This post has some general ideas, tips and tricks on how to change your drinking, whether you want to cut down, stop for a bit, or quit completely. Many are very simple – why not try some of them out, and see what works for you!
How to change your drinking tips
Buying smaller portions of alcohol – whether a half-bottle of wine at the supermarket instead of a full one, or a half-pint instead of a pint in the pub, can quickly make a big difference to your consumption.
Alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones – for example having a large glass of water after every glass of wine will slow down your drinking, and will also keep you better hydrated.
Drinking lower alcohol content drinks – take a look at different wines and beers; there are big differences in their ABV (alcohol content). You may be able to cut off a third of the alcohol you’re consuming just by paying attention to this. And there are more and more low-alcohol beers and wines available. And of course also many no-alcohol ones. See also our alternatives to alcohol.
Hiding your bottles at home – this may sound daft, but out of sight is really sometimes out of mind! You may even go one step further and also hide all your wine glasses and bottle openers and so on. Or anything else that may remind you of drinking.
We also have some tips on how to say no to a drink, when you are offered one.
Treating yourself well
Changing your behaviours is hard, so be gentle with yourself. This is especially true with something as devious as alcohol. We always recommend eating nice things, drinking nice non-alcoholic drinks, and generally doing nice things.
Easy things to do include having a nice hot bath, going for a swim or a sauna, or anything else that is about being nice to you – you have our permission to really pamper yourself! And remember: you can usually do a lot of pampering with the money you save by not drinking. You can find some more ideas in this post about stress and winding down without a drink.
Setting goals and tracking your progress
We recommend that all our members set up their goal when they join, and then provide regular (ideally weekly) updates. This is based on solid behaviour change science, and will improve your chances of success.
It’s important to recognise your positive achievements. It may be something as simple as sticking a gold star in your calendar for every sober day. This blog post has some ideas. And you can also start thinking about exercise as a reward!
This is a big one. When you’ve decided to change your drinking, you may already be well aware of many difficult emotions you feel about alcohol, and the impact it has on your life.
Embarrassment, shame and guilt come up often in Club Soda discussions. But let’s also remember the positive side. Many members report feeling almost ecstatic after a few days without alcohol. This is good, as it will reinforce the behaviours you are aiming for.
Let’s be honest: it is quite likely that you’ll slip. From the stories we hear, it is common to fall off the wagon or have a relapse. Call it what you like, the most important thing is not to beat yourself up about it. The best approach, if you can manage it, is to first take some time to reflect: how did it happen? What was the trigger for drinking alcohol again? What could I have done differently? And then forgive yourself and move on.
If you are doing a dry January, for example, just start again, and try to complete the rest of the month. As someone said: I only drank on three days, I was still sober on 28!
Our expert member, psychologist Helen O’Connor wrote about planning for possible pitfalls, which may well help you prevent some of them.
A member wrote about this in the rooms. The acronym HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. It can be used as a simple reminder to make you aware of why you might be drinking. The theory is that often we resort to alcohol to cover or hide something we are not happy with. And it may be as simple as being a bit tired.
This is how it works: the next time that you’re getting ready to reach for the bottle, say HALT! in your mind. Check how you are feeling just then: are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Or maybe even more than one of those? If you realise that you are, take action to fix that feeling. For example, if you are hungry, eat something. If you are angry, maybe go for a run to work off the anger. If you are lonely, can you visit or call a friend? And if you are tired, have a nap? Dealing with these feelings will help you resist having a drink.
Of course the difficult part with HALT is remembering it when you need it the most. By the time you go HALT! you may already have drank half a pint. Not to worry, you can still check whether you are really just hungry and so on, and ditch the drink. And with a bit of practice you’ll become better at HALTing in time!