I Quit Drinking Alcohol – But When Does Not Drinking Get Easier?

by Michael Walsh

“I Quit Drinking Alcohol – But When Does Not Drinking Get Easier?” - article by Michael Walsh

West Coast Canada

Deciding to quit drinking alcohol is an important first step. Unfortunately, it’s also a step that many of us with alcohol dependency take more than once before successfully removing alcohol from our lives. [Updated March 2023]

That’s because it’s easy to swear off drinking forever after waking up and not knowing where you left your car (again). Or getting into yet another drunken argument with your partner and having to apologize for saying hurtful things you never would have said sober.

The moments when it’s crystal clear that alcohol is negatively impacting your life tend to trigger the desire to change. And enough urgency to maybe even give it a shot.

But achieving lasting change isn’t about simply stopping a behaviour. It’s about creating the life you want for yourself that doesn’t include drinking. And that takes time, patience, and commitment.

Very few people see the benefits of not drinking alcohol straight out of the gate. Getting through the initial withdrawal symptoms (even when they’re minor) is the first phase.

Once your brain and body start to regulate, planning for the beautiful future you envision for yourself will help guide your efforts moving forward.

The Early Days Are The Hardest After You Quit Drinking Alcohol

Early recovery isn’t a linear path – it’s different for everyone. The length of time it takes to start feeling good about sobriety is highly individual.

But for most people, early recovery comes with bumps in the road.

When you’ve relied on a substance to manage your emotions, removing that substance may leave you feeling very raw and easily agitated. Managing your inner environment while you’re recalibrating to a new way of being can consume a fair amount of energy and attention.

The first few months are hardest for many people. This is also the most important period of time to have support.

As you build a network through support groups, recovery coaching, and making new sober friends, you have more people to turn to that understand what you’re going through.

Often clients in the first few months of working together will ask me, “when does this get easier? It seems like all I think about is not drinking, and I just want to move on with my life.”

It’s normal to feel like you’re constantly obsessing over alcohol when you first quit drinking.

Simple things, like going to a restaurant for dinner or a BBQ with friends, will trigger obsessive thoughts and anxiety because you aren’t used to doing these things without a drink in your hand.

Over time, you’ll find that you can participate in any activity, no matter the environment, without the compulsion to drink.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of liberation when alcohol no longer has power over you but that is one of the most incredible benefits of quitting drinking – total freedom.

Despite how different the experience of early recovery can be for people, there’s one thing that I believe is universally true:

If you stay the course and continue putting one foot in front of the other to move toward your goal, it will inevitably get easier.

Accepting where you’re currently at and giving yourself some grace as you make these important transitions are important things to practice in the first few months of recovery.

Keep in mind that you are healing. Your brain, body, and spirit are all recovering, and that’s not going to happen overnight.

The Brain and Body Take Time to Heal

When you first quit drinking alcohol, simply interrupting the behaviour can be a daunting task. Once they’re established, behavioural patterns are hard to break.

If you’ve been drinking to deal with stress, sadness, or even boredom for years and perhaps decades, then it’s reasonable to assume it will take time to develop new habits.

But first things first – your brain needs a chance to restore equilibrium. Frequent alcohol consumption can interrupt signals between brain cells and alter chemicals called neurotransmitters. This can cause mood swings, difficulty controlling impulses, and brain fog.

It’s particularly difficult to control the urge to drink until brain chemicals have had a few weeks to normalize. During this time, cravings can be a challenge. Putting a plan in place to identify alternative options to drinking when you feel temptation strike can help get through this initial phase of recovery.

Chronic dehydration and inadequate sleep also take a toll on your body when you drink heavily. Frequent headaches, trouble focusing, and a general feeling of sluggishness is common when you first quit drinking. Allow your body a few weeks to adjust.

Self-care and healthy habits tend to go out the window when alcohol is an issue. Fortunately, the body is incredibly resilient. With sufficient sleep, hydration, and nutrition, you’ll start to feel your energy levels increase.

Visualizing the Life You Want to Live

In my practice, I use a framework for helping my clients move from problematic drinking to rebuilding a life they love.

The Stages of Change model outlines the phases of such a journey. When someone comes to me for help, they typically are in what this model calls the Contemplation Stage.

Someone in the Contemplation Stage knows that alcohol use is interfering with their lives and are ready to consider doing something about it. This is the time that we discuss what life could look like if they cut alcohol out of the picture.

It’s helpful to get as clear as possible about what your dream life looks like right from the start:

  • What are your values and goals?
  • In what ways do you most enjoy spending your time?
  • Do you want a successful career or to start a family?
  • How do you want to feel physically and emotionally?
  • What are the things in life that light you up?

Long-term recovery is about so much more than just stopping a behaviour. It’s about living a full, vibrant life and being fully present to experience every minute of it.

Visualizing exactly what you’re working towards keeps the purpose first. That is the North Star that will keep you moving in the right direction on days that you feel like throwing in the towel.

Experiencing the Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

While supporting my clients through the early stages of recovery, we don’t only focus on not drinking.

Of course, that is paramount but equally important is taking action toward creating a life you love so you’ll lose the desire to drink.

As you get more time under your belt, you see the benefits of not drinking alcohol start to manifest in your life:

  • Relationships become more stable and fulfilling.
  • You’re able to focus on your work and become more proficient.
  • You feel better physically as your system detoxifies.
  • Energy levels improve which increases motivation and excitement for life.

Seeing these changes is when many of my clients start to turn the corner. The challenges of not drinking are overshadowed by the excitement of what your life is becoming in the absence of alcohol.

Recovery is a challenging but incredibly rewarding process of becoming fully alive. With clarity and abundant energy, the world around you feels vast and full of possibilities.

As old, unhealthy patterns lose their power and you begin to live up to your fullest potential, every challenge you faced along the way will have been well worth it.

Get Help Creating Your Personal Roadmap

It can be really scary to arrive at the realization that you have a drinking problem, no matter how big or small.

But it’s a lot less scary when you have an experienced guide to help you sort things out.

I’m an accredited Addiction Recovery Coach offering worldwide virtual support, and in-person support across Canada. If you’re interested in exploring 1:1 recovery coaching to help you cut back your drinking or stop drinking entirely, I’m happy to answer your questions.

I offer a no-charge consult call to anyone who has questions about their own substance use, or the substance use of a family member. These calls are completely confidential with no pressure to make a decision before you feel entirely ready.

If you’re ready to explore the potential of working together, I’d love to chat. Michael is based in Victoria British Columbia Canada. The other Recovery Coaches on the team are based in Nanaimo, Vancouver British Columbia Calgary, Edmonton Alberta, Toronto Ontario, Montreal Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because we all work virtually — we can work with anyone no matter what city, province or country around the world. We have clients all across Canada and the USA, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Berlin, Tel Aviv, London, Singapore and Australia.

I’d also like to invite you to read more about my personal story here.

Michael Walsh
Phone or Text: 250.896.8494
Email: Coach@MichaelWalsh.com
Chat: Start a WhatsApp chat

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Michael Walsh

About the Author

Michael Walsh

When I say I’ve been there, I mean it. I am a different person now, and I am fired up about helping other people get to the place where they, too, are living better, healthier, and bigger lives.

Contact Michael

Further Reading

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  • How To Tell If You Have a Drinking Problem

  • Who to Tell That You Quit Drinking Alcohol: How to Do It, And Why It Matters

  • How to Plan an Invitational Drug or Alcohol Intervention