We have put together tips and answers to guide you on specific situations. This will never replace the professional help from talking directly to your doctor or your therapist, and it won’t be as warm and spontaneous as the help you can get by asking the community in Daybreak, but we think it is useful to have some answers quickly at hand.
It can be a big step to make the decision to change your drinking behaviour – often, there are a number of factors contributing to drinking being an issue, as well as a number of reasons to continue the behaviour.
One thing we have found helpful, as a rule of thumb, is to consider if your drinking is impacting the important things in your life, like health, relationships, work/career, finances, or some other important value. If you are finding this is the case, this might be a sign that a change is necessary.
If you have noticed that this is the case, it might be good to reflect on whether your drinking is serving a purpose, such as managing stress or grief. Or perhaps you simply enjoy drinking, and don’t necessarily see any reasons to change.
The first questions you may want to ask yourself are:
The reality is that when we are ready to change, we will probably struggle to make lasting changes. That said, there are some things that we can do that will help to move ourselves towards change. In this we are addressing the decisional balance (trying to make it clear that there are more reasons to change, than to stay the same). When you think about decisions you may have made in your own life, you may find that it is only when there are more reasons to change, that we actually take action.
Have a think about how your alcohol use has impacted you – is there any reason to change? What might be the consequences? Make sure you are open about this, and see if you can look at it from a few different perspectives.
Ask someone close to you about their views on your drinking behaviour – what they have noticed about your relationship with alcohol, and whether they see it as a problem. Talk with them about what a problematic relationship with alcohol might look like.
Reflect the conflict ‘It is hard because it sounds like you feel you need to have a drink after work to relax, but it also means that you don’t sleep well and so are tired the next day’.
Start to make a list of how things might change if you were to change your relationship with alcohol.
Reflect on past experiences and consider the role that alcohol has played in them, and in your experiences so far.
Ask yourself – what are the pros and cons of changing, or staying the same? Make a cost-benefit analysis of how things might change for you if you were to adjust your drinking – taking into account the positives and potential negatives, and the anticipated results.
Reflect on times in the past when you have been able to make some good changes, and consider what helped you during this time. Was it supportive friends, or setting goals?
Enlist the support of some friends or a supportive community such as Daybreak, to help you to set some goals and make some plans around the changes that are necessary.
Talk with others who have been through similar experiences and reflect on how your experience compares to theirs.
Engage with Daybreak and with Health Coaching, and ensure that you check in every day to share how you are going with the community, as well as speak to a Health Coach about making a relapse prevention plan.
Take time out to reflect to yourself, what kinds of changes are occurring? What are some things that you have learned about your drinking behaviour?
Continue to reflect positive changes you have noticed, in order to keep motivation high.
Encourage goal setting and reinforcement of positive gains.
Stay alert to the possibility of slipping or relapse, and ensure you have a supportive community around you.
Access support, either through your networks or Daybreak, and speak to someone about what is happening, and what kinds of learning experiences you have from this.
Reflect back on what has happened and see if you can isolate what specifically triggered the relapse and what might be a good plan to prevent it from happening again in the future.
A standard drink or an “alcohol unit” is equal to 10 ml (8 gr) of pure alcohol. Counting on standard drinks can help us reduce our actual intake and reduce the risks related to alcohol consumption. Each unit takes about one hour for the body to process, so the more units we drink, the more time our body needs to process what we’ve drank. Standard drinks are also used to set global and national guidelines.
Governments around the world have set guidelines to help people reduce the risk of alcohol intake. You can find the Australian guidelines here.
Check out the Standard Drinks Guide by the Australian government to learn how to count your drinks and understand better what the guidelines mean
We strongly recommend you avoid self-prescribing any kind of drugs. It is very important that you visit the doctor when starting to change your drinking habits, especially if you have been drinking more than the government’s recommendation for some time.
Some people in the community takes drugs to prevent urges or avoid withdrawals, but be aware that every drug has certain repercussions or side effects and that it is best to avoid them if you don’t really need them. So talk to your doctor before deciding to try any drug and avoid recommending them to others in the community. You can of course mention them, but suggest others to ask their doctors to prescribe something instead.
Rewarding yourself is more important than it seems. By rewarding ourselves without alcohol, we are increasing the release of dopamine in our brains, which leads to an increase of motivation and positive mood. Small rewards for small achievements is a great habit we want to promote in Daybreak.
Here’s a list of things you can consider to reward yourself. Use the ones that you like the most but be open to trying new things as well.
A very useful way to overcome urges and even prevent them, is to keep yourself distracted. Here is a bunch of tips to make sure you’ll have a good idea to get distracted with anytime you need it.
Remember to ask the community for tips. These are some favourites from Daybreak.
Sometimes we need to ask for help, and that is fine. Just like you would go to the doctor’s for a sprained ankle, you may need to go to doctor to talk about your drinking. A good friend might go to you for some advice about something that is affecting them, you may also go to them to ask for some support with your drinking.
Anything that is impacting our lives, which we are finding difficult to manage on our own, will probably benefit from someone’s advice or support. The problem can be, that sometimes we aren’t quite sure of how to ask for help. We might sense that the person might not be able to offer help if we ask, or we worry that they might see us in a different light. Sometimes we may even just feel ashamed about not being able to manage by ourselves.
All of these are valid concerns and it can be good to plan about who we ask for help, and when.
We know that some people are going to be able to offer more help than others. For example, a doctor or a Health Coach is probably going to have a lot more ability to offer practical advice about drinking, as well as referrals for treatment or recommendations about replacement behaviors or activities. Similarly, if one of our good friends is going through something distressing in their lives, they may not be the right person to approach for help. However, if a friend has shown concern for you, and is asking questions about your wellbeing, it might be a good sign that they are available to help.
Often, it is as simple as finding the words! But how do we start?
Some ideas to get you started might be:
For asking a friend
‘I wanted to talk to you about something. I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been drinking more than I would like to, and I’m not sure what to do about it.’
‘I’d like us to catch up and chat about something with you. I’m having a bit of a tough time at the moment and would like your take on things.’
For asking a professional
‘I would like some help with cutting back on drinking’
‘I’m here to get some advice about stopping drinking’
‘I need help with alcohol reduction. I’d like to discuss a referral for AOD counselling and your thoughts about the best ways to cut back.’
Often we hold back on asking for help, because we fear being criticised or judged for having an issue with alcohol. The good news is that most people, professionals or friends, are receptive to this, it is not uncommon to want to cut back or stop drinking altogether. Asking for support with this is really responsible, as there is a lot of help available, and getting some support means that you are much more likely to be able to make changes successfully.