Tips for Making Positive Choices with Alcohol & Drugs

Are you wanting to change your alcohol or other drug use? Here are some helpful strategies, adopted from  South Dakota State University.

Reasons to change:

  • To improve health
  • To improve relationships
  • To avoid hangovers
  • To do better at work or school
  • To lose weight
  • To save some money
  • To avoid bigger problems
  • To achieve goals
  • Anything else?

Reasons that might make change difficult:

  • My friends or peers drink
  • I feel stressed about school or work
  • Anything else?

Put tips in your phone! Complete a plan online at Rethinking Drinking website, or save your goals and strategies in electronic devices for reminders. Set up alerts or motivational phrases when needed to curb or avoid drinking!

Let’s Make a Plan:

  1. Keep track of how much you’re drinking and how often.
  2. Take time to notice how drinking affects you.
  3. Make the list of pros and cons.
  4. Review the distractions that keep you from changing.
  5. Get support from someone you trust: family, friends, a mentor, etc.
  6. Try cutting back on drinking or quitting—talk about the options with those you trust and that can help you.
  7. Look again at your goals—does drinking fit in with what you really want out of life?

Use Some Strategies

  1. Track Drinks: Track how much you drink—keep a card in your pocket, wallet or purse. Mark your calendar or keep notes in your phone.
  2. Count/Measure: Refer to the “standard” drink size in this guide or at the Rethinking Drinking website:  
  3. Set Your Goals: You’re learning what you like and wish to accomplish—remember your goals will be around longer than that party night, but that party night can affect your goals or life without you knowing how.
  4. Pace It and Space It: Pace drinks, sip slowly. If you choose to drink, it’s best to limit the number and have nonalcoholic beverages between them. If you choose not to drink, have water, soda, juice, etc. 
  5. Eat Food: Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food affects alcohol absorption—alcohol is absorbed more slowly.
  6. Get a Sub: Just because friends or others might be drinking, a lot don’t, and you can choose water, soda or a juice without the mixed-in liquor. If you want, avoid the party altogether and go to the gym, study, do a hobby, whatever.
  7. Watch for Triggers: What—or who—makes you want to drink? If certain activities, events, or feelings influence your choice to drink, try to avoid them and call a buddy.
  8. Plan on Dealing With Urges: If you can’t avoid the events or triggers—think about your reasons for change, find your support system, get distracted and go do something else. Or if it really just comes down to it: accept that you might feel pressure to drink or want to; ride out the feeling and don’t give in. The pressure or feeling will pass.
  9. Know What Your "No" is: You might be offered a drink when you don’t want one—have that “no thanks” ready that is both polite and firm. If you say no earlier or faster, the better the chance you won’t.

Who Are Your Social Supports?

If you are ready to take control of your life, rebuild it or just want some extra help, try to talk with friends or family and educate them on what you need. You can find new interests or another group to socialize with, with less triggers. Find ways to spend your time that don’t involve drinking and ask for help and ideas from others.

It’s important when asking for help from others they learn to not offer you alcohol or use it around you, criticize you for the work you’re doing, or overwhelm you with new stressors. Find that line or boundary and stick to it: if they don’t respect you, it might be time to find another circle of friends.

Changing habits takes some effort and you may not succeed the first time, but there are tools and resources!

Tips for Creating a Better Year: What do you Post on Social Media, and How do you Help your Peers? 

Social Media

Just because someone talks about high-risk behavior(s) online, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing it. Sometimes people say things to get a rise out of others, or at times they are really hurting on the inside and aren’t sure how to reach out.

Be aware of what you put on your profiles—they can be seen by others, even with privacy settings. What you post creates an image of you not only noticeable to your friends or family, but also for your faculty and future employers.


Being a Gael means you’re part of a community that encourages both independence and interdependence. We like to help each other succeed.

Intervene on someone’s behalf during not-so-great situations, if you feel comfortable. This can include:

  • If a friend is in a bad situation—speak to them or get help from another friend or trusted staff. These times might include studying or academics, drinking or drugs, or when your friend is in a dangerous situation.
  • Keep your residence room or apartment clean—even if you live by yourself, it’ll make you and the surrounding community feel better.