How to Drink Less

Three Parts:Evaluating Your BehaviorsAddressing Your HealthCreating a Successful Environment

Alcohol has worked its way into the fabric of society and life in general. It is difficult to avoid the constant offers and self-imposed pressures to consume alcohol. Beer, wine and hard alcohol may vary in alcohol content, but the struggle to reduce your intake of any of them remains the same. Crafting a strategy that involves evaluating your behaviors, addressing your health, and creating a successful environment will lead you to your desired goal to drink in moderation.

Part 1
Evaluating Your Behaviors

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    Make a list of all the situations in which you drink alcohol. Studies have also shown that a majority of drinkers do so in moderate proportions to make a party more enjoyable; whereas heavy drinking or binge drinking is associated with the coping of negative emotions. Which side of the issues do you fall on?
    • Research has shown that alcohol produces both stimulant and sedative effects in humans.[1]
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    Look for patterns. Notice if you drink more around certain friends, or during sporting events, or by yourself. Is alcohol providing a positive experience for you? Are you getting into trouble when you drink? Do you say things that you regret later? Do you rely upon it to relax?
    • Change your routine. If you’ve developed a pattern or habit for drinking, you must break the habit. For example, if you meet at the same sports bar to watch football every Sunday, change locations and tell yourself, “New location. New habit of drinking less.” A change in location can facilitate a change in behavior.
    • Get a calendar and stick it to your refrigerator and mark a couple of alcohol-free weekends, or a few days per week. Writing it down will keep it visible so you won't forget, and will help you be accountable to yourself.
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    Find alternatives to drinking in stressful situations. If you are managing your emotions with alcohol, there are healthy alternatives. The key is to remain alert and aware of your behaviors as situations present themselves. You must catch yourself before reaching for a drink and choose an alternate path. Healthy alternatives to drinking alcohol include:
    • At a party: Drink a glass of water between each drink, and avoid doing shots of alcohol. Give yourself a gold star for sticking with your plan.
    • Work functions: Sip your drink and when you are done hold an object like a smartphone or tablet in your hand so you won’t feel the need to fill it with a drink.[2]
    • Financial troubles: Consult with a credit specialist or job placement counselor to develop a plan to increase your income and ease your financial troubles.
    • Physical pain: Investigate the possibility of entering a pain management program. Biofeedback is a drug-free way to help with pain management.[3]
    • A break-up: physical exercise will produce the same endorphins that alcohol produces. Studies have shown that people who exercise are less likely to be depressed.[4] Walking, hiking, surfing, or tennis are all healthy alternatives.
    • Problems at school. For example, if you recently failed a class and are frustrated with your academic career, learn some relaxation techniques including breathing exercises and yoga.[5][6]
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    Seek professional help. If you are experiencing extreme difficulty reducing your drinking, you may need professional help. Perhaps you thought you could drink less and realized that you drink too much and cannot stop. There are doctors and therapists available in your local area to help.
    • Alcoholics Anonymous chapters are available worldwide and can be located by contacting them directly 24/7 at 1-888-827-7180.[7]

Part 2
Addressing Your Health

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    Know the warnings. Alcohol is a drug so there are health implications that must be considered. From a health perspective, you need to know what damage is being created each time you take a drink. You might think it is all fun, but your body behaves otherwise. If you need a reason to drink less, perhaps your health will be your motivator.
    • Alcohol is a toxin that puts a burden on your brain, heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and is associated with cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast.[8]
    • If you have a family member who has suffered with alcohol addiction you stand a higher chance of suffering the same fate. Children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems.[9]
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    Think about your brain. Alcohol has a different effect on the brain of a heavy drinker. There is a higher release of endorphins (chemical in the brain that triggers positive feelings, and reduces your perception of pain)[10] in the heavy drinker’s brain when compared to people who are not heavy drinkers. This difference causes the heavy drinker to consume more in an attempt to seek additional pleasure.[11] Unfortunately, the more you drink, the more intoxicated you become and the more damage it causes.
    • This research is being used to develop effective treatment for people with alcohol abuse problems.
    • When the focus turns to seeking pleasure, you lose sight of the consequences of your behavior. For example, you keep drinking well past the point when everyone else at the party stops; then you decide to drive home and get arrested or cause harm to someone.
    • If your body enjoys alcohol, it is harder to give it up. You may need to seek guidance from a professional.
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    Make a health-focused plan. Few people will challenge your efforts if you focus your motivation on health related issues. For example, if someone offers you a drink that you know is in excess of your limit, decline the person’s offer by saying, “Thank you for the offer, but I’m making some changes because of my health.”
    • Identify your objectives and make a list. For example, you will limit your social drinking to one drink to lessen the impact on your body; you will lose five pounds; you will order club soda with a splash of cranberry juice and happily enjoy your “mocktail” while toasting to your liver’s health; you will rise each morning after a night out and relish the feelings of not being hungover. You get extra points for exercising.
    • Determine a schedule for addressing and accomplishing each of them. Pick a day to start and stick to it. There will be items you accomplish when you are out in public and ones when you are home. For example, you will keep an ample supply of ice tea and other beverages at home to provide a healthy alternative to alcohol.
    • Allow yourself to make adjustments as you might find some techniques are more effective than others. No one is perfect. You will have slip-ups. The important thing is to be resilient and not give up due to your mistakes.
    • Reward yourself for your accomplishments in a non-alcohol related way. For example, take yourself to the movies, or out to lunch. Keep a list of your accomplishments as they will remind you that you are capable.

Part 3
Creating a Successful Environment

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    Increase satisfaction in your life. You may be drinking because you are dissatisfied with your life. Alcohol is a quick fix, but has no lasting effects on your well-being. Take steps to create real satisfaction in your life. The more satisfied you are, the less you will be interested in drinking.
    • Investigate your interests. Get busy finding new and exciting things to do that don’t involve alcohol. For example, if you’ve always wanted to play the guitar, take a lesson. You will be focused on something new, which will distract you from drinking.
    • Brainstorm some activities you can do without alcohol. Instead of pub trivia, dancing or bar karaoke, try mini-golf, a hike, a movie or a picnic.
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    Tell others you need their support. Many times when you attempt to decrease your drinking, others will try to derail your plans. Even kind, polite people will offer you a drink because they think they are demonstrating good manners. You must speak up for yourself and make your wishes known.
    • Some people think it’s fun or clever to undermine your attempts to live healthier.
    • Approach every situation with a calm assertiveness that allows you to make decisions that feel right to you.
    • Don’t sabotage your efforts by wandering down the alcohol aisle at the grocery store. Temptation is best handled by not exposing yourself to the item you are trying to avoid.
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    Celebrate in new ways. Drinking less doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating life’s accomplishments. It means you can get creative. Staying fully present and unaltered in times of excitement allow you to feel things more fully.
    • Experiment by not drinking at a celebratory event to see how it feels. You may notice that you don’t feel that different. Focus on enjoying yourself and appreciate others instead of worrying about how much alcohol you are consuming.
    • Ask friends or others who don’t drink how they have fun. There are millions of people who don’t drink for one reason or another. They are having fun without being under the influence of alcohol. You may find the benefits of not drinking far outweigh the rewards you receive from drinking.
    • Remember, if you don’t spend money on alcohol, you can spend it on something else like electronic gadgets, clothing, sports equipment, or dance lessons. The end result: by drinking less you receive gifts that can enrich your life


  • Choose drinks that are non-alcoholic or have less alcohol content.
  • If you're making yourself a drink, pour less alcohol in your glass.
  • Share a drink with someone you trust. Ask the server for one drink and two glasses.
  • Keep busy. It will keep your mind occupied with something other than drinking.
  • Stay persistent and be patient. Changing behavior takes time.
  • Deflect peer pressure with enthusiasm for the healthy changes you are making.
  • Don’t keep alcohol in the refrigerator or in the shopping cart. Stop buying alcohol when you go grocery shopping.
  • Drink a glass of water between drinks.
  • Eat a meal before going out to fill your stomach. You will be less likely to drink a lot on a full stomach.
  • Carry a pocket-size breathalyzer to monitor your blood alcohol level. There are smartphone apps and plug-in devices that measure your blood alcohol level.
  • Healthy choices make for a healthy future.


  • Each year there are in excess of 10,000 preventable deaths due to drunk driving. This results in nearly 45 people each day. Also, 25,000 people will be injured due to drunk driving.[12]
  • The average cost of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) violation in the U.S. is approximately $10,000, which can be much higher or lower depending on your location. International fees vary.[13]
  • Blood alcohol levels rise to an illegal level with consumption of as little as one drink.
  • Alcohol may not actually kill brain cells, but it definitely kills people.

Article Info

Categories: Addictions