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Home » Resources » Health » Reining in the Cheer 

Reining in the Cheer 


January is usually the time to take stock of our health and personal growth, generally with a multitude of New Year’s resolutions. People often vow to take a break from liquid cheer in “dry January.” Whether you simply want to cleanse from overindulging during the holidays, or are looking to make a long-term change, drinking less alcohol is a good start. 

Moderating alcohol intake can be challenging. Experts say that many people fall short of their objectives only because they are not realistic. Simplifying your approach can make goals more attainable and will make for better outcomes. In the case of alcohol consumption, the maxim “everything in moderation” becomes especially relevant.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate alcohol consumption is equivalent to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. A standard drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a cocktail that contains 5% alcohol. By following this marker of moderate drinking, you can mentally take note and pace yourself.  

Experts say that drinking mindfully is the key to drinking moderately. Mindful, moderate drinking—compared to habitual drinking or “auto-pilot” drinking—means being fully conscious of your drinking in real time and being cognizant of how each drink is affecting your body, mood, and behavior.  

Moderation also means don’t drink past your “off” switch. In other words, stop drinking before you stop thinking. In general, men lose their off switch after three to five drinks and women after two to four drinks, when consumed in less than three to four hours. 

Take It Down a Notch 

Meditate, Practice Mindfulness—Try breathing exercises. Mental clarity comes with approaching life at a slower pace. Take a few deep breaths and make a point of clearing your mind. Think about your resolution for at least a few minutes each day. Progress is often incremental, and you might experience setbacks. But small changes can make a big difference.  

Exercise—Exercising is especially helpful. We already know that it’s linked to stress reduction, but it can also boost your mood and improve your cardiovascular health. Research suggests that people who get regular exercise and endeavor to maintain a healthy lifestyle are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.  

Express Yourself—Studies show that talking about your feelings can improve your mood and mindset. The benefit is boosted if you choose a hobby, like writing or painting, that helps you express those emotions. 

Start Volunteering—Many people find that getting involved in volunteer work makes it easier to stay clean and sober. Volunteering may even alter your thought process, making you less likely to struggle with substance use. It’s been proven that getting involved in your community—giving back socially—reduces the likelihood of abusing drugs or alcohol. 

Practice Mindfulness—Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of psychotherapy. Patients work with a mental health counselor in a structured way during sessions. CBT helps you become aware of faulty or negative thinking so you can respond to challenging situations in a more effective way. 

Avoid Social Events with Heavy Drinkers—If you do find yourself out among heavy drinkers, have a club soda in hand so you can skip the next round.  

Partner with Someone—You can boost your recovery efforts by selecting someone as your accountability partner, an individual you can turn to when you have a craving or are experiencing a physical or emotional trigger. In 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, a sponsor serves as a mentor to provide advice, support, and encouragement. 

Choose Your Company Wisely—Who you spend time with can affect your behavior. If you had a group of friends with whom you abused drugs or alcohol, it’s best to distance yourself from them when getting sober.  

Listen to the Experts—Reading self-help books and books about getting sober can help you manage the negative emotions that motivate substance abuse. Reading books like novels can also be a good outlet on the road to recovery.  

You Are Not Alone 

If you have tried repeatedly to moderate your drinking, without success, consult a health care professional for advice. An addiction specialist who practices within a “harm reduction model” can help you decide which makes the most sense, a professionally guided plan to moderate alcohol or complete abstinence.  

Moderation Management ( is a recovery program and national support network for people who have made the decision to reduce their drinking and make other positive lifestyle changes.  

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) ( helps people build skills so they can maintain abstinence. It’s for those who like a do-it-yourself approach with very little structure.  

Alcoholics Anonymous ( is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and widely available. 

If group meetings are not for you, simply connecting with friends or loved ones can be a very effective form of support. Talking to others reduces isolation and may be an important part of your journey to sobriety. 

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