By deciding that you want to drink less you have already taken the most important step to reducing your alcohol intake. Then arming yourself with strategies, knowing what triggers you to drink, being aware of drinking guidelines and taking drink-free days are all small steps towards big results.
There’s no denying that moderation is difficult. Making decisions about when and what to drink can be more stressful than simply not drinking at all. But if you want to moderate rather than stop, having a plan and setting yourself weekly rules means you’ve already made the decisions you need – you just have to follow them.
There are three stages to drinking less:
- Understand – work out why you drink and when, but also what you want to gain from not drinking so much.
- Change – plan for difficult situations and set your own rules.
- Maintain – keep reminding yourself how much better drinking less is for you, and why you’re doing it.
There’s lots of advice about drinking less in books and online. Unsurprisingly, some common themes and suggestions emerge:
Grab a pen and paper or open a document on your laptop now and write down some specifics which matter to you. Think about physical – better skin, losing weight; personal – better relationships, feeling more in control; financial – what are you going to treat yourself to with the money you’ll save.
These might just be fun but if they pop up when you’re trying not to drink they won’t help. Find people you admire or find inspirational and follow them instead!
Taking a break – for a few weeks if you can – helps to reset your tolerance to alcohol, prove to yourself you can do it and rewires your mind as you change your habits. Choose a time period that doesn’t have any special events when you know you’ll be tempted to have a drink and plan a treat for yourself – not alcohol related – when you achieve it.
Decide what rules you want and write them down now - eg. only drink three times a week, only drink at weekends, no more than half a bottle of wine or three pints in one session. They should be a challenge – ie. less than you’re drinking now – but possible.
If your partner wants to cut down too, make a joint plan so that you can support each other, or find a friend who feels the same about their drinking and agree that you can phone or text each other when you’re feeling tempted.
Use a proper measure for spirits and glasses of wine, and only pour singles or small glasses (125ml). Use a smaller glass too.
There are lots of non-alcoholic options in supermarkets these days, from alcohol free version of beers, wines and spirits to interesting cordials and sparkling fruit drinks. Lots of bars serve mocktails, and you can try these at home too. Take a look at these recipes at BBC Good Food and Bon Appetit
Decide what you’re going to drink and tell people up front that you’re not drinking today/this week/this month. If meeting a friend suggest a café instead of a pub. Volunteer to be the designated driver if going out in a group.
Many pubs now have a good range of low or non alcoholic drinks, but just in case you end up somewhere that hasn’t quite caught up, think of a couple of easy options – lime and soda, tonic with ice and a slice, J2O with ice or topped up with soda.
Sometimes just delaying having a drink means the moment passes. Try eating an apple, 15 minutes of yoga, taking the dog for a walk, weeding the garden – even cleaning your teeth!
If you’d like to talk to someone about your drinking, complete the self referral form here for our specialist support.
Or go to Tools to help for more websites, apps and ideas.