Can I Quit Alcohol on My Own or Do I Need Rehab?

Woman drinking

Alcohol abuse is most likely to be the most common form of addiction. According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 8 to 9 percent of adults in the United States struggle with alcohol in some way.

If you know that you are one of them, then you are most likely looking for solutions to assist you in quitting drinking.[1]

Even though recovery outside professional help is often debated to have much lower odds, studies suggest that on a range of 20 to 80 percent of individuals in recovery beat addiction on their own. Smokey Robinson and David Letterman are popular examples who have claimed to quit alcohol on their own.[2]

If you have decided not to enlist professional help from a rehab, then there are substantiated steps you can take to quit alcohol abuse on your own, as discussed below.

Acceptance – The first step toward recovery

The decision to initiate a significant change in one’s drinking habits is not an overnight or sudden feat. Recovery is a gradual process. The preliminary stages of change are typically hindered by denial.

Woman sitting watching the sunsetEven though admitting that you have a problem is the first step, it still is not enough to fully motivate you into doing something about it. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence and the psychological bonds that possibly exist about quitting drinking.

If you’re still struggling with making the final decision, compare the pros and cons of each choice which can be particularly helpful.

Set Goals

Once you’ve decided to change your drinking patterns, the following step has to be about establishing distinct drinking goals. It is absolutely vital for these goals to be as specific and realistic as possible, for them to be attainable.

Being vague will most likely have you going around in circles with no constructive outcomes. The time is now to decide whether you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back.

If you aim only to reduce your drinking, then decide the days you will be drinking alcohol on and the quantity of alcohol on these days. It is recommended to commit to at least two days every week to abstain.

As far as limiting the number of drinks is concerned, it is recommended to not have more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.

Set a specific date to implement the desired changes and give yourself some time to prepare for it.[3]


Once you have decided upon your goal, it is preferable to write it down and put somewhere visible, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Furthermore, it is important to announce your goal.

Inform your friends, family, and colleagues of your decision to stop drinking so that they can extend their support in whatever way they can. If any of them drink, they can support your recovery by avoiding so in your presence.

You can make your house an alcohol-free zone. Be upfront about your limitations. You can avoid events with alcohol altogether.

Once you embark on the journey of recovery, it is easier to attain sustainable recovery by making it as easy for yourself as possible. Hence, get rid of temptations instead of continually challenging yourself.

Remove all alcohol, barware and anything else that may remind you of drinking from your home and office.

Avoid bad influences. Distance yourself from people who don’t support your efforts to stop drinking or respect the limits you’ve set. Doing this may mean giving up certain friends and social connections.

Learn from the past. Reflect on previous attempts to stop drinking. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently this time to avoid pitfalls?

Help Through SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery facilitates moving away from the abuse of alcohol. The tools and resources provided by the SMART recovery program are particularly designed to quit the vicious cycle of addiction, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or compulsive behavior.

1. The Development of Motivation – Helps you identify and keep up with your reasons to quit. This involves a deeper exploration of your reasons to quitting alcohol and what generally makes you feel better.

2. Handling Cravings –The process of recovery is essentially learning how to handle your urges and cravings. The SMART program comprises of many such tools that can help members to maintain abstinence in the face of challenges.

3. Handling Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors – Abusing drugs or alcohol is often at its core about dealing with negative thoughts and emotions. This is why it is essential for users to be taught effective problem-solving skills and healthy ways to cope with negativity.

4. Striving for a Balanced Life – Obsession with alcohol often overshadows not just the healthy activities and hobbies from your life, but can also overtake your fundamental functions of life such as work and school. This may throw your life out of balance as you struggle to keep up with daily lives. Through SMART recovery, participants learn skills that allow them to balance their short term and long term life.[4]

Building a Sober Lifestyle

Attaining long-term sobriety is not an overnight affair. It is only possible through fundamental lifestyle changes that are gradually implemented and maintained through the rest of your life.

These changes involve taking care of yourself through eating right and healthy sleeping patterns. Exercise is vital as it initiates the release of endorphins that help reduce stress.

Your support system is your safety net. Surround yourself with people that promote a sense of well-being and positivity.

If your old habits and hobbies involved excessive partying or other triggers for alcohol abuse, then it’s time to explore new hobbies and interests. These can include volunteer work, community service and helping others that can provide you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Your perseverance is important at this time so continue your treatment by staying in touch with a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a sponsor, stay involved in therapy or an outpatient treatment program.

Recovery essentially means replacing substance abuse, as a misguided coping mechanism, with healthier ways of managing stress. These alternatives can include exercise, meditation or breathing exercises among many other relaxation techniques.[5]

Looking Ahead

A sustainable recovery is not just about total abstinence; it is about rebuilding your sense of self and confidence by focusing on your goals. It extends further to healthy relationships and a reliable support system.

Woman in alcohol recovery looking ahead to the futureYour focus should solely be on self-improvement as you make decisions that benefit your physical, mental and emotional needs.

You need to stay motivated and focused on growing on to be a better version of yourself in all aspects of your life.

This can only be done through an extensive plan of action and positive reinforcement, which will eventually allow you to emerge from alcoholism and work toward making your goals a reality.

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 16, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 16, 2017.
Published on

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.