Continued from What is Binge Drinking? Binge drinking is a dangerous and costly activity that doesn’t only affect young adults. While the behavior is often more subtle in older adults, it is no less harmful or concerning. And as people age, they are more likely to suffer the progressive health consequences of bouts of heavy drinking. If you are concerned about your binge drinking habits, it may be time to consider regulating your drinking or abstaining altogether.
The first step in quitting binge drinking is to accept that it’s a pattern in your life. Hiding it or pretending it isn’t an issue won’t help you to stop doing it. Being a binge drinker does not necessarily mean you are an alcoholic or that you are alcohol dependent. In fact, most binge drinkers are not physically alcohol dependent. Many binge only on occasion and may even drink very infrequently in between. However, when they do drink, they consistently overindulge. If your drinking patterns qualify as “binge drinking,” you must decide what that means to you. Does it matter to you? Do you want to stop? Are friends or family members expressing concern? Not all people want to stop. They like going out every weekend and getting plowed. They might acknowledge that the behavior is less than healthy or safe, but they aren’t so convinced as to want to eliminate it. You may feel guilty the next day or even have experienced negative consequences, but this isn’t always sufficient reason to eliminate these sorts of drinking patterns.
Have a “Why”
On the other hand, it is possible that you are seeing some of the negative effects of your drinking patterns and you are genuinely concerned. If that is the case, and you are seeking help because you do indeed want to stop the behavior, the next step is to start to define the ways in which alcohol and binge drinking are affecting your life. Be able to answer the questions: Why do I want to stop drinking the way I do? What are the negative consequences of my drinking?
Depending on your level of dependence on alcohol, cutting back may or may not be possible. Some people, upon becoming conscious of the fact that their drinking has become excessive, are able to make a decision to moderate, and then cut back their intake or avoid situations in which they are likely to binge. Others, however, once they start drinking, will naturally gravitate toward another and another. And as they drink, their inhibitions lower and the good intentions are quickly forgotten. Try it out. Decide in advance how much you want to drink and then endeavor to stick to it. If after a few attempts you find yourself hammered when you said you wouldn’t be, attempted moderation alone may not be an effective means of ending your binge drinking behavior.
Tips for Cutting Back
There is not one perfect solution for eliminating binge drinking behavior and getting accustomed to drinking normally. And for some it will be impossible. Abstinence will be the only solution. But there are various ways you may try to end dangerous binge drinking behavior without giving up alcohol altogether. Some may want to begin by swearing off for a period of time, such as a month or even six months. This allows the individual to cleanse his or her system and to think, soberly, about what might be driving the binge drinking behavior. For some, an accountability partner can be helpful. The knowledge that someone else is supporting you and will be checking up on you can help to inspire more positive behavior. It also helps to find non-alcohol rewards. Perhaps you challenge yourself to make it a certain number of months without binge drinking and set up a reward if you attain it. Meeting with a therapist can also be beneficial. Find out what sorts of methods will help you to stay on track with your goals.
If You Find You Can’t Moderate
As mentioned above, not all binge drinkers are alcohol dependent, but many are walking ever closer to the alcoholic cliff. If your drinking is approaching alcoholic classifications, cutting back won’t work for you and you will find yourself repeatedly falling into the same old patterns. If this is the case, abstinence may be your only reliable means of getting your drinking under control. Seek out the help of a 12-step program in your area.