If you’re searching for some powerful ways to control your drinking then this article is for you.
The past two years caused most of us to experience increased levels of stress, boredom, and loneliness. Many people who used alcohol to relieve these feelings during the recent pandemic now find themselves regularly drinking more than they want and unable to cut back.
If you’ve tried to cut back how much you’re drinking before, you’ve likely figured out that just restricting yourself from alcohol isn’t the way to long-lasting success. Willpower doesn’t last. Relying on it leads to “white-knuckling it” while you count down days and hope your urges go away.
To gain control over your drinking, you need to deal with why it’s hard for you to cut back. It’s not easy work, but the great news is that once you learn the process, you can use it to help you achieve anything else in your life. Without a doubt, these five steps will not only help you control your drinking, but they can also help you improve your relationships, and find more success in business and life.
BEST STEPS TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR DRINKING
1. Look at Where You Are Now
Acknowledging where you are is the first step to get where you want to go. Set aside some time with a journal and write without editing yourself. Do this honestly and without judgment. Write about:
- Your drinking habits. What are your triggers? Do when you automatically pour a drink when the clock strikes 5pm? Do you feel the need to have a drink whenever you get together with your family? Do you feel like you “deserve a drink” at the end of the week?
- Your struggles. Do you have trouble stopping once you start drinking? Do you feel peer pressure to drink when you go out with friends? Does the fact that your spouse doesn’t want to cut back make it hard for you?
- Your negative beliefs about drinking. This could include thinking that your drinking makes you feel hungover, tired, ashamed, frustrated. Maybe you say/do things you later regret when you drink. You might think that you are setting a bad example for your kids with your drinking.
- Your positive beliefs about drinking. We often try to use the negative effects of a habit as motivation for stopping. But it’s important to look at the positive effects too. If you didn’t have positive thoughts about drinking, it wouldn’t be hard to cut back.
You may believe that drinking helps you relax; makes it easier to socialize; makes things more fun; makes you more fun. If you don’t identify and question these beliefs, they’ll keep appearing, trying to convince you how much you need alcohol.
2. Look at Where You Want to Be
Imagine the Future You who has cut back on/stopped drinking. How has your life changed? What about you has changed? What do you do that’s different than what you do now? What’s your average day like? What are your priorities? What are your thoughts about drinking? How do you feel?
Think about how you can start being that version of you right now. What steps can you take? What do you need to start doing? What do you need to stop doing?
You can use your future self to help guide you. Imagine what the future you would do when you are making decisions, going throughout your day, interacting with others.
Would the Future You choose to stay out another hour and drink more or would she go home and go to bed? Would she wake up late because she drank too much or get up early and workout?
3. Commit to Doing the Work
Don’t just say you’re going to try to cut back. Commit to doing it. Commit to working on it until you actually do it. Commit to doing what you say you’re going to do.
Most of us are pretty reliable. We stick to the commitments we make to others. If you tell your kids you’re going to pick them up, you do it even if you don’t feel like it. If you tell your friend you’ll help her with something, you do it even if it’s inconvenient.
But, when we tell ourselves we won’t drink until the weekend and then Tuesday night comes and we don’t feel like sticking to that plan, we blow off our commitment to ourselves and have a drink. We can’t trust ourselves to do what we say we will. We’ve developed a bad relationship with ourselves. We need to repair that relationship.
The goal is to get to the point where when you say you’re going to do something, you can rely on yourself to do it. This will help you in all areas of your life. You’ll be more productive, confident, successful.
Practice telling yourself you will do things and then actually do them—even when you don’t feel like it. Wake up early, workout, read 10 minutes a day, drink 64 ounces of water, go an hour without checking social media.
4. Plan and Do the Work
The primitive part of your brain acts with urgency and repetitiveness. It’s the part that signals the fight or flight response. It wants to keep you safe, avoid pain and expend as little energy as possible. It doesn’t want you to feel the pain of discomfort. It wants to make things easy for you. One way it does that is to quickly give in to urges—without giving you time to really think about the effects it will have—so you don’t have to suffer through them.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain you use for planning, judgment, decision-making and reasoning. It allows you to consider consequences and think before you act. This is the part of the brain that will help you to change your habits.
You want to decide what will best for you long-term—not just in the moment. To do that, you need to utilize this part of the brain before you have the urge and make decisions ahead of time about what you’ll do. If you wait until you have the urge, your primitive brain will take over and do whatever it can to satisfy the urge.
Plan how many (if any) drinks you will have a day before. Expect it will be hard. You won’t want to stick to the plan. Do it anyway. Keep your commitment to yourself.
Think about the Future You that you envisioned. Practice thinking the thoughts she has. Maybe, “I can take a drink or leave it.” Or, “I’m totally in control of how much I drink.” Or, “I don’t drink during the week.”
Practice feeling how she feels. Determined. Committed. Confident.
Practice doing what she does. Prioritizes herself and her health. Goes to bed early. Drinks a lot of water.
5. Deal with Challenges
Figuring out how to control your drinking is difficult. So, expect this to be hard. If it wasn’t, you would have already done it. Know that nothing has gone wrong. This is part of the process. Don’t give up.
Notice what thoughts and feelings come up when you start to cut back on your drinking. Notice what comes up when it gets hard. When you have an urge, pause and allow it. Sit with the discomfort and realize that you can deal with it. It’s just a sensation in your body. You can handle it. And, it will fade.
If you do drink more than you intended, beating yourself up won’t help you. Instead, grab that journal and write down what happened. What were the circumstances? What were you thinking? You may not even realize you had any thoughts. You may feel like you had an automatic response. Someone offered you a drink and you took it. But there is always a thought in there. It could be as simple as, “I deserve it.”
You also had a feeling that you might not have registered. That feeling is what drove you to have the drink. If you thought you deserved a drink, maybe you felt entitled.
Write all of it down. Be curious rather than judgmental. Ask yourself questions. Discover what’s really going on for you. Come up with alternate thoughts you can have and actions you can take the next time you are in the same situation.
It’s frustrating to be drinking more than you want. You can wind up in a cycle of making promises to yourself, breaking them, beating yourself up, and trying again.
The great news is you can put a stop to this cycle. All you have to do is use these five steps to control your drinking , and you’ll start feeling better—for good. You got this.
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