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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on July 31, 2023
6 min read

How to Redefine Your Relationship with Alcohol

Key Takeaways

  • The recommended moderate number of alcoholic drinks per day is two or fewer for men. For women, it’s one.
  • Alcoholism can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number and intensity of symptoms you experience.
  • Some tips on redefining your relationship with alcohol include keeping track of how much you drink, setting goals, and learning how to avoid triggers.
  • Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies depending on your needs and includes detox, counseling, medication, support groups, and residential programs. 

Can You Fix Your Relationship with Alcohol?

There are many benefits to reducing how often you drink alcohol or how much you consume. Even small changes can significantly impact your physical and mental health.

If you’ve ever thought about cutting down on how much you drink, it’s possible to learn how to redefine your relationship with alcohol and tweak your habits. This can help reduce the risks and long-term negative effects of alcohol.

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What Is a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol? 

When people have problems with alcohol, it can often go unnoticed. If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, you might have an issue with alcohol.

Understanding what a healthy relationship with alcohol looks like can help you better understand whether you need help.

The recommended moderate number of alcoholic drinks per day is two or fewer for men. For women, it’s one or less. This equals 14 drinks or fewer per week for men and seven or fewer per week for women.

Drinking more alcohol than this recommended limit doesn’t necessarily suggest an alcohol addiction. However, when accompanied by other symptoms of alcohol misuse, it could indicate that something’s wrong.

Should You Redefine Your Relationship with Alcohol?

Alcoholism can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number and intensity of symptoms you experience.

Here are some signs that you may need to redefine your relationship with alcohol:1

  • Being unable to cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume
  • Trying to cut down on how much alcohol you drink or making unsuccessful tries to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, seeking alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling an intense craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill essential obligations at work, school, or home due to consistent alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink even though you know it's causing physical, social, work, or relationship issues
  • Giving up or cutting out social and work activities and hobbies to drink alcohol
  • Drinking alcohol in unsafe situations, like when driving or swimming
  • Developing an alcohol tolerance, so you need more to feel its effect, or you have a lessened effect from the same amount
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink or drinking to avoid them. For example, nausea, sweating, and shaking
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6 Tips for Redefining Your Relationship with Alcohol

Here are some tips to help you redefine your relationship with alcohol.

1. Keep Track

One essential step for drinking in moderation is keeping track of how much you’re consuming.

Find a way to track your drinking that works for you. For example, you could mark down on your phone each standard alcoholic drink you have.

Keep track of how much you’re drinking each day or week.

2. Count and Measure

An important part of tracking how much alcohol you’re drinking is knowing how much alcohol is in each beverage. Be sure to measure your drinks so you can accurately keep track.

A standard alcoholic drink is equal to:2

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, around 5 percent alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, around 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, around 40 percent alcohol

If you buy a beer can or bottle, have a look at the label to check how many ounces are in one container. When purchasing a mixed drink at the bar, check how many shots a bartender adds to your glass.

You may need to ask your host or server not to top up your wine glass so that it’s easier to keep track.

When you’re at home, measure your drinks there too. You can use a 1.5-ounce shot glass to measure the alcohol in each beverage.

3. Set Goals

Setting goals can help when you’re trying to change your drinking habits. That way, you can feel more successful when you meet those goals or check in with yourself when you don’t.

For example, you could decide how many days a week you’d like to drink and how many alcoholic beverages you’ll have on those days. Try to have some days when you don’t drink, too.

4. Find Alternatives

In most cases, replacing a habit with something is easier than stopping. If drinking has occupied much of your time, consider filling your free time with new, healthier activities, hobbies, and relationships.

If you’ve used alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations, cope with problems, or manage moods, looking for other ways to help with those areas of your life is essential.

5. Avoid Triggers

It can help to think about what triggers or encourages you to drink. Perhaps there are certain people you usually drink with or events or activities that trigger you to consume alcohol.

If you have triggers, plan to do something else to do instead of drinking. For example, if going to happy hour after work triggers you to drink, limit the number of times you join. Or, cut the visits out completely.

6. Plan How to Handle Urges

Having a plan when you can’t avoid triggers and urges can help immensely.

For example, remind yourself of your reasons for changing your drinking habits. It can help to carry these reasons in writing or store them on an electronic device you can access easily.

If you have someone you can trust, it can help to talk with them so they’re aware of your goals and why you’re making specific lifestyle changes.

You could also get involved with a healthy, distracting activity. For example, physical exercise or a hobby that doesn’t involve drinking.

Or, instead of fighting the feeling of urges, accept it and ride it out without giving in. Remind yourself that the feeling will soon pass.

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Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies depending on your needs. However, working to stop alcohol use to improve the quality of your life is the primary treatment goal.

Here are some common treatments for alcohol abuse.

Detox

Alcoholism treatment may start with a detox program to medically manage withdrawal symptoms. This process typically takes 2 to 7 days.1

Detox usually takes place at an inpatient treatment center or hospital.

Counseling

Counseling and therapy for individuals and groups help people better understand their problems with alcohol. Some may also benefit from couples or family therapy.1

Medication

Various medications can help with alcohol use disorder.

  • Disulfiram: This drug can help prevent you from drinking. However, it won’t cure alcohol use disorder or remove the urge to drink.1 If you drink alcohol while taking disulfiram, the medication produces a physical reaction that may lead to flushing, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone blocks the positive feelings alcohol causes.1 It may prevent heavy drinking and reduce the urge to drink. Vivitrol is a version of naltrexone injected once a month by a healthcare professional. The injectable version can be easier for people recovering from alcoholism to use consistently.1
  • Acamprosate: This medication can help reduce alcohol cravings once you stop drinking.1

Support Groups

Support groups can help people recovering from alcohol use disorder:1

  • Stop drinking
  • Manage relapses
  • Cope with necessary lifestyle changes

Residential Treatment Programs

For more severe cases of an alcohol use disorder, you may need to stay at a residential treatment center.

Most residential treatment programs include:1

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Support groups
  • Educational lectures
  • Family support
  • Activity therapy
Updated on July 31, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on July 31, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcohol use disorder, Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  2. Drinkinggoals: Tips for Having a Healthier Relationship with Alcohol, University Health Services, University of Oregon. 
  3. Becker, Howard C. “Alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and relapse.” Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2008.
  4. Rehm, Jürgen. “The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism.” Alcohol research & health:the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2011.
  5. Nehring SM, Freeman AM. Alcohol Use Disorder. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
  6. Kranzler, Henry R, and Michael Soyka. “Diagnosis and Pharmacotherapy of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review.” JAMA, 2018.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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