Do you suspect you might drink too much alcohol. Many people do.
Here are practical suggestions for either cutting down or quitting. There are also tips for helping loved ones who have a drinking problem. Useful sources of help for alcohol and drinking abuse problems are also given.
Drink Too Much Alcohol?
Could you or someone you care about drink too much?
- Drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
- Does your drinking ever make you late for school or work?
- Your drinking worry your family or friends?
- Ever drink after telling yourself you won’t?
- Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?
- 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?
- Ever been in trouble because of your drinking?
- 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?
- Ever lost friends because of your drinking?
- Ever drink until your supply is gone?
- 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. Nor that you give up drinking.
Most people who have alcohol problems reduce their drinking.
If you have a drinking problem, you’re not alone. And you can help yourself cut back or not drink. The first step is to set goals.
Write your drinking goal on a piece of paper and put it where you can see it often. For instance, on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
I will start on this day ________.
I will not drink more than ________ drinks in one day.
I will not drink more than ______ drinks in one week.
I will stop drinking alcohol.
How to Cut Back when You Drink Too Much.
1. Write down your reasons for drinking less.
Why do you want to drink less? To protect your health? Or get along better with your family? To do better in school? Or to save your job? Make a list of the reasons you want to drink less.
2. 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 drinking than does the US.
3. Keep a record 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?
|# of drinks||type of drinks||place consumed|
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.
- 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.
- Don’t play drinking games.
Learn to say “no” when you don’t want a drink
You don’t have to take a drink just because one is offered. Saying “no” gets easier the more you do it. Practice refusing drinks politely.
Or say something clever.
I don’t need any more hair on my chest
I’m performing neurosurgery in the morning
It sloshes too much when I jog
You can “lose” unwanted drinks that are given to you. Simply set them down and later walk away.
You can also 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. See Non-alcoholic Recipes for Great Tasting Drinks.
Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking as much as they do.
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. Meds can 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!
There are signs that may indicate a drinking problem in a loved one.
- Changes in drinking patterns. The person drinks more or more often. Or drinks in the morning.
- Changes in appearance. The person often looks intoxicated.
- Changes in personality. The person has mood swings, is irritable, or is paranoid. Perhaps isn’t interested in things earlier enjoyed.
- Health problems. The person often suffers. Is fatigued. Or has stomach problems. Anything out of the ordinary.
Helping a Loved One
Having a drinking problem does not mean that a person is alcoholic. 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.
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. Explain how the person’s drinking abuse hurts you and others.
- Discuss the problem with someone you trust. A friend or clergy person. Perhaps someone who has experienced alcohol abuse personally.
- Try to maintain a healthy, normal atmosphere in the home. Try to include the person in family life.
- Encourage new interests. Encourage the person to see old friends in non-drinking situations.
- Be patient. Live one day at a time. Changing behavior is difficult. Dieters and those stopping smoking know this. Setbacks and relapses are to be expected. Try to accept them with calm understanding. Don’t become discouraged.
- Punish, threaten, bribe, preach, or try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals. These may only increase the person’s feelings of guilt and compulsion to drink.
- Cover up or make excuses for an alcoholic. Nor shield the person from the effects of alcohol abuse.
- Take over the jobs of the person.
- Shelter the person from alcohol.
- Argue with the person if drunk.
- Drink with the person.
- Accept guilt for the person.
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.
The oldest and best-known “twelve-step” program of self-help for alcoholics who wish to abstain. Founded in 1935, it is religious or spiritual. Members are encouraged to attend ninety meetings in the first ninety days. See Effectiveness of AA.
Al-anon‘s purpose is to help families of alcoholics deal the effects of living with a problem drinker. Alateen is for young people (mostly teens) effected my alcoholism. It’s sponsored by Al-anon. Both Al-anon and Alateen are adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and are based on the Twelve Steps.
Rational Recovery. Established as an alternative to the religious nature of AA as well as its view that alcoholics are powerless and must submit to God’s will. RR rejects the AA belief that “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Rational Recovery teaches people how to become independent of alcohol addiction.
Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS). It’s also known as Save Our Selves. This program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety. It uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making. They are not religious or spiritual.
Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery). SMARTRecovery views alcohol dependence as a bad habit. It uses common sense techniques to break the habit.
The mutual support groups of Women for Sobriety work to enhance the self-esteem of members. Women for Sobriety groups are non-religious. WFS not only prohibits alcohol. It also prohibits the use of tobacco, caffeine and sugar.
Whether you decide to cut down or to abstain entirely from alcohol,
DON’T GIVE UP!
The material on this site is for information only. It is not advice.
Readings: Drink Too Much?
- AA. Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Anderson, K. How to Change Your Drinking.
- Bufe, C. Studies Show Alcoholics Anonymous Is Ineffective. In: Wekesser, C. (Ed.). Alcoholism. Pp. 72-81.
- Carr, N. Alcoholics Anonymous is Effective. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, Pp. 113-119.
- Christopher, J. How to Stay Sober: Recovery Without Religion.
- Christopher, J. SOS is an Effective Self-Help Program. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. Pp. 128-134.
- Crandell, J. Controlled Drinking Can Help Alcoholics Recover. In: Cozic, C., and Swisher, K. (Ed.). Chemical Dependency. Pp. 218-224.
- Ellis, A., and Velten, E. When AA Doesn’t Work for You. Rational Steps to Quitting.
- Fingarette, H. Heavy Drinking. The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease.
- FitzGerald, K. Alcoholism is a Disease. In: Cozic, C., and Swisher, K. (Eds.). Chemical Dependency. Pp. 96-100..
- Granfield, R. Coming Clean. NYU Press.
- Heather, N., and Robertson, I. Controlled Drinking.
- Jellinek, E. The Disease Concept of Alcoholism.
- Johnson, V. I’ll Quit Tomorrow: A Practical Guide to Alcoholism Treatment.Kishline, A. Moderate Drinking.
- Lolli, G. Social Drinking: How to Enjoy Drinking without Being Hurt by It.
- Miller, W., et al. What works? A summary of alcohol treatment outcome research. In Hester, R. and Miller, W. (Eds.), Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches. Pp. 13-63.Miller, W., and Munoz, R. Controlling Your Drinking .(2nd ed). U NM Press.
- Peele, S. 7 Tools to Beat Addiction.
- Robertson, I., & Heather, N. So You Want to Cut Down on Your Drinking?
- Robbins, J., & Fisher, D. Stopping Excessive Drinking. In How to Break Habits.
- Rotgers, F., et al. Responsible Drinking. ??
- Sanchez-Craig, M. How to Quit Drinking or Cut Down.
- Sobell, M., and Sobell, L. Problem Drinkers. Guided Self-Change Treatment.
- Trimpey, J. The Small Book: A Revolutionary Alternative for Overcoming Alcohol and Drug Dependence.
- Vogler, R., and Bartz, W. The Better Way to Drink: Moderation and Control of Problem Drinking.
1. Adapted from NIH. Rethinking Drinking.
- Have any suggestions for drink too much alcohol? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. And thank you!