Why do I drink, and what can I do instead?

January 2024 | 7 minutes

Ever wondered exactly why you drink? It’s helpful to know, as it can let you find alternatives if you’re trying to cut down or during your month off that do the trick to solve your stress, give you a treat or help you get in the party spirit.

Adapted from Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze.

Ever use alcohol as a reward? Yeah, I know the feeling. You’ve had a hard day and a nice cold beer/glass of Cab Sav/Babycham would go down nicely. After all, you deserve it. So what will you do during your dry month? Well, just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself – you just need to change the treat. Planning a little something for each evening so you’ve got something to look forward to will help to beat the midweek blues and keep you on track. In the immortal words of Donna from Parks and Rec: ‘Treat yo’self!’

Instead of drinking, you could: have a hot bath with scented candles; eat chocolate; trip to the gym; not check social media for an hour whilst reading a magazine/ novel/birdwatching guide/literally anything that isn’t Facebook; play guitar; do a face mask, get a pedicure; eat chocolate; get a takeaway instead of cooking; cook instead of nuking something from the freezer; throw darts at a picture of your boss; eat chocolate. OK, enough of the chocolate; go on a bike ride; have a midweek film night; go for an evening walk; try horse riding (as you do); have an hour on Xbox/PlayStation/games console of your choice…

Or, you could write your own list of treats. Remember, cleaning the car just because you’ve now got bags of energy on Saturday morning is definitely not a treat. Your treat has to be something genuinely pleasurable. You should be sipping a latte somewhere, or browsing antique shops, or strolling through the park, or re-enacting the battle of Naseby with 500 or so of your closest friends.

But if it’s not as a treat, why do you drink? We all have our reasons but most of us don’t take the time to work out what role alcohol plays in our life. What are your reasons for drinking? Have a look at this list and see which apply:

  • To relax
  • To give me confidence
  • Because I like the taste
  • To celebrate
  • Because I’m angry
  • Because my partner is drinking
  • It’s just habit
  • To relieve boredom
  • For company
  • To feel better
  • To help me sleep
  • To relieve stress
  • To relieve anxiety
  • It’s expected of me
  • To block out worries
  • Because I’m upset
  • It makes me feel sociable
  • Because I have a craving
  • Any other reason you can think of…

Once you’ve got these in front of you, is there anything else you could do to get a similar effect? What you’re trying to do here is find something positive to fill the role that alcohol plays in your life. That way you haven’t lost something; you’ve replaced it.

If you pick all of them – believe me, life will get a whole lot more interesting when you stop using alcohol as your default solution for everything.

Once you’ve got your reasons for drinking and alternative in your mind, you can prepare. That means that when you're home during Dry January and fancy a glass of something you know that what you’re really craving is being able to relax – and you can bust out that pre-bought box of chocolates/video games/bubble bath.

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