9 Ways to Cut Down on Alcohol
If you’re limiting alcohol, the winter holidays can bring challenges. With these tips and a little planning, you can keep drinking under control.
- Keep track. Keep track of how much you drink. Carry a card in your wallet, make check marks on a calendar, or enter notes in a cell phone app. Thinking about each drink before you drink it can help you slow down when you need to.
- Count and measure. Know the standard drink sizes. Measure drinks at home. Keep in mind that, away from home, it can be hard to keep track, especially with mixed drinks. This means that you may be getting more alcohol than you think.
- Set goals. Decide how many days a week you will drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days. It’s a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink.
- Pace and space. When you do drink, pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have no more than one standard drink per hour. Make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water or seltzer.
- Include food. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eating food slows down the absorption of alcohol into your system.
- Find alternatives. If drinking has occupied a lot of your time, trying filling the free time by developing new activities, hobbies, and relationships, or renewing ones you’ve missed.
- Avoid “triggers.” What triggers your urge to drink? If certain people or places make you drink even when you don’t want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.
- Know your “no.” You’re likely to be offered a drink at times when you don’t want one. Have a polite, convincing “no, thanks” ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in.
- Plan to handle urges. When you can’t avoid a trigger and an urge hits, consider these options:
- Remind yourself of your reasons for changing your drinking (it can help to carry them in writing).
- Talk things through with someone you trust.
- Get involved with a healthy, distracting activity, such as physical exercise or a hobby that doesn’t involve drinking.
- Accept the feeling and ride it out without giving in, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass.
Adapted from “Rethinking Drinking” at rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov.