Tips and answers to guide you on specific situations
We have put together tips and answers to guide you on specific situations. This will never replace the professional help from talking directly to your doctor or your therapist, and it won’t be as warm and spontaneous as the help you can get by asking the community in Daybreak, but we think it is useful to have some answers quickly at hand.
How do I know if I am ready to change?
It can be a big step to make the decision to change your drinking behaviour – often, there are a number of factors contributing to drinking being an issue, as well as a number of reasons to continue the behaviour.
One thing we have found helpful, as a rule of thumb, is to consider if your drinking is impacting the important things in your life, like health, relationships, work/career, finances, or some other important value. If you are finding this is the case, this might be a sign that a change is necessary.
If you have noticed that this is the case, it might be good to reflect on whether your drinking is serving a purpose, such as managing stress or grief. Or perhaps you simply enjoy drinking, and don’t necessarily see any reasons to change.
The first questions you may want to ask yourself are:
Am I ready to change?
What are the reasons for me to change, and what are the reasons for me to continue this behaviour?
The reality is that when we are ready to change, we will probably struggle to make lasting changes. That said, there are some things that we can do that will help to move ourselves towards change. In this we are addressing the decisional balance (trying to make it clear that there are more reasons to change, than to stay the same). When you think about decisions you may have made in your own life, you may find that it is only when there are more reasons to change, that we actually take action.
A person whose drinking is becoming problematic will go through several stages:
Standard drinks and guidelines
A standard drink or an “alcohol unit” is equal to 10 ml (8 gr) of pure alcohol. Counting on standard drinks can help us reduce our actual intake and reduce the risks related to alcohol consumption. Each unit takes about one hour for the body to process, so the more units we drink, the more time our body needs to process what we’ve drank. Standard drinks are also used to set global and national guidelines.
Example of standard drinks
Governments around the world have set guidelines to help people reduce the risk of alcohol intake. You can find the Australian guidelines here.
Check out the Standard Drinks Guide by the Australian government to learn how to count your drinks and understand better what the guidelines mean
Drinking and medications
We strongly recommend you avoid self-prescribing any kind of drugs. It is very important that you visit the doctor when starting to change your drinking habits, especially if you have been drinking more than the government’s recommendation for some time.
Some people in the community takes drugs to prevent urges or avoid withdrawals, but be aware that every drug has certain repercussions or side effects and that it is best to avoid them if you don’t really need them. So talk to your doctor before deciding to try any drug and avoid recommending them to others in the community. You can of course mention them, but suggest others to ask their doctors to prescribe something instead.
How can I reward myself without alcohol?
Rewarding yourself is more important than it seems. By rewarding ourselves without alcohol, we are increasing the release of dopamine in our brains, which leads to an increase of motivation and positive mood. Small rewards for small achievements is a great habit we want to promote in Daybreak.
Here’s a list of things you can consider to reward yourself. Use the ones that you like the most but be open to trying new things as well.
- A cozy warm bath with bubbles and candles
- Sleeping late
- Leaving work early
- Reading a book
- A trip to the bookstore
- Dinner at a special place
- An afternoon of quality time with someone special
- Getting a massage / haircut / other spa treatment
- Cooking / baking
- Singing / listening to my favourite music / playing an instrument
- Drawing / painting / other artistic activity
- Knitting / crochet / sewing
- Fixing bike / car
- Eating fresh fruits
- Going for an ice-cream or other sweet treat
- Going for a tasty snack
- Eating pizza, or something else I really like
- Enjoying a fresh juice or other favourite non-alcoholic drink
- Tea tasting
- Going to the gym
- Going to a sport class (pilates, dance…)
- Going jogging / walking / other outdoor activity
- Relax at the beach / park
- Trying something new, like rock climbing or pottery
- Dancing at home
- Going to the movies
- Reading something interesting online
- Going to an amusement park
- Planning a vacation
- Sofa, tea, and a favourite TV program
- Playing a favourite video game
What can I try for distractions?
A very useful way to overcome urges and even prevent them, is to keep yourself distracted. Here is a bunch of tips to make sure you’ll have a good idea to get distracted with anytime you need it.
- Get yourself straight into the shower! You won’t be able to get a drink once you’re in the shower, so this simple thing can be very powerful
- Get out of the house asap. Go for a walk or somewhere opposite direction from the bottle shop
- Play a game. Get an easy game on your phone, like sudoku or tetris
- Call someone. Whoever is first on the list, just do it and think of what to say while the phone is ringing. You can simply say “Hi, I just wanted to say hi and see how you’re doing”
- Brush your teeth. Sounds strange? The fresh feeling of clean teeth will help you feel less eager to get a drink right away
- Tire yourself. Get on the floor and do 10 push-ups or abs, anything that can get your heartrate a bit up, not too much, just enough to produce a bit of endorphin
- Spend time with people who can accept you. Make sure time with them is enriching and not draining
How can I stay sober at parties?
Remember to ask the community for tips. These are some favourites from Daybreak:
- Keep your hands busy: Get soda and lime, or something that may look like an alcoholic drink to reduce the pressure from people offering you drinks.
- Talk to your friends about your goals and your intent to stay sober beforehand. Get them to offer their support.
- Eat and drink through the party, just not alcohol.
- Exercise a bit before the party for energy and start the party in a good mood.
- Dance! Practice dancing sober before the party to get that confidence once you’re out there having fun.
- Dress comfortably and make sure you’ll feel confident with how you look and your attitude.
- See the positive side of being sober around drunk people, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and remind your friends about it the next day, plus you won’t wake up with a hangover!
How do I ask for support?
Sometimes we need to ask for help, and that is fine. Just like you would go to the doctor’s for a sprained ankle, you may need to go to doctor to talk about your drinking. A good friend might go to you for some advice about something that is affecting them, you may also go to them to ask for some support with your drinking.
Anything that is impacting our lives, which we are finding difficult to manage on our own, will probably benefit from someone’s advice or support. The problem can be, that sometimes we aren’t quite sure of how to ask for help. We might sense that the person might not be able to offer help if we ask, or we worry that they might see us in a different light. Sometimes we may even just feel ashamed about not being able to manage by ourselves.
All of these are valid concerns and it can be good to plan about who we ask for help, and when.
Tips on asking for help
Choose your audience
We know that some people are going to be able to offer more help than others. For example, a doctor or a Health Coach is probably going to have a lot more ability to offer practical advice about drinking, as well as referrals for treatment or recommendations about replacement behaviours or activities. Similarly, if one of our good friends is going through something distressing in their lives, they may not be the right person to approach for help. However, if a friend has shown concern for you, and is asking questions about your wellbeing, it might be a good sign that they are available to help.
Plan what you want to say
Often, it is as simple as finding the words! But how do we start?
Some ideas to get you started might be:
For asking a friend
‘I wanted to talk to you about something. I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been drinking more than I would like to, and I’m not sure what to do about it.’
‘I’d like us to catch up and chat about something with you. I’m having a bit of a tough time at the moment and would like your take on things.’
For asking a professional
‘I would like some help with cutting back on drinking’
‘I’m here to get some advice about stopping drinking’
‘I need help with alcohol reduction. I’d like to discuss a referral for AOD counselling and your thoughts about the best ways to cut back.’
Often we hold back on asking for help, because we fear being criticised or judged for having an issue with alcohol. The good news is that most people, professionals or friends, are receptive to this, it is not uncommon to want to cut back or stop drinking altogether. Asking for support with this is really responsible, as there is a lot of help available, and getting some support means that you are much more likely to be able to make changes successfully.