How to ease up

Are you worried about your drinking? Do you regret your behaviour when drunk? Do you want to make changes to the way you drink?

Making the decision to cut down on your drinking is mainly about recognising how you or others feel about your drinking. Some things might have started to happen because of your drinking and you want to make a change, or your friends or family might have suggested it's time to look at the way you drink. You may want to take the 'Is your drinking okay?' test to find out more about your level of risk. To talk to someone about your drinking contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline - call 0800 787 797, visit their website, or free txt 8681 for confidential advice.

The effects of your drinking

When you drink too much it often causes a number of problems for your family, relationships and friends.

  • If you drink to deal with stress, the drinking can make the situation worse. It's a vicious cycle.
  • Your friends don't know how you are going to behave next, which causes tension and uncertainty for those close to you.
  • Communicating with you can become difficult.
  • Your life can start to revolve around the drinking.
  • Those close to you can feel ashamed of your behaviour and become cut off because of it.
  • Practical difficulties may include accidents, money, sexual, legal and health problems. Some of these - for example, sexual problems or incontinence - may be embarrassing to talk about.
  • Children may understand more about what is going on than you realise, and this can be reflected in the way they behave.
  • If you stop taking responsibility for things like paying bills or doing household jobs, other family members may take these tasks over. This can lead to resentment on both sides.
  • There may be frequent arguments and violence towards those around you.

This information is for people who want to ease up on their drinking so that they can drink in a way that doesn't cause harm to themselves or others.

It's often very hard to know you are drinking too much because your alcohol consumption has become a habit. Habits are unconscious and that means you aren't aware you are doing it. To change your drinking habit you first have to recognise it. Once you understand it's happening, you can begin to plan to change it.

So, to make a real change to the way you drink follow these steps; measure how much you drink and when, identify your trouble-spots and plan how to deal with them.

Record your drinking

The first step in cutting down your drinking is to start what is called self-monitoring. Self-monitoring simply means watching yourself and keeping a diary of when, where and exactly how much you drink.

From today, note down every time you drink. Fill in your entries in your diary as soon after drinking as possible, otherwise you might forget to record all of your drinking. Also record the consequences of your drinking.

By keeping a drinking diary you will start to notice how much you drink, what is happening when you drink, and be able to monitor how well you are doing at easing up on your drinking.

Identify trouble-spots

Learning when you are at a higher risk of habitual behaviour will help you deal with the most severe problems.

To do that review your diary and see if you can find times when:

  • you drink more than you meant to
  • you regretted how much you drank the day before
  • your drinking got you into trouble.

If you find them, you need to figure out whether there is any particular pattern to the occasions it happened. For example, ask yourself:

  • Who was I with?
  • Where was I?
  • How was I feeling at the beginning of the night?
  • Did how I was feeling change during my drinking?
  • What was going on for me at the time?
  • Was I stressed or anxious about something?

Look for anything which distinguished those drinking occasions. Identifying these will help you avoid them in the future, or plan to deal with them better.

Make a plan

Now you know when you are most likely to have a problem with your drinking, you can make a conscious effort to stop it happening. The best way to do that is have a plan in place before you start drinking. Answer these questions:

  • How much do you plan to drink? "I plan to drink six standard drinks (three pints/handles) tonight."
  • How long do you intend to drink for? "I will go out at 8.30pm and come back at 11pm."
  • What can you do to help yourself stick to your plan?
  • Think of someone who will support you in your plan and enlist their support.

Now you can work out how long each drink must last "One pint must last 2½ hours divided by three, which roughly equals 1 pint every 50 minutes."

That might sound like a long time but you can use the tips on the how to ease up page to make them last that long.