It may seem harmless; it’s legal and practically everyone drinks, but alcohol accounts for 88,000 deaths annually due to excessive use. While statistics prove that alcohol is a dangerous substance that is often overused, the act of cutting back or quitting drinking completely can be extremely difficult. How do you make a new friend? You meet them out for a drink. What does everyone want to do after work? Meet for happy hour. What do you do to survive those awkward family dinners? You drink.
It takes a little planning, but cutting back on drinking can be done without completely devastating your social life. Here are some tips.
1. Keep count
Evaluating and regulating your drinking can be done easily without getting unwanted attention. On a typical night out with friends, keep track of how much you drink, then compare the results with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s recommendations. This takes into account standard drink sizes, so if you get a double vodka and soda, count accordingly.
2. Order cheat drinks
If you know your friends will pressure you into drinking more than you want, head to the bar before another round is ordered and get a soft drink, mocktail, or a sparkling water with lime. These drinks look like the alcoholic version and will help you avoid the tough questions and peer pressure your friends may dole out when you say no to another drink.
3. Don’t drink on an empty stomach
Even if you stick to a minimal number of drinks, if you drink on an empty stomach your blood alcohol content will rise quickly, and you’ll get drunk much faster. Food dilutes the alcohol and helps keep you in control of your emotions, decisions, and ability to slow down and stop at a proper number of drinks.
4. Suggest different activities
If you and your friends always meet at your favorite bar on a Friday night, make an effort to switch things up. Suggest a game night or go out to a movie, show, or concert. For a date, suggest meeting at a coffee shop rather than a bar. Bars can be tough as you start cutting back on drinking as drinking is the sole activity going on in most bars. Make an effort to go somewhere where there are activities to do (besides drinking) so you can focus on something other than alcohol.
5. Enlist your friends and family
This can be a tough one depending on your group of friends or your family dynamic, but let those closest to you know that you want to cut back on drinking. If you feel comfortable, let them know why and ask for them to support you when you decline a drink or want to stay in on a wild Friday night. If everything is out in the open, you’ll have an easier time going out with friends if you don’t have to worry about explaining yourself or defending your decision every few minutes.