A mimosa with brunch. A beer to unwind after work. A glass of wine with dinner. Champagne to celebrate. Binge drinking to blunt bad news. And a Bloody Mary to “cure” your hangover.
If these scenarios sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. Many of us live in a culture in which there is always a reason to drink.
If you’re trying to quit or cut back, it can be difficult when alcohol is around every corner. In this post, we outline 11 tips you can use to reduce your drinking, even when it seems like everyone else around you is partaking.
#1: Question Your Culture’s View on Drinking
If you grew up with parents who had a few drinks every night, you may have thought it was normal. However, when we start to question these beliefs, we realize those habits aren’t the healthiest.
Consider the negatives of heavy drinking that may not be discussed:
- U.S. life expectancy has dropped, and one of the major reasons is alcohol abuse, according to a BMJ editorial.
- Research has linked heavy drinking with visible signs of aging.
- About 4.5 million Americans spend over $200 on alcohol a week, according to one survey. Use this calculator to see how much you could save.
- Heavy drinking can impact relationships. Studies show that, in general, the more a spouse drinks, the higher the risk of divorce.
- Some researchers believe that a glass of wine may have positive impacts, but almost all researchers agree that chronic, heavy drinking heightens the risk of many health problems. Alcohol has been linked to dementia, cancer and poor mental health just to name a few.
Reading these few facts can help us understand the truth: Just because frequent drinking is part of your culture doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
#2: Replace After-Work Drinks
If you find that one after-work drink leads to many, try to replace the habit with something else. Have an activity that you always switch to after having your first drink.
Here are a few ideas:
- Switch to drinking another beverage, such as a soda or tea
- Take a hot bath or shower
- Play a video game
- Work on a project that keeps your hands and mind busy, such as building something or making a craft
- Consider trying out some of these new hobbies
#3: Try Making Mocktails
If you enjoy the flavor of cocktails or coolers, consider making alcohol-free versions.
Whether you’re sipping a drink on the beach or at a holiday gathering, there are options that can help you enjoy the party without drinking:
- Mocktail recipes for summer
- Mocktail recipes for the holiday season
- Non-alcoholic party drink recipes
- Many blended cocktails can also be made by simply omitting the alcohol
If mocktails are too fancy for you, simply holding a glass of soda water may help. Having a carbonated beverage to sip on will feel more similar to drinking than not having a beverage at all.
#4: Choose Venues that Offer Mocktails
If you’re going out, research restaurants ahead of time that serve a variety of non-alcoholic drinks. Suggest a few venues so that you won’t feel left out when everyone else orders a beverage.
No one should feel pressure to drink. Since mocktails look like regular cocktails, they may also prevent your friends or family from asking you why you aren’t drinking.
#5: Attend Gatherings that Focus on Other Activities
It can be difficult to avoid alcohol when all your friends are sitting around a table, drinking beers. Instead, try to suggest venues that offer other things you can do. If there are other activities besides drinking, it can be easier to avoid temptation.
Ideas could include:
- Venues with pool tables
- Video game arcades
- Bowling alleys
- Venues that hold paint or craft nights
If you’re having a business meeting, suggest places that are less focused on alcohol, such as a coffee shop, café-style restaurant or sushi bar.
#6: Let Your Server or Bartender Know
If you go to a restaurant or bar with friends or family, let your server know that you’re the designated driver (DD) and won’t be drinking. Even if you’re not the DD, telling the server you are will prevent them from constantly trying to take your drink order. It can be easier to avoid temptation when you’re not being offered alcohol.
If you don’t want to make your efforts publicly known, you can simply pull your server aside when you get up to use the washroom.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article.
Riannon Westall is a health writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been featured in the Toronto Star, on CBC.ca and on various blogs. She writes articles and website copy that further her clients’ goal of helping people create healthier and more fulfilling lives.