How to get things back on track after a slip-up
If you’ve set yourself a goal to drink less but slipped up along the way, here are some tips to help you get back on track.
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Reducing the amount you drink is great for your health, so it’s good to remind yourself of this if you slip up while trying to cut back on alcohol.
A slip up could mean that you’ve drunk a bit more than you’d planned on one occasion. But remember a single lapse isn’t a reason to give up on your main goal to drink less for the long term. The important thing is to take action straight away to get back on track.
Set realistic goals to avoid setting yourself up to fail. A good first step to reduce how much you drink is to try and have regular breaks from alcohol. For example, if you’ve been in the habit of drinking most days, set yourself a goal to turn that around and make four out of seven days drink-free days.
The path to achieving any goal isn’t always straightforward so recognising that you may lapse is important. The key is not to treat it as an unforgivable failure. This is crucial when it comes to reducing how much you drink, because it will help you stay motivated to avoid the risk of going back to old drinking habits.
Learning from lapses should be part of your contingency plan. Ask yourself questions to find out why you reached for a drink or said yes to a second drink when you intended not to - perhaps you were bored, stressed, or upset? Or you felt pressured? Keeping a note of how you are feeling before you have a drink will help you identify why you drink, and this can help you introduce ways to avoid situations that get in the way of your goal to reduce your drinking.
For example, if you tend to lapse because you’re feeling stressed, think about alternative things you could do to manage this. Exercise, gentle stretching, a warm bath, even watching your favourite TV show, are all good ways to help relieve tension and stress.
It can be easy to excuse ourselves for not achieving our goals if we don’t challenge our mindset. For example, you might think you ‘need’ an alcoholic drink when you’re stressed, bored, celebrating or socialising, and that nothing else will do.
But the more you challenge this mindset, the less often you’ll feel that your only course of action is to have a drink.
Being honest with yourself and having go-to alternatives to drinking alcohol will help you follow up on your challenge. Make a list of all the pros you associate with drinking. For example, if you think drinking helps you relax or socialise, try finding other ways to wind down or interact with a group of friends.
Remember, reducing how much you drink is great for your health. Always congratulate yourself for what you have achieved, no matter how small the milestone is. Notice how you feel when you’ve had less to drink - perhaps you are sleeping better, you’ve got more energy, you’re achieving more at work or you’re more able to maintain a healthy weight. Recognising each of the benefits of drinking less will make cutting back easier.
Drinkchat is a free online service for anyone who is looking for information or advice about their own, or someone else’s alcohol use. Trained advisors are on hand to give you confidential advice, and you don’t even have to make a phone call.
We all have slip-ups, it's about getting back up that counts. Take our DrinkCompare Calculator to create an action plan to help achieve your goals.
Last Reviewed: 11th February 2021
Next Review due: 11th February 2024