How to Start to Stop Using

Quitting Might Not Be Possible without Help, but It Is Possible
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Everyone’s support system looks different—and you can build yours with whomever you choose: family members, friends, significant other or mentors.

“Why can’t I stop using drugs?”

In mixed moments of clarity, regret and desperation, you find yourself asking this question. 

No matter how long you’ve felt like you might have a drug problem or how many times you’ve tried to quit using, a drug-free life is a realistic path forward for you. It’s a path millions of people have successfully taken—people from every background and all walks of life.  

That’s not to say the journey will be easy. It will be a mental, physical and emotional endeavor, and it could require professional help. But we know you can get your life back. We know that with the right tools and support system, you can find a happier, healthier way to live. 

Give yourself credit for simply being here. Reading tips on how to stop using, considering what life could look like without drugs is positive momentum. Let’s get you even closer to finding new hope and life in sobriety—one step, one goal at a time. 

You are so much more than your substance use disorder. You deserve to discover who you are without drugs. Here are eight things you can do today to take those first brave steps forward. 

Reach out to a doctor 

Especially with painkillers and other opioids, the fear of withdrawal symptoms prevents people from seeking help with a drug problem. If that’s a concern for you, talk with a doctor confidentially about your drug use, your desire to stop using, and the withdrawal and detox process. (The sudden lack of drugs in your system can send your body into withdrawal, resulting in various symptoms—some of which can be dangerous without medical assistance.) A doctor can assess your situation, advise you about the withdrawal process, and discuss medical monitoring and assistance to help you safely and comfortably detox.

Discover your why

Why do you want to stop using drugs? If you never put an addictive substance into your body again, what would you say was your No. 1 reason for quitting and staying drug-free? 

Take your time answering this question. Your answer is one of the most valuable insights you’ll take with you on your road to recovery. As withdrawal symptoms intensify or as a craving kicks in, you’ll want to always return to this answer—what we call your why. 

Your why can be anything you hold dear. Some people focus on relationships. Spouses, parents, kids and any other loved one. Others consider their careers, health, and other aspirations and goals that have been sidelined due to the effects of drug use. For many, it’s a combination of factors that motivates their decision to become sober. 

Your why is all yours. There’s no judgment in what you determine. Write it down—everywhere. Set a daily message alert on your phone for moments when you’re most vulnerable to using. Add pictures to places in your home and car, or on your phone and computer backgrounds that consistently remind you of why you’ve chosen this new life of sobriety. 

Set small, attainable goals

You have one giant goal in mind—never use again. We get it. In theory, keeping your eye on this one larger goal makes sense. Unfortunately, focusing on this one and only grand objective is why many people struggle to successfully quit using or why they relapse early on in their recovery journey.  

Instead, focus on setting smaller, more attainable goals that help you accomplish that big one. 

  • Go to a support group, like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Stop going to places where you feel the desire to use
  • Reach out to and lean on loved ones who support your sobriety
  • Have a plan in place for when detox or sobriety feels overwhelming
  • Find healthy ways to unwind and relax 

Remove your access to drugs and alcohol

Eliminating access to drugs and alcohol is critical, especially in your early days of sobriety. There will be temptations in your path that you can’t control—so focus on what is in your control. 

  • Remove all drugs, drug paraphernalia and alcohol from your home
  • If you live with people who use or drink, discuss a plan for them to keep substances out of the home or, at the very least, out of your presence 
  • Avoid places where you’ve had easy access to drugs and alcohol, or frequently used in the past 

Discover your triggers

Your decision to stop using is powerful. Recognizing the things in your life that trigger your desire to use will further energize and empower that decision. A trigger can be physical or mental, including: 

  • Negative emotions, like fear, anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, etc. 
  • Being around certain people
  • Stress from work or home life

Assess what you can change in your life to decrease the impact or frequency of that trigger. 

Surround yourself with support

Active addiction is very isolating. Quitting using can make you feel even more alone and even afraid. Will people judge you for having a drug problem? Is it safe to open up about your struggles?

We understand your concerns. But no matter what they are or how heavy they feel in this moment, know that there are lots of people who will support you through this. 

Everyone’s support system looks different—and you can build yours with whomever you choose: family members, friends, significant other or mentors. Positive support persons are those who recognize your goals and stand by you as you work to accomplish them. They’re the people you feel safe being vulnerable with and you trust to hold you accountable in those tough moments.   

If you don’t have people currently in your life who can help you get sober, you’re still not in this alone. There are people willing and waiting to support you, guide you and love you through the ups and downs of ending drug use. 

One of the best places to find people who will have your back outside of your network of family and friends is at support groups, like NA and AA. People in NA and AA are either working to become sober or are currently in recovery. Either way, they understand what you’re going through because they’ve been there. They personally know the pain and challenges and reality of addiction and recovery. 

An inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program could be the place where you find your first support network too. From the detox process to recovery support, you will have peers who understand what it means and what it takes to quit using.

Explore new hobbies

Addiction has a way of seeping into all parts of your life. It changes the way you socialize and how you spend time alone. One of the most exciting—yet sometimes intimidating—aspects of getting sober is discovering who you are without drugs. 

Find new ways to spend your time. What are hobbies you used to enjoy or new ones you’ve always wanted to try? Are there self-care activities that make you feel relaxed? Regardless of the activities you choose, they should make you feel proud of yourself, calm, included, and mentally and physically healthy. 

Reach out to a therapist

Substance use disorder frequently coincides with other mental health disorders, such as PTSD, depression, ADHD, anxiety and trauma. Many people who go to treatment or begin therapy discover that a mental health disorder has contributed to their addiction.

Maybe you haven’t been officially diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Or maybe you don’t see a connection between a mental health disorder and your drug use. Even so, therapy can be an incredibly positive and helpful tool for you in achieving long-term recovery. 

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