HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

When You Have Trouble Sticking To Your Plan

Some people can write out a drinking plan and stick to it tenaciously. Other people have a much harder time sticking to their plan and might even feel themselves rebelling against the plan which they have written out. If you are having trouble sticking to your drinking plan here are some things you can try:

1 Try changing the plan. If the plan is too restrictive you might loosen it up a bit. Or it might be too loose. Perhaps you are allowing yourself too many drinks on a mods (moderate drinking) day and would do better to just stick to one or two standard drinks because of the Tipping Point Effect - after you reach a certain level of alcohol buzz, good judgment goes out the window and makes it hard to stop.

2 Try an abs (alcohol abstinence) period. A week or two or four with no alcohol can help you reset your habits. And some people find abstaining from alcohol is easier than moderating their drinking.

3 Instead of focusing on a plan focus on being mindful and staying in the moment. If you are abstaining from alcohol then abstain in the moment. If you are moderating then moderate in the moment. Stay in the present.

4 Perhaps you are trying to take action when you are still really in contemplation mode. Try re-writing your Cost Benefit Analysis. Sometimes when people are having a hard time getting to an abstinence day it is because alcohol is fulfilling a need and providing a benefit which people have a difficult time acknowledging. It is tempting when one wants to change drinking behavior to focus on all the negatives of alcohol and repress any positives. Yet it is essential to acknowledge the positives in order to change and to find a way to achieve these benefits without alcohol. If you feel like this might be the case then perhaps you should try and reanalyze the costs and benefits of alcohol and recognize what needs alcohol might be fulfilling.

5 Have two plans, an ideal plan of where you would like to be and a fallback plan of what you want to at least do. For example, the ideal plan might be to abstain six days a week and avoid all risky behaviors. The fallback plan might be to abstain at least three days a week and not drink and drive.

6 Remember that the process of habit change is often two steps forward and one step back. Don't beat yourself up excessively for not being perfect because you might just make yourself miserable enough to go on a bender. Instead focus on what you can do right now. Slow and steady wins the race.

7 Feel free to reach out for support to your HAMS group. You can feel better if you get your struggles out in the open and no one will put you down for struggling--we have been there too.

8 Read our article on Damage Control for ways to stay safe and deal with deviations from plan.

9 Change can take time--often more than the mythical 21 days. Even if you change the behavior tomorrow it can take a long time for desires to return to old habits to fade away. Read our article How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit to get a realistic perspective on the timeframe for change.

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