If you’ve ever tried to quit drinking alcohol, you know how hard it can be. Even if you have a strong desire to change, you may have found that it’s more challenging than you bargained for. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to make this process easier and find success, such as setting drinking goals, and avoiding triggers, among others.1
16 Tips on How to Change Your Drinking
It’s clear that using alcohol excessively can have a negative impact on the body. Even without experiencing alcoholism, you might encounter some challenges when you try to quit. There are many social and emotional factors that contribute to people’s use of alcohol. When consequences build up, that’s when people should look at how to reduce their use.
Here are 16 ways to stop drinking and have a healthier relationship with alcohol:2
1. Write Everything Down
Writing helps support you in achieving your goals. The specific act of writing goals on paper (or a screen) helps cement those goals in your mind, making them become more attainable. The more you hear yourself talk about change, the more likely it is that you actually will change. Journaling can be a huge help.
2. Examine How Alcohol Impacts Your Health
It’s worth considering how alcohol is affecting your body, as any potential physical or mental health benefits of consumption are outweighed by the risks. Do some self-reflection and take note of the pros and cons of your alcohol use. It’s also important to consider the links between alcohol and anxiety.
3. Set Drinking Goals
Thinking about your alcohol use can help you become more mindful of your intake and what you would like to change about it. Reducing your consumption will be healthier and safer than continuing to drink heavily, and there are numerous ways to set and develop goals.
4. Keep a Drinking Diary
Track how much you drink and how it affects you. Who were you with? What circumstances contributed to how much you drank? What mood were you in before you started drinking? You can use this practice to track your drinking goals and find out more about your drinking habits.
5. Remove Alcohol from Your House
Having easy access to alcohol means you will be more likely to drink it. Managing your environment can play a big part in your success. Getting rid of the alcohol reduces the risk of any impulsive drinking you may be doing. Many people have found that having no alcohol at home makes it easier to manage their use.
6. Have Alcohol-Free Days
Trying to have days when you don’t drink at all aids in some early successes, which is important when making behavior changes. This can also build confidence in yourself. These intermittent, short drinking breaks can lead to bigger changes in drinking. Whether your goal is cutting back or not drinking at all, taking a break is beneficial.
7. Avoid Triggers & Negative Influences
Spend some time reflecting on people, places, and situations that trigger you to drink more. There may be people who encourage you to drink and discourage any changes in your drinking. Are there places that make it more likely that you’ll drink? Are there situations that trigger your desire to drink? You can cultivate new relationships and coping skills to turn to when stressed.
8. Stay Persistent
Behavioral changes are hard, and progress toward success isn’t linear. It often takes some struggles and setbacks to meet your goals. This is a normal and expected part of change. Keep at it, and don’t be overly harsh with yourself when the road gets bumpy. This is a long-term journey.
9. Consider the Reasons Why You Drink
There are many things that prompt people to drink, many of which are social or emotional.3 People drink when they are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, or depressed–any emotion can be a trigger. People may drink in celebration, to fit in, or relax. Reasons are different for everyone, so think about what yours are.
10. Consider Why You Want to Change Your Drinking
You may want to change your drinking habits for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re concerned about the impact of alcohol on your body. Perhaps addictions run in your family or you see consequences of drinking on your relationships. Whatever the case, take time to reflect on and remind yourself of it when you are struggling.
11. Talk About Your Plan
Talking with the people you love and care about can provide much needed support. Sharing your reasons and your ideas about change means they can encourage you along the way. You can also join a support group and find others with the same goals as you.
12. Be Prepared
Think about situations where others will want you to drink with them. Picture those scenarios and how you might respond. You can keep it simple and say, “I’m not drinking today”, or “No, thanks.” You don’t have to go into great detail unless you want to. Furthermore, consider setting boundaries in some of your relationships regarding the presence of alcohol.
13. Be Mindful of Your Use
It’s easy to lose track of how much you drink. You may drink more and drink faster when you’re with people at a party. Being mindfully aware of your consumption is important. Avoid binge drinking and pay attention to how much you’re drinking. If you’d like some help practicing mindful drinking, there are apps available to support you. To learn more about mindful drinking apps, check out our in-depth review of the Reframe app.
14. Watch for Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal
If you stop drinking abruptly, you may notice signs of alcohol withdrawal.4 You should be aware of associated symptoms so you can manage them if needed. Additionally, there are preventive measures you can take. Symptoms of withdrawal may include anxiety, headache, sweating, shaking, mood changes, insomnia, and fatigue.
15. Prioritize Self-Care
Prioritize taking good care of yourself. Changing your habits can be hard and stressful, so managing this stress is essential. Be sure to practice healthy self-care; congratulate yourself for progress; acknowledge your successes, no matter how small; and don’t beat yourself up when you have small setbacks.
16. Discover New Interests
Now is a great time to look for things you’re interested in that don’t involve drinking. What activities bring you joy? Maybe you used to have some hobbies that you let slide. Think about picking those back up again or finding new interests to engage in. There are many things you can do, both on your own or with others.
When to Seek Professional Help
Talking with a professional can be beneficial, as they can help you develop a personal plan for moving forward. You can also consider more intensive support like group therapy, intensive outpatient programs, inpatient treatment, or medical support for withdrawal. Everyone deserves support, no matter how serious their drinking has become.
Know that you aren’t alone in your attempts to stop drinking. While alcohol is prevalent in our culture, it’s still a substance that can lead to huge negative impacts. Just thinking about your drinking habits can help you get started on your journey. As you work toward change, know that there is a tremendous amount of information and support to help you modify your intake.