Programme: Six More Points about Drink, Drugs & Cigarettes

5. How to Cut Back or Stop

After a night of heavy drinking, we often find ourselves saying: "That was the last time!" However, when the next occasion rolls around, we still end up tempted to accept or pour another beer or glass of wine. It's hard to quit or cut back on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. So, how do you go about it? What's the secret to following through with your best intentions?

People like to set goals for the future – you might want to cut back on your drinking, for example. But it often turns out that changing your behavior isn't as easy as you thought it would be. This is because our behavior generally focusses more strongly on fulfilling our short-term needs. For example, you might have every intention of living a healthier lifestyle – and therefore drinking less alcohol – but the second someone offers you a beer, it's easier to prioritize the short-term enjoyment you'll get from that beer over your long-term goal for a healthier lifestyle.
Changing Your BehaviorDeciding to cut back on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, or even quit them altogether, is certainly a challenge. Fortunately, thanks to scientific research, we know that it is definitely possible to adopt healthier behavioral patterns. To do this, you need to address these two things: Your thoughts about your behavior (for example, I just can't do this) and your actual behavior (for example, giving up at the first setback). The following tips might help you with this.

Seven Tips for New Behavior

  1. Make a plan
    Try to prepare yourself for the moments you'll be most tempted to use a particular substance, and figure out how best to respond to them. Write this all down.
  2. Set limits for yourself
    At the start of the week, set a maximum for the amount of a particular substance you're allowed to consume. For example, you might decide that you're not allowed to have more than three alcoholic drinks in the next week.
  3. Remove as many temptations as possible
    Don't keep alcohol, drugs or cigarettes in the house. If possible, stay away from places where you're likely to come into contact with these things for a while.
  4. Get people in your social circle involved
    Tell a partner or friend that you're trying to cut back or quit. They can offer support if you start to struggle.
  5. Find a distraction
    Make sure you've got plenty to keep you busy – boredom can lead you astray. Are you suddenly feeling an overwhelming desire to go back to your old ways? It's time to call someone or go for a walk.  
  6. Connect with your peers
    Many other people have already been in your same position. Find someone you can share your experiences with; someone who understands how difficult it can be.
  7. Reward yourself
    Have you managed to reach one of the targets you set yourself? It's time to reward yourself with a massage, a nice book, or an outing. It's great to think about the parts of your behavior you'd like to improve, but it's equally important to celebrate the things you're already doing well.

Reflect & connect

Which tip are you going to start with today? 

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