can discourage you long enough to find an alternative. Have replacement beverages like teas, sodas, and water handy to help handle your cravings. You should also engage in activities like meditation, games, or affirmation recitations to distract your mind whenever you have cravings. 

6. Develop New Positive Habits

Alcoholics tend to settle into a drinking routine. You will have to get rid of some of your old routines and cultivate healthier ones. If you watch TV after work with a glass of wine, you may need to give up your screen time. Find a different way to unwind that does not involve drinking. Read a book, take a leisurely stroll, or spend time with your loved ones. Spending time with non-drinkers will keep your mind off alcohol. You should also try not to spend long periods alone, especially in the beginning, as this can make you feel intense cravings. 

7. Let Others Know What You’re Doing 

Telling others about your plans to quit drinking will motivate you to stick to your decision. Support is essential to recovery, and your friends and loved ones can provide the encouragement you need to persevere in tough moments. Talking about your attempts to quit can also encourage others to explore their relationship with alcohol and make healthier drinking decisions. 

Always Know What to Say

Drinking is a common social activity, and you’ll likely find yourself in situations where you are offered a drink. Learn how to politely decline these offers and prepare a follow-up explanation if probed for reasons.

Seek Support from Communities 

Deciding to quit drinking can feel like a lonely journey. You may also be worried that people will judge or stigmatize you for having a drinking problem. However, you should know that there are communities and support groups of people who have been where you are currently. Members of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are at different stages of recovery, so they understand your situation and will help you through the highs and lows of your recovery journey.

8. Prioritize Self Care

Keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy provides the motivation to overcome cravings and remain sober. Staying alcohol-free gives you a physical and mental health boost which in turn energizes you to remain on the sober path. Some tips for caring for yourself include:

  • Eating healthy (avoid junk as much as possible)
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Get enough sleep every night (at least seven to nine hours)

Find New Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress is one of the reasons people turn to alcohol. One of the things you must do as you start your recovery journey is to look for new ways to let go of stress. Running, for example, allows you to channel your thoughts and emotions into a single activity. Other outlets for stress relief include:

  • Photography: An artistic opportunity to leave your house and explore your surroundings
  • Swimming: Allows you to keep fit as you enjoy the soothing comforts of the water
  • Writing: A creative outlet that takes your mind away from cravings
  • Music: Listening to music or learning to play a new instrument has a tremendous calming effect 
  • Cooking: Practicing healthy recipes is a fun way to stave off idleness that induces cravings

9. Be Persistent

It takes time and effort to overcome alcohol addiction. You will face triggers, experience cravings, and probably slip up. However, understand that slipping up does not mean that you’ve failed. There’s no need to beat yourself up. Consider every mistake a part of the recovery process. Recovery is a long journey, so all you need to do is learn from your mistakes and move forward. 

Reward Yourself

Overcoming alcoholism is a significant achievement, and the journey is rarely easy. It’s important to appreciate the step-by-step progress you make. Reward yourself as you hit your sobriety milestones. With the extra money you now have from not drinking, you could give yourself a treat for going a month without drinking or get yourself something nice for every three months you stay alcohol-free.

10. Prepare Yourself for Detoxification

If you’ve been drinking for a long time, you may experience alcohol detox when you decide to give up drinking. Your body begins to get rid of the alcohol in your system, which often comes with withdrawal symptoms. Depending on how heavy a user you were, these symptoms may be severe and include:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue 

These symptoms may last for a few days, and you may need to speak to someone so you can devise a plan to get through them. 

Consult a Medical Professional

While you can learn how to stop drinking on your own, the reality is that most people require help to overcome alcoholism for good. Consult a medical professional if you have trouble sticking to your plan or managing withdrawal symptoms. Some withdrawal symptoms may be life-threatening, and you’ll need a professional to navigate them safely. 

Conclusion 

It takes time to stop drinking, and you should be kind to yourself even if you don’t seem to be getting it right. Even if you’ve tried and failed to quit many times, yours is not a hopeless case. You can start afresh and spare yourself the negative impacts of alcoholism. You must admit your need for help and get in touch with those who can help you. 

CCFA is an Ontario-based facility that helps people overcome their drinking problems. We provide custom-tailored alcohol addiction treatment plans that make the recovery journey as easy as possible. Our treatment plans tackle the root cause of addiction, and our success stories validate our work.

If you desire to quit drinking, you’re doing the right thing by reading this guide. Now you just have to take the next steps; learn more, ask more. Make a choice to take your life back today.

Frequently Asked Question

How can I stop drinking alcohol so fast?

You can stop drinking alcohol fast by developing and maintaining a firm commitment to an alcohol-free life. Stopping alcohol will involve a plan with steps to keep you from drinking. Seek professional medical help if you find you cannot quit on your own. Developing healthy support systems is an important part of recovery.

Can you drink alcohol and still be healthy?

Yes. You can drink alcohol and still be healthy if you drink moderately. To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol, you should not take more than two drinks per day (for men) and more than one drink per day (for women).

What gives you the same feeling as alcohol?

The excitement from alcohol comes from the release of endorphins (pleasure chemicals) in the brain. You can mimic this euphoria by replacing your drinking time with activities like physical exercise, listening to music, meditation, or hanging out with friends and loved ones. Non-alcohol beverages like kava, craft sodas, kombucha, and high-quality teas can also offer a certain buzz without the risk of a hangover the next day.

What alcohol is easiest on the liver?

All alcoholic drinks affect the liver; what matters is the quantity you consume. In terms of composition strength, the alcoholic beverages with the least effects on the liver are red wine, light beer, and tequila.

What happens after one year of no alcohol?

After a year of no alcohol, you’ll enjoy better sleep, increased energy, and greater productivity. You’ll also experience long-term health improvements and a reduced risk of developing cancer, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, and other alcohol-related complications.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

REGISTERED PSYCHOLOGIST BSC, M.ED, ED.D

Dr. Jonathan Siegel earned his doctoral degree in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto in 1986. He is a registered psychologist in private practice and has 30 years of experience conducting both assessments and counselling with a diverse group of individuals presenting with a broad range of psychological adjustment difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, and addictions.

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