Best Ways to Quit Drinking

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Are you looking for the best ways to stop drinking? The method you choose will depend largely on your personal circumstances. Options include self-help programs, online therapy, medication-assisted treatments, in-person therapy, and counseling organizations. While some options are best for those with underlying mental health disorders, others will be better for those who drink to manage life stress.

If you are unsure which of the following services to use to stop drinking, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. They can direct you to resources in your area or provide advice on options.

The 7 Best Ways to Quit Drinking

Best Overall : Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)

Smart Recovery Logo

 Smart Recovery

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a nonprofit organization offering a four-point program with the following components: motivation for change, dealing with urges, what to do about unhelpful thoughts, emotions, and actions, and how to achieve balance in life.

The SMART program is based on the idea that addiction is a way to cope with life stressors that begins as a coping strategy but becomes a problem. The program makes use of research on addiction to enable individuals to achieve abstinence from alcohol and drugs.

Support group meetings for SMART are available worldwide and focus on self-empowerment and making healthy lifestyle changes. They are designed to help you learn ways to change your approach to life so that you don't need addictive behaviors to cope. In other words, once you become happier and more content with your daily life, addiction won't need to be a part of it.

In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, group meetings focus on developing motivation to change. Members learn how beliefs keep them stuck and emotions trigger them to use alcohol or substances. Finding pleasure in other activities is one cornerstone of the program.

Support groups are run by facilitators who lead members through a structured program that delves into mental health and addiction with a focus on the present instead of the past.

SMART meetings are free for members, but donations are collected at every meeting to help support the organization.

Best Free : Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous Logo

 Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a well-known organization dedicated to helping individuals struggling with addiction achieve sobriety. AA has groups running worldwide that are open to anyone looking to finally beat their drinking problem.

The organization was started in 1935 with the mission of bringing relief to those struggling with alcohol addiction. In general, AA operates with the understanding that members work toward the greater good of the group, as well as spread the message to others who may need help.

The program operates under the framework of a 12-step program that is rooted in spirituality. Some of the principles learned through group meetings include the belief that individuals are not able to solve their addiction on their own and need the help of a power greater than themselves. One of the 12 steps involves recognizing people who have been hurt by your addiction and formulating a plan to make amends.

Local Alcoholics Anonymous groups can be found through the organization's website via a location-based search. For those looking for online gatherings and meetings, these are also available.

While meetings are free to join, donations from members are accepted within local chapters to help support their local chapters.

Best for Women : Women for Sobriety (WFS)

Women for Sobriety Logo

 Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1975 to help women overcome substance abuse. WFS was founded by a sociologist who wanted to treat addiction by examining the role of women and how identity loss, guilt, and depression could play a role.

WFS programs are based on "acceptance statements" that help women to achieve emotional and spiritual growth and engage in better thinking patterns. Members are given a list of 13 statements that they must review each morning. They are also asked to choose one statement for the day that they will focus on.

WFS offers both in-person and online support groups. They are run by certified moderators and leaders (for chat groups). Phone volunteers also provide one-on-one support.

The program is based on healthy coping mechanisms (diet, exercise, relaxation), positive reinforcement, and cognitive restructuring. The goal of the program and the groups is to empower women to make changes in their lives to achieve sobriety.

Meetings and chat groups are free to attend. Donations of roughly $2 to $5 per meeting are suggested, but no one is ever turned away if they can't afford to donate.

Best Secular Option : Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety Logo

 Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.) is a nonprofit, international network of local, non-professional groups operating autonomously to help individuals achieve sobriety from alcohol, drugs, food, and other addictions.

S.O.S. was founded in 1985 by James Christopher, a sober alcoholic since 1978. He is the author of two books on the topic of addiction and sobriety: "SOS Sobriety" and "Unhooked: Staying Sober and Drug-Free."

Secular Organizations for Sobriety offers an alternative path to sobriety from those followed within the 12-step model of religious organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The groups that operate within the framework welcome anyone looking to find a path to sobriety, including those who are religious. However, they are run in a secular setting.

In opposition to the traditional 12-step model, Secular Organizations for Sobriety place the locus of control for achieving and/or maintaining a sober lifestyle within the individual. This means that when sobriety is achieved, the credit for this achievement also rests with the individual.

The network accepts and respects any path that is chosen toward sobriety and is not opposed to or in competition with programs offered through other networks (such as Alcoholics Anonymous). Rather, any path to sobriety that the individual chooses is respected in this model.

Group meetings that fall within the network for S.O.S. are held throughout the world in different cities. If there is not a meeting near you, it is possible to start a new group. They are free to join.

Best for Social Connections : Loosid Smartphone App

Loosid Logo


The Loosid Smartphone app is designed to connect people seeking sobriety with others on the same journey. The motto of Loosid is "sober shouldn't be sombre." This means that those who choose sobriety don't need to resign themselves to also losing their social connections.

The Loosid app includes the chat groups for meeting other people in your local area who are practicing sobriety. In addition, the app has a Sobriety Help component with tips on how to stay sober and what to do after a relapse.

Loosid also includes Boozeless Guides to help you find places such as restaurants, travel destinations, or events that make it easy not to drink alcohol. There is also a dating community for those looking for others practicing sobriety and who are looking for a relationship.

Loosid community members also operate 24/7 hotline support groups to help people with recovery, relapse, getting through bad days, resisting urges, and dealing with holidays or other triggers.

Loosid is best if you are worried about losing the social aspect that you connect with alcohol. The Loosid app is free for anyone to download and use.

Best for Busy People : Self Recovery

Self Recovery Logo

 Self Recovery

Self Recovery was founded by board-certified psychiatrist Daniel Hochman, M.D. based on his experience as a private practitioner and consultant for facilities treating individuals for addiction.

Self Recovery uses a holistic treatment model that considers the underlying causes of addiction and incorporates these into a self-help program. The program also takes into account life stressors such as busy schedules, family obligations, financial problems, and judgment from others.

The program is delivered fully online and on-demand, enabling private access to recovery for those with a busy schedule. The goal of Self Recovery is to help you understand what has caused your addiction and to use evidence-based strategies to recover in the context of real-life, including your family, career, relationships, etc.

Self Recovery has the aim that everyone can achieve deep and lasting change in their choices and beliefs. Through its holistic and scientific approach, Hochman aims to translate addiction recovery from the one-on-one treatment sphere into an easily accessible self-help program.

Self-Recovery is a fee-based program, calculated by course.

Best for Comorbid Mental Health Conditions : The Recovery Village

Recovery Village Logo

 Recovery Village

The Recovery Village was established in 2013 by Dr. Mitchell Eisenberg and Dr. Lewis Gold, co-founders of Sheridan Healthcare, a nationwide healthcare company that they eventually retired from. The Recovery Village was founded to address an unmet need to provide treatment for substance abuse with underlying mental health issues.

The Recovery Village offers teletherapy and telepsychiatry with licensed professionals and has locations across the United States. Its comprehensive treatment programs address not only substance abuse but also any other accompanying mental health disorders. In this way, The Recovery Village offers a full spectrum of care for your path to recovery.

Some of the services that you can expect to have access to through The Recovery Village include medical detox services, residential services, outpatient programs, mental health counseling, personalized addiction recovery plans, and aftercare programs. The entire treatment model is based on evidence-based addiction treatment and the delivery of high-quality care.

The Recovery Village is focused on lifelong wellness, respectful and compassionate treatment provision, and long-term recovery. The company holds the value that anyone can recover and that treatment should address both physical and psychological concerns.

A fee-based program, The Recovery Village provides access to addiction experts, social workers, registered nurses, and licensed mental health therapists.


What Are the Most Effective Ways to Quit Drinking?

The most effective ways to stop drinking will be different for each person, depending on the severity of the addiction. For those with a physical dependency on alcohol, residential treatment with medical detox might be best combined with addiction counseling. If your drinking is problematic but not severe, self-help support such as community groups and learning about coping strategies may be effective.

How Long Does It Take to Quit Drinking?

How long it takes to quit drinking will depend on the severity and nature of your drinking problem, your readiness for change, and the modalities that you choose to quit. If you opt to enter a residential treatment facility, your stay may last a month or longer. Outpatient treatment could last anywhere from a few months to over a year. If you choose to quit on your own or with a community group, you may find that you need to continue to engage in ongoing ways. Sobriety typically is a lifelong process.

What Are the Side Effects of Quitting Drinking?

The initial period of detox will range from about a week to longer depending on the severity of your drinking. For those with mild to moderate drinking issues, this may include sleeping problems or anxiety. For those with severe alcoholism, this may include a variety of physical, emotional, and psychiatric symptoms. Serious withdrawal symptoms (i.e. delirium tremens) require medical supervision.

How We Chose the Best Ways to Quit Drinking

The best ways to quit drinking were chosen based on accessibility (i.e. whether organizations offer online services or in-person meetings), the use of evidence-based practices, and overall community support. If you are trying to choose the best method for yourself, it's important to consider your situation and what level of support you will need.

For example, Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the best options for group support because of its long history and wide availability. For those who prefer a comprehensive program that addresses mental health, The Recovery Village was chosen as a top pick because of the breadth of services that it offers. Self Recovery is ideal for combating underlying causes of addiction for busy people.

Hand refusing a drink

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Article Sources
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  1. Long D, Long B, Koyfman A. The emergency medicine management of severe alcohol withdrawalAm J Emerg Med. 2017;35(7):1005-1011. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2017.02.002

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."