Alcohol

Alcohol

Perhaps you feel uncomfortable with the amount of alcohol that you are drinking.
Perhaps you would like to take greater care of yourself, to feel physically as well as mentally better every day, even after a night out.
Perhaps you would like to avoid taking risks which you might regret later when you have drunk too much.
Perhaps you think that you are regularly drinking more than you want to, and would like to drink less, but are unsure how to go about it.
This leaflet suggests some steps you can take to change your current pattern of drinking.  So if you suspect you are drinking too much, and want to drink less, read on …

Step 1
The first step towards change is to know what your pattern of drinking actually is.  Keep a chart of your drinking over the next two weeks.  Be honest about the amounts you are drinking. Suggested chart headings are on the back of this leaflet.   What does the chart tell you about your drinking?  Has anything in it surprised you?

Step 2
Consider why you are drinking as much as you are.
What is influencing your drinking? Do you notice any patterns on your chart that shed light on your current reasons for drinking?
Are you using alcohol to escape from a  problem which you might be able to solve if you faced it?  If so, you may be perpetuating your shyness, anxiety, depression etc rather than dealing with it once and for all.
Make a list of the advantages and drawbacks of your alcohol use which are personally significant to you.

Step 3
Think about the possible effects of drinking too much.
Drink and drugs don’t permanently change our world. They allow us to feel a temporary confidence or happiness, but the effect is usually one of borrowed time.  In fact, alcohol can contribute to a lowered mood because it is a depressant.
Often the unhappiness or anxiety returns even more strongly once the effects of alcohol wear off. So the answer then seems to be … drink some more…Do you feel caught in a cycle its hard to get out of?
Drinking a lot can be seriously expensive, so uncontrolled use can lead to financial problems.  How much is your current level of drinking costing you (be honest!)?
Pronounced drinking tends to define social groups.  Do you think your drinking may be limiting your circle of friends?
Alcohol greatly lessens people’s ability to say no to unwanted sexual encounters which they would have definitely avoided had they been sober.
Alcohol can lower people’s inhibitions against hurting others as well as harming themselves.
Your body, and especially your liver, have to work hard to deal with large amounts of alcohol.   It takes an hour for one unit of alcohol to be processed by your body.

Step 4
If you want to take more control of your drinking, and drink less the following suggestions may help.
Consider what emotions trigger your drinking. Are you using alcohol to help deal with certain feelings - frustration, anxiety, shyness, boredom etc. Can you find alternative means of dealing with these feelings?
Talk to someone whom you trust about your drinking. Ask them if they feel you have cause for concern.
Consider whether you could limit your intake by changing your routine so as not to put you in tempting situations.
Eating before you go out for the evening, or having a meal while you are drinking, can help to reduce the effects of alcohol.
Before you go out for the evening, set yourself a limit, and stick to it.  Drink at your pace, not other people’s.  Don’t get caught up in rounds. Try having a soft drink in between alcoholic drinks.

Try limiting your drinking to certain days of the week, so that you give your body, especially your liver, a chance to recover. If you don’t want to drink that evening, but would like to go out, plan how to avoid getting drawn in to drinking more than you want to:  commit to being the driver; make it clear that you are not drinking any more tonight, and have your reasons ready  (eg because you don’t want to, because you need a clear head the next day to do an assignment, give a presentation, go to an early lecture).

There are many websites giving information about alcohol include: 
www.bbc.co.uk/health
www.drinksense.org
www.swanswell.org

If you are concerned about your use of alcohol or drugs, and would like support to change things, then contact the Student Counselling Service, Swanswell (see www.swanswell.org) or your GP.