Self-Control Over Drinking Alcohol: A Practical Tip to Help

Achieving self-control over our behavior in general can be a great challenge. And exercising self-control over drinking can be especially challenging.

But there are always things tempting us. It’s that delicious pie if we’re trying to lose weight. It’s that ball game on TV when we need to mow the lawn. And the list goes on and on.

Self-Control Over Drinking

A major technique to help is really quite simple and easy. We can choose to either avoid or change situations to reduce temptation. The idea is based on a fundamental truth. It’s much easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.

The specifics vary from person to person. Yet the principle is the same.

  • It might involve choosing non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic ones. For example, tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, or water with  ice cubes. Perhaps club soda with orange juice, tonic water with a twist.
  • It might involve saying yes without accepting alcohol. If someone offers a drink, say ‘What a good idea. Do you have cola or soda-water with lemon?’ Thus, you say yes and still get what you want.
  • It might involve saying clever things to decline an alcoholic drink.
    • ‘I don’t need any more hair on my chest.’
    • ‘I’m performing brain surgery in the morning.’
    • ‘It sloshes too much when I jog.’
  • It might involve preparing an ‘out’ if temptation arises. You can tell the party host that you can probably  only stay for a short time. Say that you will know later after you make a phone call. Then you can easily leave if you need to.
  • It might involve avoiding being around heavy drinkers who tempt us to drink.
  • It might involve going to a movie instead of to a party or other event.

It’s Your Decision

self-control over drinking

Only you know what triggers your desire to drink. And only you will know what to do to reduce or avoid it. Always remember that fundamental principle. It’s much easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.


Source: Duckworth, A., et al. Situational strategies for self-control. Perspect Psych Sci, 2016, 11(1), 35-55.


Hassin, R., et al. Self Control in Society, Mind, and Brain. NY: Oxford U Press, 2010.

Mischel, W. The Marshmallow Test. Mastering Self-Control. NY: Little, Brown, 2014.

Rachlin, H. The Science of Self-control. Cambridge: Harvard U Press, 2000.