If you think you drink too much, then chances are you do. Nobody can force you to reduce your alcohol intake, or make you seek professional help. The only person who can take responsibility for that is you. If you've woken up to the fact that you need to cut down or quit, here are some tips to help
Review your lifestyle
Identify those times and places when you're most likely to reach for a drink. From the bar after work to the weekend with friends, if you know you'll be tempted then think about steering clear. Alternatively, try turning up later than usual, to minimise your drinking time, or kick off with a soft drink to stop you from feeling so thirsty.
Drink for the right reasons
Try to associate drinking with celebrations, cultural and religious events, rather than a means of blotting out your problems or propping up your self-confidence. Also think of alcohol as something you do as a complement to another activity, instead of something you turn to for its own sake.
Binge drinking is dangerous, as your body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour. The more rapidly you drink the more intense the effects will be, but that doesn't make the experience any more enjoyable. If you find it hard to apply the booze brakes, try putting your drink down more often. If it isn't in your hand all the time, you're less likely to drink it so quickly.
Learn new bar tricks
If you're at the bar with a glass in your hand, try talking more. Use your mouth for something other than boozing and you're less likely to fall down at the end of the evening. Getting in something to eat can also have the same stalling effect, though be careful with salty snacks, as it could just stoke your thirst.
Know your limit
Before you start drinking, be sure you know when to stop. This can be hard when everyone else is boozing, but practice makes perfect. It also avoids bad hangovers.
Take a break from boozing
If you're worried about drinking, but you don't fancy quitting completely, then set aside an alcohol-free period every now and then. It might be one day in a week or a month, but even a temporary hop onto the wagon can be enough to keep the issue alive in your mind. Ultimately, the more switched on you can be about your alcohol intake the less likely it is that you'll run into problems.
Facing up to the fact that you may have a drink problem takes guts. It is perhaps the most courageous step you can take towards regaining control over your life. Help is out there too, from confidential telephone support to face-to-face counselling and more, but it's down to you to ask.
Even if it's just advice you're after, or an opportunity to talk, you'll find just getting the issue out into the open makes it easier to tackle. Call Drinkline (0800 917 82 82).
Nobody likes to admit that drink has got the better of them. Check out the facts right here, and learn to recognise the warning signs
Know your limits
The amount of alcohol a person consumes is measured in units. Here are some rough examples of what makes up a typical unit:
As a rule, health experts recommend that adult men drink no more than 21 units per week, and women 14 units. In real terms, this means blokes shouldn't exceed 2 pints of lager/beer, or 3 glasses of wine a day, while women should avoid going beyond a pint or a couple of glasses. Why? Because the male body is made up of 66% fluid, compared to 55% for women. This means alcohol is more diluted in a man's body than a woman's. As a result, women tend to get drunk faster than men on the same amount of alcohol.
- Half a pint of beer or cider
- A small glass of wine
- A single measure of spirits (e.g. whisky, vodka, rum or gin)
Waking up to the warning signs
If you're unsure whether you exceed your weekly unit allowance, try setting up a drinking diary for a while. Be sure to include every drink, the amount, the occasion, and where possible the alcohol by volume. Also make a note of whether you had a hangover and how that affected your day. That way you can build up a picture of your drinking habit, and work out whether things might be slipping out of control. Other warning signs include:
If you go beyond the recommended number of weekly units, or you can regularly see yourself in any of these signs, it's time to think about cutting down. If the following points sound familiar, however, then you may well have developed a drink-dependency pattern that requires professional help:
- Drinking larger amounts to get the same effect.
- Doing things when you're drunk that you go on to seriously regret.
- Missing an appointment because of a hangover.
- Binge drinking (going without for some time, and then drinking excessively in one period).
- Boozing in secret, or playing down how much you drink.
- Thinking about alcohol a lot, and when you'll next get a chance to drink.
- Getting into trouble as a result of alcohol (i.e. accidents or violence).
- Finding yourself in debt because of the amount you spend on alcohol.
- Becoming anxious when you can't get access to drink.
- Thinking you need a drink to help deal with certain situations.
- Getting into arguments or having accidents because of booze.
- Evading questions about your alcohol intake, or feeling uncomfortable about responding at all.
- Reacting angrily when people suggest you have a drink problem.
Advice and support
Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire
Understanding and support for families and friends of problem drinkers, whether the person is still drinking or not.
Helpline: 020 7403 0888