If you want to change your drinking habits, AA and abstinence are not your only options. Research by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that most people who change their drinking habits do so without AA or rehab. Many people decide that quitting alcohol altogether is the best option, but just as many, if not more, solve their problems by cutting back on alcohol or becoming safer.
1) Safety first
If you have experienced any unsafe drinking behavior, such as drunk driving, unsafe sex, drunk dialing, or any other behavior, there is a way to help you avoid it in the future. Take a piece of paper and list the risky behaviors you have done and arrange them in a hierarchy – remember that it is very important to avoid the most risky behaviors in the first place. Then, make a written plan on how to avoid high-risk behavior before you ever take your first sip. For example, if you want to have a drink at a bar, take a taxi there so you have to take a taxi home. You cannot drive a car if your car is not nearby. Remember: think before drinking. It is always good practice to put safety first. The life you saved can be your own.
2) decide what kind of drinker you want to be
Many people find it best to give up alcohol. It doesn’t matter how much or little you drink, anyone can make the choice to give up alcohol altogether. Others believe that moderate alcohol consumption is their best goal, and they will prefer moderate alcohol consumption and never get drunk. Even people who are unwilling or unable to abstain from drinking to the point of intoxication can work to become safer drinkers by planning ahead. Drinking alcohol safer can be an important harm reduction goal for these people, as any safety plan is always better than unsafe drinking. Drinking more safely, cutting back on alcohol, or abstaining from alcohol are all legitimate harm reduction goals, and they are all better than not changing anything at all. Also remember that your goal is not set in stone – many people who choose safer or more limited drinking later decide that transition to abstinence is their best option. Life changes, and it’s good to be flexible and change with it.
3) Add a few days without drinking
Many people find that having a few alcohol-free days a week helps them control their habit. If you’ve been drinking alcohol every day for a long time, you may find that adding at least one non-alcoholic day per week can help you get started on a change plan. Feel free to add alcohol-free days to your week at your own pace. Warning: If you drink a lot every day for a long time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking right away. If you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol, it is safest to either gradually reduce the dose, undergo detoxification, or get medication from your doctor to help you get rid of alcohol withdrawal.
4) Count and Record How Much You Drink
One of the best ways to deal with alcohol consumption is to count the number of drinks you drink and keep a daily calendar or other alcohol consumption chart. To keep an accurate record of how much you drink, you need to know what a standard drink is. In the United States, this is one twelve ounce bottle of beer with five percent alcohol, or one five ounce glass of wine with twelve percent alcohol, or an ounce and a half of spirits. A single drink in a bar can contain up to half a dozen standard drinks, so keep that in mind when scheduling drinks. Practice measuring at home to get an idea of how much a standard drink actually costs. Record the number of drinks daily on your calendar; if you have a day of abstinence, write down zero. Many people find that scheduling itself helps them cut costs.
5) make a plan for drinking alcohol
You can use the same calendar in which you schedule the number of drinks you drink to plan how many drinks you will drink on a given day. For example, you might reserve every Sunday to plan your drinking for the coming week and write down which non-alcoholic days and how many drinks you intend to drink on the days you drink. Some people may want to write the same plan every week and decide to write it down only once. For example, a person might choose to drink safely at home every Saturday night and abstain from alcohol on the other six days of the week. There are as many different possible drinking plans as there are people, so feel free to come up with a plan that’s right for you.
6) Make a list of pros and cons
Take out four sheets of paper. On the first, write the pros of your current drinking habits, and on the second, against. On the third, write the pros of the proposed change, and on the fourth, write the cons. Don’t be afraid to say there are positives to alcohol; if you try to suppress the positives, they will remain in your subconscious and give you problems later. If you reveal it now, you can recognize it and find other positives to replace the benefits you get from alcohol. Feel free to list the pros and cons often – each time you write them down, it strengthens your resolve to change.
7) take a drink break
Some people believe that the best way to quickly change their drinking habits is to stop drinking alcohol. Quitting alcohol for a week or two or even a month or two can be of great help in changing your relationship with alcohol for the better. Time spent without alcohol will give you the opportunity to face all of your old alcoholic situations without alcohol – and you will learn new ways to deal with these situations without drinking.
8) List ways to have fun without drinking
There are unlimited ways to have fun without alcohol, from swimming to knitting and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. Take a piece of paper and make a list of fun things you can do without alcohol, and keep it close at hand to refer to whenever you feel like disrupting your drinking plan.
9) emphasize the positive
Don’t berate yourself if you don’t stick to your plan exactly. Research shows that most people don’t get perfect the first time. Making changes usually takes several tries, and there are some bugs along the way to achieving your change goal. If you beat yourself up over a small miss, you can become so unhappy that you want to drown your sorrows in booze, and as a result, you can find yourself in a big binge. People who are successful in the long run praise themselves for every positive change. If you decide to give up drinking for a month and live to ten days, do not forget to praise yourself for those ten days of abstinence from alcohol – you will never lose them. Don’t waste a lot of time berating yourself for not making the full thirty days, get back to the plan, whether you decide to finish the remaining twenty days, go thirty days in a row, or move on to a completely new plan.
10) Have Plan B in place
It’s okay to try to change your habits. only a minority make the change completely the first time. But having one piece of chocolate cake doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole cake. One drink does not necessarily mean that he has drunk. If you plan to abstain, but made a mistake and decided to drink, do it carefully; If you are in a car, take the car home first and take a taxi to the bar. Make a plan B to stay safe even in the event of a mistake. A contingency plan is important whether your goal is to drink more safely, reduce alcohol consumption, or quit smoking altogether.
Always remember which is best. Any improvement you make over your old drinking habits, however small, is a success!