How can you reduce or quit alcohol?

It's a good idea to see your doctor first if you want to quit or stop drinking alcohol. They can help you to manage any withdrawal symptoms you may have. It's also helpful to have an action plan and a support network to help you achieve your goals.

See your doctor

It’s a good idea to see your doctor before you reduce or quit alcohol. They can:

  • give you medical advice based on your health
  • create a withdrawal plan for you to follow
  • link you to support services
  • keep track of your progress with regular check-ups
  • help you to prepare for any withdrawal symptoms.

If you’re a regular or heavy drinker, it can be dangerous to reduce or quit alcohol on your own. Your doctor can refer you to treatment such as detox, medication and counselling to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

It can be hard to talk about your alcohol use, but remember that your doctor is there to help. If you don’t have a doctor you feel you can talk to about your alcohol use, find a support service in our list of alcohol contacts.

Know the benefits

Reducing or quitting alcohol can improve your life in many ways. It can:

  • improve your mood and sleep
  • increase your energy
  • improve your relationships with your loved ones
  • help you perform better at work
  • lower your risk of long-term health problems such as cancer and heart disease
  • save you money.

Keeping these benefits in mind can help you to stay motivated.

Work out a plan

Whether you’re aiming to drink less or to quit altogether, it’s a good idea to have a plan.

Some people prefer to quit in one go. Others prefer to slowly reduce their drinking. Everyone is different so work out what works best for you. Remember that your doctor can help you if you’re not sure.

Your plan might be as simple as drinking one less glass each time you go out. If you want to be more detailed, have a think about your:

  • goals — why do you want to reduce or quit alcohol?
  • triggers — why and when do you drink?
  • strategies — how will you reduce or quit alcohol?
  • support — who will you turn to for help?

Your goals

Having a clear goal in mind can help you to stay motivated. People reduce or quit alcohol for many reasons, including to be healthier, to save money or to have more energy.

Your triggers

If you’re not sure what your triggers are, it can be hard to drink less. To work out why you’re drinking, ask yourself:

  • where are the places I drink the most?
  • what times do I drink the most?
  • do I want to drink or do I feel pressured?

Once you know why you drink, you can work out ways to avoid situations where you might be tempted to drink.

Your strategies

Have some strategies in place so you’re prepared when you’re tempted by alcohol. You’ll know what to do if you unexpectedly find yourself at an event where alcohol is being served.

It’s a good idea to avoid your triggers to help you quit or reduce alcohol. If alcohol features in your social life, you could:

  • organise alcohol-free events with your friends instead of going out for a drink
  • suggest venues where mocktails are available
  • catch up over a coffee instead of at the pub
  • socialise more often with friends who don’t drink.

If you can’t avoid your triggers, try to swap the alcohol for something else. For example, if you drink before going out to feel less anxious, meet up with a good friend instead. For more ideas, take a look at these Hello Sunday Morning articles:

If you’re at an event where alcohol is being served, here are some tips to avoid or reduce alcohol:

  • say no to drinks — prepare and practice your responses before you head out
  • drink something non-alcoholic like a mocktail
  • choose low-strength alcohol
  • count standard drinks to keep track
  • set a limit for yourself.

For more ideas, read 10 tips to cut down on alcohol on the HealthDirect website.

Are you a regular or heavy drinker? Remember, it can be dangerous to reduce or quit alcohol on your own. Your plan should include a visit to the doctor who may refer you to treatment.

Your support

Like many things in life, quitting or reducing alcohol is much easier with support. Tell your friends and family about what you’re doing so they can help you. It’s even better if you know someone who is trying to do the same thing. You can support each other.

If you don’t have friends and family nearby, or if you need more support, you can:

If you’re quitting because you’re pregnant, try Pregnant Pause. It’s designed to help you, your partner and your loved ones go alcohol-free during your pregnancy.

If you need support to help a family member or friend, contact Al-Anon Family Groups or Family Drug Support.

Staying alcohol-free

Reward yourself

What you’re doing isn’t easy. Reward yourself every now and then as you continue to reach your targets. You could go out to the movies or treat yourself to your favourite dessert.

Remember your plan

To re-focus, go back to your plan. Remember why you’re reducing or quitting alcohol. Be inspired by how your life will improve when you achieve your goals.

Forgive yourself

Don’t be hard on yourself if you have one drink too many. Forgive yourself and start fresh the next day.

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