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Struggling with your New Year’s Resolution to reduce your alcohol intake?

HSE offers advice to stay motivated and ditch the hangovers

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HSE Alcohol & Drugs Helpline 1800 459 459

The HSE is today (Tuesday, 14th January) reminding people who wish to reduce their alcohol intake that advice and support is available. January is traditionally a time for New Year’s goals or resolutions. Cutting back on alcohol is a resolution for many people in 2020 however, as January progresses many people may find it hard to maintain their motivation. Change is possible and the HSE can support you.

Marion Rackard, Project Manager for the HSE Alcohol Programme says ‘Deciding to drink less is a great resolution however, if you find yourself struggling to maintain your motivation it’s a good idea to think about why you want to change the way you drink. You might have niggling concerns about increased weight gain, lack of energy or even how you have behaved during a drinking occasion or two and wonder how others see you especially those who matter most to you. You might want to consider certain questions like: How do I see myself as a drinker? How do others see me? Have I asked them? Have there been any negative effects because of my drinking over the last year? What are the potential benefits of making a change and drinking less this year? Have I used the Ask About Alcohol Self Assessment Tool and what message is it giving me? The way to make a lasting change around how much you drink starts with thinking about it and deciding what you want to do.’

Research shows that over 50% of people in Ireland who drink, drink in a way that could be causing harm so it’s not surprising that lots of people have some worries or nagging doubts about their drinking and wonder if it would be a good idea to change the way they drink.

It may or may not be obvious that alcohol is causing a problem with your day-to-day life. There may also be some effects, which we accept as commonplace such as low mood after drinking and increased anxiety. Our research shows that a significant amount of people associate low mood as a symptom of drinking alcohol and said they regretted something they had said or did as a consequence of alcohol over the last 12 months.2

Changing your relationship with alcohol may be something you want to do but are not sure how to. You may have lots of different feelings and thoughts about making a change, but know that change is possible and that the HSE can support you. If you decide that alcohol is a niggling issue for you in your life, you might think about cutting down or giving it up. You could decide to do it on your own or with some support. If you need help, there are supports available. The HSE has advice to help you successfully change your relationship with alcohol.

Once you have decided to make a change, you can use a number of strategies to help you do so:

Make a plan – It’s normal to have doubts and mixed feelings about changing your habits. There may be times when you want to give in. Having a plan in writing will help you be clear about your reasons for changing and things that will help you succeed. Write down your top 5 reasons for making this change and keep them with you.

Goal setting – Decide what you want to achieve. You might want to drink less or stop drinking for health reasons or financial reasons.

Decide the rules – for example, controlled drinking means having strict rules about what you drink. For example only drinking once a week or not drinking more than 3 drinks at a time. Keeping an alcohol diary is a good way to help you stay on track. If you want to stop completely, pick a date soon that suits you best and prepare for it.

Seek support – If you decide not to do it on your own, there are many ways you can get some support. Call the Alcohol and Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459, which is a free and confidential service. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9.30am and 5.30pm.

Learn from the past – You may have tried unsuccessfully to change the way you drink in the past. If so, think about what worked and what you could do differently this time.

Feel good about what you’re doing – Reward your successes. Do things that you enjoy that you may not have done for some time. Like rejoining a team sport or trying out a new hobby.

Plan for triggers – You may have certain times you associate with drinking excessively or more than you would like. These times could include after work, nights out with friends or special events. Some situations can trigger an urge to drink to excess. These could be when you have had an argument, are stressed, are feeling down, are finding it hard to sleep, need a break from everything. Try to think about how you will get through these moments, before they happen. This may mean changing your routine or finding new activities. It can also mean learning about better ways to deal with problems and cope with stress.

Marion Rackard says friends and family can play an important role:

“It can be helpful to tell people about your plans to cut back or give up completely. You might tell your friends or family that you’re trying to cut back or stop drinking altogether. They can encourage you and support you by not drinking around you or encouraging you to do so.

According to the Department of Health 2018 Healthy Ireland Survey, 8% of drinkers have failed to do what was normally expected from them in the past 12 months because of drinking.3 So it is valuable to learn how to say ‘no’ when you might be offered alcohol. You don’t have to give a reason.”

For people who drink more heavily or struggle with alcohol dependency trying to give up can be very difficult. If you need help with finding support, call the Alcohol and Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459 or visit the Alcohol Support and Services page on

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