How to change your relationship with alcohol

Support is available - HSE
  • Deborah Condon

People who wish to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume are being reminded that support is available.

According to the HSE, while many people set out to reduce their alcohol intake in January, some find it difficult to remain motivated as the month progresses.

"Deciding to drink less is a great resolution, however if you find yourself struggling to maintain your motivation, it's a good idea to think about why you want to change the way you drink.

"You might have niggling concerns about increased weight gain, lack of energy or even how you have behaved during a drinking occasion or two and wonder how others see you, especially those who matter most to you," commented Marion Rackard, project manager with the HSE Alcohol Programme.

She said that people may want to consider certain questions, such as how do others see me as a drinker, have there been any negative effects because of my drinking over the last year, and what are the potential benefits of drinking less this year?

Ms Rackard encouraged people to use the Ask About Alcohol Self Assessment Tool and see what message it gives you.

"The way to make a lasting change around how much you drink starts with thinking about it and deciding what you want to do," she noted.

Research shows that among people who drink alcohol in Ireland, over 50% drink in a way that could be causing them harm.

The HSE pointed out that drinking-related problems may not be obvious in your day-to-day life, and there may be some effects that are seen as par for the course, such as increased anxiety and low mood after drinking.

"Changing your relationship with alcohol may be something you want to do, but are not sure how to, but know that change is possible and that the HSE can support you. If you decide that alcohol is a niggling issue for you in your life, you might think about cutting down or giving it up. If you need help, there are supports available," the HSE said.

It highlighted that once you have decided to make a change, there are a range of strategies to help, including:
-Make a plan - doubts and mixed feelings about changing your habits are common, and there may be times when you want to give in. Having a plan in writing will help you be clear about your reasons for changing. Write down your top five reasons for making this change and keep them with you

-Goal setting - decide what you want to achieve. You might want to drink less or stop altogether for health or financial reasons

-Decide the rules - for example, controlled drinking means having strict rules about what and when you drink, such as only drinking once a week and not exceeding three drinks in one sitting. Keeping an alcohol diary is a good way to help you stay on track. If you want to stop completely, pick a date soon that suits you best and prepare for it

-Seek support - if you decide not to do it on your own, there are many ways you can get support. Call the Alcohol and Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459, which is a free and confidential service. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm

-Learn from the past - you may have tried unsuccessfully to change the way you drink in the past. If so, think about what did and did not work and what you could do differently this time

-Feel good about what you are doing - reward your successes. Do things that you enjoy that you may not have done for some time, like rejoining a team sport

-Plan for triggers - you may have certain times you associate with drinking excessively or more than you would like. These times could include nights out with friends or after-work gatherings. Some situations can also trigger an urge to drink to excess, such as when you are stressed or feeling down. Try to think about how you will get through these moments before they happen. This may mean changing your routine or finding new activities. It may also lead you to develop better ways to deal with problems and stress.

"It can be helpful to tell people about your plans to cut back or give up completely, such as friends and family. They can encourage you and support you by, for example, not drinking around you.

"According to the Department of Health 2018 Healthy Ireland Survey, 8% of drinkers have failed to do what was normally expected from them in the past 12 months because of drinking. So it is valuable to learn how to say ‘no' when you might be offered alcohol. You don't have to give a reason," Ms Rackard said.

For more information on alcohol supports and services available, call the Alcohol and Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459 or click on


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