By Laura Willoughby MBE

Cutting down on alcohol doesn’t have to be so hard

I never thought I would have the willpower to change my drinking. Alcohol had been part of my life for over 20 years. But I knew that it was affecting me badly, and somehow it had tipped from heavy social drinking to a self-abusive challenge to see how much I could drink and still function the following day. My off-switch had broken.

It can happen to many of us at different points in our life – but it takes just a few different circumstances to collide, and we find we are drinking more and suffering more the following day. And you don’t need to be drinking as much as the guys with the Special Brew in the park for that to happen. It is a fact of life that hangovers are harder to cope with as you get older, and that health conditions are aggravated by the number of units we drink.

A recent study by the government-funded Drinkaware campaign found that one in five adults want to cut back on their drinking. Quitting always felt like an impossible task – a very lonely solution to my very social problem. But every other day as I nursed a hangover and the associated shame, I knew I had to do something.

Alcohol
Laura Willoughby

So I made a decision three years ago. A snap decision on the day I got a tax rebate, I paid some cash for a workshop on quitting. The next thing I did right was I told my friends. The look of relief on their faces was visible. I think it was a combination of private management and public proclamation that helped. After that workshop I never drank again.

But after that, the thing that kept me on an even keel was that each and every day I felt better and better and better. I really do feel like that energetic and idealistic 20-year-old again. As I looked back on why I did not do this before, I began to see that it was because internet searches always gave me results that did not feel like me.

AA was for alcoholics, council drug and alcohol services for those at rock bottom. I still wanted to go the pub (I still do), and wanted to feel positive about what I was gaining, rather than mourn what I was losing.

This is why I have set up Club Soda. We want to support you whatever your goal. Whether you want to cut down, stop for a bit or quit. You can set your goals, track your progress, and natter with others doing the same – after all, we get pissed together so why should we get sober alone?

We also do workshops (more affordable and better than the one I did), local socials in pubs, and other events – the aim is to find what works best for you.

Tips on how to cut down on alcohol (if you don’t want to quit completely like I did but you’d like to cut back):

1. Amount

In simple terms, how many drinks do you have on a day when you are drinking? For example, cutting down for you personally could mean restricting yourself to  just one bottle of wine with your partner (rather than the two you’ve become used to having).

2. Frequency

Changing how often you drink can also take many forms. You may decide not to drink during weekdays any more, or taking three days off each week, or only drinking on one evening every weekend. Taking three days off in a row is said to be really good for your liver, by the way!

3. Apps and such

Whatever your cutting down goal is, there are many mobile apps out there that may help with it. They can help keep track of exactly how much you drink over time (daily, weekly, monthly), on how many days you drink and don’t drink, and so on. Some also count the calories and money you save by giving up alcohol.

The free mydrinkaware app can help you manage your alcohol. Why not try tracking three days each week without any alcohol?  And as we already said, taking three days off in a row is good for the health of your liver. Taken out content here cos app doesn’t exist.

Month off booze

How about a longer break from the booze, but not sure if you could manage it? Tried and failed in the past? Not sure if you would feel better if you cut it out?  Then come along and see what we can offer.

We have regular online programmes supporting you to take a month off boozeand workshops like How to Create and Fall in Love with a More Sober Life designed by women who have kicked the habit too!

It’s free to sign up to Club Soda. Come to our socials and start connecting with others on the same journey as you.

Cutting Down On Alcohol – Checklist (from our editor who gave up completely over a year ago!)

If you’re worried about your alcohol consumption, it pays to take action! As we get older, and especially as women’s hormones change through perimenopause, we can’t process alcohol as well as we did before. Just a few units of alcohol can have a big impact on our health. It doesn’t have to be heavy drinking any more to have a hangover the next day!

Just a couple of drinks can mess up your sleep in perimenopause, for example and make you sluggish. If you’re in need of better sleep, keep track of how well you sleep when you drink or don’t drink and monitor the difference. By reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, you’ll also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and various types of cancer including breast cancer. Not bad huh!

Personally I eventually found it easier to stop completely, but I found lots of things to help me consume less alcohol before I did that. 

  • Use an app to monitor the alcohol units you consume each day or week – you may be surprised how quickly those add up and go beyond recommended guidelines. Set goals and try to stick to them. But don’t give up if you slip – just keep going. 
  • Try to change your drinking habits and include drink-free days each week to give your body, and especially your liver, a chance to recover. Alcohol-free days are a really good way to make a big difference.
  • There are now plenty of non-alcoholic drinks to try in addition to just a soft drink or fruit juice. Alcohol-free drinks have vastly improved in recent years. There are some great alcohol-free gins, for example, like Gordons 0.0 and Nosecco sparkling wine is a good option for a celebration so you needn’t feel like you’re missing out. I long ago swapped alcoholic lager for the alcohol-free variety as I just found it so much lighter but still very refreshing. 
  • If you’re out drinking, alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water. Small changes like this can have a big impact. If in your social life you’re under pressure to drink alcohol and don’t want to, make an excuse that you have a big meeting in the morning or you need to drive etc. Or just have a tonic water without the gin – no-one will know!
  • Try taking a longer period off at least once a year, Dry January, Dry July or Stoptober. This can be a good first step to changing your drinking habits longer term. Remove temptation from the house while you do this – it will be a lot easier to stick to your plan!

Laura Willoughby MBE, is a former politician, business woman and inveterate campaigner. She was a councillor on Islington Council in London for 12 years and the Chief Executive of The Food Chain and Move Your Money UK. She set up Club Soda in 2014 to help people quit or cut down on their drinking.

Why not explore more…

Alcohol Replacement Drinks – For A Healthier Life

Would you like to drink less booze but struggle to find adult alcohol replacement drinks? Here are some of the best alcohol free options.

100 Days Without Alcohol

How to take a break of 100 days without alcohol, what you’ll learn and what will happen to your health if you do this.

Menopause And Alcohol – What’s Helpful To Know

Is it OK to drink through menopause? What impact does alcohol have on menopause symptoms? Here’s what’s good to know.

Alcohol

Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Editorial Staff

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