Stopping drinking alcohol by yourself can be hard. Most people who struggle with their alcohol use require several attempts to stop drinking for good.
The good news is – if you’ve decided to quit, you’ve already taken a big step forward. Recognizing the need to recover is the first stage in the recovery process. More support is out there that can help you overcome alcohol and stay sober for good.
Why Is Quitting Drinking Alone Hard?
Part of what can make quitting alcohol by yourself so hard is that alcohol is an addictive substance. Addiction happens when you continue to seek and use a substance despite any negative consequences. It is a chronic brain disease characterized by physical changes in the brain that produce strong urges to drink that are very difficult to resist without effective support.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
Alcohol addiction develops because of its effect on our brain chemistry and neuronal pathways – in particular, the dopaminergic reward system.
The dopaminergic reward system is a natural part of how our bodies work, helping to reinforce important functions like eating, exercise, or sex. When we do these activities, our bodies release a small amount of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter (chemical messenger). This alters neuronal connectivity pathways in the brain, making it more likely we will do the activity again.
Drinking alcohol floods your brain with dopamine, at levels that are much higher than usual. Repeated use creates strong urges (cravings) to drink alcohol. These cravings can occur even after years of abstinence, especially in response to certain triggers.
What Is Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal?
Alcohol dependence and alcohol withdrawal are conditions related to – but distinct from – addiction. While addiction refers to a psychological state of seeking alcohol, alcohol dependence refers to the physical adaption of the brain and body that comes from repeated alcohol use. Both alcohol dependence and withdrawal are symptoms of an alcohol use disorder, as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
When you drink a lot of alcohol over time, your body gets used to the presence of the substance in your body and adjusts its own functions in response. You begin to need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect and eventually become dependent on alcohol to feel normal.
If you then stop drinking, you experience a series of uncomfortable and even withdrawal symptoms as your body readjust. Withdrawal symptoms can be relieved by having another drink, making it even more difficult to stop drinking. In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can involve delirium tremens, a serious condition that can be fatal without proper medical support.
While overcoming alcohol withdrawal by yourself can be difficult and even dangerous, professional medical support can help you to manage symptoms and cravings while ensuring your safety at all times. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends inpatient 24-hour medical detox for anyone withdrawing from alcohol due to the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxing from alcohol paves the way for addiction treatment programs that address the underlying causes of addiction and lead you to long-lasting recovery.
What Are the Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction?
There’s no one reason that some people are more likely to become addicted to alcohol than others, but certain factors increase your risk of developing an addiction. These factors include:
- Alcohol Abuse – Drinking large amounts of alcohol frequently greatly increases your chance of becoming addicted
- Environmental Factors – Environmental factors such as early life adversity and growing up in a home with alcohol abuse make developing an addiction more likely
- Mental Disorders – Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can drive alcohol use, which may offer temporary relief from emotional distress (although alcohol generally makes mental health conditions worse in the long run)
- Genetics – Genetics may account for up to 50% of the risk of developing an addiction
How Can Addiction Treatment Programs Help You to Quit Alcohol?
According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, no matter how serious your alcohol problems may be, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from behavioral therapy, medication, or both.
Decades of scientific research have uncovered a range of evidence-based treatment approaches proven to help individuals stop drinking alcohol and stay sober in the years ahead. Substance abuse treatment programs address the underlying causes of addiction, as well as any co-occurring mental health conditions, promoting long-lasting recovery and overall well-being.
Evidence-based treatment options include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Complementary therapies like yoga and meditation
- Experiential therapies like creative art therapy
- Family therapy
- Life-skills development
- Medically-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Dual diagnosis
Substance abuse treatment may involve an inpatient or outpatient treatment program – or a combination of both. Inpatient treatment is when you stay at the treatment center for the duration of the recovery program, offering a safe and controlled environment to focus on meaningful change. On the other hand, outpatient treatment programs allow you to continue to live at home and balance important responsibilities while you attend regular treatment sessions at a center. It also usually costs less than inpatient treatment.
If you’re unsure about which option is most suitable for you, contact a mental health professional or treatment center for expert advice and support.
Money should never be a barrier to addiction recovery, and most insurance providers offer coverage for substance abuse treatment. If you have financial concerns or are uninsured, your treatment provider may be able to work with you to find a solution.
What Are Some Helpful Tips for Stopping Drinking?
If you’ve developed an alcohol addiction, it can be very hard to control alcohol use without professional support. However, there are some things you can practice alongside professional treatment to help you change your drinking habits. These include:
- Practicing Good Self-Care – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating regular balanced meals, and exercising promotes good mental and physical health, helping to avoid the emotional distress that can lead to addictive behaviors
- Spending Time With Sober Friends – It’s a lot easier to avoid drinking if you avoid triggers. Spending time in scenarios where alcohol is not available can make it easier for social drinkers to stay away from drinking
What Are the Benefits of Quitting Drinking?
Quitting drinking comes with numerous benefits for your health and lifestyle – in some cases, it is a life-saving decision.
Physical and Mental Health
Excessive drinking can lead to a range of serious, and sometimes fatal, health conditions, such as liver disease, cancer, and depression. The sooner you quit drinking, the lower the chance of developing these conditions – and the quicker you can regain your life. It may also lead to other health benefits such as weight loss.
Relationships and Finances
Addiction often strains relationships with family members and other loved ones. You may find yourself lying to hide your drinking habits or neglecting important responsibilities. It can also be a huge drain on your finances.
Quitting drinking is the first step in healing these relationships. Treatment options like family therapy can also support you to overcome conflicts, heal from past mistakes, and develop supportive, caring bonds with one another.
Preventing and Treating Relapse
Effective addiction treatment that addresses the underlying causes of addiction helps to prevent relapse at a later stage. However, if you do return to old habits, don’t be disheartened. As a chronic disease, relapse can be a normal part of the recovery process.
Instead of viewing relapse as a failure, see it as a chance to grow stronger and continue to develop your skills. Depending on the extent of the relapse, you might want to bring it up with a support group or attend some extra therapy sessions. They can support you to identify what led to the relapse and developing the skills to prevent it in the future.
Addiction Treatment at Crossroads Centre Antigua
Crossroads Centre Antigua offers transformative addiction rehabilitation experiences from the spectacular island of Antigua in the Caribbean. Far away from the stresses of everyday life, we offer a nurturing recovery setting that promotes introspection and meaningful, long-lasting change.
Our internationally recognized team of experts offers individualized treatment programs to each client, combing top-tier clinical care with compassionate support. We offer treatment techniques from the forefront of addiction science alongside holistic methods and lifestyle changes to treat the entire person and ensure lasting overall well-being.
Founded by music legend Eric Clapton, Crossroads Centre Antigua has been supporting individuals and families struggling with addiction for over 20 years. And we’re here to help you too.
Our admissions team is on standby seven days a week to answer any questions you may have and talk you through the next steps. Give us a call today.