Do New Year’s Resolutions to Quit Drinking Work?


By Kate Esposito

When the end of December and the holidays comes around, people start thinking about changes they want to make in the new year. For some, these changes include a New Year’s Resolution to quit drinking. A wise goal, it seems, but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Ever go to the gym in January and notice how crowded it is all of a sudden? By February, or March at the latest, it’s back to normal. Why is that? Because New Year’s resolutions don’t stick. According to, only 8% of Americans who make resolutions each year actually achieve them.

So, am I saying don’t bother? Well, no. What I am saying is you need a bigger impetus than just an arbitrary resolution to make a true long-term change in your behavior. First, look at why you want to quit drinking.

*Is it for cosmetic reasons, such as weight loss?
*Is it because others have told you that you should?
*Is it due to health complications, such as liver problems?
*Is it because you have trouble controlling how much you drink?
*Is it because you did something embarrassing at the office Christmas party?

Depending on your reasoning, the consequences of continued drinking can range from minor (weight gain or embarrassment) to serious (greater dependency or death). If your health, relationships, or work is suffering because of your drinking, and/or if you’ve tried to cut back in the past and failed, the only better time to quit drinking then now, is yesterday. But, don’t think of it as a resolution that probably won’t last. Think of it as an achievable goal and approach it that way.

How do you do that? Take the SMART criteria from George T. Doran:

• Specific – What exactly are you going to do?
• Measurable – How are you going to measure your progress?
• Assignable – Who will do it, just you alone or a group?
• Realistic – Is this goal attainable using the methods you have in mind?
• Time-related – What is your quit date going to be?

Do some research, speak with a medical professional and talk to recovering alcoholics to make sure you are prepared for the withdrawal symptoms you might experience. Find people to support you in achieving your resolution so you are not doing it on your own. They can be in the form of family members, therapists, 12-step group members, etc. Don’t expect people who are actively abusing alcohol to be supportive of your lifestyle change.

For more accountability, you may want to invest in a monitoring device, like Soberlink. Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors to try to catch yourself when you have the urge to drink and replace it with a more healthy habit. Read through this blog for additional support and know that you can do it.

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