Overcoming Addiction

Healing through harm reduction

New Years and Alcohol

Using science to succeed with a resolution to drink less or quit.

Millions of people make resolutions at New Years to go on a diet, exercise more, quit smoking, or change their drinking habits; 88% fail and only 12 % succeed according to research by Richard Wiseman of the University of Bristol. What is the difference between those who succeed and those who fail? Although will power may play a part, the research shows that will power is not the primary determining factor. Factors which can determine the success of a New Year's resolution include the following:

  • Focus on rewarding successes rather than punishing failures
  • Get support
  • Utilize evidence-based strategies
  • Set a doable goal
  • Make a step by step plan, preferably in writing
  • Track your progress
  • Don't beat yourself up for a slip

The HAMS alcohol harm reduction program offers all of the above to help you change your drinking habits for the better.

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All too often people have one slip up on the way, decide that they are failures, and abandon their change goals entirely. Dr. Alan Marlatt has dubbed this "the Abstinence Violation Effect." Marlatt found that teaching people to forgive themselves for small lapses prevented them from becoming major relapses and allowed people to get right back into the pursuit of their goals with minimal shame and disruption.

HAMS founder Kenneth Anderson

HAMS founder Kenneth Anderson

Research from the NIAAA shows that about half of people with Alcohol Dependence overcome it by quitting completely and about half do so by cutting back. Moreover, the majority overcome their problem without AA or rehab. However, the use of evidence-based behavioral change strategies can greatly speed the process of change and reduce the damages incurred on the way to achieving your end goal. If you aren't ready to quit alcohol completely, then adding abstinence days during the week or reducing the amounts consumed per session can be great goals to pursue. If you find quitting completely to be easier than attempting to pursue controlled drinking, then total abstinence may be your best goal. Regardless of which goal you choose, being safe is always a primary concern. Always plan your drinking for safety: a relapse is no excuse for drinking and driving if you have planned ahead.

So stay safe on New Year's Eve Make a plan so that you don't drink and drive. And then ring in the New Year with a resolution that can succeed!

 

Kenneth Anderson, MA, is the founder of Harm Reduction for Alcohol and the author of How to Change Your Drinking: A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol.
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