Drinking can be fun, pleasurable, and productive. When you go out for drinks with co-workers and clients, you can build a social bond that can help get you score a promotion. You can split a bottle of wine with your significant other over a nice dinner, kill a case of beer with your best friends while watching football, or sip a nice scotch with a Cuban cigar. Drinking is everywhere, and it’s more satisfying to be a part of it than to suffer a serious case of FOMO.
Drinking becomes a problem when it CAUSES problems. The good news is that you can prevent a great night from turning into a disaster by implementing 10 simple strategies every time you go out.
1. Eat something. Make sure you eat SOMETHING before you drink. If you are drinking with a meal (brunch, lunch, or dinner,) make sure that you order at least an appetizer before selecting a wine. If you are waiting for dinner reservations at the bar, eat some of the bar food – preferably food that is high in fat and protein – while you wait. Carry an energy bar in your pocket in case you get invited to happy hour after work.
2. Keep pace with a friend who drinks moderately. Find a friend who typically “controls” his drinking. If you finish your drink and your friend is only halfway through, wait until your friend finishes before you order another one. If you are drinking one type of alcohol (beer, mixed drinks, or wine) and your friend is drinking another, do your best to consider the relative amount that your friend has consumed.
3. Drink water if you finish your drink too quickly. Always order a glass of water when you order an alcoholic drink. In general, you should drink one glass of water for every standard drink. If you are outside (e.g. at a music festival, at the pool or beach,) try to drink TWO glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. Carry a water bottle with you at all times.
4. Use your Smartphone. Set alarms before you go out to remind yourself to “check in” with how intoxicated you feel. Track how many drinks you have using Notes. Check out some of the awesome apps out there that can help you stay in the buzz zone without losing control.
5. Enlist a friend. If you are with a friend who knows you are working on moderation, ask him to give you feedback if your behavior is becoming problematic Text your friend if you are not with him so that you can stay accountable (e.g. “Having a beer at the Cubby Bear. What are you up to?”)
6. Set a goal. Set a goal for the number of drinks you want to consume at each drinking occasion. Remind yourself that most people rationalize having another drink once they have already reached their goal. *YOU* are not going to be like most other people!
7. Notice the signs. Are there certain signs that you are about to go too far or have reached the tipping point? (E.g. seeing double, stumbling, face flushing, talking loudly). Identify a sign that means you are “close to the edge” and watch out for it.
8. Budget. Go out with a set amount (e.g. $20 cash) that you will spend on alcohol Resist the urge to pay for rounds or shots – that adds up, fast.
9. Pick one drink and stick with it. Look back and see if there has ever been a drink associated with more trouble for you than others. This drink varies from person to person. For some people it’s beer. For others, wine. For many, it is liquor. Pick the one you drink most SLOWLY and stick with it the whole night.
10. If you are set on doing shots, pay for the first round. If you are with a group that ALWAYS does shots, do yourself a favor and buy the first round. You can do a shot with everyone and then politely decline additional shots. (You probably have a friend who would be happy to “sacrifice” and drink your shot). This way, you get to join your friends in the social ritual, without feeling obligated to pay for a round 4 or 5 rounds into the night.
You really can have your cake and eat it too (or drink it, rather). Life is meant to be lived, and drinking can be a wonderful part of that.
What are some other strategies that work for you? SS
Sarah Suzuki is the founder of Chicago Compass Counseling, LLC – a group counseling practice dedicated to helping people break the the cycle of self-destructive behavior. Find out more at www.chicagocompasscounseling.com.