Do you need to give up drinking completely if you have a problem with alcohol? There are conflicting opinions on this. The AA approach says that abstinence is the only way that works for sure.
But being abstinent is no guarantee against a relapse, and some would say that it is just avoiding the problem, not dealing with it. So how about learning some new habits around alcohol instead – because you have learnt how you behave towards alcohol already, so surely those habits can be changed?
Giving up for a while could be a useful exercise though – it doesn’t have to be forever. In fact the thought of it being a lifetime commitment prevents some people from even contemplating a period of sobriety. Why not try a month of no drinking at all, just to see how it feels? Then if you can manage that ok, you can decide whether to keep going with it, or not, the choice is yours.
The difficulty with cutting down of course is that all your best intentions tend to dissolve after the first few drinks – so a self-imposed limit is easily ignored with a slightly inebriated justification (‘oh I’ll do it tomorrow instead’, ‘I had a really hard day today, I deserve another one’, ‘oh he’s opened another bottle, it would be rude of me to refuse’ etc.)
Delaying the time you allow yourself to start drinking is one way to make cutting down easier. If you have less time for drinking, then perhaps you’ll drink less quantity (that’s the theory). A drinking diary can also help you keep track of how much you’ve actually had over the week.
How much you drink also tends to be a product of how much alcohol you purchase. So one obvious step is to not buy quite so much. Make sure you don’t keep any drink in the house – just buy it as you need it. That way the choice to drink has to be a conscious decision. Don’t forget, for this to really work you’ll need your partner to agree on the plan, so they don’t buy any either, unless you both decide to.
There’s a third option too – a combination of cutting down and giving up – just staying sober for a day or two at a time every week. It’s better than nothing, and you’re getting used to dealing with life without drinking. Try and plan which days you’re going to do it in advance, and plan to do something else incompatible with drinking perhaps. But be careful of the trap of rewarding yourself for your two days of sobriety with, you guessed it, a binge!