How can I overcome withdrawal when I quit drinking cold turkey?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on July 13th, 2010 - Last updated: September 28th, 2023
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Dear Stanton,

I am a single mother who has been drinking one-two bottles of wine a day (and sometimes other kinds of alcohol) for about ten years. I run my own business successfully, and am a good mother. But I have taken not care of myself physically, and in addition to the drinking I’ve gained weight and gotten out of shape. I am going to quit drinking cold turkey. How can I make the experience more manageable – are diet and vitamins important? What are the dangers for me to withdraw from alcohol cold turkey so suddenly? Can it be done?



Hi Rachel,

If you are anticipating medical problems, you should consult a sympathetic physician. I say sympathetic, because you could easily consult a doctor who would insist that you enter treatment.

Of course, people quit drinking all the time (just as people pull off the more difficult feat of quitting smoking). They also quit all sorts of chemical dependencies (search my website for the word “withdrawal” and you will see some of the range of chemicals, from antidepressants to methadone to Percocet, people withdraw from). You seem confident of your ability to stop drinking – go for it, confidence and motivation are critical to successful withdrawal, along with careful planning, which you also seem prepared to do.

You will also see, if you explore withdrawal at my site, that it is influenced as much by your environment, expectations, and lifestyle as is the use of a drug or alcohol in the first place. Thus, the experience of alcohol withdrawal varies dramatically, including from country to country. In Canada, it has been customary to withdraw alcoholics in nonmedical settings (the Addiction Research Foundation ran the Bon Ami farm for this purpose in Ontario for years), while in the U.S. DTs are considered to be such a problem that medical supervision is usually required.

Some of the keys to successful withdrawal are

(a) to take care of yourself physically, including diet and vitamins,

(b) to make your surroundings as pleasant as possible,

(c) to divert yourself by immersing yourself in positive and meaningful activities and groups,

(d) to focus on your motivations for changing (like your children).

Come to think of it, these are pretty much the recommendations I would give for quitting an addiction in the first place, and which you seem to have figured out for yourself. It is great that you feel you are leading a successful life and are prepared to change your addiction and inactivity. These are two of the horsemen of the apocalypse. But you do not seem to be threatened by the other two – purposelessness and depression.


Have you been affected by the issues described in this story?

Many of us have been told that addiction is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. The Life Process Program® does not believe this. The program believe addiction is a compelling, destructive involvement that, because it detracts from other areas of people’s lives, forces them to rely with greater exclusivity on the addictive experience they get from the involvement, whether with alcohol or anything else:

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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