Set a day to start cutting down or to stop - Make a commitment to your day and stick to it. Get ready for this day by preparing your environment...

Prepare your environment - Get rid of everything from your home, your phone, your car, and anywhere else that's been associated with using alcohol or drugs. These things are triggers for substance use and are likely to increase your cravings.

Tame the 'addiction monster' - "life will be boring without alcohol or drugs", "I'll put on weight". Self-sabotage comes from the 'addiction monster'. Make a list of all the things you don't really like about using alcohol or drugs to remind yourself of why you wanted to change in the first place. Keep a wallet or purse-sized card with this list so you can re-read it if you have cravings. You could also make a list of the benefits of cutting down or stopping alcohol or drugs and read it to tame the addiction monster and help you to stay committed. You could also consider having photos of people you care about to maintain focus on the importance of stopping or cutting down.

Anticipate risky situations - List every potential situation you can think of that could lead you down the alcohol or drugs path again. Situations could include being with friends who use lots of substances; going to a party;  being offered alcohol or drugs; feeling tired, bored, or angry; feeling happy; wanting to celebrate; wanting to reward yourself; having lots of money; having no money; having a craving; putting on weight etc. Make a coping plan for each risky situation. You might need some assistance with this so you can always start a counselling session with us anytime to talk it through.

Plan to manage cravings or urges - read our section on managing cravings.

Set goals

The S.M.A.R.T approach:

Specific: I'll pay off my credit card in 12 months I want to get some money together" isn't specific enough. e.g. Specific - I won't use alcohol or drugs this weekend and will make a credit card payment this Friday with the money I would use on substances.

Measurable: Seeing your credit card balance decrease each month will help to keep you motivated, so make sure you set a goal that allows you to measure your progress.

Active: The best goals are those in which you play the active part. Getting someone else to do what you want them to do is often not an achievable or realistic goal. An active goal in this case involves your response. For example "For the next two weeks, whenever my partner gets angry I'll stay calm/leave the room/do something else, rather than get angry too and have an argument."

Realistic: Some of the best goals are personally challenging, but make sure that your goal is attainable and that you have the ability to achieve it, or can learn the skills you need to make it happen.

Time limited: It's important to have a time frame for your goal so you can keep an eye on your progress and know when you've achieved it. It's hard to stay motivated when the end is nowhere in sight. 

Solve problems

Using alcohol or drugs can be a great way to avoid problems. However, avoiding problems always makes things worse and even the simplest problems can start to seem difficult. 

Try this practical method for dealing with problems and avoid putting them off. You'll find that just making a small start will help to relieve your stress.

  1. Stop and think about the whole situation. What's really going on? What's the real issue? Be clear about what the actual problem is.
  2. Break the problem down into smaller, manageable parts and solve each part separately.
  3. Be creative and generate a list of possible solutions. Come up with as many options as possible to solve the problem without judging the merits of any option yet.
  4. Choose an option by considering each one separately and weighing up the pros and cons. Reject unusable options, choose the best one, and keep the second best as a back-up plan if you need it.
  5. Practice. Try out your solution and evaluate the plan. Did it work? If not, why not? How could you tackle this problem differently in future?

Finally...make an ACTION plan.