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  • Writer's pictureKim May

Want to Drink Less?

Empty wine glass

One of the most common reasons clients seek me out is that they feel like the way they drink is a problem, though they don’t feel ready or interested in quitting.

Drinking less is a reasonable goal and for many an important way to begin taking better care of themselves...which is a cornerstone of harm reduction.

A question I get asked frequently is, ‘do you think I can learn to moderate my drinking?’  Here is my answer. Some people can and some people cannot. I do not have a crystal ball, so I never pretend to know what will be true for you. But trying to decrease your consumption is a worthwhile goal and I will support you in it.

The next question is usually, how? How does a person learn to drink less? That answer varies wildly from person to person. It can be a process of trial and error to see what works for you. Anything that brings the success you are looking for can be built upon. If something doesn't work, it does not mean you were a failure—it just provides more insights into your relationship with alcohol.

Twenty Strategies to Drink Less Alcohol

Below are twenty ideas for ways to change your relationship with alcohol. Try what appeals to you, ignore what doesn’t.

Important note: if you have been drinking heavily daily, it is advisable to consult with a doctor before drastically changing or stopping your consumption patterns. Alcohol is one of the few drugs that can be medically dangerous to stop abruptly.

1. Start putting some time between the urge to drink and the action of drinking. Begin getting more comfortable sitting with the ‘want,’ not immediately succumbing to a craving/desire.

2. Change your drink to something that you simply cannot drink as quickly.

3. Stay hydrated during the day to decrease the likelihood that you are drinking more alcohol due to thirst. This is especially relevant when the weather gets warmer.

4. Keep water (or something non-alcoholic) with you when you are drinking and alternate them.

5. Do not keep excess alcohol in your home. If you drink beer, or chilled wine, only refrigerate what you intend to consume in one sitting. If you are willing to put your beer on ice, that might give you insights into your relationship with alcohol.

6. Avoid buying your beer/wine at the grocery store. Create an additional trip to a liquor store. This makes the buying less automatic and can also help us pay more attention to what we spend on alcohol.

7. Reconsider ‘pregaming.’  Drinking before you go out will typically prime you to keep drinking once you are out. It will increase the number of hours you are drinking.

8.  Select beer/wine with a lower ABV or mix in non-alcoholic options. If you usually have six beers, changing to two of those beers to non-alcoholic versions can have a positive impact.

9.  Avoid keeping the alcohol close to you when you are drinking. Make sure that you get up to refill your glass.

10. Drink from smaller glasses.

11. Avoid buying boxed wine. Often those boxes contain significantly more alcohol than you would normally drink. Additionally, since you cannot see through them, it is easy to not pay attention to how much you are consuming.

12. Check your stress level. If your stress is high, try to do something to ease your stress before beginning to drink. For example, get some exercise, take a shower, call a friend, etc.

13. Avoid the places that make the strongest drinks—if a place has that reputation, managing your intake will likely be more difficult.

14. Get comfortable turning drinks down. Just because someone offers to buy a round does not mean you have to accept it. Be your own pace car.

15. Or, if you do not trust yourself to be your own pace car, follow the lead of someone who typically drinks less/slower in social outings.

16. Set the times in which drinking feels acceptable to you or shrink your timeframes. If you generally drink starting around 5pm, try pushing your start time to 6pm.

17. Avoid happy hour deals. Discounted drinks often encourage us to drink more than we normally would or drink faster.

18. Plan abstinence days. Get used to not drinking daily and plan activities or get togethers that do not revolve around drinking.

19. Avoid playing drinking games of any kind.

20. Practice checking in with yourself. How are you feeling? Are you already feeling drunk? Are you thirsty? Is it likely if you keep going you will have a hangover tomorrow? Before you decide to have another, get up and walk around. Sometimes a quick change of environment can help you evaluate your level of drunkenness. If you are at a bar, get up and go outside for a few minutes. If you are home, go sit in another room and evaluate how you are feeling.

Support if You Need It

Recognizing that your relationship with alcohol has become problematic can be stressful and overwhelming. Especially if attempts to cut down on drinking have not yielded the results you were looking for. Having frequent blackouts, issues with loved ones, or other consequences can be an isolating experience. If you need support, Substance Use Therapy is here. Whatever you are facing, you don’t have to face it alone.


Anderson, K. (2010). How to Change Your Drinking. HAMS Harm Reduction Network.

Nutt, D. (2020). Drink? The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health. Hachette Books, NY.

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Kimberly May, LPC-S, LMFT is the founder of Substance Use Therapy in Austin, TX. Kimberly works with individuals, couples, and families whose lives have been impacted by substance use. By utilizing a harm reduction framework, Kimberly works effectively with people in any stage of use. Contact today to schedule a no-charge, 30-minute consultation.

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