HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

Getting Started With HAMS

What is the first thing which you should do when you decide to start reducing the harm in your life caused by the use of alcohol? There are many different approaches which you can take--and different things work for different people. Some people choose to be a part of a HAMS support group. Some people choose to work on their own just using info from the HAMS web site. Both of these approaches can be successful--it is up to you as an individual to decide which will work the best for you.

Now where do you start? One way is to start at Element One and do a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). If that works for you great! There are also many other entry points into HAMS and we list the common ones right here: whichever way is the right one for you is the best!!

Do a CBA
The most classic and traditional way to get started with HAMS is to do a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). We strongly recommend that people write their CBA down or at least speak it out loud. For a sample please see our page CBA - Cost Benefit Analysis. You might choose to keep the CBA for your own personal use or you might choose to share it with an online group in an email or to read it to a live group. Many HAMS members periodically do a new CBA when revising their plans or choosing a new goal. You can start with the CBA--or you can choose to start elsewhere and do it later.

Make a Plan
If it feels right to you then you can choose to start making your drinking plan before you ever do a formal Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). If you feel that you are ready for this stage then please take a look at our page of Sample Plans to get some ideas for what you might want to do. If you find that you are having a great deal of difficulty sticking to your plan then perhaps you are trying to do too much at once. You might want to drop the plan and just chart for a while. Or you might want to opt for a less ambitious plan for now and move up to a more ambitious one later.

Start Charting
Some HAMS members opt to start the HAMS process by charting. This is a good way of establishing a baseline of how much you drink. It also helps make you conscious of each drink that you take and helps stop drinking from being an automatic habit. Many people find that the act of charting in and of itself helps them to cut back on their drink numbers. You can view sample charts on our page Drink Charting. You may also cart your numbers on a regular calendar or post them to an email group. Some people count the bottle caps of their beer bottles to count drinks and some keep stirrer sticks. If you drink at home we urge you to measure your drinks to make certain that they are Standard Drinks. You should be aware that bar drinks sometimes contain two or three or even more standard drinks served as "one drink".

Do an Abstinence Day
If you have been a daily drinker for a while then you may find that the best way to get started with HAMS is to do an abstinence day. Doing your first abstinence day can give you a great boost of confidence and convince you that it can be done. Some people choose to do one abstinence day a week for the first month--and then add a second abstinence day the next month, and so on until they are happy with their plan. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
CAUTION! If you have withdrawals when you abstain be sure to taper off instead of quitting cold turkey!

Do an Abstinence Period
Doing an abstinence period can be an excellent way of resetting your drinking habits and your attitudes toward alcohol as well as resetting your tolerance to alcohol. 30 days of abstinence is often recommended for resetting your tolerance to alcohol to a lower level. However, any period of abstinence from a day to a week to two weeks to a month is great! Some people even choose to do several months of abstinence to consolidate their changes before drinking again. In particular, if you are having trouble sticking to a drinking plan which you have made for yourself, then you may find that doing an abstinence period is a great way to "reset" your drinking habits and to jump-start you on changing into the kind of a drinker that you want to be.
CAUTION! If you have withdrawals when you abstain be sure to taper off instead of quitting cold turkey!

Taper Down
Many people opt to taper down their drinking rather than jump straight into an abstinence day or abstinence period even if they do not need to taper off for withdrawals. Some people will choose to taper down by starting their drinking later in the day and some will choose to stop earlier. Some people slow down the pace of their drinking by having non-alcoholic drinks in between their alcoholic drinks. Some people reduce the amount that they drink by switching to a weaker drink--for example switching from whiskey to beer. Some people time the frequency of their drinks with a watch.

Get Some Medication
You might choose to use a medication to help you reduce your drinking. Naltrexone can be used while you are still actively drinking to help reduce consumption. You will have to become abstinent first if you choose to use antabuse. For more info please visit our page Medications for Abstinence or Moderate Drinking.

Do Damage Control
Sometimes before you can concentrate on anything else the very first thing that you must do is to practice safer drinking and to stop the damage that alcohol is doing to your life before you have a total train wreck. If this is what you need to do then by all means do it. Safety is paramount over reduced drinking. Please visit our video Safer Drinking for some damage control tips.

Just Hang Out
You don't have to join a HAMS group to practice HAMS ideas. But if you don't know how you want to get started with HAMS you can opt to just hang out in HAMS groups--live or online--until you decide.

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HAMS is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit incorporated in the state of New York


The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc.
P. O. Box 498
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 347-678-5671
Email: hams@hamshrn.org

HAMS: Where Better is Better!

© 2009 The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc.
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