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Getting Help to Stop Drinking

Help and Support to Stop Drinking

Once you have made the decision to stop drinking alcohol, and you have conducted an honest and probing assessment of the impact that alcohol is having on your life, the next step is to evaluate how much support you think you will need in order to successfully stop drinking and what support can you realistically expect to obtain.

This will vary from individual to individual, but before you snap to any instant decisions on this it is worth at least considering the various options available to check whether they may be of use to you in your stop drinking strategy. Even if you decide they are not for you right now they may be of use at some future stage.

Your GP

Support to stop drinkingIf you have not been to your doctor before about your drinking this can often seem like a huge step to take. It means finally admitting to someone in authority that you have an alcohol problem, and if you have been adept at hiding your problem from the world in the past this can be a source of much shame and embarrassment.

However, after reviewing your options, even if you choose not to seek any other form of support it is highly recommended that check in with your doctor as a first step when beginning your quitting strategy for a number of reasons:

  • Your doctor will be able to assess your general level of health and determine the impact that any long term excessive drinking has had on your body. This will normally involve testing your blood pressure, and taking a blood sample to check your liver function.
  • They will ask you about your drinking history and the amount that you are currently drinking, and at this point probably tell you that you should try to stop drinking and set a goal of abstinence (but you knew that anyway!). They will tell you not to stop drinking immediately, but to gradually cut back on your consumption as you work towards this goal. This process is also called “tapering”, and the reason that they recommend this is that sometimes it can be dangerous for a heavy drinker to stop drinking suddenly, due to some of the possible harmful side effects. We will examine this in detail in the detox section later.
  • They can prescribe you medicines to replace essential vitamins and minerals you may be deficient in as a result of heavy drinking (specifically thiamine and vitamin B compound, and maybe others).
  • There are other drugs that they may be prepared to prescribe to help with the withdrawal from alcohol and/or from the cravings for alcohol during the recovery process, once you have stopped drinking, but this may require further assessment from specialist alcohol treatment professionals.
  • Depending on where you live and the level of suitable provision in your area they may refer you to a community alcohol team or similar – a specialist health care team focused on the treatment of alcoholism and alcohol related problems.
  • You will be required to attend a follow up session to discuss your blood test results, and may well be invited to have further blood tests at set intervals to determine how your liver responds to the reduction in alcohol levels, should you have been successful in cutting down or managed to completely stop drinking.
  • And finally, your doctor can certify you as “unfit to work”, should you be unable to work due to the effects of your detox and recovery program, or any psychological ill effects as a result of your drinking.


All of the above is what you should be entitled to expect from your doctor. However, it may be that your experience will be somewhat different to this and you will actually be offered little or none of the above in the first instance, and simply referred to another point of service.


It is unfortunate, but true, that many doctors do not view the treatment of alcoholics within their family practices as a priority, or as an integral part of their remit.

This is supported by a study conducted amongst GP’s practising across the Midland Counties of the UK regarding their views and their practices of early intervention with heavy drinkers.

The study concluded that doctors could be failing to diagnose and treat up to 98% of excessive drinkers passing through their surgeries each year.


“The fact that 65% of GP’s had managed one to six patients in the last year for excessive alcohol consumption was striking in view of evidence suggesting that around 20% of patients presenting to primary health care are likely to be excessive drinkers (Anderson, 1993). Given that the average list size per GP is 1820 patients (Royal College of GP’s, 1996) it is likely that the mean number of excessive drinkers each year is 364. Thus the majority of GP’s may be missing as many as 98% of the excessive drinkers” (Kaner et al, 1999).



doctors help to stop drinkingIn the same study, Doctors were asked to comment on suggested barriers to intervention. Over half the Doctors surveyed agreed with the following statements:

Government policies in general do not support doctors who want to practice preventative medicine;

Doctors are not trained in counselling for reducing alcohol consumption

Furthermore, 41% agreed with the statement that

Doctors themselves may have alcohol problems,

And almost  a third of those surveyed agreed that

Alcohol was not an important issue in general practice.


Now each doctor will have their own views and their own approach to the treatment of alcoholics, but bear in mind that they will also be constrained by the local and national policies in operation at the time. However, it will help if you visit your doctor knowing exactly what it is that you wish to achieve, and the help that you require in order to do so and the list above should give you a good point of reference.

It is unfortunate that at the very time someone visits their doctor because of a drinking problem their self esteem and their feelings of self worth are at their lowest. They are highly vulnerable and easily fobbed off in many cases. If you feel that this is happening to you don’t accept it. Change your doctor, or ask to see someone in the practice with more experience in this area.

Specialist Services

These services can be called different things depending on the area in which you live or indeed the country in which you live (eg Community Alcohol Team, Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service, etc.). In the UK these are National Health Service Trusts, or dedicated teams of health care professionals set up for the provision of care for those with alcohol or drug related issues. If you live outside the UK you will need to do some additional research to find the equivalent services in your location. Many of these services do not accept self-referrals, instead requiring a referral from a GP, Social Services, the Probation Service, etc.

Effectively they offer the following types of help:Specialist Alcohol Services

  • Initial assessment
  • An assigned key worker
  • Care planning
  • One-to-one treatment and counselling
  • GP liaison
  • Referral to other services, if necessary
  • Support for family and friends
  • Supervised home detox and in-patient detox as appropriate

This all sounds great, and when the steps are all joined up it has the makings of an excellent support program, but in practice the service can be somewhat patchy at best, and simply inaccessible at worst. Since these types of “free at point of access” services are funded at the margins of mainstream health budgets they are often extremely stretched, leading to lengthy waiting times and disjointed provision in the delivery of services.

You may be lucky enough to enjoy a positive experience with such an agency, but be warned that if you put all of your hope of successful recovery into a program which doesn’t deliver all it promises, you could end up frustrated and disappointed.

Support Groups

Alcohol support groups

Perhaps the most well known of these is Alcoholics Anonymous, and group meetings can be found in most towns and cities across the globe with membership estimated at around 2 million people worldwide.

Their recovery program is based around their “12 Steps” approach. These steps suggest ideas and actions that lead to those suffering from alcohol problems having happier and more useful lives. The only requirement to join is a genuine desire to stop drinking alcohol.

By going to AA meetings regularly their members can learn about the recovery program and to keep in touch with other members.

This is a description of AA taken from their own literature:


Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of men and women who help each other to stay sober. They offer the same help to anyone who has a drinking problem and wants to do something about it. Since they are all alcoholics themselves, they have a special understanding of each other. They know what the illness feels like – and they have learned how to recover from it in AA.


Opinion about Alcoholics Anonymous tends to be very polarised. Many recovering alcoholics credit AA with saving their lives and they swear by the methodology and approach the movement employs. Certainly there is plenty of evidence through personal testament that AA has worked for a large number of people.

For others however, the approach is too restrictive and requires them to adopt beliefs that they do not feel comfortable with. For instance although AA claims not to be a religious organisation there are many references to God, or a higher power in its literature, and calls for a spiritual awakening as a result of practicing the 12 steps. This doesn’t sit comfortably with everyone.

Many people also struggle with the notion of “admitting they are powerless”, and “surrendering control of their lives to a higher power”, since what they are desperately trying to do is regain their own control and power over their lives and to exercise this power to enable them to stop drinking.

However, this is not intended to be a for or against argument for AA – there are plenty of other places on the web where this debate can be followed, and since this site advocates creating your own personalised and unique strategy to stop drinking alcohol it is for each individual to decide if AA is for them or not.

As a final word though, if you do feel in desperate and urgent need of someone to talk to about your problems with alcohol, AA are always accessible, and always welcoming of anyone who genuinely wants to quit drinking, and in most cases are only a phone call (or email) away.

Contact details in the UK:

Helpline: 0845 769 7555 (local rate)

Website: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk


Other charity based support groups may be available in your local area – check with your doctor or Community Alcohol Team in the first instance or simply check the phone directory. Generally the bigger the city you live in, the more chance there will be of finding a local support group.

The following national resources are available In the UK:


They provide a national telephone helpline with 24 hour support available – they can also provide information about local services available in your area.

Telephone: 0800 8917 8282

Alcohol Concern

Alcohol Concern is the UK National agency on alcohol misuse. They can be contacted as follows:

Telephone: 020 7395 4000

email: contact@alcoholicconcern.org.uk

Website: www.alcoholconcern.org.uk

Action on Addiction

Action on Addiction is a registered charity, which was formed in May 2007 through the merger of three organisations: Action on Addiction, Clouds and the Chemical Dependency Centre.

Telephone:  0300 330 0659

Email:    admin@actiononaddiction.org.uk

Website: http://www.actiononaddiction.org.uk


Other Organisations


Counselling Directory
Counselling Directory is a leading support network in the UK. It is a confidential service that encourages those in distress to seek help.
The directory contains information on many different types of distress, as well as articles, news, and events.
To ensure the professionalism of their website, all counsellors have provided qualifications and insurance
cover or proof of membership with a professional body.
The following link contains information specifically related to alcohol and alcoholism:




The Recovery Village


633 Umatilla Blvd. Umatilla, FL 32784
Phone: (352) 771-2700

The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment for dual diagnosis based drug and alcohol rehab, eating disorder and mental health treatments tailored to the patient’s specific needs. At The Recovery Village, we understand addiction. Our fully trained staff will guide patients and family to the goal of complete rehabilitation.

Top of the line medical care, combined with wellness programs and holistic treatments such as yoga and meditation, massage and equine resources mean we are dedicated to healing the whole self. We provide affordable luxury and recovery in a setting where lasting health and peace of mind are the goals. If you are looking for the best drug rehab centers or alcohol rehab centers we can help you find the right resources.


By special request from our friends in Jacksonville, FL, please also see:

Stepping Stone Center for Recovery – http://www.steppingstonecenter.org


Rehab Programs

These types of facilities often hit the headlines whenever big name celebrities go off the rails, and enter rehab to get “fixed up”. Reputed to cost tens of thousands of pounds for a full treatment taking 4 to 6 weeks or more, these options seem, quite reasonably, out of the reach of most ordinary folk.

However, there are a number of private facilites available offering a range of treatment options with a corresponding range of prices, so if this is something you think would be beneficial to you it’s worth doing a bit of research to see what’s on offer. The advantage of these types of treatment is that being residential in most cases, you are totally immersed in the treatment environment for the duration of the program and receive intensive, round the clock treatment and support while you are there. As they offer a structured program, it reduces all external distractions to a minimum and removes much of the worry of day to day management of the program from the individual.

Many also offer excellent follow up care once the residential part of the program is completed.

Some are “retreat-based” often in exotic locations, and as such the costs could be considered as a much better use of your annual holiday spend, if you are currently in this position financially.

Employer based programs

Many employers, particularly large multinational organisations have their own employee wellbeing programs and may offer assistance for alcohol related problems as part of this. Or if not, perhaps you opt in to an employer subsidised health scheme where you could obtain help and support in this area.

The issue with this approach for many is the “going public” element involved, as they feel that this could have a damaging impact on their careers in the future.  The flip side to this is, of course, whether they will have a future career if they continue to drink. Even if you decide against this option for the sake of maintaining anonymity it is still worth checking whether there is a confidential helpline that you could access as part of the service.

Going it Alone – Stop Drinking by yourself

Despite all the various options available to support someone who wants to stop drinking, after considering these options many people still prefer to go it alone.

This could be out of personal preference – they cannot face the prospect of opening up to strangers about their problems, or can’t deal with the stress of having to attend various appointments, meetings and so on – or it could be because they have tried to get the support they needed but the provision was simply lacking, or inadequate for their needs, so they are left with little option but to continue on their own.

If either of the above describes your situation then don’t worry – all is not lost, since there are countless individuals out there who have successfully managed to stop drinking on their own, and for whom the process has been much easier simply because they have managed it on their own terms, in a way that best suits them.

There have been studies conducted in the past that have shown little if any difference in outcomes for drinkers who follow intensive counselling and therapeutic programs from those who “go it alone”. (eg Orford and Edwards, 1977).

There will be those who say, ”Everyone needs support…” or, “You can’t go it alone…”, but at the end of the day, remember that all help is ultimately self-help. No-one else can do it for you and there is no magic solution, or silver bullet to fix to a chronic alcohol problem, and success or failure will, in the end, come down to you, regardless of the additional support you may or may not have had.

Having said that, there are no medals for doing this alone – it is not a morally or laudably superior  choice – it just comes down to a matter of personal preference or simply because it is the only pragmatic option available.

However, even if you do take this option, it is worth remaining open to other options at each step of your journey towards long term sobriety, since you may find that you need specific help or advice at different points along the way. For instance you may require help and support while you stop drinking alcohol (the detox phase), or you may need more support in the stages afterwards as you attempt to maintain your sobriety (the recovery stage).

Planning to stop drinkingAction point: In an ideal world, which are the resources you would like to tap into to support your particular quitting strategy? Which of these are readily available to you right now, and which ones need a bit more research? What are you going to do now? Write it down!



Next Steps: Deciding on Levels of Disclosure


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