Cut Back on Alcohol Without Giving It Up

You’d think that it would be obvious to someone if he or she had a drinking problem. But that’s not the case. Unlike other health-destroying habits like smoking or illegal drugs, drinking is something that most adults do, and that is quite healthy in moderation.

So how do you know when your drinking has become a problem? Look to the small signs. Maybe you’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with a raging thirst, drenched in sweat, needing to go to the bathroom. Maybe getting out of bed in the morning is a bit harder these days, and you seem to have an awful lot of headaches. Been taking the recycling to the center instead of leaving it out for the trash people to collect because you’re too embarrassed about the large number of wine and beer bottles? Or putting on a few pounds, even though you’re not eating any differently?

Maybe it’s time to speak honestly to yourself and cut back on your drinking. This article will help you do it.

One caveat, though: 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 the tips in this article 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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?

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.