If you are tired of feeling guilty about how much you drank the previous night and would like to better manage your drinking there are some effective strategies available. Just to be clear these strategies are for those people who are generally well-functioning but feel that their drinking habits have escalated to a point where they feel they need to pull back but have been unsuccessful in doing so. The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) defines low-risk drinking for women as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have an alcohol disorder.
1. Set specific drinking-limit goals.
Use the S.M.A.R.T goal technique to set goals that are Specific, Measureable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time Based. An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be something like, “I will drink no more than three times a week and have no more than 2 drinks on any one occasion.” In addition, write your goal down and post it on the refrigerator as a daily reminder. You might also want to tell others of your goal to make you more accountable and to elicit support from others to help you stay true to your goals.
2. Measure your drinks.
Many of us underestimate the amount we drink as we have a remarkable ability to deceive ourselves. One glass of wine is 5 ounces. A beer is 12 ounces. A shot of liquor is 1.5 ounces. If you are drinking wine pour it first in a measuring cup before putting it in your wine glass. Measure your liquor using a shot glass. You might be surprised with the results. Unfortunately if you are out at a bar or restaurant you have less control. Most higher-end places are more accurate with their pours and will follow the above rules.
3. Eliminate triggers
Figure out the triggers that intensify your desire to drink. It could be something as simple as the time of day. Maybe 5:00 is your trigger to start drinking. If so change your routine so that you are doing something else at 5:00, such as an exercise class. In other words you will need to change your routine enough around 5:00 that it eliminates the trigger. If your trigger is that your drink too much while out socializing with others then try drinking water between drinks or discover new types of mocktails to enjoy. In other words, don’t try to use willpower alone against your strong triggers. Instead replace the habit of drinking with an alternative healthy response, preferably one that allows you to feel good and not deprived.
The people I know who have been successful with reducing their drinking are always surprised how much better they feel on a daily basis when they drink less. They are additionally surprised that they can still enjoy social events without having to get drunk and sloppy.