01/02/2016 10:36 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 05:12 GMT

How to Moderate Your Drinking After Dry January


It is hard to contemplate never drinking again. I always tell people that I am getting back on the gin and tonic again when I am 80. Many of us are not physically addicted, but habitually using, and used to drinking. So it must be possible to moderate. Lots of people do. But just like the planning you did to take a month off, you need to plan your moderation.

10 questions to help you get into the right mindset

  1. How many days per week, and on which days do you want to allow yourself to drink? Not drink during the week? Take 3 or 4 consecutive days off from drinking?
  2. What will you need to do differently on the days that you will drink, to make sure you stick to your targets?
  3. What situations do you want to be able to drink in?
  4. When do you not want to drink? Are there certain situations or days? Not drink at home?
  5. If you do drink, how many units or drinks will you have? How will you count them? Only drink single spirits (1 unit each) as opposed to a large glass of wine (3 units or even more)?
  6. How will you keep to that number? Can you imagine yourself doing this?
  7. By saying 'Yes' to alcohol, what are you saying 'No' to? Even if you occasionally drink in moderation, will there be any costs? Is this worth it?
  8. Do you trust yourself to be flexible on the above rules, or will you need to stick to them full at all times?
  9. What will you do if you slip up? How do you make sure you get back onto your plan?
  10. How long will you give your moderation plan before you stop and re-evaluate whether it is working?

Confess and banish your get-out clauses

It won't surprise you to know that exceptions are a danger zone. They are, in fact, reasons not to change at all. Look out for things like:

  • Stopping at 4 drinks when I go out at weekends - unless it's a celebration...
  • Not drinking alone/at home - except when I am eating a meal with my partner...
  • Sticking to beer/wine - or Pimms in the summer or a cocktail I have not tried before...
  • Switching to a lower alcohol beer but only if there is something nice...
  • Only drinking when I'm in a good mood unless we lose the Ashes/league/darts...
  • Not drinking during the week (or perhaps when I am on holiday)...

Hoping that something will magically change won't help you moderate. Change takes effort. So to moderate you will need to plan, make rules, and do your best to stick to them. If you are vague about your goals, and rely on hope only, you will be less likely to succeed.

From your month off you will already know a bit more about you. What times, types of occasions, or external pressures can cause you to press the "f*ck it" button and grab a glass of wine?

Alcohol will conspire against you

You may find that you are more successful in sticking to your planned days off alcohol, than you are on your cutting down plans on the days you do drink.

Because once you have started drinking, alcohol hits your pleasure centres and you will want more to keep that happy feeling going.

You are also more likely to be swayed by your friends, or the sense of occasion once you have started having a good time. It is what alcohol does so well.

If you are hoping to cut down some nights of the week, your coping strategies will need to be cast iron and carefully thought out, to compensate for the alcohol impairing your decision-making. You can tip the balance the other way by:

  • Practicing refusing a drink early on, so it seems less strange later
  • Asking your friends to help; you don't have to be part of a round
  • Taking out less money, or only just enough for the drinks you plan to have
  • Bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks with you (see Rebel non-drinking)
  • Filming yourself on your phone repeating your goals, then nipping to the loo to watch it if need be
  • Reminding yourself what you want to do when you get home or the next morning.