10 Tips to Cut Back on Your Drinking

While it’s normal to have a drink or two during a holiday celebration, do you know when you’ve had enough? Recognize some of the warning signs of alcoholism with these tips.

Drinking at holiday partyPhoto: Shutterstock

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

Alcoholism is a serious disease. If you think you might be, or know you are, an alcoholic, you’re going to need more than just these tips to help you quit. Instead, the tips here are designed more for the social drinker who wants to cut back but who doesn’t need to stop drinking altogether for health reasons. If you need more help, please see your doctor.

  • Other than on special occasions, limit your drinking to the level associated with optimal health: up to two drinks per day for men, one for women. And no stockpiling: Going without alcohol today doesn’t increase the amount you can have tomorrow. In particular, you can’t save up for a weekend binge.
  • Meet friends, dates, or business associates at a coffee bar, not a tavern. If the point of the get-together is fun, casual conversation in a friendly, loose environment, there are many ways to do that without the alcohol. Coffee shops like Starbucks are good places to meet. Other possibilities include bistro-style restaurants, bowling alleys, and even sushi bars. (Here are 7 Things Never to Say to Someone Who Doesn’t Drink.)
  • Watch sporting events with friends at your home or theirs. A night at a sports bar almost guarantees a morning with a headache. Guys, how can you resist the temptation to guzzle beer in a room filled with beer guzzlers?
  • Never, ever drink alone. Make it a rule. Not because it is so evil—indeed, there are plenty of times when a glass of wine by yourself is appropriate. Rather, do it for the discipline. If you learn to drink alone, it makes it too easy to begin drinking in excessive amounts.
  • Never, ever drink for courage. Throughout time, people have turned to drink to overcome social inhibitions. In fact, there’s an old expression for alcohol: “liquid courage.” And it’s true—a few drinks can take the fright out of a party, business gathering, or speech. Trouble is when you rely on alcohol for bravery. No one should need alcohol to function socially. So find other ways to bolster your confidence. It’s harder, but healthier and more honest – and you’re less prone to making alcohol-induced gaffes.
  • Never, ever drink for solace. It’s the old stereotype: downtrodden businessman, sitting at the bar, necktie yanked down, clothes disheveled, muttering, “Pour me another one, bartender.” Sad, isn’t it? Numbing yourself from the challenges of the world through alcohol. Again, we say, Drink for joy, not for pain. Drink to feel alive, not to feel dead.
  • Never, ever drink out of habit. You know what we mean: “Seven o’clock, time for my martini.” “Done with cutting the lawn, time for my beer.” “Friday night, time to hit the bar with the gang and have my weekly margaritas.” Think through your week to see if you have a specific drinking routine or habit. If yes, commit to finding a substitute for it.
  • In particular, choose a pleasant substitution for your after-work drink. It could be a nonalcoholic drink, like a spiced ice tea or a fruit smoothie. Or it could be a walk, or a hot bath, or a sliced peach. Do this for two weeks until it becomes your new habit. (Here are the 6 Foods That Could Absolutely Kill Your Sex Drive.)
  • Switch to mixed drinks with a lower-proof alcohol. There are lots of alternatives to the standard, high-power alcohols of gin, vodka, or whisky. For example, a flavoured cognac with seltzer has half the alcohol content of a gin drink, and probably twice the flavour.
  • Always drink double-fisted: your drink, and a large glass of water. Don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst. That’s what water is for. Sip on alcohol for the flavour and the pleasure.

Discover How to Drink Without Getting a Hangover.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada