We drink to celebrate, commiserate, socialise, and just to relax, but drinking too much, too often, or for too long can cause problems with your health, work, and relationships. If you or someone else is worried about how much you’re drinking, find out more about the different types of alcohol problems and what you can do about them.
Do I have a problem with drinking?
The Australian guidelines recommend having no more than two standard drinks per day to reduce the risk of alcohol related problems in the long-term, and no more than four standard drinks at any one time to reduce the short-term risk of injury. Alcohol has different effects on different people, and there’s no hard and fast rule about when drinking becomes a problem. What we do know is the more you drink and the longer you’ve been drinking for, the more likely it is your drinking will cause problems. For example, it might start making it hard for you to do your work, take care of things at home, spend time on hobbies, or get along with other people. Listen to your friends and family; have they commented on how much you’re drinking? If so, your drinking might have become a problem, even if you don’t feel like it has.
If you are concerned about your drinking, try this handy on-line self-assessment tool.
What can I do about it?
If you think your drinking is causing you some problems, here are some tips for making decisions about what to do, and ways to start managing your alcohol use. For some people, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help.
It can be helpful to think about what you’re getting out of your drinking, as well as what you’re missing out on. As with most things, there will be pluses and minuses to your drinking. For example, a plus might be that you get to have a laugh with your mates, and a minus might be that you don’t have enough money for your partner’s birthday present. Writing these pros and cons down on paper is a really good way to help you see the big picture and make a decision about whether you want to change your drinking habits. Knowing where you stand will help motivate you to make changes that last.
Make a plan
If you’ve decided to change, you need to work out whether your goal is to cut back a bit, or stop drinking completely. Your goals should be specific, achievable, and broken down into steps. For example, you might say “My goal is to only drink two beers a day. I’m going to cut back by one beer a day until I reach that goal”. Once you’ve worked out what you want to do, you can write yourself a contract – this is an important part of starting to change, and will help you stay on track.
It’s really important to keep an eye on how much and how often you’re drinking. This will help you learn more about when, where, and why you drink. Keeping a diary is a good way of keeping track of your drinking, including the financial cost and other problems it causes, and is a good reminder that you need to stick to your limits. It’s also a good way of checking your progress towards your goals. The On Track with The Right Mix phone application will make this process easier for you.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for making changes! Maybe with all the money you’ve saved by cutting back you can treat yourself to something you’ve been wanting to buy (like clothes or music), or do (like go out to dinner). It’s also good to think about other positive activities you could be doing instead of drinking. You might catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, do some exercise, or try something new, like learning a new language.
Sometimes people drink more than they should when they’re worried about other aspects of their life. The tools in the High Res website and app can help you with strategies to solve problems, build social connections, get more active, change the way you think, keep calm and sleep better. In particular, having more social connections, getting better at problem solving and learning to manage unpleasant feelings are really important ways of changing your drinking behaviour.
Self-help isn’t for everyone. If you’ve tried the strategies above and are still having trouble changing your drinking habits, or if you’re worried you have a serious alcohol problem and you need additional support, effective treatments are available.
- “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher
- High Res website
- High Res app
- Assess your drinking tool
- The Right Mix
- Department of Health and Ageing
- On track with The Right Mix mobile app