This Is How I’m Drinking Less Alcohol

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Emily Han)

It’s been a month since I decided to cut back my alcohol intake, and I owe you an update. Unlike those around me, who were eliminating alcohol completely for Dry January, my strategy was less rigid. The plan was to consider each opportunity to imbibe and make a conscious decision as to whether or not I truly wanted a drink. Not surprisingly, my “make a decision in the moment” approach wasn’t as measurable — or as effective.

What I Learned About Drinking Less

The most important lesson learned during my month of cutting back is that I need a more measurable goal — something less wishy-washy than “less.” The American Heart Association recommends one drink (or fewer) per day. While I pretty much always fit within their guidelines, I think limiting myself to something even lower than that is ideal.

I also realized that it’s no biggie to go against the flow. I’m not in middle school anymore, being different is fine, and at least in my world, no one cares whether you’re drinking or not. (That said, as a woman in her 30s, abstaining from booze in social situations requires at least one annoying “I’m not pregnant” discussion per event. As a result, I’ve resolved to keep comments on others’ consumption to myself.)

I found out, too, that I’m not very good at not drinking in social situations — even in the absence of peer pressure. I literally had a conversation over beers about how I’d write this “cut back” recap without looking like an utter failure. I did have a few visits to bars without drinking, and steered away from the cocktail table at a few art openings. But in other cases (usually in times when I was stressed about something else), I found myself opting for beer or wine instead of the mocktails graciously recommended by those of you who commented on my original post.

And as much as I know that alcohol isn’t the answer to stress, I still chose to forget this knowledge on the regular. I’d pass the written test with flying colors (breathing, yoga, exercise, laughter), but man, a glass of wine sounds really great after a frustrating day.

On a more positive note, I’ve truly embraced fizzy water and herbal teas. In the beginning, I did experience a surprising desire for sweets. Every time I turned down an opportunity to pour myself a glass of wine, I wanted to reward myself with a piece of cake or candy. But this problem eventually resolved itself, as the stash of leftover holiday sweets dwindled. Seltzer and herbal tea became my go-to stand-ins when I opted to abstain from booze.

But enough about me. I have a question for all of you who practiced Dry January: Did your diligence and self discipline continue into February?