Motivation to stop drinking

Looking for motivation to stop drinking? Here are four (4) practical tools for getting and staying motivated in alcohol recovery. Get and stay sober for good! More here.

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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.

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.




About the author
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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