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Planning to change

Make preparations before you start so that you can:

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

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.

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 are dependent on alcohol, it might be harder to stick to controlled drinking.

If you use drugs, you could:

  • use smaller amounts
  • use less often
  • decide on a maximum amount you will use at any one 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, decide on a date and stop on that date.

Avoid situations that are most tempting for you. Think about other positive and healthy activities to replace alcohol or drug use.

If you have any withdrawal symptoms, stopping is probably the best goal. Talk to your GP about managing withdrawal symptoms.

Set a date at the right time

If now isn't the right time, pick a time when you won’t be stressed and prepare for it.

Related topic

Stress busters - how to deal with stress

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 don’t have to give a reason. If you think people will put pressure on - 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, 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
  • on nights out with friends
  • at special events

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

These could be when you:

  • have had an argument
  • are stressed
  • are feeling down
  • 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 need to change your routine or find new activities. You could also learn better ways to deal with problems and cope with stress.

Related topics

Looking after your mental health

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022