20 Signs You Should Cut Back On Drinking

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alex Lee, DSW, LCSW on March 10, 2021

Table of Contents

Not everyone who drinks has a problem with alcohol. Many people enjoy the occasional beer or cocktail with friends and generally do not experience negative consequences. So if you drink occasionally when you’re out and about or sometimes have a glass of wine in the evening, your drinking habits may be nothing to worry about.

However, there is a line when inconsequential drinking can become risky or harmful. It’s not always clear at first when you’re starting to drink too often. Whether you’re concerned you may have a drinking problem, or simply wondering if you should scale things back, it’s always worth checking in with yourself.

The following list explains signs that you may need to cut back on drinking. These signs don’t necessarily mean you need to ask yourself “Am I an alcoholic?” They just mean you may be drinking more than is healthy. If you’ve noticed yourself drinking more and are seeing any of these signs, it may be time to seek support and change your habits.

1. Recognizing Increased Tolerance

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Photo by J.C. Jiménez on Unsplash

If you start needing more alcohol to achieve the same effects, it’s a sign of developing tolerance, indicating a growing dependency. This often precedes more serious alcohol use disorders. Increased tolerance can also lead to significant health risks, urging a reassessment of drinking habits and considering support options.

2. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, tremors, or nausea without alcohol signals a physical dependency on alcohol. This adaptation of the body to alcohol’s presence requires attention, as it affects health, daily life, and mental well-being. At this point, it’s essential to seek professional health to navigate a safe recovery.

3. Noticing an Impact on Daily Responsibilities

If alcohol consumption starts affecting your performance and responsibilities at work, school, or home life, it’s a sign that your drinking may need to be put in check. The shift from occasional drinking to alcohol taking precedence over responsibilities indicates a problematic relationship with alcohol. Acknowledging this can lead to seeking help and exploring healthier coping mechanisms, aiming for a more balanced life.

4. Having Difficulty Cutting Back

If you’re repeatedly experiencing difficulty in reducing your drinking despite your best efforts, it may be that you’ve developed a dependency on alcohol. This cycle of unsuccessful attempts suggests the need for external support, whether through counseling, support groups, or treatment options, to regain control over one’s life and health.

If drinking, obtaining alcohol, or recovering from its effects starts monopolizing your schedule, alcohol may be taking up too much space and time in your life. This indicates that alcohol is creating an imbalance in your life and likely impacting your well-being. Recognizing this can help you pursue strategies to reduce alcohol’s dominance in your life.

6. Neglecting Hobbies and Social Activities You Once Enjoyed

When hobbies and social activities you once enjoyed take a backseat to drinking, it’s a clear sign that alcohol is overshadowing your life. This gradual shift can lead to feelings of isolation and a decrease in your quality of life. Acknowledging this loss is crucial for recovery, encouraging a return to those enriching activities and connections.

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7. More Frequent Hangovers

Frequent hangovers are a red flag indicating excessive alcohol intake. These symptoms disrupt daily life and can lead to a cycle of drinking to alleviate discomfort all while furthering the issue. It’s important to recognize alcohol’s impact on your health and quality of life to motivate a change.

8. Experiencing Decreased Energy and Mental Sharpness

Regular drinking can diminish energy and cognitive function, affecting productivity and overall well-being. If you’re feeling a decrease in mental acuity and physical vigor, it’s a good sign to critically look at alcohol’s role in your life and determine if it’s time to cut back.

9. Cravings and Preoccupation with Alcohol

Strong cravings or constant thoughts about alcohol suggest a developing dependency. This preoccupation may impact your regular responsibilities and lead to increased consumption. Recognizing preoccupation is a pivotal step toward addressing your relationship with alcohol, and you may need to seek support as you embark on a path to a more balanced life.

10. Making Risky Decisions While Drinking

Engaging in risky behaviors while drinking highlights the need for a serious reassessment of your drinking habits. Alcohol impairs judgment, lowers inhibition, and may lead you to act in ways you wouldn’t when sober. This can have serious consequences. Prioritize seeking help to make safer choices and prioritize your well-being.

11. Experiencing Memory Lapses or Blackouts from Drinking

If you can’t remember your actions while you’re drunk this indicates a concerning level of alcohol consumption, characterized by blackouts where new memories fail to form. This worrying sign not only indicates excessive drinking but also poses significant safety risks and emotional distress. Recognizing these lapses as a serious consequence of drinking is essential, urging a reevaluation of one’s relationship with alcohol and often motivating a shift towards healthier habits and seeking support to prevent further harm.

12. Increasing Anxiety, Stress, and Conflicts with Others

These feelings and behaviors are significant indicators that alcohol is negatively impacting your mental health and social relationships. Although often sought for relaxation, alcohol can actually worsen anxiety and stress. This can also lead to strained relationships due to impaired judgment. Acknowledging this link is crucial for anyone looking to improve their mental health and close relationships.

13. Experiencing Shifts in Your Social Life

If your social life is increasingly revolving around alcohol or your social connections that revolve around alcohol are taking priority over others, it may be time to evaluate your drinking habits. This is usually a gradual change that isolates a person from non-drinking friends and family, showing how alcohol dominates their social identity. This can serve as a wake-up call to reflect on personal values and reconnect with loved ones in more meaningful ways.

14. Struggling with Disrupted Sleep Patterns or Insomnia

Having a hard time sleeping or struggling with disrupted sleep patterns due to alcohol consumption is a major health indicator that your drinking may need reassessment. While often initially used to relax, alcohol actually impairs sleep quality. This leads to a cycle of sleep disturbances that negatively affect overall health. Because of how crucial sleep is to your health, consider pursuing a reduction in consumption or a commitment to abstain.

15. Using Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

Using alcohol as a coping mechanism for handling difficult emotions or situations is an indicator of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. This reliance on alcohol for emotional relief masks underlying issues and can exacerbate problems over time. Recognizing this pattern as problematic is vital for developing healthier coping strategies. These could include therapy, physical activity, or mindfulness, paving the way for genuine emotional well-being and a shift away from alcohol dependence.

16. Drinking on More Days of the Week Than Not

Regularly consuming alcohol on more days than not can indicate that it’s becoming a central part of your routine. A shift from occasional use to frequent consumption raises concerns about growing tolerance, potential health issues, and the risk of developing a dependency. Recognizing this pattern is a critical first step in exploring methods to cut back, which can lead to significant health benefits and an increase in overall life satisfaction.

17. Struggling to Limit Your Consumption

When limiting alcohol intake to a single drink becomes a challenge, it might signal a deeper issue with control over consumption. Developed tolerance or psychological reliance, often leads to habits of overindulgence that negatively affect health, decision-making, and social behaviors. Acknowledging this is essential for embarking on a path toward either drinking in moderation or complete abstinence, so you can enhance personal well-being and improve relationships.

18. Spending an Excessive Amount of Money on Alcohol

Another concerning pattern is if you’re spending a disproportionate amount of your budget on alcohol, especially if you’re neglecting other financial priorities. This financial imbalance can compromise not only your ability to pay for priorities but can also lead to you neglecting investments in personal growth or healthy hobbies. Recognizing the economic effects of your drinking habits is an important motivator for reducing reliance on alcohol.

19. Feeling Physically Unwell or a “Toxic” Sensation in the Body

Experiencing ongoing negative physical symptoms, such as fatigue or digestive problems, suggests your body may be adversely affected by excessive alcohol use. These signs are important indicators that alcohol is taking a toll on your health. Addressing these symptoms by decreasing your alcohol consumption or seeking assistance to stop can bring about substantial health improvements, revitalize your energy, and elevate your quality of life.

20. Noticing You Outpace and Drink More than Others in Social Drinking Situations

If you observe that you are consistently consuming more alcohol than those around you in social drinking settings this is a clear indicator of a consumption level that may be worrisome. You may be developing an increased tolerance or dependency, which can lead to more serious health risks over time. Allow yourself some introspection regarding the impact of your drinking habits if you notice this behavior.

Are you concerned you may be drinking too much? Take our alcohol use assessment

Ways to Cut Back on Alcohol

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Photo by Elmer Cañas on Unsplash

If you’re interested in reducing your alcohol consumption, there are several effective ways to go about it. Depending on your personal habits and rituals around drinking, different combinations of strategies may work.

Sober months, such as Dry January and Sober October, can be a good opportunity to get started. A month without drinking can give you a chance to reflect on your relationship with alcohol, and where it fits into your life.

If you’d like to switch directly to moderation, helpful strategies include keeping a drink journal, setting specific drink limits, or choosing days of the week to abstain.

Exploring other activities that don’t involve alcohol may also help. The recent sober curious trend has opened up a lot more nightlife options for people who want to drink less, which is a major plus for those cutting back.

Finally, there are many apps that can help you track your drinking, and seek either moderation or abstinence.

In short, you don’t need to be an alcoholic to want to know how to curb your drinking habits. There are many reasons why cutting back on alcohol can be beneficial to your overall health and personal life. If you find it hard to reduce or stop drinking, however, there’s also no shame in looking for help.

Telemedicine programs such as Ria Health allow you to pursue abstinence or moderation, offering comprehensive support through a smartphone app. You don’t need to identify as an alcoholic to join, and you’ll get a custom alcohol reduction plan tailored to your individual goals and needs.

If you’d like to know more about the options Ria provides, schedule a no-obligation call with a member of our team today, or learn more about how it works.

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Written By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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