Congratulations on completing part 1 and part 2 of making a change. You’re at the point where you have evaluated whether it’s worth it to make a change and decided it’s worth exploring further. LMV Counseling is here to continue to learn how to make those small steps to change.
How much is too much?
This answer will vary person to person, vary based on your circumstances, and varies based on the substance you’re consuming. Ultimately, you get to decide what is safe for you. One general rule of thumb is that any amount of consumption while driving or prior to driving is dangerous and is too much. That includes nicotine. Smoking while driving can be a distraction. Let’s start with taking a general look at how much you’re using.
You can work out how much you are using now by making a “Substance Use Diary” of your substance use over the last week. Start with yesterday. Write down the time and place for your substance use, who you were with, what you were using, how much you had, how much you spent. Go back over the week a day at a time and write down the information for each day. At the end you will be able to see how much you used in the last week. Don’t skip this very important step and be sure to write it down. Our brains are not very good about keeping it all straight. You’re also becoming your own scientist! Collecting measurable data on yourself will keep a clear record on your use. Our brains aren’t great at remembering things and people tend to underestimate their substance use. They either were distracted while using or forgot that they used.
Now, look back over your balance sheet (part 2), your substance use diary and your problems relating to substance use. Are there any reasons for you to change? If no you may not want to continue with this education series. If not sure write down the reasons and talk it over with a supporter.
Here are a few guidelines for alcohol and tobacco use published by the World Health Organization:
Tobacco: there is no safe level of consumption for tobacco products. Smoking is the most harmful method of using tobacco. Non-smokeless varieties such as chewing tobacco, snuff, and snus are also risky.
Alcohol: If you drink more than the following guidelines you are at risk of health and other problems- men: check NIAAA guidelines, women: check NIAAA guidelines, a family history of alcoholism, being on certain medications, you weigh less than other people for your gender and height, you haven’t eaten anything recently. You shouldn’t drink at all if you are pregnant, driving or undertaking other activities that involved risk, you have health problems which may be made worse by alcohol, you are taking medicine with directly interacts with alcohol. A standard drink is 1 can of ordinary beer (330 ml at 5%), a single shot of spirits (eg 40 ml at 40%), a glass of wine (140 ml at 12%), a small glass of liqueur or apertitif (70 ml at 25%)
Choosing YOUR goal
Now that you’ve decided to make a change to your substance use, your next decision is whether you’ll use less or stop using altogether. To help you make up your mind, think about these questions:
- Do you have any health or psychological problems that might be made worse by your substance use? Your doctor or counselor can help advise you.
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using? If so, stopping use entirely is probably the best goal for you. Your doctor can help you manage the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can also include psychological symptoms which don’t always need the assistance of other medications.
- Do you have any legal or financial problems as a result of your substance use? You may choose to abstain from substances in the short term until some of these problems are resolved.
- Do you have any relationship or family problems because of your substance use?
- Have you solved substance use problems before by stopping completely? Then this might be your best way now.
Time to revisit the writing! Go ahead and write down the pros and cons of cutting down or cutting out the substances. Remember, what you decide now might not be the decision that you follow for the rest of your life. This could be a temporary goal. For some people, they may decide to cut out substances all together. For others, they commit to themselves to abstain for a period of time and see how it goes. This trend has been captured in the trendy #dryjanuary. This is when individuals decide to abstain from alcohol use after imbibing over the holidays. Some people report positive health benefits of abstaining from alcohol such as losing weight, better sleep and increased energy.
You can review your substance use goal regularly. Whatever goal you choose it’s a good idea to talk it over with the person you are close to and has supported you through this journey. All change can be challenging and difficult at first, and it helps to get support for your plans. LMV Counseling has addictions specialists ready to assist you with making these changes. We provide substance abuse counseling in Wilmington, NC and can even help you quit smoking. Get started now.