Becoming sober is an extraordinary accomplishment; however, the transition to a sober lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Addiction and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can become all-consuming in people's lives and when they choose to get treatment for their chronic disease, they must abandon old behaviors to embrace a new way of living.
Becoming sober requires a change in many different parts of an individual’s life. What was once the norm may no longer serve them in this new chapter. For example, knowing what to order at a company dinner may now feel daunting, or having to fall asleep without alcohol can feel debilitating; knowing what to substitute in place of alcohol must be relearned.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to alcohol that can be consumed without some of the effects drinking alcohol can entail. Choosing these alternatives can improve both your physical and mental health and help you not feel unfulfilled without alcohol in your life.
How to Stop Drinking
Before highlighting the various alcohol substitutions available, it is important to establish how to stop drinking if that is your current goal. Every individual who struggles with AUD or a Substance Use Disorder is unique, and therefore finding a solution that works for each individual is important.
Luckily, there are different treatment plans and programs out there that can assist all levels of alcoholism, ranging from mild to severe. When thinking about a treatment plan, the most important consideration is what will work for an individual.
If you suffer from AUD or a severe alcohol abuse problem, then finding a rehabilitation program might be the best form of treatment for you.
However, even rehabilitation programs vary from one another. They can be inpatient or outpatient facilities, and the time in the program can range from a few weeks to a few months, with the most common programs being either 30 or 60 days.
All treatment centers and rehabilitation programs range in approach as well, so finding one that aligns with your goals and your desired outcome is crucial.
Find a Supportive Community
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people committed to their recovery journey can be highly impactful for those struggling with an alcohol problem. Whether attending an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting or finding a support group practicing sobriety, community is key to staying sober.
Remote Alcohol Monitoring
For many people struggling with AUD and alcohol abuse, remote alcohol monitoring is a helpful treatment tool. Remote alcohol monitoring allows you to document your sobriety in a way that gives its user autonomy over their addiction and recovery.
Technology like Soberlink’s remote breathalyzer was designed specifically for those in recovery. A small and discrete handheld device, Soberlink’s alcohol testing device detects alcohol consumption and keeps a detailed record of one’s usage. Combining wireless connectivity with facial recognition, tamper detection, and real-time results, Soberlink notifies an individual’s Recovery Circle each time a test is submitted, keeping everyone abreast of the person’s recovery progress.
The Soberlink system works well for those who struggle with AUD and those who simply want a remote monitoring system for accountability and extra support.
What Happens When You Stop Heavily Drinking?
When you stop drinking, there are many changes one can expect. Those changes range from physical, like withdrawal symptoms, to environmental, like changes in routine.
For those who have AUD, the physical changes may be overwhelming at first. For example, those who suffer from alcohol abuse often have high blood pressure issues that may lessen or reverse once they stop drinking.
Depending on how much alcohol you are used to consuming, alcohol withdrawal and withdrawal symptoms can be life threatening if proper detox methods aren’t implemented.
AUD can even cause physical changes as bloating and swelling may lessen due to a lack of alcohol intake. Or, one may lose or gain weight after they stop drinking.
These physical symptoms may be welcomed or feared. Regardless, it is important to anticipate some or all of them as your body will likely experience them.
Not only does one’s body experience the effects of quitting alcohol, but life as they once knew it might also become unfamiliar. Environmental changes are another symptom of sobriety.
Change in Social Circle
If you have AUD or an issue with chronic drinking, you may look around and see that those around you are in similar situations. Many people who drink heavily associate with others who engage in similar behaviors.
This is because their lifestyles align with one another, and judgment is not passed as often as other non-drinking circles. So, when you stop engaging in that lifestyle, you may notice that the people you once fraternized with may now threaten your sobriety.
A change in a social circle may be a challenge or a celebrated side effect of your new lifestyle but could be a possibility nonetheless; finding support is crucial to remaining sober.
Finding a New Routine
In line with your social circle changing, you may find that your routines are completely shaken once you stop drinking. Where you once scheduled your post-work or Saturday afternoon drink, you now have to find new ways to fill in that time.
Something as simple as changing your grocery list can be a jolt to your routine. When drinking has been a crucial part of your life, eliminating it may make you feel disoriented.
This is an adjustment that will have to be made once you are no longer drinking.
Benefits of Quitting Drinking
Though it may feel as if quitting drinking will make your life challenging and perhaps a bit hollow, it is not without significant reward.
The benefits of sobriety outweigh the challenges tenfold and should encourage you while on your journey throughout treatment and sobriety.
The most crucial benefit of quitting alcohol is the improvement of one’s health. Those who engage in severe alcohol consumption have many possible side effects like high blood pressure or liver and kidney failure.
Many also experience other physical ailments like bloating or broken bones due to blacking out.
Fortunately, when you stop drinking, many health ailments slowly but surely get better. For example, the liver, which is one of the organs most affected by alcohol, can heal on its own once you are no longer drinking.
When you drink at a high level, your brain can feel its effects. It is not uncommon to have loss of memory and brain fog when you struggle with a drinking disorder. Most severely, alcohol can affect your brain and memory and cause a blackout where you subsequently lose some or all of your thoughts and actions.
Thankfully, these effects only get better or go away when you stop drinking. Cutting out alcohol allows for a clear mind and healthier brain that impacts your overall mental and physical health.
Having a mind free from brain fog and memory loss breeds happier memories and, therefore, happier people.
The list of benefits that accompany quitting drinking is extensive; many different aspects of someone’s life can improve if they choose sobriety.
Some include less relational turmoil, success in work and school, and even improved confidence resulting in higher self-esteem, all made possible by cutting out alcohol.
Tips for Socializing without Alcohol
Just because there are incredible benefits resulting from sobriety does not mean it may be a challenge to continue socializing without alcohol.
In a culture where drinking is often synonymous with socializing, finding your way at a party or event may be difficult. Fortunately, there are some tips for navigating the drinking scene when choosing to stay sober:
The biggest tool in your toolbox is communication when it comes to socializing. Going to an event where there will be alcohol may be triggering, so it is important to let someone you feel comfortable with know where you stand on drinking.
Depending on the situation, you can find a sober buddy to attend the event with you. This may make you feel more comfortable in an environment where everyone else is drinking. Attempt to do this prior to the event so your buddy can understand your expectations for the night.
If you are in AA with a sponsor or have a support person/system, communicate with them about where you are going and what you are doing. You may even ask them to check in with you a few times that night to make sure you are managing alright.
Regardless, make sure you express your feelings and/or fears to someone you trust to help keep you from feeling isolated due to your sobriety. Camaraderie and support go a long way.
Have an “Escape Route"
There may be times when you attend a social event where the environment is not conducive to your sobriety: and that’s okay.
When you are planning on going to one of these events, make sure to have an exit strategy if the activity becomes too much. This may look like driving on your own to ensure you can leave whenever you like or having a ready-made excuse to leave at your fingertips.
Establishing a method of exit can help you stay committed to your recovery and cause less anxiety in the event you become overwhelmed.
Grab a Non-Alcoholic Drink
Most often, people are more concerned about themselves to notice if and what you are drinking at a party. Social drinking events usually entail socializing with a drink in hand, therefore, having a non-alcoholic drink may make your experience feel and appear more natural.
Additionally, many people have alcohol integrated into their everyday lives, and eliminating that from a routine may present a challenge at first.
What to Drink When You Stop Drinking Alcohol
Fortunately, there are many different drink options to use as a substitution for those choosing an alcohol-free lifestyle. Utilizing one of these options, may help avoid a possible slip or relapse.
Depending on your social setting, you may be able to bring your own beverages to a party. Specifically, non-alcoholic beverages that look and relatively taste like the real deal.
Fortunately, there is a large market and a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks available. Non-alcoholic wine, beer, and even spirits now exist, making finding an alternative easy. Pour an alcohol-free rosé or pilsner in a glass or make a mocktail with an alcohol-free spirit to feel like you can still celebrate and enjoy a party when the rest of the group is drinking.
If you do not feel like sharing with fellow guests that you are no longer drinking, this is one of the best options as, unless they are also consuming your non-alcoholic beverage, they will not be able to tell what is in your glass.
Club Soda/Seltzer Water
Another option that looks like a real drink (and that may help you avoid unwarranted questions) is club soda or seltzer water with a lime.
As this drink looks like a classic cocktail, no other guest at the event will be able to tell what you are even consuming. It will keep your body hydrated and your hands busy, allowing you to socialize without feeling like you are missing out on something.
Tea or Coffee
Going out to events or parties is not the only time one may struggle with what to drink now that they are no longer drinking alcohol. Many worry about how they will get through their old routine at home that is now alcohol-free.
Opting for coffee or tea when you would normally have a drink, like a nightcap before bed, for example, will allow you to have the same ritual as before. Instead of reaching for a beer before bed, make a cup of herbal tea to help you relax and get in the right mindset.
Meeting for tea or coffee instead of happy hour drinks may also work as a substitute and fit into your new routine.
Like tea and coffee, diet soda is a good substitute when you are home and finding a new routine. Substituting a diet soda instead of a morning mimosa may, once again, help you feel like you’ve kept elements of your old routine without having to implement too many changes.
Diet soda also is a great option when out in public at a social event.
Enjoy Your New Lifestyle
Though it may be challenging to quit drinking, sobriety is beneficial to your overall health.
With significant changes in life comes great growth, and though it may be an adjustment, choosing sobriety is not one you will regret.
With the many different options on the market to substitute your alcoholic drink, you can still enjoy the socialization aspect and routine of your old life without the challenges and side effects associated with misusing alcohol.