Drink Too Much Alcohol?
Here are practical suggestions for either cutting down or abstaining from alcohol along with tips for helping loved ones who have a drinking problem. Useful sources of help for alcohol and drinking abuse problems are also listed.
Could you or someone you care about drink too much? 1
- Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
- Does your drinking ever make you late for school or work?
- Does your drinking worry your family or friends?
- Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
- Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?
- Do you ever get headaches or have hangovers after drinking?
- Have you started hanging out with heavy drinking friends?
- Do your friends use less alcohol than you do?
- Have you ever been in trouble because of your drinking?
- Do you ever borrow money or go without things in order to buy alcohol?
- Is drinking hurting your reputation?
- Do you feel a sense of power when drinking?
- Do you ever drink until your supply is gone?
Write your drinking goal on a piece of paper and put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
I will start on this day ________.
I will not drink more than ________ drinks in 1 day.
I will not drink more than ______ drinks in 1 week.
I will stop drinking alcohol.
- Do you think you might have a drinking problem?
The more of these questions that apply, the greater the chance that you might have a problem with drinking. But having a drinking problem doesn't mean that you are alcoholic or that you have to abstain from alcohol. Most, people who experience problems from drinking choose to reduce their consumption to moderate levels rather than to abstain. You might consult with your doctor for advice.
How to Cut Back on Drinking
- Write down your reasons for drinking less.
Why do you want to drink less? To protect your health, to get along better with your family or friends, to do better in school or to save your job? Make a list of the reasons you want to drink less.
- Set a drinking goal.
Choose a limit for how much you will drink. A common guideline in the U.S. is no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. These daily drinks can't be "saved" and consumed later. For example, a man can't abstain all week and then consume all 14 drinks in one day.
Most countries define moderation at higher levels of consumption than does the US. For example, Australia, Italy and France consider anything from three to over four drinks per day for men to be moderate drinking. 2
Keep a "diary" of your drinking.
To help you reach your goal, keep a diary of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for three or four weeks. This will show you when, where, and how much you drink. How different is you goal from the amount you drink now?
Week: # of drinks type of drinks place consumed Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.
Be especially careful at home
Keep only a small amount of alcohol, or even no alcohol, at home. This will help reduce temptation.
Keep your blood alcohol content (BAC) low
When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Drink for taste rather than
Don't drink on an empty stomach.
Consume no more than one drink per hour.
Eat food or "munchies" while drinking. High protein and high fat foods like cheese and nuts are especially good at keeping your blood alcohol content low.
Drink soda, water, or juice after a drink containing alcohol.
Learn to say "no" when you don't want a drink
You don't have to take a drink just because it's offered to you.
You can "lose" unwanted drinks that are given to you. For example, set them down and later walk away.
"A Consumer Guide to Recovery Options" provides excellent descriptions of both abstinence and non-abstinence recovery options. This useful guide is in Anne M. Fletcher's Sober for Good (NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), pp. 267-302.
Additional resources below.
You can drink non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic ones. For example, tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, water with ice cubes, club soda with orange juice, tonic water with a twist or wedge of lime, and either orange juice or 7-Up with grenadine.
Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking as much as they do.
Saying "no" gets easier the more you do it. Practice refusing drinks politely. Say something clever. 3
I don't need any more hair on my chest
I'm performing neurosurgery in the morning
It sloshes too much when I jog
No thank you
Cutting down on your drinking can be difficult at times. Ask your family and friends for support to help you reach your goal. Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble cutting down; medications are available to help make it easier. Get whatever help you need to reach your goal.
Stay away from people who want you to drink more than you want to. Watch out for people, times, places or situations that encourage you to drink too much.
Don't give up!
If you don't reach your goal the first time you try, don't get discouraged. Try again. Remember, get support from people who care about you and want to help. Don't give up!
Some signs that may indicate a drinking problem in a loved one include:
- Changes in drinking patterns. The person drinks more, or more often, or drinks in the morning.
- Changes in appearance. The person frequently or usually smells of alcohol, has slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, unexplained bruises, or unkempt appearances.
- Changes in personality. The person suffers memory loss, sleep problems, mood swings, irritability, distrust, or lack in activities earlier enjoyed.
- Health problems. The person suffers from frequent hangovers, chronic digestive problems, fatigue, or shaky hands. 4
Helping a Loved One
Having a drinking problem does not mean that a person is alcoholic, or addicted to alcohol. The person may only need to cut down rather than abstain. Many find the idea of drinking in moderation more acceptable and achievable than abstaining entirely from alcohol.
The decision whether to reduce drinking to moderate levels or abstain entirely from alcohol is best made after consulting with a doctor.
Helping a person who drinks too much takes knowledge, compassion and patience. Some actions are helpful and others are not.
- Try to remain calm, unemotional and factually honest about how the person's drinking abuse hurts you and others.
- Discuss the problem with someone you trust - a friend, clergy person, social worker, or someone who has experienced alcohol abuse or alcoholism either personally or as a family member.
- Try to maintain a healthy, normal atmosphere in the home and try to include the alcoholic or problem drinker in family life.
- Encourage new interests and participate in leisure activities that the problem drinker enjoys and encourage the person to see old friends in non-drinking situations.
- Be patient and live one day at a time. Changing behavior is difficult, as dieters and those attempting to stop smoking know. Setbacks and relapses are to be expected. Try to accept them with calm understanding and don't become discouraged.
- Punish, threaten, bribe, preach, or try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase the problem drinker's feelings of guilt and compulsion to drink.
- Cover up or make excuses for an alcoholic or shield a person from the consequences of alcohol abuse.
- Take over the responsibilities of an abuser of alcohol.
- Hide or dump bottles of alcohol, or shelter a problem drinker from situations where alcohol is present.
- Argue with a person who is intoxicated.
- Drink with an alcohol abuser.
- Accept guilt for the behavior of a problem drinker.
Remember that changing behavior, especially becoming an abstainer, is very difficult. Be understanding and patient, but don't accept any responsibility or guilt for the behavior of another person. You are responsible only for your own behavior.
HAMS is a free peer-led support and information group for anyone who wants to change their drinking behaviors for the better. The acronym HAMS stands for Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. (347) 678-5671
www.moderation.org - Moderation Management stresses balance, moderation, self-management, and personal responsibility.
www.med.umich.edu/drinkwise - Drink Wise is a brief, confidential educational program for people with mild to moderate alcohol problems who want to eliminate the negative consequences of their drinking.
www.alcoholics-anonymous.org (212-817-3400 or consult your local telephone directory) - The oldest and best-known "twelve-step" program of self-help for alcoholics who wish to abstain is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, and based on a religious movement of the time, AA estimates that it now has two million members in 114 countries. Membership in this non-professional, mutual support organization is free, and members are encouraged to attend ninety meetings in the first ninety days of their affiliation with the fellowship. Those who affiliate are expected to follow the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
www.al-anon.org (888-4AL-ANON) - Al-anon's purpose is to help families and friends of alcoholics recover from the effects of living with a problem drinker. Alateen is the recovery program for young people sponsored by Al-anon members. Both Al-anon and Alateen are adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and are based on the Twelve Steps. Thousands of Al-anon and Alateen support groups operate in over 100 countries around the world.
www.rational.org/recovery (1-800-303-2873) - Established as an alternative to the spiritual nature of AA as well as its view that alcoholics are powerless and must submit to God's will in order to recover, Rational Recovery stresses the innate power and strength of individuals themselves to overcome obstacles. It rejects the AA belief that "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." Rational Recovery teaches people how to become independent of both alcohol addiction and of organizations dealing with alcoholism.
www.secularhumanism.org/sos (310-821-8430) - Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS), also known as Save Our Selves, this program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual in nature.
http://smartrecovery.org (216-292-0220) - Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) views alcohol dependence as a bad habit and attempts to use common sense techniques to break the habit.
www.womenforsobriety.org (1-800-333-1606) - The mutual support groups of Women for Sobriety work to enhance the self-esteem of members. Women for Sobriety groups are non-religious and the meetings also differ from those of AA in that they prohibit the use of tobacco, caffeine and sugar.
Whether you decide to cut down or to abstain entirely
DON'T GIVE UP!
The material on this site is for information only and is not advice
- 1. Adapted from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. How to Cut Down on Your Drinking. Washington, DC: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1996.
- 2. International Center for Alcohol Policies. ICAP Report - Supplement, n.d., 1-2, p. 2; Centre for Information on Beverage Alcohol. Global overview of drinking recommendations and guidelines. AIM, June, 1997, Supplement, 1-4, p. 2.
- 3. Poliafico, F. J. Drinking Alcohol? Make an Informed Choice. Chester, Pennsylvania: Emergency and Safety Programs, 1994.
- 4. Alcohol and Older People, Mayo Clinic Health Letter, February, 2000, p. 6.
- Adapted from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If Someone Close Has a Problem with Alcohol or other Drugs. Rockville, Maryland: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, n.d.
Readings (Listing does not imply endorsement)
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- Miller, W. R., and Munoz, R. F. How to Control Your Drinking. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1990.
- Parker, C. B. When Someone You Love Drinks Too Much. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.
- Patton, P. Buddhism Can Help Alcoholics Stay Sober. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 149-156.
- Peele, S. et al. The Truth about Alcohol and Recovery. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.
- Roberts, M. The Spirituality of AA Helps Alcoholics. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 69-71.
- Sanchez-Craig, M. Saying When: How to Quit Drinking or Cut Down. Toronto, Canada: Addiction Research Foundation. 1993.
- Schlesinger, S. E., and Horberg, L. K. Alcoholics Anonymous Can Help Alcoholics Recover. In: Cozic, C. P., and Swisher, K. (Ed.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 199 1. Pp. 212-217.
- Shockley, M. Acupuncture Is an Effective Treatment for Alcoholism. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 199-201. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 216-219.
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- Walsh, D. C., et al. Physicians' Warnings Can Motivate Alcoholics to Seek Treatment. In: Wekesser, C (Ed.). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1994. Pp. 2 I I-2 15.
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Filed Under: Alcohol Abuse