A craving for alcohol that is linked to certain environments can indicate a drinking problem. If a certain social situation such as watching sports games gives the viewer a feeling of compulsion to ingest beer, wine, or cocktails, a substitution behavior may be the best recommendation from a health standpoint. Many people find that they can reduce alcohol consumption in a social or sporting environment by alternating one alcoholic drink with one water, soda or nonalcoholic drink. Taking action to reduce the number of drinks ingested before a problem develops can offer a proactive solution.
Due to the human mind’s preference for “state-dependent learning,” the compulsion to drink in a certain situation is complicated from both the psychological and physical aspects. If the last place that a person was very drunk occured at a baseball game, the brain will often associate baseball thereafter with a taste for alcohol. Given that alcohol is also addictive in physical and emotional terms, this linking of the environment with a craving is hard to beat. Many discussions at Alcoholics Anonymous center around the complete dropping of those old environments for the good of the former drinker. But what if the problem has not yet reached the alcoholic stage, just an occasional overindulgence?
When we consider the effect of advertising and packaging, it appears that a happy person is one with a can or bottle of beer in that sponsor’s particular brand. You may be able to trick the mind and substitute something more healthy by finding a green bottle of sparkling water that somewhat replicates your favorite green bottle of beer. Bring two sixpacks to the next event, with only one of them being an alcoholic option and the other consisting of a mineral water or sparkling water. Further reduce the number of actual beers imbibed by offering half of the beer to others at the event if you are not ready to stop drinking alcohol altogether. Two or three beers for one person is considered social drinking rather than excessive drinking. Also, by sticking to three or less beers per day, the drinker is less likely to be driving in an impaired state of mind. Another option for reducing the alcohol in a sixpack is to leave three of the beers at home, replacing the empty slots in the box with a similar size of mineral water bottles or cans of soda.
Drinking more slowly and savoring each sip as opposed to “chugging” may represent a good dose of moderation. With other nonalcoholic drinks close at hand, actual thirst will be reduced to avoid the temptation of swallowing a lot of beer or wine in a short period of time. Consider the wine spritzer as a good antidote to hosts that serve wine in large goblets. Unless the wine cost is over $100 per bottle, most hosts will not be insulted by the request to blend their house wine with a lemon-lime soda, fruit juice, ice, or water. If your wine spritzer is only one third wine and two thirds other liquids, you can participate in a social event without overdoing the alcohol.
Having a great selection of nonalcoholic mixers on hand is the mark of a great bartender, but it also gives people an easy “out” if they are getting ready to drive home, or if they have other reasons for avoiding alcohol. Tomato juice, orange juice, coconut milk, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, ice, and a wide variety of soda can be blended in various combinations, and served in an elegant fashion with lime or lemon slices as a garnish. That way, the person who is cutting down or avoiding alcohol can participate in the social function without being obviously singled out in the appearance of their chosen beverage. For example, a considerate host will make two pitchers of daiquiries: one with and one without alcohol, suggesting the latter choice repeatedly if a guest appears to be overexcited or overheated in any way. If both the host and guests can consider the alcoholic drink option as rare and occasional, with the nonalcoholic option as the majority choice in most situations, many drinking problems can be avoided.