How to cut down on drinking but still have a social life

Cutting back on alcohol can be tough, especially if you enjoy going out with friends. But a former bartender-turned-mindful drinker has come up with a guide to make it a little bit easier.

After 22 years at his award-winning bar in Washington, D.C., Derek Brown decided that it was time to give up alcohol and shift to mindful drinking.

Mindful drinking is an individual choice “to drink or not to drink alcohol in accordance with your goals, health or otherwise,” says Brown, now a wellness coach and founder of Positive Damage Inc. 

This can be as simple as deciding before you arrive at a bar to only have a glass of wine instead of drinking what your friends are having. Or it can mean choosing to not drink alcohol at all.

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Though it was clear to Brown that cutting out alcohol would benefit his health, it wasn’t an easy process, he says. To set himself up for success, Brown focused on the rate at which he was drinking.

A guide for navigating the shift to mindful drinking

If you’re looking for ways to be more intentional about your alcohol consumption without changing up your entire social life, consider Brown’s RATE method.

  • Replace: Substitute alcoholic drinks for nonalcoholic alternatives like mocktails or alcohol-free beers.
  • Avoid: Refrain from going to spaces where you know you’ll feel tempted or pressured to drink more than you’d like to. “I don’t suggest you do that all the time, but that’s just one of the strategies,” Brown says.
  • Temper: Drink a low-alcohol drink like a beer instead of a cocktail. Or consider alternating between alcoholic drinks and nonalcoholic drinks throughout the night.
  • Elicit help: Reach out to someone that can be your accountability partner. It may be helpful to choose someone who is also on their own mindful drinking journey.

Using the RATE method can be a great way to gradually reduce your alcohol consumption over time without making drastic changes you aren’t ready for. Testing each part of the guide can help you land on what mindful drinking means for you.

Not drinking doesn’t mean you should skip events or not go out with your friends, Brown stresses. Spend as much time with loved ones as you want.

“Social wellness is really important. Going out, spending time with your friends and family,” Brown says, “all of that is really good. That part is not negative.”

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