While it’s best to consult your primary care physician regarding your alcohol consumption, there are a variety of strategies and pointers that can help you achieve your alcoholic intake goal, including setting a realistic drinking target, taking a gradual approach, finding a sound support system, practicing mindfulness, and steering clear of potential triggers.
Five ways to Cut Back on Alcohol
Whether you are seeking to curb your alcohol consumption, shed some pounds, or simply make a positive lifestyle change, cutting back on alcohol can have a profound impact on your well-being. Regardless of your approach, listed below are ways to assist you in cutting your alcohol intake.
1. Set a Drinking Goal
Once you’ve determined your “why,” decide how much alcohol you want to consume per week and stick with it. To drink in moderation, consuming two drinks or less a day for men and one drink a day for women is recommended. If you drink over the intended number, set a realistic goal and gradually decrease your consumption. For instance, if your alcohol consumption is over four drinks a day, and you desire to quit altogether, consciously reduce your intake to three per day.
As mentioned, forming a list of your goals is needed before starting the journey; however, keeping notes is critical to setting a drinking goal.
This allows you to keep track of your alcohol consumption, as well as identify patterns and triggers. This can also be an excellent tool for managing stress and emotions that lead to drinking. If you aren’t a traditional pen and paper fan, you can always use the note app on your phone or write it out on your computer.
2. Slow Down
Drinking slowly and taking breaks between drinks is another way to reduce alcohol consumption. If you do wish to drink, sip it. This allows you to control how much you consume rather than drink it all down. Some forget that alcohol is not the only beverage option in restaurants and grocery stores. Water, soda, and juice make for a great thirst quencher. If you want the aesthetic of a cocktail, you can always create mocktails or ask a waiter if they can make an alcoholic-free beverage.
3. Find Support/Professional Help
Speaking with loved ones can be of great support as this journey is not easy. Sharing your new lifestyle transformation with them can keep you accountable and provide you with the necessary encouragement. Your Primary care physicians, therapist, or a support group can offer an additional level of support if required. Making healthy changes can be fun when you have a team of supporters cheering you on.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Implementing meditation, deep breathing, and thinking before acting can enhance your consciousness of your thoughts, emotions, and physical response. Mindfulness enables you to recognize your temptations and proactively steer clear of alcohol. Practicing mindfulness can reignite your zest for life while staying on the path of sobriety.
5. Avoid Triggers
Identifying people, places, and situations that may lead to drinking is essential to finding ways to avoid triggers. Triggers vary from internal to external. Internal triggers consist of stress, anxiety, or depression, while external includes social and environmental situation that associates with drinking.
Some triggers might include going to a party with alcohol, hanging with friends who enable heavy drinking or feeling anxious about an exam.
Avoiding triggers can include:
- Saying no to social events that contain alcohol. If you’re at an event meant to celebrate a friend, stay for a short period.
- Encouraging all your friends to drink mocktails while at a restaurant
- Rather than going to restaurants or bars, finding other fun activities to do
- Find alternatives to stress management such as reading, painting, watching a new show, exercising, etc.
- Avoid people who may pressure you into drinking.
While identifying and avoiding triggers can be a crucial component in reducing alcohol consumption, it's vital to keep in mind that not all triggers can always be avoided. When this happens, it may be useful to have a strategy for dealing with potential drinking-related issues, such as knowing who to call for support or how to leave the situation early.
Other Methods People are Decreasing their Alcohol Consumption
Steering clear of triggers and drinking targets won't work for everyone. The goodness is there are other methods you could use such as medication, urge surfing, and SMART recovery.
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When you have the urge to drink, take the time to focus on the emotions that are also coming up. As you focus on them, label them as they come, then let them go. This is a more focused form of mediation. The goal is to allow the urge to pass over you similarly to a wave instead of trying to fight them.
In the same way, you'd create SMART goals for work or school. The same SMART method can be used to reduce your alcohol consumption or quit altogether. You'd start by finding a motivation; in this case, it could be health or family related. Next, you'd use a method like urge surfing to help you cope with the urge to drink. After, you'd manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Finally, you'd work on living a balanced life.
Another method used for alcohol dependence is medications. While medication is not as popular and pushed as behavioral treatment, it is a great way to deal with the issue. Most AUD medication targets the brain by offsetting changes caused by alcohol.
FDA Approved Medication
Helps reduce heavy drinking
Helps maintain abstinence
Prevents the body from breaking down (metabolizing) alcohol, which results in unpleasant side effects such as nausea and skin flushing.
Not everyone will respond to this treatment. However, if you’re leaning towards this option, consult your primary care physician to help you identify which medication is most effective.
What to Do Before Cutting back
Before determining a set of methods to decrease your alcohol intake, examine your relationship with alcohol now. Below is a list of factors to consider:
Determine Your Why
People stop drinking for various reasons; however, it’s essential to grasp yours. Recognizing your problem with alcohol and why you drink allows for a clear foundation before starting this journey. In addition, creating a list before venturing into this journey can become your biggest motivator.
Some reasons why people quit are
- Health issues
- Wanting to be sober-minded
- Reduce depression
- Damaging relationships
- To improve quality of sleep
- Increase in energy
- Better work performance
- Lose weight
Determine your Approach
It is important to select the method to use to cut back on alcohol. Shortly I’ll list five ways to cut back on alcohol; however, understand that what works for others may not work for you. As alcoholism is a complex and personal disease, so is your recovery. There are two main types of approaches.
- Moderation Management: This approach focuses on reducing alcohol use. If you still desire to continue drinking, this might be for you. Moderation Management addresses patterns of excessive drinking and teaches how to limit drinking.
- Complete Sobriety: With this method, you entirely refrain from alcohol. Sobriety is a journey to recovery and gaining healthy long-term habits, automatically becoming sober isn’t a task many can accomplish.
Before settling on a set approach, consult your doctor to decide which option is best for you. If you depend on alcohol or have medical or mental health problems should stop drinking altogether.
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How much Alcohol is too much?
Alcohol is ingrained in American culture. It can be found in almost all social gatherings, such as afternoons for brunch with your friends, baby showers, weddings, super bowl watch parties, and more. As alcohol is normalized in today’s society, the thought of implications is usually overlooked, causing huge concern. While the US has the lowest alcohol use, we have one of the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Over 15 million American adults struggle with alcohol use disorder.
High blood pressure
Permanent brain damage
Vitamin B1 deficiency
Mouth & Throat Cancer
Unintentional injuries (car crash, burns, etc.)
Distorted vision & breathing
Decreased perception & coordination
Alcohol Consumption Frequently Ask Questions
The following section will answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding alcohol consumption, withdrawal symptoms, and motivation to remain cut back on alcohol.
How do I know if I need to cut back on alcohol?
It may be time to cut back on your alcohol use if you frequently consume more than the safe recommended limits or if it is interfering with your personal or professional life. Drinking alone, drinking to deal with stress or anxiety, and having blackouts or memory loss are all indications that you may need to reduce back.
Will I experience withdrawal symptoms if I cut back on Alcohol?
When you reduce or stop drinking after a prolonged period of heavy drinking, you could experience withdrawal symptoms. Tremors, nausea, nervousness, and sweating are a few of these. If withdrawal symptoms are causing you any concern, you should immediately consult a doctor.
Can I still drink socially if I’m cutting back on alcohol?
Yes! Even if you're limiting your alcohol intake, you can still enjoy social drinking. However, it's essential to set limits for yourself and stick to them. Between alcoholic beverages, think about switching to a non-alcoholic beverage or a low-alcohol beverage like beer or wine.
Alcohol consumption is a significant issue in the United States that needs to be addressed. Strategies such as — setting a drinking goal, slowing down your intake, finding support, practicing mindful techniques, and avoiding triggers — can help defeat alcohol and bring you to a place of relief. It’s advisable to seek the guidance of your primary care physicians to evaluate your alcohol habits, as they are more knowledgeable on the route you should take.
Sarah Fadahunsi is a native of Prince George's County, Maryland. She is currently a senior majoring in Public Health at Salisbury University. She is fiercely committed to reducing health inequalities in the United States, especially towards minorities.