Ways to Cut Down


How do I know if I should cut down?

If you think you might be drinking too much, it's a good idea to take a look at your drinking patterns. Most students only need to reduce their drinking to safer levels; however, some people have more serious problems. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you drink alone or because you feel angry or sad?
  • Do you do things that you regret when you're drinking?
  • Does your drinking worry your family or friends?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, alcohol may be a problem in your life. For a more in-depth set of questions about your drinking patterns, you can go to the page on recognizing a problem. You can also have a free and confidential appointment at SHOP (831-459-3772) to help you evaluate your drinking further and make a plan to change, or you can get help from other resources at UCSC and in Santa Cruz.

Do's and Don'ts for Cutting Down

Do formulate a mission statement. Why is it you want to cut down or stop your drinking? Whether it's to help you lose weight, to feel healthier in general or to stop getting into fights with your family, write down your reasons. Put the list someplace where you will be reminded, like your refrigerator or your wallet. It'll make you take the challenge more seriously.

  • Don't go out with people who make you feel uncomfortable if you're not drinking. If you ever feel as though you could be easily persuaded to drink, make alternate plans with friends who are less inclined to include alcohol in their fun.
  • Do set a liquor limit. Telling yourself you will not drink during the week, or that you'll have no more than one drink a day, will get your mind set not to exceed your maximum.
  • Don't guzzle. When you are drinking, take hour-long breaks between drinks. Drinking faster than your body can feel the effects can get you into real trouble. Avoid drinking games because you'll end up drinking more alcohol more quickly than your body can handle.
  • Do alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, like soda or juice.
  • Don't keep alcohol in your room or apartment. It'll be easier to resist if it simply isn't there.
  • Do take a vacation from drinking. Notice how good you feel, physically and emotionally, during that time. If you don't start to feel better, you may have a problem.
  • Do save the cash you don't waste on alcohol. Whenever you refuse an alcoholic beverage, put the amount of money you saved in a jar. You can put your dollars toward spring break, dinner with friends or some new clothes.
  • Do eat before you start consuming any alcohol, and continue to munch while you drink. Eating while you drink slows down how quickly you get drunk.
  • Don't go to places where you'll be bored if you're not drinking or where you'll feel socially uneasy if you don't have a drink in your hand.
  • Do keep a drinking diary. Write down how many drinks you consume over a month-long period and how much it costs you. When you realize how much money you're sinking on drinking, it might give you incentive to cut down even more.
  • Do stay active: What would you like to do instead of drinking? Use the time and money spent on drinking to do something fun with your family or friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, play sports or a game.
  • Don't drink when you are angry or upset or have a bad day. Find other ways to relax and handle the stress.

How to hang out with drinkers when you're not drinking

It can be tough to socialize with people when they're getting drunk and you're not. Sometimes you may have to go home early to get away from heavy drinking, or stay away from the party altogether. But if you are in the mood to hang out, here's what to do so you don't feel pressured to drink. The simplest thing to do is to tell anyone who asks that you aren't drinking. If that doesn't work, be as creative as you want with your response. Here are some alternatives:

If someone says:
"Hey, everyone, how about doing a round of shots?"

You could say:
"No thanks. The last time I did shots I puked up colors you've never even seen before."

If someone says:
"C'mon. Just have one beer."

You could say:
"I'd love to, but I have a bet with someone to see how long I can go without drinking." (You don't have to let on that the someone you're betting is yourself.)

If someone says:
"Why aren't you drinking?"

You could say:
"I don't drink."
"You should have seen me last night. Then you'd have the ugly answer to that question." 
"I'm taking the night off."

If someone says:
"Here, I bought you a drink."

You could say:
"That was so nice of you, but I really can't. I've got a test tomorrow."
If it's a Friday or Saturday night: "I have a test Monday, so I can't afford a hangover this weekend."

If someone says:
"Help me finish this beer before we go."

You could say:
"Sorry, but I have this phobia about backwash. I'm in therapy for it."

(Adapted from Facts on Tap)

Links and Resources

A free, anonymous assessment tool that provides individualized feedback on the role alcohol is playing in your life. You can also see how your use compares with other college students. If you would like to talk to someone about your use, you can call SHOP for an appointment (831-459-3772).

The Blood Alcohol Educator
Learn how gender, body weight, food and how fast you drink can affect your blood alcohol concentration. This is an interactive tool that shows you how much alcohol is in different drinks and how your BAC would compare to male and female friends.

College Drinking – Changing the Culture
Click on the section for students to find out about myths and facts, take an interactive tour of the flow of alcohol through the body or learn about alcohol poisoning. You can use the Calorie Counter to learn about the number of calories in different drinks and you can send an eCard to someone who's drinking worries you.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
NIAAA publishes research on many aspects of alcohol, answers frequently asked questions and provides pamphlets and brochures. The research papers and reports can be downloaded.


Resources in Santa Cruz

Recovery Wave
Santa Cruz County's Alcohol and Drug Abuse help pages. If you think that you, a family member, or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, you've come to the right place.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Narcotics Anonymous
831-429-7436 HOTLINE (24 hour) 
Call for current open meeting schedules. Disabled Accessibility. 

Marijuana Anonymous
P.O. Box 1481
Santa Cruz, CA 95061 
SC Hotline/Meetings: 
Self-help (non-religious) fellowship group for those who cannot control their marijuana use and are experiencing adverse effects in other areas of their life. No fee is charged.