Tips: Planning to quit
or reduce your use
Become aware of your using patterns
- Keep a diary or make a list of when, where, why and with who you use alcohol and/or other drugs;
- highlight any times when you use or drink larger amounts or more often than usual (e.g. after a difficult week, when you’re feeling upset); and
- review your diary or list to see if there are patterns.
There may be certain situations which you associate with alcohol and/or other drugs, and this could trigger you to drink/use out of habit.
Some common triggers are:
- Associating having a drink when smoking a cigarette;
- associating alcohol and/or other drug use with managing stress ; and
- associating alcohol and/or other drug use with having sex.
It’s important to become aware of the times and places which are likely to make you want to drink/use alcohol and/or other drugs, and come up with strategies for managing these times.
Make a plan
It’s helpful to decide what your goals are for changing your alcohol and/or drug use.
Do you want to reduce your use alcohol and/or drug use or quit? What changes do you want to make? When do you want to start making these changes? What do you imagine might be difficult?
Write your plan in your diary and be as specific as you can be. For example, if you want to drink/use less think about setting limits and/or decided to only drink/use in certain settings or situtaions.
Break your plan up into smaller ‘stepping-stone’ goals
Imagine your goal is to get to the other side of a river. Rather than trying to do this in one big leap it makes more sense to break it into smaller steps. By breaking your goal into smaller stepping-stone goals this will help make each step more manageable and will increase your confidence. For example:
- If your goal is to never use alcohol/drugs again, try starting out with smaller goals of stopping for one week / days / hours; and
- if your goal is to use or drink less – start by reducing your use by a small amount and gradually work towards having less.
Tell your friends
Letting your friends know that you are going to quit or reduce your use can be difficult – if they know what you are doing they can provide you help and support and it’ll make it easier for them to understand any changes in your mood or behaviour.
If there are friends you generally use/drink with you can ask them to help you by:
- Refraining from offering you alcohol and/or other drugs;
- avoiding using alcohol and/or other drugs when you’re around; and
- talking about things other than alcohol and/or other drugs in front of you.
There are a number of physical withdrawal symptoms that can occur when you have developed a tolerance and cut down/stop using alcohol and/or other drugs. These can include severe mood swings, irregular sleep, depression, anxiety, boredom, irritability and feelings of hopelessness. These effects are very common and will ease up over time. If you are struggling with these symptoms you may find it helpful to talk with a health professional such as your GP or a counsellor.
These symptoms may also make you want to use or drink again, so remember to plan for how to deal with this if it happens.
Keep in mind that if you are using a lot of alcohol/other drugs it might be dangerous to stop using suddenly. This is particularly true for alcohol and benzodiazepines. Before stopping any alcohol/drug use it’s a good idea to talk to a health professional. They can assist you with developing a detox/reduction plan which will mean you are more likely to succeed with your goal.