Making a plan to change your alcohol or drug use

Make preparations before you start so that you can:

  • make a plan
  • get support
  • be prepared for obstacles and setbacks

Make a plan

It's normal to have doubts and mixed feelings. There may be times when you want to give in. But it is possible to make a change.

Ask yourself the question, "If I were to make a change now, how might I go about it?"

Having a plan in writing can help you to be clear about:

  • your goal
  • your reasons for changing
  • things that will help you to succeed

Set your goal

Decide what you want to achieve. You might want to stop alcohol or drug use, or control your use.

Write down your top 5 reasons for making this change and keep them with you.

If you want to cut down

Decide what the rules are. Controlled drinking means having strict rules about what you drink.

For example:

  • only drinking once a week
  • not drinking alone
  • not drinking more than 3 drinks at a time
  • only drinking after 8pm

If you use drugs, you could:

  • use less often
  • use smaller amounts
  • decide on a maximum amount you will use at any 1 time, or in a week or a month

If you want to stop

Your goal may be to stop completely, but right now might not feel like the right time. If so, pick a date soon that suits you best and prepare for it.

If now is the right time, then stop now.

You may find it helpful to avoid situations that are most tempting for you. Think about other positive and healthy activities to replace alcohol or drug use.

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP before stopping if:

  • you have been dependent on alcohol for a long period of time

Set a date at the right time

If now is not the right time, pick a time when you will not be stressed and prepare for it.

Prepare to succeed

Making some of these preparations can give you the best chance of success.

Tell people about your plans

You might tell your friends or family that you’re trying to stop drinking or using drugs. They can encourage and support you by not drinking or taking drugs around you.

Learn to say no

Think in advance about times when you might be offered alcohol or drugs and how you will say 'no'. You do not have to give a reason. If you think people will put pressure on you, prepare for it.

Learn from the past

You may have tried and failed to change before. 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, or things you may not have done for some time.

Plan for danger times and triggers

You may have certain times you associate with drinking or taking drugs.

These times may include:

  • after work
  • at special events
  • on nights out with friends

Some situations can trigger an urge to drink or take drugs.

These could be when you:

  • are stressed
  • are feeling down
  • have had an argument
  • are finding it hard to sleep
  • need a break from everything

Think about how you will get through these moments, before they happen.

You may benefit from changing your routine or finding new activities. You could also learn better ways to deal with problems and cope with stress.

How to deal with stress

Looking after your mental health

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025