How To Become Sober: Climbing A Slippery Slope

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated June 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Alcohol is not associated with any significant benefits. Although alcohol may help individuals sleep, it can also cause restlessness and a lack of sleep quality, leading to difficulty waking up or grogginess during the night. Some people use alcohol to reduce focus on their worries. However, as a depressant, this substance can lead to further stress over time. Although alcohol can increase socialization abilities temporarily, it can also lead to social embarrassment and isolation. 

Concerning health, career, relationships, and self-respect, there are a few reasons sobriety may be beneficial. Although there can be justifications for drinking, alcohol may cause more challenges than it helps, especially in the case of physical and mental dependency.

Becoming sober takes consistent, intentional commitment

Social drinking vs. alcohol addiction: What's the difference?

Some individuals may believe they're in control of their drinking to the point they realize how dependent they've become. Because of its prominence in social situations and daily life, dependence or addiction may occur without someone being aware of it. 

If you suspect you have a substance use disorder, it may be beneficial to try quitting alcohol for a month to see how you react. If you "could but don't want to," consider examining what role alcohol plays in your life. As with other addictions, if a substance starts to impact your functioning at work, home, school, or daily tasks, you may be living with a mental health condition. If you've ever missed work, canceled social appointments, or developed excuses to drink alcohol, you may be using it unhealthily. 

How to choose sobriety 

Overcoming alcohol addiction may be similar to learning a foreign language. You can follow a program and attempt to understand the facts behind it. Still, your success or failure may rely more on your dedication to overcoming obstacles and progressing toward your goal. This dedication may not naturally occur from choosing to stop drinking once and expecting each day to be easy. You may have to choose not to drink multiple times a day. 

When choosing sobriety, you may not benefit if you neglect your efforts for six days out of the week and choose to make a healthy choice on the seventh day. Daily work can be critical. For this reason, some people going through dependency may attend support groups daily to meet with peers who can keep them accountable for their goals. With consistent efforts and professional help, people who try to overcome their addiction experience success every day.

Tips to make sobriety work for you 

It could seem that quitting alcohol only involves willpower. However, the cravings you experience for this substance can have roots in your body's physiological responses. Physical symptoms may be overwhelming if you don't understand the implications. Below are a few tips to make sobriety work for you. 

Improve your diet 

Certain foods can increase alcohol cravings, while others reduce it. Your body is an integrated system, so what you put into it affects your physical symptoms. Maintaining a stable blood sugar level can be essential. With the strain alcohol can put on the liver, you can offset health challenges by eating whole grains and vegetables instead of sugary snacks. Natural foods digest more slowly, offering more consistent energy than instant relief, which may provoke a craving for a drink.

Additionally, it may be beneficial to eat foods that assist in leveling your brain chemistry. Raw spinach, sunflower seeds, bananas, peas, and oily fish can increase serotonin production in the brain, which may improve mood. If your drinking habit has been long-term, consult a primary care physician about additional supplements or foods that may benefit your health. 

In addition, try to drink daily recommended amounts of water. Heavy drinkers are often chronically dehydrated, so drinking water may reduce toxins in your bloodstream in the weeks after you quit drinking alcohol. 

Exercise regularly 

Among the ways alcohol damages the body, its effect on circulation may be the most detrimental. People with a dependency on alcohol are at risk of strokes and heart ailments, and insufficient blood flow can cause a range of undesirable effects.

While running an ultramarathon might not be in your immediate future, walking for 30 minutes daily may strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, and improve your oxygenated blood flow to where it's needed. Exercise also aids in regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, improving your mood and lessening your desire for alcohol.

Try not to fear failure

Some people recovering from addiction may make mistakes in the process, such as having a drink at a party or relapsing. Lapses can happen. Instead of being overly critical of yourself, take the process one step at a time. Going from sober-curious to sober can take time and patience.

Try not to allow one incident to destroy your willpower. Experiencing one lapse doesn't mean you've failed in your pursuit to get sober. Don't use it as an excuse to start drinking again or abandon sobriety altogether. 

If you relapse, acknowledge you've made a mistake and try to figure out what led to it to avoid the same circumstances in the future. Talk to your counselor about what happened, frankly and openly, and try to get to the core. Addiction and its causes can be complex. Having support as you try sobriety can be a step in becoming sober permanently.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

Avoiding inciting events: How to speed up sobriety 

Some people may neglect attending to the emotional aspects of addiction and focus on how to "logically" reach a goal. However, taking a 100% logical approach may not help you stop drinking, especially when emotional factors like stress, depression, and trauma cause drinking in the first place. Below are a few ways to speed up sobriety by focusing on your emotional needs. 

Have a healthy social system in place 

One way to resolve emotional connections to alcohol is to have someone you can freely talk to without shame or pretense. Group sessions with people in similar situations can be helpful, although a counselor you can contact at any time has distinct advantages. Expressing yourself in words may help you release the emotional power behind them. In addition, knowing someone is listening can give you the strength to stay sober one more day. 

Set boundaries at work 

One common source of stress for individuals is their careers. While you may not get by without a job, you may be able to ask to temporarily reduce your hours, delegate responsibilities, and take on fewer new responsibilities. In a healthy work environment, your employer may be willing to work with you as you attempt to better your life. Addressing a problem head-on and setting healthy boundaries often shows responsibility and fortitude.

Avoid unhealthy relationships 

Some people who stop drinking may notice that their friends are unsupportive and try to convince them to resume drinking. Having toxic relationships may increase your risk of returning to your alcohol habits and may also worsen your emotional state after drinking. Cutting these individuals out of your life and focusing on building connections with people who respect your sobriety can be essential. 

Identify harmful routines and habits 

Identifying the routines and habits that often lead you to drink may also be valuable. Consider which inciting events make you want to binge drink. Habits like going out after work, having a beer while you watch TV, or spending time with your parents may lead you to want to drink more than in other situations. As a person living with an addiction, you may subconsciously resist awareness of what leads to excessive drinking, so it may be helpful to have a therapist to talk to about these challenges. 

What to expect when withdrawing from alcohol 

Alcohol addiction changes the chemistry of your brain and can physically impact you, including after you stop drinking. 

There are two stages of withdrawal. The first stage of alcohol withdrawal occurs almost immediately after ceasing to drink alcohol. This stage may involve physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, and tremors. Having someone to talk to may help you better endure this stage. If you have been drinking significant amounts for a long time, consider going through this stage with medical supervision in a detox facility to ensure your physical safety, as alcohol withdrawal may sometimes be dangerous. 

After the "acute" stage of withdrawal has passed, your physical and mental health may improve. Between one and two months after quitting, however, long-term heavy drinkers may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can persist for several months. In this period, recovering drinkers may experience relapse, as the symptoms of this syndrome are often more emotional than physical and may bring up memories of inciting events that caused one to start drinking in the first place. 

Your brain may rewire itself for sobriety. Insomnia, low energy, anxiety, and mood swings are standard features of this period. These symptoms may lead to wanting to drink again. Having a counselor experienced in addiction or a support group sponsor may be beneficial during this stage, as they can help you stay strong during the most trying times. 

Becoming sober takes consistent, intentional commitment

Support options 

Some people going through the sobriety process may choose to work with a mental health professional. In working with an in-person or online therapist, you may discover that excessive drinking is only a surface phenomenon reflecting more profound challenges. These challenges may be internal or external but can often be solved through treatment planning and problem-solving techniques. 

If you're curious about seeing an online therapist through a platform like BetterHelp, it can be helpful to know that online therapy has been proven effective in delivering high-quality treatment to people living with substance use disorders. In studies, participants could get support more effectively than with in-person providers. Participants could use videoconferencing regardless of where they lived, benefiting those living in remote areas. Participants also reported a high level of satisfaction with this method. 

In addition to having the flexibility to meet with a therapist regardless of geographic location, online therapy users can schedule appointments at convenient times. If you anticipate a future moment where you might benefit from support, you can reserve an appointment in advance. Alternatively, if you are going through a challenging moment, you can message your therapist and receive a response as soon as they're available. 

Counselor reviews

Riky is so insightful and helpful. Each step in therapy, she has been so kind and understanding. She makes you feel like you're on a team working towards recovery, rather than feeling alone.

I’ve been in recovery for four months now. My weekly conversations with Annalicia have been critical in maintaining my sobriety and in living a healthier, more organized lifestyle. She treats me with kindness and respect while providing invaluable advice and perspective concerning both my sober journey and dealing with feelings of anxiety. Whenever I sit down for a session with Annalicia, I know I can look forward to an open mind, an empathetic ear, and a meaningful exchange. In taking the initial steps to live soberly, I was stripped of my coping mechanisms; Annalicia, however, has provided me with useful tools to deal with stress and anxiety while helping me build a new system of healthier coping skills conducive to a sober lifestyle. I look forward to our continued relationship, as she has been a crucial asset to my mental health and my positive lifestyle.


Choosing sobriety is often a process that may take a few attempts. Part of succeeding in this process may be ensuring a healthy support system, caring for your physical body, and reminding yourself of the emotional impacts of addiction. If you want further support in overcoming this challenge, consider reaching out to a licensed professional online or in your area to get started.
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