The last Office for National Statistics General Lifestyle Survey found that, on their heaviest drinking day in the previous week, 34 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women exceeded the government recommended maximum of four units a day for men and three for women. Whether you’re thinking about taking some time off the booze or even giving up alcohol for good, here are some strategies that could help.
1. Keep a record of how much you are drinking
It can help you find the easiest way to cut down. To reduce the amount we drink, we must first be aware of the quantity we consume and our drinking patterns, say K. Walitzer and G. Connors of the Research Institute on Addictions. Whether you use an online drinks diary, a tracker app on your phone or just a notebook, record the number of drinks you’ve had each day and add up the weekly total. If you also include details such as times and places, what you drank, who you were with, if you ate, how you felt and how much money you had with you, this can help you avoid triggers. Try downloading the free app Drinkaware which allows you to track your alcohol consumption, spend over time, calculate units and calories.
2. Choose an achievable target and stick to it
A review by the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Psychiatry found that allowing participants to choose their treatment goal increased their success rate. If you are cutting down rather than quitting, set yourself a limit, and cut back a little each day – so every day you drink less becomes a success.
3. Find healthier habits
The US National Institutes of Health suggest that, if drinking occupies a lot of your time, you fill your free time by developing new, healthy activities or relationships, or renewing others. For example, if you’re in the habit of meeting a friend down the pub for a big night out once a week, suggest that you go for a weekly jog with them instead – you still get to have a good gossip and could still meet for a drink once a month. Use some of the money you save for interests that don’t involve the pub, such as the cinema or taking up a team sport.
4. Ask people around you to support your choice
Ask your family and friends for support to help you reach your goal. If you go for dinner, friends will know not to top up your glass and to have some soft drinks available in the house. They might even join you for a non-drinking week.
This advice is aimed at people who have over-indulged and want to cut back on their alcohol intake. But if drinking is affecting your ability to get on with normal day-to-day life, consider talking to your GP, calling the national alcohol helpline, Drinkline, on 0800 917 8282, or contacting an organisation such as Alcoholics Anonymous: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk