When we don’t want to get sick, we think about eating healthy foods, staying hydrated and washing our hands. When we want to lose weight, we consider increasing exercise, cutting back on carbs and sugar and eating small meals throughout the day. When we want to change our drinking habits, where to begin? For some, going cold turkey is the only answer. For others, it’s a slower process that begins with clearly identifying when, why and how much you drink.
This is the time of year when heavy drinking seems to ramp up because of holiday parties, increased stress of getting work done before year end and for some, due to loneliness or depression at this time of year. To avoid going down this road, it helps to think about creative ways to support your sobriety:
1. Fill the time you would go out to a bar or be drinking at home with an activity or hobby.
2. Start by refusing to drink at least one day a week, then make it two, etc.
3. Set a goal to reach by the end of the month. Use the money you saved on not buying alcohol to treat yourself to something special.
4. Change who you hang out with. If your friends all congregate at bars, look for a new group that likes to participate in healthier activities.
5. Consider that you will have more energy and most likely lose weight.
6. If you are trying to taper back, try having a glass of water in between drinks to help pace yourself.
7. Keep track of how much you are drinking. Many restaurants now pour pre-measured amounts of wine into your glass to avoid having to eyeball how much should be poured. A standard glass of wine is 5 ounces. A standard amount of beer is a 12-ounce can or bottle. A shot of 80 proof liquor is 1-½ ounces.
8. Don’t keep alcohol in the house. This will make it more difficult for you to break down and have “just one”. Spend the money on filling your cabinets with other drinks that you consider treats instead.
9. When you get to a party, start with a non-alcoholic drink first to help fill you up, quench your thirst and slow you down.
10. Plan in advance how you will say no. If people are used to your heavy drinking habits, they might continue to top off your drink or push them on you. Stay strong and don’t back down on their urging.
11. Take an alcohol awareness class to strengthen your resolve to abstain by learning the long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the body.
The reality is that it might look like everyone is having more fun when they are consuming alcohol but you must also remember how overdrinking feels the next day. You won’t be able to jump out of bed and go exercise or get things done because you’ll probably be feeling sluggish from a bad night of sleep. Alcohol makes us fall asleep more quickly but as it wears off it interferes and reduces our deep sleep patterns. Furthermore, alcohol is dehydrating and too much drinking leaves us to wake up to a headache, bloodshot eyes, and sometimes shakiness. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll waste the night or next morning with nausea and vomiting. All in all, cutting down or completely abstaining from alcohol will make you a more productive, healthier and happier person in the long run!