January 1st first brings with it resolutions and commitments to cut down on bad behaviors from the year prior. Sometimes it’s on the heels of a nasty New Year’s Eve hangover, or a holiday season of over-indulgence. One of the more common New Year’s resolutions is to cut down on drinking, especially overdrinking. While a few drinks here and there in moderation can be healthy and enjoyable and won’t necessarily have negative effects, overdrinking may.
So if you’re looking to eliminate overdrinking in 2019, here are five common triggers that might cause you to drink more than you had originally planned. Remember, you have the power to control these urges, and you’re more likely to do so if you know when they may be coming.
Unfortunately, having a family member who abuses alcohol, or who previously abused alcohol, predisposes one to drink more. Knowing this about your own family tree opens the door for self-awareness and monitoring of alcohol use, urges to drink, and the amount and frequency of drinking that we engage in.
2. Emotional Self-Medicating
For some, drinking in excess acts as a relief from uncomfortable emotions. Coping with negative emotions in this way may be effective in the short term, but it has long term consequences. Drinking in excess one night usually interferes with your productivity the next day. Similarly, we aren’t always happy with the decisions we make while we’re intoxicated. Learning healthy adaptive coping skills is more sustainable in terms of self-regulation and your mental (and physical) health overall.
3. Behavioral Pairing
Being around certain people, places or things that you have historically associated with drinking can spur an urge to drink. If you have one friend that you only meet up with at bars and engage in overdrinking with, chances are seeing him will encourage you to drink. Try breaking the cycle and seeing them in a different context without alcohol. Similarly, going to places where you have practiced overdrinking are similarly going to trigger an urge. Being prepared for this, or avoiding this altogether, can help you get a better handle on your urges to drink.
4. Physiological Pull
Withdrawal symptoms can also occur when it comes to drinking. Knowing when to expect these urges may help you more effectively resist them. For example, if you historically tried to alleviate a hangover by starting to drink again, putting yourself in a situation where you won’t be inclined to drink following an evening of drinking may help you resist.
5. Thrill Seeking
Some people find themselves overdrinking to achieve an altered state of awareness or engage in a sort of thrill seeking. But finding other things that excite you rather than drinking may help to alleviate the urge to drink. For example, buy some concert tickets, plan a hike with a friend, or set a new workout goal. There are other, even more thrilling things in life than drinking, and finding what works for you may help you to avoid seeking such a thrill with alcohol.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.