Strategies to Quit Drinking
Have you been searching for some strategies to quit drinking without AA? Would you like to learn how to give up alcohol on your own without going to AA meetings or rehab? To help you achieve your goal, I’ve assembled 31 strategies to quit drinking without AA into a do’s and don’ts List. This how-to advice has been derived from a 5-step framework, which was used in my addiction recovery coaching practice for nearly a decade. In addition to these strategies, I’ll also provide more information about a free, complete, 5-step, self-help guide at the bottom of the page. I’d like to begin with what not to do. These tips are not very good strategies to quit drinking.
1. Don’t Battle with Cravings
There’s a very good reason why your cravings are unbearable. Contrary to mainstream thinking, cravings are not chemically or biologically induced. They are emotional in origin. Therefore, if you attempt to battle them without eliminating the cause or causes, you will be fighting an uphill battle that you will lose. After ten years of research, and 8 years, plus, working as an addiction recovery coach, I am convinced that alcoholism, and the cravings that come along with it, are driven by anxiety, emotional distress and depression. When these emotional states become unmanageable, and people are unable to cope, alcohol is often used as a form of emotional escape. After time, a pattern begins to develop. Alcohol dependent individuals begin to rely on alcohol as an emotional crutch. When alcohol is unavailable, anxiety, stress or depression increases, and cravings ensue. Hence, to eliminate your cravings and quit drinking, you must put your emotions in check. Focus on the causes of anxiety, stress or depression and not battling and beating cravings. Managing cravings is not one of the best strategies to quit drinking.
2. Don’t Avoid High-Risk Situations
You have a drinking problem. Why is it necessary to make your problem everyone else’s problem? You can remove every drop of liquor from your house, and avoid social gatherings and events where alcohol will be served, however, that won’t help you quit drinking or solve the problem. If you were addicted to food, as some people are, would you avoid every restaurant in town, and label them the spawn of evil? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Bottom line, if you want alcohol bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it. Quitting alcohol without AA is not a matter of avoidance but rather a question of unearthing and eliminating the causes. If there is an unsightly weed in your backyard, would you just avoid going back there? The answer is to confront the weed and pull it out by the root. Avoiding alcohol is not one of the top strategies to quit drinking.
3. Don’t Fight Destructive Urges
Willpower has absolutely nothing to do with overcoming alcohol addiction. There are reasons why you have destructive urges. Sometimes those urges are self-destructive. Perhaps you are attempting to escape from the one person you are uncomfortable being around – you. Hence, you attempt to push him or her out of your life with alcohol. Or, maybe your destructive urges are being directed at another. Perhaps you are secretly angry at a wrongdoer and you seek retribution for their actions. Instead of trying to fight your urges, eliminate them by getting to know, like and trust yourself and by addressing the issue at hand with the perpetrator of the atrocities in question. Fighting the effects of alcoholism is not one of the better strategies to quit drinking.
4. Don’t Endure Withdrawal Symptoms
Contrary to conventional thought, I do not believe that alcohol withdrawal is chemical in nature. I believe withdrawal is directly linked to severe anxiety, emotional distress or depression. Furthermore, I don’t believe anyone has to endure withdrawal symptoms to quit drinking. Before you pull the plug, and stop drinking cold turkey, take steps to significantly reduce your anxiety, stress or depression. This will naturally and authentically lesson cravings and urges. If you continue to work in that direction, withdrawal symptoms can be avoided altogether.
5. Don’t Look for Distractions
Many people who are addicted, regardless whether it’s alcohol or drugs, often seek other forms of distraction to manage their addiction. Taking your mind off the addiction is, in essence, just another form of emotional escape. When you get down to the core, addiction is a distraction. Don’t distract yourself from the distraction. If you want to quit drinking for good, then you need to find the courage to address the issues you originally distracted yourself from. You can run, but you can not hide. In the end, the issues will find you. Distracting yourself from your problems is definitely not one of the best strategies to quit drinking.
6. Don’t use Liquid Courage
If you struggle with confidence in social settings, then I would be willing to bet there’s something wrong on a deeper level. You and I both know that using alcohol as a shot of liquid courage is only temporary. Once the effects of the alcohol wear off, you’ll be back to square one. What you didn’t realize, and perhaps you’ve figured it out along the way, is that using alcohol to boost confidence is a trap. At this point, you not only have a self-confidence problem, but, now, you have a drinking problem too. Instead of falsely boosting your confidence, increase it authentically. Set some goals, take action to achieve them, and then set more. Even if you fail at first, try again. Keep setting and achieving. Before you know it, you’ll be brimming with confidence. And, you’ll be able to quit drinking faster and easier than you thought. I would place using alcohol as a confidence booster in the bad strategies to quit drinking category.
7. Don’t Displace Problem Drinking
The success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous is roughly 5-10 percent. To be completely honest, you are more likely to quit drinking on your own and without help. But, I believe there is something to be gleaned from the members who achieve sobriety. In my opinion, most of them quit drinking and become sober via behavioral transference. In other words, they displace their drinking. They don’t authentically quit alcohol addiction, they just trade it for an AA addiction. Basically, alcohol is displaced by meetings and ideology. Is that true recovery from alcohol? I don’t believe that it is. So, the lesson to be learned here is; don’t displace your drinking. Instead, unearth and eliminate the causes.
8. Don’t Label Yourself Damaged Goods
When it’s all said and done, we are all people. Just because you took a wrong turn, and traveled down the wrong path, doesn’t mean you should be branded as an inferior navigator. Most people who struggle with alcohol addiction have endured some type of abuse and/or emotional trauma. As a result, they usually have an unfavorable opinion of themselves and often believe that they should be placed in the scratch and dent aisle at the appliance store of life. That isn’t true but that’s the way they feel nonetheless. Then AA comes along and tells these souls that in addition to being damaged goods, they are also alcoholics. How does tagging yourself with the label alcoholic increase your self-esteem or help you lead a normal and happy life. I believe this is tantamount to self-persecution and self-ostracization. If you put yourself in that position, then it is difficult to feel comfortable around anyone other than those who struggle with the same plight. To say that you are a recovering alcoholic is absurd. That’s equivalent to being an incarcerating inmate. You’re either in jail or you are free. So, what’s it going to be? You can learn how to give up alcohol on your own without attending meetings or labeling yourself an alcoholic.
9. Don’t Self-Castigate
In the Twelve-Step Program members are taught to believe that they are riddled with personal shortcomings and defects of character. What’s even worse is they are then directed to hand over the responsibility of removing them to the higher power. As a result, many members remain stuck in an inferior mindset and adopt victimization. This also excuses personal responsibility. A relationship with the divine is anything but one sided. God has given you the ability to change, grow and evolve on your own. This is a personal choice of course. I can tell you from experience, though. You can not stop change. You can hand off personal responsibility and play a victim if you’d like, but the outcome won’t be positive. If you want to learn how to quit alcohol, authentically and completely, then take responsibility for your behavior and strive to become a better person.
10. Don’t Trade Drugs
In recent years, medication assisted therapy has emerged as a recovery option. Psychotropic drugs are being used to treat alcohol and drug addictions. If we’re really honest, though, this is just trading one drug for another. How does that amount to real recovery? In my mind, it doesn’t. The causes of alcoholism still remain; you’re just getting your drug in another form. Personally, I don’t see a positive outcome here. If you address the underlying issues, you won’t need medication or alcohol. If you want to learn how to stop drinking alcohol forever, do the tough, personal development work that is required. Don’t circumvent it and take the easy way out.
I don’t believe these are very effective strategies to quit drinking without AA. Now, let’s cover what is effective and what you should do:
Best Strategies to Quit Drinking Alcohol
11. Close the Escape Hatch Door
As I mentioned in a previous strategy, I believe that alcoholism is a form of emotional escape. It is often driven by anxiety, stress and depression. However, they escape hatch is also opened by low-self-esteem, inadequate personal power and distorted personal identity. Emotional deterrents such as fear, anger, regret and shame also play a role as do false narratives and personal agendas. Whatever you are running from, you can’t run far enough. There is no corner deep or dark enough to escape from the truth. As Buddha said, “There are two things which can not be hidden; the sun and the truth.” They always rise. Escape is not the answer. The solution is to face the truth. Take a stand on principle and stop running. In the end, you will be far better off than you can imagine. This is one of the effective strategies to quit drinking.
12. Put Yourself in Good Hands
Commonly in Alcoholics Anonymous and support groups, there’s an overarching principle of turning your life over to God. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a one-sided relationship. In truth, a relationship with the divine is a partnership. I call it a Limited Liability Divine Partnership (LLDP). God is not responsible for your transgressions or improprieties; however, he will forgive you for them and give you the freedom to continue trying until you get it right. Whether you believe this or not, and I do, you are here to learn, grow and evolve. It’s your life and your path. Take responsibility for them. To remove your hands from the wheel, in the hopes that God will steer, is a recipe for veering off the road and into a ditch. Instead, keep your hands on the wheel but ask for guidance. Surrender is not the answer. If you think it’s time to quit drinking, and you want to give up alcohol for good, then active receptivity is the solution. Putting the responsibility in someone else’s hands is not one of the better strategies to quit drinking.
13. Weed out Toxic Relationships
AA instructs members to take a fearless, moral inventory. There’s nothing wrong with self-evaluation and self-development. That is part of recovery. However, I would also recommend that you take a relationship inventory. In life, relationships don’t always prove to be loving, supportive, and mutually beneficial. In many cases, they are completely toxic. This begins with immediate family members. No one ever expects the people closest to them to dole out abuse and mistreatment. However, they are often the first to do so. These patterns don’t usually end in the immediate family, though. They are often extended to relatives, intimate partners, co-workers and friends. If you want to quit drinking, and get over alcoholism permanently, then you must put a stop to the abuse and mistreatment. Take an honest relationship inventory. Weed out the toxic relationships and the dysfunctional behavior attached to them. If you want to give up alcohol, this is one of the strategies to quit drinking that you must not ignore.
14. Draw Lines or Sever Ties
Once you’ve taken a relationship inventory, and weeded out the toxic ones, then you need to address the dysfunctional behavior. Will this task be easy? No, it won’t be! It takes a great deal of courage to confront dysfunctional and toxic behavior. But it is worth the effort – not to mention that family, relationship dynamics is the direct fundamental cause of alcoholism. Liberating yourself from toxic behavior is the keystone to quit drinking. To get started, set boundaries where necessary. This is not a debate. Decide what is right for you, draw a line in the sand, and stand firm. If the individual crosses the line, and refuses to respect your wishes, then send him or her packing. This is hard. But, there is no other way if you want to quit drinking.
15. Put out the Fire
Are you holding on to anger and resentment? Why are you burning yourself up? That is what you’re doing, whether you have realized it or not. Anger is an intentional and hostile thought that is directed at another and results in the unintentional act of setting oneself on fire. Instead of lighting yourself on fire, address the issues at hand with the wrongdoers in question. Even if they don’t apologize for their actions, you will have gotten the issue off your chest, and you can part company and go your own way in peace. Putting out the fire is absolutely in the best strategies to quit drinking category.
16. Forgive and Forget
Forgiveness is a very important part of recovery, although it is also grossly misunderstood. Most people associate forgiveness with “turning the other cheek.” However, that is not what forgiveness is at all. Just because you turn the other cheek doesn’t mean it’s OK for an offender to continue slapping your face. The truth is; forgiveness is born in righteous indignation. When you stand up for what is right and just, forgiveness will follow. Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It is not for the offender. If the wrongdoer apologizes for their behavior, then perhaps you can reconcile the relationship. To do so without an apology, and a commitment to change, would be suicide. Unfortunately, that is what most AA members are instructed to. They are asked to make amends with some of the very toxic people who drove them to drink in the first place. I have nothing against making amends if possible. Once again, though, to make amends with an unapologetic and toxic person is suicide. To quit drinking, you must forgive for you. Forgiveness is only one of the effective strategies to quit drinking if you follow through on setting boundaries.
17. Burn and Bury the Baseball Bat
Many people who struggle with alcoholism experience an endless cycle of destructive behavior and shame. On one hand, they feel the need to alleviate their anxiety, stress or depression and escape from emotional issues. On the other, when they recover from being inebriated, they regret their behavior and feel a deeps sense of shame. As a result, they beat themselves up, senselessly, with a proverbial baseball bat. Does that resonate with you? If you want to quit drinking alcohol, then, for starters, take the bat out back, burn it, and bury it. Then, unearth and eliminate the issues which are driving you to drink. Self-forgiveness is crucial when we talk about effective strategies to quit drinking.
18. Face your Fear
Fear is a paralyzing emotion. It freezes many alcohol dependent individuals in their tracks. As a result, they remain on the dysfunctional side of the road and endure toxic behavior. Ironically, the uncharted territory, which they are avoiding, is usually far better than where they are standing. In all the years I have spent helping clients quit drinking without going to AA meetings, never have I once witnessed anyone arrive on the other side and decide to turn around and go back. Fear is mostly definitely real. It can not be displaced or dismissed. If you want to quit drinking, you must face it by boldly going where you have never gone before. Overcoming fear should definitely be included in the top strategies to quit drinking.
19. Get off the Wall and in the Dance
The only thing we ever really regret is inaction. If you regret not spending time with a family member before he or she passed, numbing your thoughts about the issue won’t rectify it. Learn from your mistake, apologize for it if possible, and start taking action. Stop sitting on the sidelines. Get you back up off the wall and get into the dance. Taking action is, without question, one of the most effective strategies to quit drinking.
20. Step off the Merry-Go-Round
You can blame your drinking and your problems on everyone else, but that won’t help you stop drinking. I did not recommend that you set boundaries or server relationships because I want you to blame everyone for your drinking. This is not about blame. Quitting drinking is about assuming personal responsibility. You have the power to assume responsibility. Unfortunately, you can not force others to take responsibility. That is why it’s necessary to set boundaries and, on occasion, sever ties. Blame is nothing more than a merry-go-round of excuse. If you want to quit drinking, you have to step of the ride and get on with life.
21. Stop Telling Tall Tales
Stop telling tall tales. No matter what you say, there isn’t a reason good enough to continue on with your destructive drinking. Just because your job is stressful, someone has wronged you, or you committed certain transgressions, doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to numb yourself to forget about the issues. If quitting drinking is the goal, then stop telling stories and get grounded in reality.
22. Give up the Scheme
In most cases, alcoholism is sustained by schemes or agendas. Using alcoholism to garner attention or avoid responsibility is misguided. Not only are these ill-conceived schemes hurting you, but I can, all but guarantee, they will back fire. Find the courage to address the issues. In the end, you’ll be better off as a result of that action, and you can give up the scheme and quit drinking.
23. Surrender your Weapon
Quite commonly, alcohol dependent individuals harbor anger and resentment towards those who are mistreating and/or abusing them. They use alcohol abuse to inflict pain, suffering, and financial hardship on the perpetrators. While they may be succeeding with that goal, in the end, that plan often results in self-destruction. This behavior is tantamount to pointing a loaded weapon at your self with the intent of harming another. To stop drinking and give up alcohol, you have got to surrender your weapon and take a diplomatic approach. Again, if the perpetrator refuses to apologize, or change his or her behavior, then sever the relationship.
24. Get Attention in the Right Places
Sometimes part-time parenting is an issue. This pattern is also present in intimate relationships as well. If you feel you have gotten short-changed by a parent or a partner, don’t look for love in all the wrong places. Engaging in alcohol abuse to get attention is not going to yield what you’re looking for. In truth, maybe you have been short-changed. To determine whether the individuals in question are cable of fulfilling your emotional needs, you must turn your attention inward. What you seek begins in your own temple. No one will ever love you more than you love you. It’s time to embrace the concept of self-love if you want to stop drinking.
25. Trust Yourself and the Flow of Life
Anxiety is defined as excessive worry, dread and concern, although I would also describe it as future-based, speculative thinking. If we take that definition a bit farther, I believe anxiety can also be described as an inability to trust the flow of life. That being said, it’s hard to trust the flow of life if you don’t trust your ability to direct it. As I described earlier, a divine relationship is a partnership. But, make no mistake; you have a hand in uncovering and fulfilling your destiny. Stop worrying so much and start taking some action. Undertake the tough, personal development required, start running down the road, and trust in your ability to leap over obstacles.
26. Return the Stress Grenades
Stress is either self-endorsed or self-induced. In translation, you are creating it. You are either allowing others to toss stress grenades in your lap, or you are throwing yourself on the grenades. If it’s the former, then you are most likely struggling with upsetting the dynamics of those relationships for one reason or another. If it’s the latter, you are most likely incurring damage to get greater love, affection or appreciation. In the end, you are taking on a great deal of stress, and you are trying to manage it with alcohol. If you want to get over alcoholism and quit drinking, return the grenades to their rightful owners. Don’t catch or throw yourself on them.
27. Climb out of the Hole
Depression is often a component of alcoholism. Unlike mainstream recovery, I do not believe depression is induced by alcoholism. If you feel a deep sense of sadness, in all likelihood, you haven’t exactly embraced the concept of self-love and you probably don’t have much meaning/purpose in your life. Depression is a bit more difficult to overcome than anxiety, at least in the initial stages. It takes a great deal of emotional strength to pull your self up and out of the pit called despair. But, you must. There’s nowhere to go but down if you continue drowning your sorrows with alcohol. If you want to quit drinking, reach down, grab on to your bootstraps, pull your self up, and start climbing. I promise; once you start, you won’t look back. Pulling you self up and out of depression is at the top of the list regarding strategies to quit drinking.
28. Bolster your Self-Esteem
If you want to hold yourself in high regard, there must be a reason to do so. Achieving lofty goals coincides with lofty thinking – about oneself. But, to build self-esteem, you can, and should, start out small. Set a small goal, make a commitment, and then go after it. If you fail, try again and again until you succeed. Failure is part of success. It is just a stepping stone. Learn from it, and use that knowledge, so you can become successful. As you find more and more success, you will begin to believe in yourself. You’ll start to value and appreciate your qualities and abilities. Before you know it, you will hold yourself in high regard, and you’ll be able to quit drinking. In fact, just the mere thought of destructive drinking will become repulsive.
29. Restore your Personal Power
Many people drink destructively because they feel powerless. Despite that fact, AA insists that people are powerless over quitting drinking. I believe that making an admission of powerlessness is both counter-productive and counterintuitive to getting and staying sober. When someone has seized your personal power, you feel as if you have lost control of your life. This often causes low-self-esteem and depression. To quit drinking you must reclaim your rights and take back your power. To be perfectly honest, you are not powerless over alcohol or anything else for that matter.
30. Create a Personal Brand
Most alcohol dependent individuals feel empty. They feel like they have an emotional hole within. Rather than addressing the issues, which are causing the emptiness, they try to find themselves in a bottle or fill the hole with alcohol. The answer is not to fill the hole with alcohol or anything else, even if it’s deemed more positive, That is exactly what happens in AA. The solution is to close the hole, permanently. The only way to do that is to establish personal identity. If you want to close the hole, quit drinking, and learn how to cure alcoholism without AA, you’ve got to build a personal brand. Decide what you stand for, what type of person you want to be, and then go for it. You are in complete control of this project. Don’t ask for or listen to advice. Only you can build it.
31. Do Something Meaningful
Right now, are you engaged in something meaningful? Do you know why you are here? Do you know what your mission is? Without meaning/purpose in their lives, people are lost. Being lost leads to sadness, hopelessness and depression. How can you feel good about yourself, when you have no direction or purpose? I’m not sure that you can. Everyone’s journey is personal and unique. Maybe your true mission revolves around your career or perhaps it entails some type of volunteer work. One thing’ is for sure, every alcohol dependent individual was not put on this earth to help others who struggle with alcoholism. That concept helps AA. It doesn’t help you. Take the journey within. Embark on a path of self-discovery and development to unlock and implement your true purpose.
In my opinion, 11 – 31 are the most effective strategies to quit drinking without AA. Below is a brief outline of my 5-step framework to quit drinking, which I used in my coaching practice.
5 Steps to Quit Drinking Alcohol
Step 1 – Unearth and Eliminate the Generators:
Based on my research and experience, I have learned that alcoholism is generated in family, relationship dynamics. Various patterns such as control, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, part-time-parenting and substance–abusive parenting form the basis for alcohol dependency. To quit drinking, it is imperative that you address these issues. This is absolutely one of the best steps and most effective strategies to quit drinking alcohol.
Step 2 – Change the Catalyzers:
Self-esteem, personal power, and personal identity are negatively charged and feed the Paralyzers and drivers. In contrast to the AA principle of powerlessness, you must boost self-esteem, take back personal power, and establish personal identity to achieve full and authentic recovery from alcohol dependency.
Step 3 – Remove the Paralyzers:
Emotional deterrents such as fear or anger freeze many people in their tracks, preventing them from making positive change. Personal agendas and false narratives provide an excuse to put the drinking pedal to the metal. If you want to quit drinking alcohol, then you must remove the deterrents and give up the narratives and agendas.
Step 4 – Dismantle the Drivers:
Anxiety, emotional distress and depression are the drivers of alcoholism. When these emotional states reach tipping points, alcohol is used to alleviate symptoms. This can also be described as self-medication. As feelings of worry, dread, stress or hopelessness mount, and coping mechanisms fail, alcohol is used as a means of escape. To quit drinking alcohol for good, you must dismantle these drivers.
Step 5 – Unlock & Implement Life Purpose:
When living a life without meaning or purpose, one begins to question whether life is worth living at all. When failure is a regular occurrence, and success fades further off into the distance, frustration usually mounts. This is often fed by the Paralyzer, anger, which has been formed by a Generator. In either case, regardless whether it is anxiety or depression, unlocking and implementing meaning/purpose is one of the essential steps or strategies to quit drinking and achieve sobriety.
For the complete, 5-step plan, download my free e-guide “Stop Drinking Secrets, Revealed.” Click on Home under quick links at the bottom of the page.
For additional reading, check out my other posts below: