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  • Writer's pictureKeri Pinelli

Navigating Alcohol Abuse: The Power of Harm Reduction in Recovery

Have you ever woken up after a night of one too many drinks and said to yourself “I am never drinking again”? Maybe it was that one extra drink at the end of the night or the mixture of liquor and beer, but for whatever reason your body is letting you know that you overdid it and now you are paying the price. Sometimes we find ourselves at a point in our lives when we want to cut down on our drinking, but not necessarily stop all together.

In the world of substance abuse treatment, this concept is known as Harm Reduction. So, what is Harm Reduction you ask? Harm Reduction is an evidence based, patient centered approach to treatment that helps clients reduce certain health and safety issues associated with drug and alcohol use. It encourages clients to have a healthier relationship with substances, identify and set goals or boundaries for themselves to help them stay in control of their use and avoid the “harm” or associated with overuse.

There are many benefits to reducing how much, how often or what you are drinking. Seemingly small changes can greatly impact your physical and mental health. Many people find that they can make small adjustments to their alcohol habits and reduce the risk and long-term negative consequences of alcohol, while still enjoying a drink on occasion.

Here are some helpful tips to get you on the path towards having a healthier relationship with alcohol and being in control of your use.

  1. Keep track. One important step to drinking in moderation is to keep track of how much you are drinking. Often, people who are out drinking and socializing can lose track of how many drinks they have had. A solution to this could be to use a notepad app in your phone to mark each time you have a “standard drink”.

  2. Count and measure. An important part of tracking how much alcohol you’re drinking is knowing how much alcohol is in one of your drinks. According to NIAAA, a standard alcoholic drink is 12 ounces of regular beer (usually about 5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (typically about 12% alcohol), and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol). The next step is to measure your drinks so that you can accurately keep track.

  3. Set goals. When you decide that you’d like to change your drinking habits, it can be helpful to have specific goals. This allows you to feel successful when you meet those goals or check in with yourself honestly when you don’t. Some examples of such goals could be identifying how many days in a week you want to drink, setting a limit to how many drinks you have on those days, or setting boundaries regarding what type of drinks you will be having. For instance, maybe you decided to only drink beer and not mix in any liquor drinks.

  4. Find alternatives. Most of the time when we’re trying to change a behavior or a habit, it is much easier to replace that habit with something else than it is to just stop. Developing new, healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships that are not associated with alcohol use can help you refocus your attention from drinking.

  5. Avoid "triggers." A trigger is an emotional, environmental, or social situation that drags up memories of alcohol use. These memories can stir up strong emotions that lead to the impulse to want to drink. Are there certain people that you typically drink with or types of events or activities that trigger you to drink? If certain activities, times of day, people, or feelings trigger the urge to drink, plan something else to do instead of drinking.

  6. Remember non-alcoholic drinks and food. When you’re at a social event where you plan to drink, remember to eat, and avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Hunger can make you drink more alcohol than you intended. Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can also be a great way to help you pace yourself and stay in control of your alcohol consumption.

  7. Have Support. You're ready to make a positive change in your life and it will be helpful to let those closest to you know about your goals so that they can provide support and encouragement when you need it. However, if you find yourself struggling too much or want help creating a plan that works for you, feel free to reach out to one of our therapists who can work with you to support your drinking goals.

At Rust Wellness Group, our dedicated therapists specialize in providing expert guidance and support tailored specifically to address your needs in overcoming alcohol-related challenges.

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