How to Quit or Reduce Alcohol Use
The information below will help you clarify where you’re at in your alcohol journey, and give you some strategies to start making a change.
Are You Unsure About Where You’re At?
An unhealthy relationship with alcohol is different for everyone, but there are usually a number of recurring signs that are indicative of this. Read here to find out more.
Why Are You Drinking?
In order to create an effective strategy to change your relationship with alcohol, it’s important to understand your reasons for drinking.
To understand your drinking, you can begin by asking yourself questions such as:
- When am I likely to drink?
- What do I get from drinking? (for example, I feel more relaxed, it helps me to socialise, or it takes away certain emotions)
- When do I feel like drinking the least?
- When do I most feel like drinking?
- Do I spend a lot of time drinking alone?
- Do I drink more heavily based on my stress levels or particular emotions?
Once you have more of an understanding of the reasons you are drinking, or what you are getting from drinking, you will be able to plan ahead to meet those needs in other ways.
‘If I tend to have a drink after work to relax and wind down after the day, perhaps I can plan to do something that will give me a sense of relaxation and peace around that time. Alternatively, I can ensure that I do things to look after myself during the day, so I don’t feel so stressed by the end of it.’
‘If I notice that I am likely to drink on a date in order to lower my levels of anxiety, it might be helpful to explore what I am anxious about, and find other ways to relax and feel comfortable when meeting new people.’
How Do I Make Changes to My Drinking?
This is a big question too, but fortunately we are often able to use our past experiences to help figure out how we can effectively make changes. If you have made some changes in the past, whether it has been around your health, behaviour, or work, you’ve already developed some good strategies and will know what helps you with getting started.
For example, if you previously had a goal to complete a half marathon, you would have put in place support strategies. These may have included peer support, having a routine, setting goals and having a clear date to work towards.
Assuming you achieved your goal and completed that marathon, then there is a good chance those are the types of supports that will help you in other behaviour change, including changing your relationship with alcohol. You can then start by seeing which of those strategies you can employ.
The other thing to consider is that change comes in different stages: pre-contemplation; contemplation; ambivalence; preparation; action; maintenance and (potentially) relapse.
Stages of Change
It’s a Journey, not a Sprint
Remember, making changes to your drinking is not an easy journey. There may be pitfalls, but understand that this is absolutely normal. You may not always travel in the same direction either, and going back and forth through the stages is ok.
Everyone is different – some may find it easy, while others may encounter more difficulty. It’s important to remain focused on yourself – and to find something that works for your life.
Alternatives to Alcohol to Relax With
Here are a few alternative ways to reward yourself without alcohol, and ways to manage urges to drink alcohol. To find out more about alternate non-alcoholic drinks that you can use, check this out here.
How can I reward myself without alcohol?
- Fix your bike/car
- Go to the gym
- Go to a sports class (e.g., pilates, dance etc.)
- Go jogging/walking/other outdoor activity
- Relax at the beach/park
- Try something new, like rock climbing or pottery
- Dance at home
- Get a massage/haircut/other spa treatment
Reward Yourself with Food!
- Eat fresh fruits
- Go for an ice-cream or other sweet treat
- Go for a tasty snack
- Eat pizza, or something else you really like
- Enjoy a fresh juice or other favourite non-alcoholic drink
- Try tea tasting
- Have dinner at a special place
Enjoy Your Hobbies!
- Reading a book
- Singing/listening to your favourite music/playing an instrument
- Drawing/painting/other artistic activity
- Going to the movies
- Reading something interesting online
- Going to an amusement park
Just Relax – Reward Yourself by Taking it Easy.
- A cosy warm bath with bubbles and candles
- Sleep in late
- Leave work early
- Take a trip to the bookstore
- Enjoy an afternoon of quality time with someone special
- Plan a vacation
- Curl up on the sofa with a tea and your favourite TV program
- Play your 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’s a list of activities to immerse yourself in as a form of distraction, for times when you’re triggered by urges to drink alcohol.
- 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 in the 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 sit-ups, anything that can get your heartrate up a bit, not too much, just enough to produce a release of endorphins.
- Spend time with people who can accept you. Make sure time with them is enriching and not draining.
Learn about alcohol
Learning more about alcohol can help us define our relationship with it’s use.