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Making a Plan to Cut Back on Alcohol Use


If you think you are drinking too much alcohol and want to cut back, having a plan can help you get started. What works best for you might depend on things like how much you drink. While some people can stop drinking alcohol on their own, others need medical help to manage the physical process of withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical care. Here are some ideas for making a plan:

  • Know your reasons.

    Write down your reasons for wanting to cut back. You're more likely to succeed if you know exactly why you want to change.

  • Set some specific goals.

    You're not as likely to succeed if your goal is just to "drink less." Have a long-term goal, like lowering your blood pressure or losing weight. And set some short-term goals that will get you there, like having "no-drink" days.

  • Have a plan for dealing with barriers.

    Expect slip-ups. When you have one, think about what led to it. You can use this information to avoid a similar result next time.

    Many things can interfere with meeting your goal to cut back on drinking. If your current life revolves around alcohol use, you might need to think about making some changes. In your plan, include ways to deal with barriers. For example:

    • Try to spend less time with people who drink a lot or give you a hard time about drinking less. Spend time with people who support your desire to cut back on using alcohol.
    • Try to avoid places or events that make you want to drink. Stay away from bars where you used to drink. Plan ways to avoid drinking when you are tempted.
    • Make a list of people and places in your life that have nothing to do with alcohol use.
    • Stay active. It is easier to cut back on drinking alcohol when you are busy doing things that you like to do. Think about how you would like to spend your free time. For example, you could volunteer, take a class that interests you, or play sports.
    • Consider not having alcohol in your home.
  • Get support.

    Changing habits is usually easier when you get support from others. You may want to tell friends or family what you're trying to do, and ask them to help.

  • Consider getting professional help.

    You may be able to stop or cut back on drinking with help from a counselor. Your options for treatment will depend on what is available in your area. If you have moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, you may need medical care to stop or cut back safely.

  • Reward yourself.

    Plan to treat yourself every time you reach one of your goals. It could be watching your favorite movie or just having some quiet time to yourself.


Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


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