Wayne Ergle
August 4, 2023

Why is it so damn hard to quit drinking?

Are you struggling to halt the habit of drinking alcohol? You’re not alone – this battle is a shared struggle due to the addictive nature of alcohol. This insightful read delves into why it is so hard to quit drinking and why it can be such an uphill task, ranging from impacting our brain health to societal acceptance and fear of change.

Let’s uncover these barriers together, inspiring courage for your journey to sobriety.

Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol’s addictive nature, societal acceptance, and physical dependence contribute to the difficulty of quitting drinking.
  • Depletion of vitamins and nutrients from alcohol consumption worsens withdrawal symptoms during detoxification.
  • Increased anxiety and depression are common mental health issues associated with alcohol use disorder.

Factors that Contribute to the Difficulty of Quitting Drinking

Alcohol’s highly addictive nature, social acceptance of alcohol, depletion of vitamins and nutrients, increased anxiety and depression, physical dependence, availability and heavy advertising of alcohol, fear of change, lifestyle change required for recovery, lack of support from some people, and stigma surrounding not using alcohol all contribute to the difficulty of quitting drinking.

Alcohol’s highly addictive nature

Alcohol addiction thrives due to its powerful hooks into the human brain. This potent substance stimulates a flood of dopamine, crafting an illusion of happiness and relaxation in the user.

Over time, repeated exposure to alcohol reduces the brain’s regular production of this ‘feel-good’ chemical. As a result, dependence forms as individuals rely on alcohol to maintain normal levels of dopamine release.

An added layer of difficulty comes from rewiring deep within our brains due to excessive drinking habits; suddenly, not having alcohol can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, making quitting incredibly tough.

Like other addictive substances, such as nicotine or opioids, altering crucial neural pathways linked with pleasure and reward systems creates a vicious cycle — you drink to feel good but end up needing more merely to feel normal.

Social acceptance of alcohol

Society’s overall acceptance of alcohol contributes significantly to the difficulty many face when quitting drinking. Alcohol often plays a central role in social activities and events, making it appear normal or even essential for having a good time.

An impactful cityscape showcasing the factors that contribute to the difficulty of quitting drinking, a bustling street lined with bars and liquor stores, filled with people indulging in alcohol, creating a sense of temptation and struggle. Depicts the social acceptance of alcohol.

This prevalent use fosters an environment where heavy drinking sometimes gets written off as harmless fun.

In certain professional circles, alcohol also serves as an informal tool for networking. Business deals are frequently struck over rounds of drinks, embedding alcohol deeply into the fabric of our work culture.

This further complicates attempts at sobriety, with individuals fearing they might miss out on vital opportunities if they choose not to drink. Barring this societal change and shift in perspective towards alcohol consumption, quitting becomes all the more challenging.

Depletion of vitamins and nutrients

Alcohol’s nutritional void significantly contributes to the difficulty of quitting drinking. It lacks essential proteins, minerals, and vitamins that our bodies need to function optimally.

Over time, regular alcohol consumption can dangerously deplete these critical nutrients from your body.

The effect of alcohol goes beyond empty calories—it actively inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients like thiamin (vitamin B1). As a result, chronic drinkers often suffer from deficiencies in essential elements such as vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, and even vitamin A.

This lack of necessary vitamins worsens withdrawal symptoms and extends periods of discomfort during detoxification.

Increased anxiety and depression

Alcohol can significantly impact mental health, leading to increased anxiety and depression. Heavy drinking is often linked to symptoms of depression, and alcohol can actually cause these feelings by constantly driving the brain into an aversive state.

A poignant portrayal of the difficulties in quitting drinking, as it relates to increased anxiety and depression. The image depicts a person standing on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a turbulent ocean below. The wind whips through their hair, mirroring the turmoil within. The sky is overcast, with dark clouds looming overhead, symbolizing the weight of their emotions.

This means that people with alcohol use disorders have higher rates of both anxiety and depression. Quitting drinking can also bring about temporary feelings of sadness and hopelessness as the body adjusts to life without alcohol.

It’s essential to recognize that alcohol addiction is often comorbid with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, making it even more challenging for individuals struggling with addiction to overcome their alcohol dependence.

Physical dependence

Physical dependence is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to quit drinking. When individuals become dependent on alcohol, their bodies adapt to its presence and function with it.

This means that if they try to stop or reduce their alcohol consumption, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, sweating, and anxiety. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and even dangerous sometimes, deterring people from quitting or reducing their drinking.

It’s crucial for individuals who are physically dependent on alcohol to seek professional help to manage these withdrawal symptoms safely and increase their chances of successfully quitting drinking.

Availability and heavy advertising of alcohol

The availability and heavy advertising of alcohol contribute significantly to the difficulty of quitting drinking. With alcohol readily accessible in stores, bars, and restaurants, it can be challenging for individuals with alcohol use disorders to resist temptation.

Moreover, the constant bombardment of alcohol advertisements on TV, social media, and billboards further normalizes drinking behavior and can make it harder for individuals to stay sober.

This pervasive exposure to alcohol can lead to cravings and triggers that make quitting even more difficult.

Fear of change

Fear of change is a significant factor that contributes to the difficulty of quitting drinking. When individuals become dependent on alcohol, it becomes a familiar and comforting presence in their lives.

A young man standing on road littered with glass and empty bottles of alcohol looking at bright light. Depicts the fear of change and the hope that comes with quitting drinking.

The idea of giving up something that has provided them with emotional support or served as a coping mechanism can be daunting and scary. Additionally, fear of change can stem from the uncertainty of what life will look like without alcohol.

People may worry about socializing without drinking or handling stress and emotions without relying on alcohol. Overcoming this fear requires taking small steps towards change and seeking support from friends, family, or addiction treatment programs to provide guidance and encouragement along the journey to sobriety.

Lifestyle change required for recovery

Recovery from alcohol use disorder requires a significant lifestyle change. This involves making different choices and developing new habits to support sobriety. It means saying goodbye to hangovers and improving sleep by quitting drinking altogether.

A crucial part of recovery is learning to live a healthier lifestyle, which includes focusing on proper nutrition and incorporating regular exercise into daily routines. Individuals can experience positive transformations in their bodies and minds by making these changes.

Lack of support from some people

Some people trying to quit drinking may not receive the support they need from those around them. Whether it’s friends, family members, or colleagues, the lack of understanding and encouragement can make it even more challenging to overcome alcohol addiction.

It is vital for individuals struggling with alcoholism to have a robust support system that can provide emotional support, guidance, and accountability throughout their recovery journey.

Without this support, it can be difficult for individuals to stay motivated and committed to their goal of sobriety. Additionally, negative attitudes or judgments from others can further contribute to feelings of isolation and discourage seeking help.

Stigma surrounding not using alcohol

The stigma surrounding not using alcohol can make quitting drinking even more challenging. People who abstain from alcohol may face judgment or criticism from others who don’t understand their decision.

This stigma can be a barrier for individuals seeking help for their drinking problems, as they might fear being labeled as “weak” or “abnormal.” It’s important to recognize that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a health condition that requires treatment, and conveying this message can help reduce the stigma of not using alcohol.

By promoting understanding and support instead of judgment, we can create an environment where people feel comfortable seeking help to overcome their addiction.

Harmful Effects of Alcohol on Brain Health

Chronic heavy drinking can have severe detrimental effects on brain health. Excessive alcohol consumption over an extended period of time can lead to alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), causing memory loss, impaired decision-making, difficulty with impulse control, attention problems, and disrupted sleep regulation.

A close-up shot of a human skull surrounded by alcoholic beverages, showing the harmful effects of alcohol on brain health.

Alcohol abuse can also result in alcohol-related brain impairment (ARBI), negatively affecting coordination, thinking abilities, planning skills, and memory function.

One of the reasons for these harmful effects is that alcohol stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. This stimulation reduces anxiety but also dampens overall brain activity. The long-term impact of this process can lead to significant cognitive impairments and difficulties in various areas of daily functioning.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that alcohol abuse is closely linked to mental health issues. Many individuals struggling with addiction often experience co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Overall, it is crucial to recognize the damaging consequences that excessive alcohol consumption can have on the brain. Understanding these harmful effects highlights the importance of addressing alcohol addiction and seeking appropriate treatment options for a healthier future.

Lack of Awareness and Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

Many people struggling with alcohol addiction are unaware of the available treatment options. This lack of awareness can make quitting drinking and seeking help even harder. Additionally, there is still a stigma surrounding alcohol addiction, which may prevent individuals from openly discussing their problems and seeking the necessary support.

An overhead shot of a support group session in an addiction treatment center, individuals sitting in a circle, sharing their stories of struggle and recovery, the room filled with empathy and understanding, creating a sense of hope and community.

Society needs to increase awareness about the resources and treatments available for alcohol addiction, as this can greatly improve an individual’s chances of recovery.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is one such resource that offers free and confidential treatment referral and information services 24/7. By spreading knowledge about these options, we can help those in need find the support they deserve on their journey toward sobriety.

Reasons Why Quitting Drinking Alone is Challenging

  • Alcohol dependence characterized by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • Limited access to resources for quitting alcohol
  • Difficulty managing cravings and triggers on one’s own
  • Fear of facing the underlying issues that contribute to alcohol abuse

Development of Alcohol Addiction and Dependence

Alcohol addiction and dependence develop over time as a result of repeated alcohol use. When someone drinks alcohol, it affects the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure and reinforces the desire to continue drinking.

Over time, the brain becomes used to the presence of alcohol and starts to rely on it for normal functioning.

As a person continues to drink heavily, their tolerance increases, meaning they need more alcohol to achieve the same effects. This can lead to excessive drinking and an increased risk of developing an addiction or dependence.

Alcohol addiction is characterized by compulsive drinking and a loss of control over intake, while alcohol dependence involves physical withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back on drinking.

The development of alcohol addiction and dependence can be influenced by various factors such as genetics, environmental factors like family history or peer pressure, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, and personal circumstances.

Seeking help from healthcare professionals is crucial for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction or dependence to receive appropriate treatment and support.

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

Close up a man's face showing a sense of desperation. He is holding a small bottle of alcohol. Depicts alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol detox refers to removing alcohol from the body when someone stops drinking. During this time, individuals may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration depending on the severity of alcohol addiction and personal factors. Some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Jumpiness
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate

Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction can be influenced by various risk factors, including:

  • Genetics: A family history of alcoholism increases the likelihood of developing an addiction.
  • Mental health conditions: Individuals with mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, have a higher risk of alcohol addiction.
  • Early onset drinking: Starting to drink at a young age increases the risk of developing alcohol addiction later in life.
  • Peer pressure: Being surrounded by peers who engage in heavy drinking can influence alcohol consumption habits.
  • Environmental factors: Growing up in an environment where alcohol use is prevalent or being exposed to high-stress environments can contribute to the development of alcohol addiction.
  • Social and cultural influences: Societal norms and cultural acceptance of heavy drinking can impact an individual’s perception of alcohol and increase the risk of addiction.
  • Traumatic experiences: Experiencing trauma or having a history of physical or emotional abuse increases vulnerability to substance abuse, including alcohol addiction.
  • Lack of support systems: A lack of social support or poor familial relationships can contribute to increased alcohol use and addiction.

How Addiction Treatment Programs Can Help in Quitting Alcohol

Addiction treatment programs play a crucial role in helping individuals quit alcohol. These programs offer vital support and resources to those seeking to overcome their addiction.

Professionals lead the treatments for alcohol problems, providing guidance and assistance every step of the way. Additionally, there are FDA-approved medications available that can be used under the supervision of a doctor to treat alcohol use disorder.

This comprehensive approach addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, increasing the chances of long-term success. For anyone looking to quit drinking, these programs provide the necessary tools and strategies for recovery.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is an excellent resource for individuals facing mental and substance use disorders. It offers a 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service, connecting people with appropriate addiction treatment programs that suit their needs.

Quitting alcohol can benefit individuals’ lives, such as improved physical health, better relationships, increased productivity, and emotional well-being. By participating in an addiction treatment program, individuals gain access to professional help explicitly tailored for them, giving them the best chance at achieving lasting sobriety.

Tips for Stopping Drinking and Benefits of Quitting.

Quitting alcohol can have numerous benefits for both your physical and mental health. It can lead to improved sleep, increased energy levels, and better relationships with loved ones.

If you’re looking to stop drinking, here are some helpful tips:

1. Make a personal decision: Quitting alcohol starts with a commitment to change. Take the time to reflect on why you want to stop drinking and set clear goals for yourself.

2. Seek professional help: Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, so it’s essential to reach out for medical supervision or join an addiction treatment program for support during this process.

3. Create a support system: Surround yourself with people who support your decision to quit drinking and will encourage you along the way.

4. Find alternative coping mechanisms: Instead of turning to alcohol when facing stress or difficult emotions, try healthy ways of dealing with them, such as exercise, meditation, or talking with a therapist.

5. Avoid triggers: Identify situations or people that may trigger your urge to drink and make necessary changes in your environment or social patterns.

6. Remove temptation: Get rid of any alcoholic beverages in your home and avoid places where alcohol is readily available while you’re working on quitting.

7. Keep track of progress: Maintain a journal where you record how many days sober you are and note any positive changes you’ve noticed in yourself since quitting drinking.

8. Practice self-care: Prioritize activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy.

9. Set realistic expectations: Understand that quitting alcohol is not easy and there may be setbacks along the way; be kind to yourself throughout the process.

10. Celebrate milestones: Recognize each milestone reached on your journey towards sobriety as an accomplishment worth celebrating – whether it’s one day sober or one year – every step counts towards a healthier lifestyle.

By following these tips and seeking the necessary help and support, you can overcome the challenges of quitting drinking and experience the numerous benefits of a life without alcohol.


Quitting drinking can be incredibly challenging due to the highly addictive nature of alcohol, the social acceptance surrounding it, and the physical dependence that develops. Additionally, the fear of change and lack of support from others can make it even harder.

It’s important to recognize that quitting alcohol is not easy and may require professional help and a robust support system. However, with determination and resources like addiction treatment programs, it is possible to achieve sobriety and live a healthier life free from alcohol addiction.

Why it’s so Damn Hard to Quit Drinking? FAQ’s

Why is it so hard to quit drinking?

Quitting drinking can be extremely challenging for a variety of reasons. One major factor is that alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry and can create physical dependence. Over time, the brain becomes used to the presence of alcohol, and when it is removed, it can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, alcohol can be psychologically addictive, making it difficult to resist the cravings and urges to drink. It can also be challenging to break the behavioral patterns associated with drinking, such as socializing with friends who drink. All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of quitting drinking and maintaining long-term sobriety.

How does alcohol affect brain chemistry?

Alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry by interfering with the neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. It increases the activity of certain neurotransmitters that produce feelings of pleasure and relaxation while inhibiting the activity of neurotransmitters that are responsible for controlling impulses and regulating mood. This imbalance in brain chemistry can lead to a dependence on alcohol to feel “normal” and make it difficult to stop drinking.

What is alcohol withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms when an individual abruptly stops or reduces heavy alcohol use. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including tremors, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, hallucinations, and even seizures. In extreme cases, delirium tremens can occur, which can be life-threatening. It is always recommended to seek medical assistance when withdrawing from alcohol to ensure safety and proper management of symptoms.

How long does it take to become sober?

The time it takes to become sober can vary depending on several factors, including the amount and duration of alcohol use, individual physiology, and any underlying medical conditions. Generally, it takes about 30 days for the body to eliminate alcohol, but achieving long-term sobriety requires ongoing efforts and support. It is important to remember that each person’s journey to sobriety is unique.

Can’t I just stop drinking “cold turkey”?

While some individuals may be able to stop drinking abruptly without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, it is not recommended for everyone, especially those who have been consuming alcohol heavily for an extended period. Suddenly stopping alcohol can lead to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens. It is always recommended to seek medical guidance when considering quitting drinking to ensure a safe and controlled process.

Why do people relapse after achieving sobriety?

Relapse is a common occurrence during the recovery process. Several factors can contribute to relapse, such as stress, environmental triggers, underlying mental health conditions, and an individual’s readiness or commitment to change. It is important to understand that relapse does not mean failure but rather an opportunity to learn and strengthen one’s recovery plan.

How can I quit drinking for good?

Quitting drinking for good requires a multi-faceted approach. Consider seeking professional help from an outpatient rehab or addiction treatment center. They can provide guidance, support, and resources to help you develop a personalized recovery plan. It may also be beneficial to join support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and surround yourself with a robust support system. Making lifestyle changes, seeking therapy or counseling, and finding healthy coping mechanisms can also greatly assist in your journey toward long-term sobriety.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic condition characterized by an inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences. It is a diagnosable medical condition that ranges from mild to severe. Seeking professional help is crucial for individuals with AUD, as it requires a comprehensive treatment plan to address the disorder’s physical and psychological aspects.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, how difficult is it to quit drinking?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), quitting drinking can be difficult due to the physical and psychological dependence that alcohol can create. It can take several attempts before successfully achieving sobriety, and ongoing support and treatment are often necessary to maintain long-term recovery.

How can I overcome anxiety and depression when trying to quit drinking?

Quitting drinking can be an emotional process, and it is common for individuals to experience anxiety and depression as they navigate their sobriety journey. It is important to seek professional help and support from therapists or counselors specializing in addiction and mental health. If necessary, they can provide coping strategies, therapy techniques, and medication to help manage these symptoms and support your recovery.

Wayne Ergle

Wayne firmly believes that each of us possesses extraordinary gifts and talents, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. But life's hurdles often obstruct our path to greatness. That's why he birthed Be Your Own Invention – to ignite the flames of motivation in everyone's transformation journey. Wayne’s transformation story includes conquering a 20-year battle with severe alcohol addiction, emerging triumphant and sober since 2018.