New Year’s Resolution: Quit Drinking

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The New Year is a time of new beginnings. One of the most common new beginnings for people is resoling to quit drinking. Not necessarily people who have a drinking problem, but anyone who fears they might develop one in the future, who dimly senses one on the horizon, or just someone worried about the health effects of too much alcohol consumption even in people who are not addicted and who have control over that consumption—indeed, for some the point of the resolution is to demonstrate that control.

None of these are bad reasons. In fact, someone who does have a drinking problem, and who recognizes that, and is ready to quit, shouldn’t be waiting until the New Year to do so. That, indeed, is one of the problems faced by people who do make New Year’s resolutions to stop drinking alcohol: they risk losing the motivation when the day actually comes, particularly with Champagne typically being so central to the previous night’s revelry. Conversely, they may feel pressure, if only from themselves, to stop before they are actually ready to.

Part of the problem with giving up alcohol, particularly on one’s own, is that it doesn’t always feel good, even when the newly abstinent person recognizes on an intellectual level that they are doing the right thing. The immediate if temporary unhappiness may seem realer than the abstract reality that alcohol is causing problems or has the potential to cause problems. Similarly, while for many people, drinking may be negatively affecting their relationships with friends, family, and partners, what they see in the moment is only that a number of their social relationships involved alcohol, or interaction happened in bars, which can be an obstacle to quitting.

That’s why it’s important for someone who is trying to quit to look for ways to stay on track. Avoiding temptation is one of the most obvious—not keeping alcohol at home or at the office, and avoiding recreational activities in bars or other places whee alcohol is part of the environment, even if that means skipping a season of sports or a few months of pub trivia. Exercise and healthy eating—frequent resolutions themselves—can help with this one. The number one tip for sticking with all resolutions is this: it shouldn’t be all-or-nothing, one slip ends the whole thing. Acknowledge, it, try not to do it again, and move on.

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