Thursday August 16th 2018

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Motivation to stop drinking

So, what’s your motivation to stop drinking?

It’s more than just getting rid of a hangover.  Sometimes the motivation to put down booze and live life sober can come from the outside. Maybe your doctor, your husband or wife, your partner, a parent or child will urge you to stop drinking. Maybe you’ve been approached by friends or business colleagues. Perhaps you even have legal obligations related to problem drinking which motivate you to stop. But without being personally motivated, your likelihood of getting and staying sober is low.

So how can you stay motivated to be sober?

We think that some of the techniques of SMART Recovery® can help you address alcohol addiction and live an alcohol-free life. SMART teaches self-help techniques based on psychological principles. As a scientific and reason-based program, SMART is recognized by the NIH, by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Society of Addiction Medicine as an addiction recovery resource. SMART stands for:


Can these strategies help you stop drinking?


The SMART Recovery program can teach you to build and maintain motivation to stay sober. In fact, motivation is a founding principle of self-empowerment training. “Enhancing and Maintaining Motivation” is the first point to address if you want to achieve long-term sobriety. Here are a few ideas and tools for you to consider when you want to stay motivated , avoid drinking and live a sober life.

1. Understand that behavior change comes in stages.

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Know that there are “stages of change” when battling an addiction such as problem drinking. The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change is a model of health behavior change that places change on a continuum. Stages of change include Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. Moving forward from the Precontemplation Stage is key to sobriety and maintained abstinence. But understand also that you will probably fluctuate between these stages from time to time. And sometimes self-changers go through these stages three or four times before they make it through the cycle of change without at least one slip. Relapse prevention plans may help, but in the end, relapse to drinking gives us the opportunity to learn.

2. Compare gains and losses of drinking alcohol in a formal analysis.

A Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a simple exercise that helps you evaluate what you gain and what you lose when you stop drinking. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center of the page, and one across the center of the page to make 4 quadrants. At the top of the page, write: Drinking. In the top left quadrant, put Advantages (benefits & reward), top right put Disadvantages (costs & risks). Just above the bottom two squares in the lower half of the quadrant ,write: Not Drinking. In the bottom left quadrant, put Advantages (benefits & reward), bottom right put Disadvantages (costs & risks).

Now start to fill in the blanks.

Advantages of drinking might include social activity, entertainment, stress reliever, feels good, etc. Disadvantages might include medical conditions, relationship problems, work problems, legal problems, etc. It’s also helpful to label each advantage or disadvantage with an ST or LT (for short-term or long-term). Usually you’ll find that the “Benefits” of continuing to drink are short-term, while the “Costs” are long-term. Carry your CBA with you, and if an urge or opportunity to drink occurs, review the list to remember that the long-term costs outweigh the short-term benefits!

3. Make a list of your most important values.

A Hierarchy of Values can help you stay motivated to stop drinking. To complete a Hierarchy of Values, list the five most important things in your life, in order of importance. These will vary by person, and may include family, job, health, faith, finances, happiness, etc. (STOP READING HERE UNTIL YOU MAKE YOUR LIST.)

Now ask yourself, “Where is drinking on my list of values?” Did drinking make the Top 5? Even though we do not value drinking as one of the most important activities in our lives, drinking often has a major impact on each and everything that is valuable to you!

Now, consider the impact that drinking has on each of your top five values, and make plans to focus on the things that are most important to you. Compare this with continuing to drink. Instead of stopping at the bar on your way home, go to your child’s ball game, call a friend or a family member, or do something else that can enhance the values on your list.

4. Visualize the changes that you want to make in life.

Complete a Change Plan Worksheet to help you to “map out” the changes you want to make. This is important to starting to get sober. Once you have a map of what you want to do, you can put a plan in place for making those changes happen. Just as with any journey, using a map is a better, faster way to getting to your destination.

Can you quit drinking?

You better believe it! Your beliefs about your ability to quit are important, too! If you’re looking for more ideas, there are a number of other FREE motivational ideas available on the SMART Recovery website. Plus, the SMART Recovery Handbook has additional tools to help you to build and maintain your motivation and is available here:

Questions about how to quit drinking?

Please ask your questions about motivation to stop drinking below. We’ll be happy to answer real questions with a personal and prompt response. Or share what keeps you motivated to stop drinking or stay abstinent. We invite your feedback about drinking cessation here.




Photo credit: Ben Heine

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6 Responses to “Motivation to stop drinking
1:40 pm December 28th, 2011

Most of the people consume alcohols for entertainment, stress relief and many other matters. But the individual himself should know their limitation and their addiction towards alcohol. The early stage of addiction is mostly preventive because the individual’s friends and family members play a crucial role in the recovery of the person’s addiction towards alcohol.

8:20 pm September 28th, 2012

Hi! I badly want to quit drinking, but am having trouble building/maintaining the motivation. I’m currently in a lot of legal trouble, have been unemployed since November, and, as of last week, my husband is leaving me because of my drinking. All this, sadly enough, makes me want to drink more than ever. How can I get back on track and rebuild my life? Any advice would be much appreciated.

3:53 pm January 29th, 2016

I commuted to stop drinking for the month of January 2016. I’m day 29 and so far so good. Though, I’ve hibernated from the social scene to not be challenged. I need to understand more how I can keep myself continuing this path of freedom. Because that’s how I feel. Free.

4:03 am June 15th, 2016

I’ve stopped numerous times, but always end up going back to drinking. Longest non drinking period was a year. I made real friends, ran triathlins, and slept well. Found I deal with depression and seem to be attracted to the wrong type of women. Life seems to suck both ways. Good tips, but I warn you stopping is very hard. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Relapse is part of the deal. Stopping drinking is just a start, after that you will have to deal what makes you an alcoholic.

7:56 pm October 22nd, 2017

If i wean myself down to only a beer a week or even zero but i have bad anxiety that I am medicated for, and not many people to hang out with or help me. What is an alternative to relieving my stress, especially with two small children I watch by myself. I’ve tried hospital programs but I always go back to drinking eventually because of my anxiety. I need an alternative option besides alcohol because it’s obviously not healthy and cause a downward spiral of needing more than one drink after I start. Any advice is so greatly appreciated.

4:11 pm June 24th, 2018

People that can control their drinking and aren’t alcoholics dont understand the vicious cycle abusing alcohol can maintain. For example, I got a DUI in 2002, I was in the military, I was in trouble of losing rank, i had a court date, facing up to 6 months in jail and fines, so you’d think I would have stopped, but the drinking got even heavier with all the added stress and anxiety! I couldn’t drive, so it wasw easier to make the excuse to stay at home and get drunk. I even showed up in front of the judge drunk. He asked me point blank if i was and i lied and said no. he almost halted my hearing to have me taken to get the breathalizer test. I would have definitely gone to jail for contempt of court, but luckily he let it go. So many lucky breaks, God has watched over me. I wish anyone reading this the best in their recovery of addiction. Best of Luck to you.

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About SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery® offers free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups for abstaining from any substance or activity addiction. SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training. The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including alcohol, drugs, substance abuse, gambling addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. SMART Recovery currently offers more than 650 face-to-face meetings around the world, and more than 16 online meetings per week, including a weekly online meeting for Family & Friends.Phone: 866-951-5357 OR 440-951-5357

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