A good question to ask yourself, if you think you might have a problem with alcohol, is how much you drink in an average week.
One drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of regular beer that is usually about 5% alcohol, 5 ounces of wine that is typically about 12% alcohol, or 1.5 ounces of liquor that is about 40% alcohol.
If you answer that you consume more than 14 drinks a week, then this is a red flag and indicates you likely have a problem. Be aware that most people often under estimate how much they drink.
If you are in doubt about how much you drink, then you may want to start monitoring your consumption for the next month or two to get an accurate picture of how much you drink.
Keeping a record of even just the date and the amount you drink can help you to open your eyes, and move from denying that you have a problem to determining you want to do something about it.
Read How people change to explore your motivation level.
I have created a worksheet that you may want to download. You can use the worksheet to track your driving behaviour.
Click here to download the Tracking Your Drinking Behaviour worksheet. Instructions are how to use the worksheet are included in the download.
Just maintaining a record on page 3 of the worksheet can help you to reduce the amount you drink, keeping in mind the following:
Patterns: As you complete the worksheet over the next several weeks, watch for patterns that emerge. For example, you may learn which days of the week are your biggest problem. Do you drink equally throughout the week, or more heavily on weekends?
If you are a binge drinker, keep a record over a longer period because eight weeks may not be long enough for you to see patterns emerge. Skip the dates when you don’t drink, but keep a faithful record on the days that you do. Maybe you binge drink every long weekend when your family goes to the cottage and leaves you at home alone?
Reasons: Recording the reason you drink may help you begin to understand why you drink. Reasons you record might include boredom, feeling lonely, needing to fall asleep, wanting to stop thinking about work, or wanting to distract yourself from painful experiences and memories.
Quality of sleep: Record the quality of sleep you have on a nightly basis. Do this each evening for the previous night.
You will likely discover that drinking does not improve your quality of sleep. Use a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 indicates the best night’s sleep you can imagine, and 1 indicates the worst night’s sleep you can imagine. Recording their quality of sleep surprises most people because they mistakenly think that drinking improves their sleep.
Read What habits can help me get a good night’s sleep? and What strategies can help me get a good night’s sleep? and Should I use alcohol to help me cope with burnout? for suggestions on how to sleep better.
Energy level: Record your energy level during the day. Do this each the evening for the previous day.
You will likely discover that drinking robs you of a significant amount of energy the next day, which most people aren’t fully aware of. Use a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 indicates the highest energy level you can imagine, and 1 indicates the lowest energy level you can imagine. Several of my clients have found the information recorded in this column alone motivated them to stop drinking or to heavily cut back.
The simple exercise of completing this worksheet can have a tremendous impact on your drinking behaviour because a problem cannot be denied when it is written in black and white and taped to the fridge door.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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