Cut back on alcohol use with forethought, practice

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to consider cutting back on alcohol consumption. The National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse recommends the following strategies for cutting back.

• Know the “standard drink” measurements. A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of table wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits.

• Set goals for how often and how much to drink. It’s a good idea to have a few days per week without any alcohol. When drinking, keep track of the number of drinks consumed.

• Drink slowly and with forethought. Have only one standard drink per hour — sipping helps to make it last. Try to alternate non-alcoholic drinks between standard drinks. Never drink on an empty stomach, and snack while drinking. Eating will slow the absorption of alcohol in the system.

• Identify triggers and avoid them. If certain people or places trigger drinking, try to limit time with them. Make plans for healthy activities during normal drinking times. If drinking at home is a problem, empty the house of alcohol.                                                                                                                                      

• Practice saying “no, thanks.” It may sound a little silly, but practicing a firm but kind “no, thank you” will help when the time comes to turn down a drink. Hesitating allows the brain to come up with excuses to drink, so practicing “no” helps get to a quick and positive response in a tough situation.

The hardest part of changing a behavior is handling urges as they arise. Knowing some strategies in advance will increase the chances of success. Talk things through with a trusted friend, or engage in a healthy activity. Accept the fact that having urges is a natural part of making a change, and that, with time, the urge will pass. Remember the reasons for cutting back and don’t give in to those cravings. 

Changing any habitual behavior is difficult, but there are many resources in place for guidance and support. In most cases, the help is confidential.

For more information, resources or support, call the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Army Substance Abuse Program at 431-2530/civ. 07031-15-2530.