By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 7 October 2012)
Do you drink too much? There are aspects of your life that you can examine to answer this question, and if the answer is “yes,” there are a number of things you can do to cut back or quit.
How to Tell if You Are Drinking Too Much
If you experience memory loss while drunk, suffer frequent hangovers, or regularly arrive late to work or miss work altogether, you are definitely drinking too much. If your drinking causes worry to those close to you or you fall back on alcohol when you are by yourself and feeling sad or angry, you may have a drinking problem. If you drink regularly and it takes a large amount of alcohol to get drunk, then you have definitely been drinking too much. By increasing your tolerance, you have decreased your body’s ability to react to a health threat.
If you suffer from alcoholism, you may need to taper off under a doctor’s supervision, as quitting cold turkey can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Heavy drinkers should consult a medical practitioner before stopping.
If you are simply drinking a bit too much, there are some simple strategies that you can use to cut down.
Take the First Positive Step
List your reasons for quitting or cutting down on paper. Perhaps you want to avoid negative health consequences, improve your sleep, lose weight, or increase your fitness. Or you may wish to cut back or quit because your drinking upsets someone you care about. Record all your reasons and look at your list regularly.
Keep a Journal
Set a goal for yourself and write it down. Your goal may be to stop drinking completely or to cut back to a reasonable level. After setting this goal, keep a record of your drinking. This can be done by writing down the number of drinks consumed each day on a calendar or day planner. This will enable you to review your progress toward achieving your goal.
Clean out the Alcohol Cabinet
If you are trying to quit drinking, don’t keep alcohol in the house. If you are trying to cut back, measure amounts to ensure that you don’t go beyond the recommended daily limit.
Establish a Support Network
Ask close friends and family to support you in reaching your goal. If you are having serious trouble, speak to your doctor and/or join a support group.
If you are still drinking, savor your beverages and take a break between drinks. Alternate between alcoholic beverages and glasses of water, juice, tea, coffee, soda, or nonalcoholic beer. Also, don’t drink when you are thirsty or hungry as you will be inclined to consume larger amounts more quickly.
If you normally have your first drink at around 7 pm, to cut back, wait until 9 pm. Push this time later and later until the amount you drink before bedtime is much smaller.
Take a Break
Choose at least one day a week to refrain from drinking. Once you have achieved this, try stopping for two days each week, then a full week. Record the way you feel emotionally and physically when you are not drinking. You will probably find that you feel better overall.
If you suffer a lapse, think about what triggered it. Lapses provide important information about the situations that cause you to drink. You can use this information to prevent future lapses by avoiding that particular type of situation. What places, people, or feelings cause you to drink? Avoid these temptations or provocations if possible in the future. Feelings can’t be avoided, but you can use different coping strategies such as exercising, reading, watching a good movie, listening to music, doing housework, or taking a bath.
Just Say “No”
Be assertive when people pressure you to drink, and avoid those who harass or belittle you for not drinking.
Use games, sports, movies, arts and crafts, and anything else that you enjoy to distract yourself when you get the urge to drink.
If you feel edgy or anxious, throw your surplus energy into exercise. Hit the gym, take a walk with friends, or take up a sport you’ve always wanted to try.
Keep Track of Your Savings
If, for example, you went through an average of $20 worth of alcohol each night, keep a record of this. At the end of the month, see what you’ve saved.
Mark your achievements by engaging in activities you enjoy or buying yourself something nice.
Find the approaches that work for you, and stay focused on achieving your goal. If you do suffer a lapse, don’t view it as a failure; many people suffer lapses but are successful in cutting back or quitting in the long run.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical consultation or care. Health concerns should be referred to a qualified medical practitioner.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health. (2007). “How to Cut Down on Your Drinking.”
- Rutherford, D. (2005). “Do I Drink too Much Alcohol?” NetDoctor.co.uk.
- Stopdrinking.org. (27 November 2006). “Things You Can Do When You Are Trying to Stop Drinking