HOW TO QUIT BOOZE: The Social Drinkers Guide to Kicking the Sauce

Written by Patrick Cooke. Check out his work here.

WHAT: How To Quit Booze

“How to quit booze” is a question the vast majority of us have asked ourselves, usually the morning after. The hangover, AKA – the undisputed world champion of dream killers, inspires only two things. First, the desire to stay in bed, pissing the day away and marinating in self-loathing. And second, the desire to stop drinking alcohol. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all said it. Then, there’s those who actually stopped drinking alcohol. And I can tell you, the moment I traded hangovers, exhaustion, and guilt for clarity, energy, and purpose, my entire life changed for the better. Moreover, the benefits of quitting alcohol appear immediately.

quit booze hangover
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The idea of quitting booze often invokes images of someone standing in a circle,  introducing themselves, declaring their alcoholism, and confessing the long litany of regrets, mistakes, and misdeeds that drove them to seek help. To these individuals, good luck and Godspeed. However, comparatively speaking, these people are rare.

While the mainstream media focuses on these extreme cases, they disregard the growing number of drinkers who wonder how to quit booze despite being nowhere near “rock bottom.” For every drinker that winds up in AA, there are countless who do not.

Often, their memories of booze don’t involve broken relationships, lost jobs, or endless embarrassment. Instead, many recall their relationship with alcohol fondly. The laughs, the confidence, the conversations, the random meetings, the romantic partners, and even the business deals that wouldn’t have been struck without the aid of a few stiff drinks. All in all, they’ll tell you that booze was an absolute blast. Then, they decided to stop drinking alcohol. After that, they soon realized a life lived to the absolute fullest was a far greater blast.

quit booze. stop drinking alcohol and break your chains
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Sobriety can be daunting, particularly if the decision to stop drinking alcohol is a recent one.  Can you still have fun without a drink? Will friends react strangely? Will sobriety make you self-conscious? Being sober doesn’t have to mean abandoning your social life. In time, you’ll realize one of the benefits of quitting alcohol is that your social life can get even better. But first things first. If you’re serious about sobriety, you’ll need a realistic game plan.

Declare your Intention

Unless you’ve hurt people, the only person you need to justify your sobriety to is yourself. However, an honest conversation with family and friends can be beneficial, particularly if you wish to stop drinking alcohol and continue seeing them in social situations where the booze is flowing.

Identify your Triggers

If you can learn to drink booze, you can learn how to quit booze. To do this requires you to know thyself. Learn to identify cues that spark a wish to drink. These usually include stress, feeling isolated, places and social situations, one last drink for old times sake, and more. Reflect on the times, places, and company in which you drink.

Willpower Alone Is Not Enough

While willpower can be effective in the short term, lasting sobriety will require the deeper work of uncovering your unconscious motivators for drinking – fear of being cast out of a social group, fear of intimacy, trying to fill holes left from emotional wounds. Meditation and journaling are two highly effective ways to help answer questions concerning how to quit booze. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but I guarantee it is the surest way to long-term success.

quit booze woman
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Articulate your Vision

Why did you begin asking how to quit booze? What are your reasons to stop drinking alcohol? Health, relationships, money, family, career, better sleep, weight loss, increased energy? Write them down and place them where you can see them. Imagine yourself slimmer, richer, stronger, livelier, kicking a ball in the park with your kid, or breathing in the fresh air on a long hike with your partner. It’s totally down to you. One of the benefits of quitting alcohol is that you’ll have much more space to think clearly, so get creative.

Have Canned Responses

Again, you don’t need to explain your decision to stop drinking alcohol, but it’s guaranteed that people will ask. If you don’t wish to be rude, then think about how to politely turn down a drink or handle questions about your decision to quit.  Having some pre-planned responses will prevent you from being caught off guard. Make sure they feel empowering to you but don’t come across as judgmental to your drinker friends. These could include:

  • “I’m on a mission from God.”
  • “I’ve discovered that sex is infinitely better when sober.”
  • “I didn’t like the way alcohol was making me feel anymore.”
  • “I realized I’m happier when I don’t drink.”
  • “I’m creating my ideal life, and alcohol isn’t part of it.”
  • “I quit drinking booze, and I absolutely love it. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Be Prepared to Trigger Other People

When you decide to quit drinking, and you really own it, it may trigger the hell out of some of your drinking buddies. Your sobriety will effectively hold up the mirror to see their own poor decisions/unconscious behavior, and nobody likes looking at their own issues.

You Might Have To Let Some People Go

When you choose to stop drinking alcohol, you will quickly realize there are people in your life with whom you had nothing in common – except for alcohol. Some friends might even stop calling you, and that can sting. Yet, as you begin to let go of those who do not align with your new self, you clear a space for those who will support you to enter.

Fake it until you make it

Contrary to what purists say, there are some fine-tasting non-alcoholic beers out there. The difference only becomes apparent when you realize you’re not stumbling to the bathroom. And don’t underestimate the psychological benefit of having a bottle-shaped security blanket to hand. Even if it does taste slightly different, the placebo effect is powerful.

Think Positive

Henry Ford famously remarked, ‘whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ If you walk into a bar assuming you’ll have a terrible time sans booze, then you will. Enter with a smile, a positive attitude, and remember that drunk people can be funny, even when you’re not one of them.

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Have an Exit Plan

Whether you’re bored, tired, or particularly if you’re tempted to drink yourself, then make your excuses and just head for the door. If you have a reason, tell people. Need an excuse? Make one up. If your companions are drunk enough, opt for an Irish Goodbye and vanish silently into the night.

Keep Busy

One of the major benefits of quitting alcohol is a marked increase in mental and physical energy. Instead of stressing over how to quit booze, you’ll now be wondering how to spend this energy. Find creative, productive ways to release it. Join a gym. Learn guitar. Start a side gig. Train for a race. This newfound energy is a valuable currency that you’re free to spend any way you wish.


Wherever the impulse to drink grabs you. For the most part, this is likely to be a social situation of some kind.


Real friends will always be supportive. On the other hand, some may respond indifferently or even take your refusal to drink as a personal insult. They’ll cry ‘man down,’ which is basically a defensive cover at being reminded that their own drinking habits don’t serve them.

Don’t be surprised when strangers assume you’re a  recovering alcoholic.  Eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable and loose enough not to need a drink to loosen you up.

man quits booze and stops drinking alcohol
Photo Credit: Betsy Osterberger

The benefits of quitting alcohol include:

  • Weight loss, improved fitness, and increased energy.
  • Feel and look better.
  • Improved mental health.
  • Save money.
  • Better connections with friends, family, and loved ones.
  • Longer, deeper, better quality sleep.
  • More quality time with yourself for new hobbies and projects.
  • Less procrastination. Dramatically increased productivity.

Patrick Cooke is a transformational coach, sobriety mentor, podcaster, songwriter, and musician. His work lies at the intersection of awakening, healing, and creativity. His mission is simple – to support brave souls in finding deeper purpose and meaning by releasing toxic habits, limiting beliefs, and unconscious conditioning. Check out his work here. 


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