Binge drinking is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as occurring after consuming four or more alcoholic beverages in women and five or more in men on the same occasion on at least one day in the past month. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 26 percent of adults reported excessive drinking in the past month.
Binge drinking can quickly spin out of control despite best efforts to drink in moderation or stay sober. If you’re struggling to cut yourself off after a couple of drinks, you are not alone. For many, binge drinking isn’t only a matter of self control. There are many factors that influence our relationship with alcohol, including social factors, genetic predispositions, mental health conditions, and beyond. There are many scenarios in which a few drinks with your friends can quickly lead to excessive alcohol consumption, which has both short- and long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Learning how to stop binge drinking is possible, and may involve reshaping your relationship with alcohol by making behavioral changes, setting goals, and seeking effective treatment.
If you’re wondering how to stop binge drinking, read on for our helpful guide to changing your behaviors.
12 Tips to Stop Binge Drinking
1. Make Behavioral Changes
A key part of learning how to stop binge drinking is identifying the environmental factors that surround it. Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What activities do I partake in that often lead to heavy drinking? Can I stop doing these activities, or reduce their frequency? Are there certain circumstances that have led to increased binge drinking?
- What other biological, psychological, or social factors might be perpetuating my excessive drinking habits?
By recognizing your drinking patterns, you can begin to take the necessary steps to stop binge drinking and start making behavioral changes that promote a healthier relationship with alcohol. And you don’t have to do it alone. For many, working with a therapist on a specialized alcohol therapy program can be a really effective way to make a long-lasting change. In addition to your online alcohol treatment program, you can also make changes to your daily routine to help take control of your relationship with alcohol.
Preventing relapse through self-care
2. Refrain from Drinking on an Empty Stomach
Drinking alcohol without having any food in your system can cause your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s BAC to .08 or above.” While commonly this means five drinks for men or four drinks for women in a two-hour period, without any food to help absorb and break down the alcohol you can reach the .08 level much quicker.
3. Alternate Drinking Alcohol with Water
For every alcoholic drink consumed, drink a glass of water. This can help to maintain a lower BAC, reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning, and prevent impairments associated with intoxication, including hangovers. Choose a drink with lower alcohol content that you can enjoy over an extended amount of time, such as a glass of wine instead of a few shots right in a row.
4. Change Your Environment
Consider if you should avoid situations where heavy drinking is involved or limit your time with friends or places where binge drinking behavior is likely to take place. It’s easy to fall into the trap of peer pressure, regardless of your age group. If you’re around people who are excessively drinking, you’re more likely to be pressured to continue drinking, too. This is common among both work outings and celebrations.
If you want to stop binge drinking, make temporary changes to your environment, or implement permanent alternatives to activities that involve drinking in order to distance yourself from alcohol.
5. Set A Maximum Number Of Drinks In A Given Sitting
Reaching for a glass of wine or a beer may feel like an instinctual way to wind down the week. However, for some, one drink can quickly become three or four. While there’s no set number of total drinks that signifies a ‘drinking problem,’ there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and the inability to control one’s alcohol consumption can be an indication of alcohol use disorder. Plus, the physical and mental effects of binge drinking are just as dangerous as any other type of unhealthy drinking behavior even if you don’t consume alcohol on a daily basis. To avoid binge drinking, consider setting a maximum number of drinks for yourself and having someone hold you accountable. If you find yourself continuously passing your limit, you may want to explore tools like medication to stop drinking, or personalized alcohol therapy. Checking in via an online alcohol support group is also a great way to practice accountability.
6. Create New Social Habits Sans Alcohol
Many people use alcohol as a “social lubricant” when getting together with friends and family. Meeting for a happy hour or partaking in a prolonged dinner with several bottles of wine may be part of the norm of your current lifestyle. As part of learning how to quit binge drinking, it’ll require exploring other social options that don’t involve an alcoholic drink. Going on coffee dates, hiking, participating in sports, and catching up over delicious alcohol alternatives are just a few of the ways you can still maintain social relationships without relying on alcohol as the binding factor. You might also be pleasantly surprised how alcohol-free socializing creates more meaningful connections.
7. Share Your Plan with Your Circle
Communicate your intentions and goals to those with whom you surround yourself with the most. Let them know you’re focused on drinking less. Here are tips for telling your friends and family you’re getting treatment to change your drinking. You’ll likely be greeted with support and understanding. However, if anyone in your network expresses negative feelings towards your desire to change your behavior, this gives you a chance to recognize potentially toxic behaviors in others that may not align with what’s best for you.
8. Set Personal Goals
Setting achievable goals is a great way to practice accountability and create lasting change. Align your goals to what you’d like to achieve with regards to your relationship with alcohol and your image of your ideal self. Monument treatment plans connect you with licensed physicians and therapists who can help you set goals based on your needs and preferences. Whether you’re considering quitting alcohol cold turkey, tapering off over time, or practicing moderation, your Care Team can help you set goals and identify safe and effective strategies to achieve them. Our next tip is an example of an achievable and attainable goal you can set to break free of binge drinking patterns.
9. Limit Number of Drinks Per Week
Consciously limiting how many drinks you consume each week is an act of mindfulness and self-care. Set a number and an end date when setting goals for reducing your alcohol intake. By starting smaller, you can build upon newly formed habits. For example, you can set a goal that cuts your number of drinks in half by the end of a three-month period. Calculating your alcohol consumption sheds light on patterns of when and how often you choose to drink. It can also be helpful to set goals with your therapist, and create a plan for achieving your goals.
10. Find Healthier Coping Mechanisms
Binge drinking can be a result of social pressure, but may also be a response to uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. For example, people navigating co-occuring mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may seek alcohol to self-soothe and seek relief. While alcohol can provide temporary relief, it ultimately makes those negative feelings worse, and can create a cycle of binge drinking. If you’ve used alcohol to cope, there is no shame in that. You deserve better tools. Therapy is an incredibly effective tool for both changing your relationship with alcohol, addressing co-occuring mental health conditions, and learning to tolerate uncomfortable emotions without drinking.
11. Start a Healthy Habit As a Replacement
In addition to building new coping skills, you can replace rewards that involve alcohol with a healthy habit. (Spoiler: it can still feel rewarding!) Rather than end the week with a night out drinking, go for a walk, take a class, or enjoy a good book. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Schedule an at-home movie marathon. Reorganize your living space to make it more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing for you. Start to shift your mindset to turning to other ways of entertainment and feel-good, celebratory moments.
12. Seek Effective Treatment for Binge Drinking
While binge drinking alcohol may not seem problematic because the occurrence doesn’t happen frequently, every time you binge drink, it poses a risk to your health. Bingeing has both short- and long-term risks, including alcohol poisoning, increased risk of a stroke or heart attack, and damage to the heart, brain, and liver.
It’s important to know that a binge drinking habit can be treated with evidence-based care. You can make a change to reduce those risks and lead a healthier life.
As you may already be aware, binge drinking alcohol also causes delayed cognitive function, memory loss, and can result in blackouts. The physical reactions of binge drinking can then lead to other incidents like driving accidents, physical violence, and problems with friends, family, and colleagues. The incidence of bingeing behavior also presents an increased risk for alcohol dependence and misuse.
Fortunately, binge drinking can be treated with holistic methods including community support, specialized alcohol therapy, and prescription medication to stop drinking. At Monument, we’ve brought all of these tools online so you can make progress on your own terms, and own time.
Get Community Support
Self-reflection and intention setting are great tools to identify your path forward if you want to stop binge drinking and moderate your alcohol consumption or get sober. And you don’t have to go down the path alone. For many people, peer support and outside accountability are key tools in their treatment toolkit.
Monument’s anonymous forum connects you to other people navigating similar challenges. It’s a judgment-free community where you can feel comfortable asking questions and getting the motivation you deserve as you make progress with learning how to stop binge drinking.
Engage In Evidence-Based Methods
It’s easier to achieve a goal with the right tools, resources, and people to empower you along the way. The same goes for treatment for binge drinking. By working with therapists and physicians who are trained in treating unhealthy substance use, together you can create a customized plan that works toward your goals in a way that feels right for you.
Monument plans support goals for sobriety and moderation. Your Care Team will recommend a combination of prescribed medication, alcohol therapy, and community support to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
Go Online on Your Own Time
A modern, online approach allows you to receive guidance and support whenever you need it, and on your own schedule. Your life doesn’t have to stop while you make progress. (No in-person meetings or expensive rehabs required.) This type of treatment allows you to change your relationship with alcohol in a way that’s easily accessible, and more affordable than most therapy options.
Taking action toward changing your relationship with alcohol is something to be proud of. We’re here to support you along the way, and empower you to get more out of life by drinking less. You can do this!
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help.” Accessed on Dec. 10, 2020.