If you have decided that it is important to change your drinking, the first step in making that change is setting a goal. The safest goal for your health is to choose not to drink at all. This goal is most appropriate if you have chronic hepatitis, or any other medical or mental health condition worsened by drinking—or if you have tried to limit your drinking in the past and not been able to do so.
If you decide you want to keep drinking but cut down on your alcohol use, there are a few limits to keep in mind. First, in general, men are advised not to drink more than 14 drinks per week (that’s an average of 2 drinks/day) AND never to drink more than 4 drinks on any one day. However, these limits have not been established to be safe for men living with HIV. We would expect the recommendations to be lower for people living with any chronic illness, including HIV. Thus, we recommend that you set your limits to no more than 2 drinks on any day.
Set specific goals for how often you will drink alcohol, and how much you will drink. Then, keep track of what you are drinking. Write down what you drink each day on a 3 X 5 card or a calendar, or keep track on your smart phone or PDA. If you write down each drink before you start drinking it, that will slow you down, and help you think through whether you want to drink another drink beforeyou have it. It will also help you keep more accurate records!
Remember, one drink is equal to a 12 ounce can or bottle of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or one shot of hard alcohol, like vodka or whiskey.
To slow yourself down when drinking, plan to drink no more than 1 drink each hour. Sip the drink rather than gulp it. If you finish the drink in less than an hour, get a non-alcoholic drink. That will give you something to sip on until it’s time for your next scheduled alcoholic drink. Drinking alcohol with food also can slow down how fast the alcohol is absorbed, keeping the alcohol levels in your blood lower, and helping you stay in control.
It is also important to become aware of the people and places that you tend to be around when you drink heavily. Plan alternative activities or spend time with friends who do not drink or who drink moderately.
If you get a craving to drink more quickly and get drunk, remind yourself of why you have made the decision to limit your drinking. Think about the reasons for why you want to work to reduce your drinking, and how you’ll benefit. Notice the urges you have to drink (or binge drink), accept that you’re having them, and let them run their course—without acting on them. Urges will definitely pass if you ride them out.
Finally, there may be times where you have decided it is better not to drink. In those situations, be ready to say “no.” Sometimes the hardest part of maintaining your commitment not to drink is not giving in when other people pressure you to drink with them. Practice what you’ll say, and say it quickly. The more clearly you indicate that you intend not to drink, the less likely people will be to continue to offer you drinks in the future.
These are some simple tips for cutting down on drinking. Many people are successful in reducing their drinking and improving their health by following these strategies. If these don’t work for you, quitting drinking altogether may be a better option. Seek support for quitting from friends, family, and medical or mental health professionals. Attending a mutual support group like Alcoholics Anonymous can also be very helpful, as can some of the other resources listed on this webpage. Good luck and good health.