How to Quit Drinking (or at Least Cut Back)

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Know Your Why

There’s a reason you’ve reached the decision to quit or cut back. Write it down and keep it handy so you see it often. Whether it’s improved relationships, better health, or weight loss, keeping the “why” in sight can help boost your motivation.

Have a Plan

Don’t just announce you’re going to quit or scale back. Write down the steps for how you’ll do it. What day will you begin? Who will you tell about your decision? What will you do if you backtrack? Have a guide for how you’ll move forward.

Note the Positives

With less alcohol in your life, you’re likely to have clearer skin, better sleep, and you may see a boost in your overall mood. Some people also lose weight as they taper off their drinking. Celebrate the wins along the way, no matter how small.

Understand Detox

If you used to be a heavy drinker, your body may go through detox when you quit. It’s normal to feel anxious, restless, grumpy, or to have a headache and sweat a lot. These symptoms usually pass within 5 to 7 days. Keep your doctor in the loop and call if you have serious symptoms like visions, confusion, or high blood pressure.

Follow a Guideline

To drop the number of drinks you have each week, start with a daily limit. The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends not drinking at all, but suggests that if you do, keep it under two drinks a day for men and one for women. Talk to your doctor about how that goal could work for you.

Create a Script

Drinking is a social affair. You’re likely to be in situations where you’ll be offered a drink. Know how you’ll say “no thank you” ahead of time. And practice what you might say as a follow-up explanation if someone ask.

Pinpoint Your Triggers

You have places, people, and events that are tied to drinking. Being around them could make it harder to stick to your plan. If you can, avoid them. If that’s not possible, admit your desire to drink and don’t judge yourself for it. Call or text a friend and have your goals handy to remind yourself why you’ve dropped drinking.

Share Your Goals

Tell trusted family and friends about your plan to quit or cut back on alcohol. When those around you are in the know, it can help them know not to offer you drinks. It may even help if you spend time with other nondrinkers for a while so you can support each other.

Find Stand-Ins

Drinking is often the focus of social activities. If you’re having trouble doing the same things you used to do, try new hobbies to fill your time. Join a gym, learn a new skill, or find sober social groups you can enjoy.

Keep Going

Changing habits takes time and work. If you slip up on your goal, don’t give up. Start over the next day. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.


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