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How to Help Someone Stop Drinking: Tips for Loved Ones

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If you’re close to a person with alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s natural to want to help them make a change both for their own health and for the sake of your relationship. In my over 25 years working with families affected by substance use disorders, I often hear the question: How can I get someone to stop drinking?” While you cannot make a person stop drinking alcohol, you can be there to encourage, support, and facilitate change.

So if you’re wondering how to help someone stop drinking, here are a few ways that you can play an important role in your loved one’s journey. 

Arm yourself with information

Education goes a long way. A great starting point is learning more about alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a three-pronged medical condition, as outlined by the American Medical Association. Acknowledging this is the first step in being able to help someone. An individual with alcohol use disorder is facing a condition that impacts them in biological, psychological and social dimensions. Their ability to cut back on drinking is not a matter of willpower, strength, or how much they love you. There are great resources for understanding the neuroscience of substance use disorders such as this talk by Dr. Judith Grisel and this article about the science of alcohol cravings. It can also be helpful to understand the difference between alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence, which you can read about here. Your knowledge of what alcohol use disorder is, and is not, will go far in understanding  how to help someone quit drinking and supporting the person you love.

Another important aspect of alcohol use disorder is that it exists on a spectrum, and impacts people across all demographics and stages of life. People do not have to appear like the stereotypical “alcoholic” seen on television in order to get help and change their relationship with alcohol. In fact, at Monument, we don’t assign stigma-carrying labels like “alcoholic” or “addict. We opt for clinical language like “alcohol use disorder” instead of  “addiction” or “alcohol abuse.” (check out our official Monument glossary to learn more). Hitting “rock bottom” is also not a necessity in order to benefit from treatment. Experts agree that the earlier the intervention, the better. Shedding any preconceived notions and educating yourself is a meaningful way to really understand your loved one’s drinking and what they’re going through.     

Two people talking by a fence

Initiate a compassionate conversation about alcohol use disorder 

It can be intimidating to navigate how to talk to a loved one about their drinking, and there are steps you can take to help facilitate the conversation. First, find a good time for both of you to have the conversation when they aren’t under the influence and when you aren’t in a heightened emotional state. Although it’s natural for frustration to arise, remember that guilting, threatening, yelling, or name-calling will not get someone to stop drinking alcohol. 

Avoid Labels or Stigma-Carrying Terms

We also recommend that you avoid addressing their drinking as a(n):

  • alcohol addiction
  • drinking problem
  • alcohol problem or alcohol issue 
  • substance abuse issue

These terms can carry stigma, and may cause your loved one to become defensive. Instead of applying labels yourself, you can encourage your loved one to sign up for Monument to assess their drinking habits and understand if and where they fall on the alcohol use disorder spectrum. The Monument medical intake process can also uncover signs of alcohol dependence and risks of alcohol withdrawal. Based on their medical intake, your loved one’s physician on the Monument platform can help them safely and effectively cut back. 

Address your feelings & boundaries

Try to stay focused on your own feelings, the ways in which their drinking impacts you, and how you are willing to support them in getting help and reducing their alcohol use. Setting boundaries and limits related to what you are and aren’t willing to tolerate is also essential for both you and your loved one. Whether they are binge drinking every so often or heavy drinking every day, be honest with how it makes you feel.

Empower them

When discussing treatment, remind your loved one that AUD is a medical condition and that there’s no shame in needing additional help. In fact, like getting treatment for any other medical condition, it’s a responsible act of self-care. You can encourage them to enroll in a treatment program and see an online alcohol treatment provider to get the expert guidance they deserve. You can also motivate them by discussing all of the benefits of drinking less, such as improved mental health, increased energy, and better sleep.

Listen & acknowledge

Try to really listen, and not formulate what you’re going to say next when discussing a loved one’s drinking. In my therapy practice, I call this listening with ‘ears to hear.’ Changing your drinking habits can be scary. Your loved one may need their feelings validated and to know that you understand this will not be an easy process.

Many of my patients share that they have known inside that they need to change long before they can say it aloud. Simply creating a space where your loved one can speak openly is an incredible service. If they’ve had unsuccessful attempts at changing their relationship with alcohol in the past, try to remind them that setbacks are a part of the process. You can play an important role in their perseverance by telling them that they are capable and that you believe in them. 

couple drinking coffee by a bridge

Help your loved one understand the risks

A new concept in substance use treatment is called “peaking out.” This is where loved ones and/or medical providers help a person see potential consequences of their drinking and motivate change before more severe outcomes arise. This approach is especially helpful for a person who identifies as a “high-functioning drinker.” 

One example of this is encouraging your loved one to have their liver checked by a physician who can show them the beginning impacts of alcohol use, rather than waiting until cirrhosis has caused more permanent damage. For young adults, this could mean helping them see where they are starting to slip in their grades prior to being put on academic probation. 

Another example is encouraging a loved one to evaluate how their drinking is straining their romantic relationship in hopes of preventing a partnership or marriage from ending. As I mentioned, early intervention is always best, and the “peaking out” method can help your loved one gain a clearer picture of what they would gain by changing their relationship with alcohol.

Addressing anxiety while managing your drinking

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Familiarize yourself with new treatment options

Gone are the days of alcohol rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous being the only options. The treatment landscape is now moving from program-based clients towards client-based programs. And care doesn’t have to take place exclusively in a treatment facility. That means new treatment platforms, such as Monument, are much more personalized and meet the individual where they are. Monument connects members to therapists (such as myself) and to physicians who can prescribe medication to stop drinking if safe and appropriate. It’s best to assess what treatment program is a fit for your loved one ahead of time if possible. When someone agrees to treatment, it’s important to act upon that motivation quickly to ensure they initiate and engage in treatment.

Explore treatment plans at Monument ->

Include moderation as a possibility 

In the past, abstinence has been the predominant model for treatment and recovery. However, sobriety is not the only option for someone who is considering changing their relationship with alcohol. Today, the concept of harm reduction is more widely accepted. According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition, harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug or alcohol use. 

There is a segment of the population for which a harm reduction-focused treatment plan can help them successfully drink in moderation. For others, allowing them to attempt moderation under the care of licensed clinicians may bring the insight that they are unable to manage controlled use and need to work towards sobriety. 

Either way, exploring moderation holds the potential for positive outcomes and discovery. Working with a therapist and/or physician in this process can help illuminate which path is appropriate for each individual, and what steps can be taken to get there. 

two men talking on the beach

Support them in their treatment and recovery

Recovery is a process, not an event. It’s also not just for the person with alcohol use disorder. Once a person is trying to change their drinking habit, the entire system around them starts to learn how to support someone in recovery. For the person in recovery, their journey is about more than quitting alcohol or moderating alcohol consumption. It’s also a process of experiencing mental and physical change, and learning how to manage life without the use of substances. Learning more about the alcohol recovery timeline can help you and your loved one gain a better understanding what to expect.

Early recovery can be an emotional rollercoaster. Enjoy the thrills of the highs and know that the lows won’t last forever. Find your own way to be a part of that process while still honoring your own needs. That might look like attending alcohol support groups with your loved one, spending time identifying potential triggers together, or working on a plan for how to stop alcohol cravings managing cravings. Also recognize that you don’t have to support them alone. There are expert clinicians eager to help create a personalized treatment program for your loved one. A physicians can help them navigate challenges such as alcohol withdrawal symptoms (due to physical alcohol dependency), and a specialized therapist can empower long-lasting behavioral change.  

There will also be opportunities for you to share in the many joys of early sobriety. Engaging your loved one in alcohol-free activities and new rituals that you can enjoy together is one of the greatest benefits of collective healing. This is a learning process for everyone. With time and support, your loved one will gain confidence in their own ability to achieve their goals. 

Remember that self-care is essential

There is a reason why flight attendants instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first in case of an emergency. You cannot help someone if you are burnt out yourself. Self-care doesn’t just describe massages and weekends away. Take inventory of your sleep schedule, eating habits, exercise routines, and time for relaxing. 

Then, consider what aspects of your life have been impacted by your concern over your loved one. Make sure to address any areas where you are not meeting your own needs. Do you have a support system that you can talk to? Are you noticing any signs of codependency? There is no shame in needing to reach out to a therapist or other additional support for yourself. In the process, you are role-modeling for your loved one that it’s okay to get help and make changes.

Two women hiking in the woods

Helping someone find a new, healthier relationship with alcohol is an amazing act of love. Remember that your needs are important too and shouldn’t come second to your loved one. Recovery is a non-linear journey, and it’s important to celebrate the small wins. Seeking additional resources, such as reading this very article, and offering your support to someone is something to be incredibly proud of.

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Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
Person looking out at mountains

Early Sobriety: 10 Helpful Tips for Your Journey

Person looking out at mountains If you’re reading this, you may already be in the early stages of sobriety, or you may be considering changing your relationship with alcohol. Regardless of where you are on your journey, exploring how sobriety can give you more out of life is a courageous act of self-care. Alcohol impacts every dimension of our wellness, and cutting back creates space for healing and realization of the benefits of sobriety.

While sobriety is incredibly rewarding for your physical and mental health, it can also be challenging, especially in the early days. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. For judgment-free encouragement and support, you can join over 25,000 members in the free Monument Community. And to get guidance right here and now, here are 11 expert tips for early sobriety.

1. Make a plan to safely cut back

Before you change your drinking habits, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider to ensure that you have a plan to do so safely. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be dangerous due to the risk of acute alcohol withdrawal, and in some cases, it can even be life-threatening. The first step is to connect with a physician to discuss your drinking habits and medical history. A physician can provide safe next steps, and if appropriate, recommend in-person detox options to address withdrawal symptoms. You can learn more about how you can cut back safely by virtually connecting with a physician at Monument. 

2. Get rid of alcohol reminders in your space

Once you’ve established a safe way to begin your sobriety journey, a productive step is to physically remove alcohol-related items from your space. Over an extended period of heavy alcohol use, the brain creates strong associations between alcohol and routines, items, and more. When navigating sobriety, both alcohol and the things that you associate with it can create triggers that cause cravings. Removing or reframing the things you associate with alcohol can make a huge difference. Here are a few examples:

Reframe routines in your space:

If you always used to have a drink at 5pm on your sofa, your brain may associate that hour and location with alcohol consumption. Instead, try to plan an alternate activity for that hour, like yoga or an alcohol support group. It may be helpful to physically reposition the sofa to help form new associations and routines. Feng shui can be an empowering and refreshing exercise.

Substitute alcohol bottles:

If creating entirely new routines is challenging at first, finding alcohol alternatives can be a helpful way to have an evening drink without the negative effects of alcohol. There are many great non-alcoholic options that can also feel like a reward after a long day.

Donate triggering items:

If there are certain items that remind you of drinking, like glassware or clothing with logos of alcohol brands, you can donate them to those in need. Not only does this remove potential triggers from your space, but it can also help someone else along the way. 

You might experience uncomfortable feelings as you change your routines, and that’s entirely valid. Managing discomfort without alcohol is an important skill to develop in early recovery, and a key driver of meaningful growth. 

people holding hands

3. Reassess your social calendar to be mindful of triggers

In addition to items and routines in the home, certain people and social spaces can also trigger alcohol cravings. It may be challenging to go to visit people and places that you strongly associate with drinking. You should feel empowered to turn down any and all invitations that you think would be too difficult to attend while also honoring your goals. Your sobriety can always come first, and it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your social life. Sobriety offers the opportunity to make new, authentic memories and connections. 

When you first stop drinking, you get the opportunity to explore your boundaries and experiment with socializing as a sober person. This may include:

Your social calendar may look different in the first few months of sobriety, and that’s completely okay.

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4. Familiarize yourself with the recovery timeline 

While everyone’s experience is unique and valid, there are common patterns in early sobriety that can help set expectations throughout your journey. Familiarizing yourself with the alcohol recovery timeline can inform conversations with your healthcare provider and reassure you that, more often than not, what you’re experiencing is a normal phase of the non-linear treatment journey. An example of a ‘normal’ experience that can feel jarring in early sobriety is ‘the honeymoon phase,’ characterized by a temporary rush of mental clarity and energy, followed by a tapering off of those feelings. Another example is post acute alcohol withdrawal (PAWS), characterized by psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiousness, irritability, and disrupted sleep that can continue for weeks or months after quitting alcohol.

When learning about these potential experiences, it’s important to remember that healing is complete with ups-and-downs, and these challenging moments will pass with time. Engaging in online alcohol treatment and community tools is a great way to connect with others throughout this journey, and get expert guidance to help navigate these challenges.

"Early sobriety is the ultimate form of delayed gratification"

5. Create reminders of your ‘why’

As you navigate early sobriety, defining your “why” and holding it close will be your single greatest motivator. Spend time reflecting on all that you hope to gain from changing your relationship with alcohol. Whatever your reason for abstaining or cutting back, make it a central focus of your journey. This could look like a daily mantra where you say to yourself every morning in the mirror: “I will not drink today because ….”  Additionally, visual reminders can provide accountability and encouragement. Put post-it notes up on your mirror or type out your “why” and set it as the background of your phone screen. Find a way to embrace this courageous decision however it feels best to you. Here are a few example mantras: 

  • I will not drink today because I want to show up fully for my kids. 
  • I will not drink today because I am already fun and magnetic without alcohol. 
  • I will not drink today because I treasure my body and will put my health first.

6. Connect with a community

Remember, you don’t have to go through the recovery process alone. Studies show that peer support and accountability can reduce heavy drinking and help sustain abstinence.¹ Forming connections with others who share similar experiences can help you feel heard, supported, and encouraged as you navigate ups and downs. Whether it be through online support groups, groups on Instagram or Facebook, or through a local organization, finding community is an incredibly enriching and rewarding part of the recovery journey. 

People hugging

7. Engage in a treatment plan

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition, and evidence shows it can be effectively treated with tools like specialized alcohol therapy, medication to stop drinking, and peer support. Remember that there’s no shame in seeking additional support as you navigate early sobriety. Recovery experts recommend engaging with as many tools as possible, especially when beginning your journey. Whether you look to an online alcohol treatment provider or in-person treatment program, a treatment plan can support  you both in the early stages and throughout your journey.

Online alcohol therapy 

Early sobriety can introduce many unknowns. Working through challenges, questions, and setbacks with the guidance of a therapist in a personalized alcohol therapy program can make a huge difference. In specialized alcohol therapy, a therapist trained in treating substance use disorder works with you to:

  • Identify achievable goals
  • Develop healthy ways to cope 
  • Manage cravings and negative thoughts
  • Address co-occurring anxiety and depression

Ultimately, alcohol therapy can help you discover healthy ways to navigate the ups and downs of your sobriety journey.

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Medication to stop drinking

Another evidence-based tool is medication to stop drinking. At Monument, we connect you to a physician to determine if medication to stop drinking is safe and appropriate for you. Naltrexone, which is most commonly prescribed on the Monument platform, is an FDA-approved medication that can help reduce alcohol cravings. Naltrexone works by blocking certain receptors in the brain so you get less pleasure from alcohol, which reduces the association between alcohol and relief, and reduces cravings over time. Medications like naltrexone and acamprosate have been proven to reduce the risk of returning to any drinking as well as return to heavy drinking.² Your physician can answer questions like “What is drinking on naltrexone like?,” among others. You should feel empowered at any point in your journey to explore if medication is right for you. 

8. Set goals

Setting goals is a crucial step in cultivating motivation and measuring progress. Goals encourage us to reflect on the past and build a plan for becoming the best version of ourselves. Goals can be related to reducing your alcohol consumption and engaging in your treatment program. For example, you may aim to reduce your weekly drink count by 2 drinks every week, and attend 5 support groups per week.

 If you’re currently maintaining sobriety, you can create supporting goals like making a daily gratitude list or completing a self-care routine. When we set goals, we’re able to mark our progress and expand upon our growth. It’s also important to remember that setbacks are a common and expected part of the journey. Recovery is all about progress, not perfection. 

Be sure to celebrate the small milestones along the way.

Graph titled "The recovery journey", with x axis as time and y axis as progress. Straight line growing exponentialling labelled "expectation" and a curved line going up and down and ending high labelled "reality"

9. Let friends know (if you want!)

Whether or not you’re ready to share your sobriety journey is entirely up to you. Ultimately, sharing your goals with your loved ones can add accountability and encouragement, but it can happen on your own time. You might want to start with a few trusted friends or family members. These support people can help you navigate events, hold you accountable to your goals, and celebrate your progress. Your therapist can also provide advice about how to tell people you’re getting treatment to change your drinking and help you identify the healthy relationships in your life and who should be in your support system. With time, you may decide to share your sobriety with a wider network. 

In all likelihood, the people in your life will be supportive of your recovery process and offer themselves as a resource to you. Healthy relationships like this can be incredibly beneficial as you navigate early sobriety. If someone responds negatively, it’s important to remember that their reaction likely says more about their own relationship with alcohol than your decision. Your sobriety is something to be incredibly proud of. You’re putting your health and happiness first, and gifting those around you with your most authentic, present self. In the process of building your sober life, you might even inspire others to reflect on their own relationship with alcohol.

in tweet format: "If you missed a day of brushing your teeth, would you give up on brushing? No. If you have a setback on your sobriety journey, keep going. Tomorrow is a new day."

10. Keep going

Last but certainly not least on our list of early sobriety tips: take it one day at a time. The first 30 days of early sobriety are typically the most difficult. This is because your body and mind are healing from the effects of alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with taking small steps and engaging in as many support tools as possible. With time you will begin to feel more relief, and new healthy habits will become second nature. Sobriety is a marathon, not a sprint. If you experience a setback, enlist the power of self-forgiveness in recovery, and remember the most important thing you can do is keep going. 

person in field at sunrise

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

1. Kelly JF. Is Alcoholics Anonymous religious, spiritual, neither? Findings from 25 years of mechanisms of behavior change research. Addiction. 2017 Jun;112(6):929-936. doi: 10.1111/ add.13590. Epub 2016 Oct 8. PMID: 27718303; PMCID: PMC5385165. 

2. Jonas DE, Amick HR, Feltner C, Bobashev G, Thomas K, Wines R, Kim MM, Shanahan E, Gass CE, Rowe CJ, Garbutt JC. Pharmacotherapy for adults with alcohol use disorders in outpatient settings: a systematic review and meta- analysis. JAMA. 2014 May 14;311(18):1889- 900. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.3628. PMID: 24825644.

Naltrexone has the capacity to cause hepatocellular injury (liver injury) when given in excessive doses. Naltrexone is contraindicated in acute hepatitis or liver failure, and its use for a patient with active liver disease must be carefully considered in light of its hepatotoxic effects. In the treatment of alcohol dependence, adverse reactions include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, nervousness, abdominal pain/cramps, nausea and/or vomiting, low energy, joint and muscle pain, headache, dizziness, and somnolence. This is not a complete list of potential adverse events associated with naltrexone hydrochloride. Please see Full Prescribing Information for a complete list

Windy road through the woods

The Three C’s: Lessons about Recovery from My Grandfather

Windy road through the woods This article is dedicated to the man that introduced me to what recovery is: my grandfather, Deacon James L. White, MSGT… my mentor, my father figure, my hero. I love you, old man. Thank you for showing me the way. 

My grandfather was a jack of all trades. Outside of being “Papa”, he served in two wars and held multiple awards for his work, including being celebrated for over 20 years as the Chairman of the Deacon Board of my childhood church. He had so many accomplishments, but one of the main ones that continues to inspire me, was his approximately 45 years of sobriety from alcohol. 

Before he passed away in 2019, he was interviewed in the hospital by a resident, who asked him questions about his health. One question stood out: “Mr. White… Do you have a history of alcoholism?” In spite of him having a disease that was slowly taking him away from this world, he laid back in his recliner in his hospital room and shared proudly: “young man… I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since July, 1975.” 

Road sign pointing either direction

Fast forward to today, I’m a licensed therapist helping people change their relationship with alcohol. As I empower my patients to reveal their own inner-wisdom, I often reflect on the wisdom from my grandfather, and the principles that guided him throughout his sobriety and life. While his knowledge seemed infinite, he often returned to a simple framework: The Three C’s. And now, I get to share them with you. 

1. Choice 

The first C may seem obvious, but it’s important to constantly revisit. My grandfather told me that  it all starts and ends with choices. He taught me that we “were blessed with free will,” and we need to exercise it in every aspect of life. Choice is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.”

When it comes to alcohol use, the concept of choice can serve as a reminder that you are not powerless over alcohol. Recognizing alcohol use disorder as a medical condition that can be treated and overcome is key to making life-changing choices. Evidence shows people can change their habits with the right tools, as long as they choose to engage in them and put in the work. Recognizing your habits and choosing to seek support is incredibly brave. In the 20 plus years that I have been providing counseling services, choosing to seek help and making a strong commitment is the single most important step a client can take towards recovery.

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2. Common Sense

Now, for the second C: Common Sense. The Oxford definition for Common Sense is “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.” My grandfather liked to say, “sometimes common sense isn’t that common.” And I’ve dedicated my career to helping people build the tools and insights to navigate life’s challenges with sound judgment. This means approaching decisions with clarity, context, and critical reasoning in order to better evaluate the full scope of them. When navigating alcohol use disorder, the chemical interactions in the brain can make it hard to practice sound judgment in certain scenarios. However, with dedication and support, you’re able to change your thinking patterns. It will be easier to align your decisions with your goals and values, and ‘sound judgment’ will come naturally.

Practicing self-compassion while changing your relationship with alcohol

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As one transitions from choice to action, the hope is that they have committed to the idea of staying sober, which includes identifying what that looks like in daily life. For example, in the days of early sobriety, it may be challenging to be around people and places that you associate heavily with alcohol. Setting boundaries that align with your goals can empower change and reduce the likelihood of setbacks. The idea of common sense in sobriety involves not only the commitment to knowing that a change needs to be made, but also taking the necessary steps to support the commitment, even when it is difficult.

Notebook that says "today" and numbers for a to-do list

3. Consequences

The final C that I want to present is one that all of us in life deal with, in some way, shape or form: Consequences. I remember my grandfather sharing with me that for every choice, there is an outcome.  The word “consequence” can have negative connotations. However, the actual definition (thanks again, Oxford) is “a result or effect of an action or condition.” Like my grandfather shared, outcomes are not solely good or bad. This perspective can help us think of consequence as an empowering term. While there are negative effects of unhealthy alcohol use, there are also incredible positive outcomes of making the choice to cut back or stay sober. When you follow through with a plan for sobriety or moderation, you will see results. The gift of sobriety is realizing that you do have control over your outcomes. Positive consequences exist, and are within reach.

Person looking at ocean at sunset
So here is the equation: Choice + Common Sense = Consequence.

This is the equation that has guided me through life, thanks to my grandfather’s wisdom. As a therapist who works with people to achieve their goals for sobriety or moderation, the hope for each individual is that they make choices (with sound common sense) to re-enforce better outcomes (consequences). But let’s be real with this, there is no real perfect equation. We know that we are all prone to make mistakes or have missteps. The truest lesson is this, life is a hell of a teacher. My bottom line is to learn as much as possible based on the equation that Deacon Billy gave me. I am appreciative of my grandfather and his wisdom. I miss him everyday, and I still hear his words.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.