AlcoholWhen it comes to making a major change to your drinking habits, a New Year’s Resolution seems the perfect place to start – but a month down the track, that resolve is possibly starting to wane.

Research from the University of Scranton in the US over the past decade shows that, although people who set resolutions on January 1 are much more likely to hit their target six months later compared to those who didn’t use the start of the year as their watershed (a 46{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} success rate as opposed to 4{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4}), only 8{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} of those making resolutions said they were totally successful in achieving them in the long-term.

The good news is that, when it comes to alcohol, the very act of admitting to having a problem – and often that’s what lies behind the resolution in the first place – is key to overcoming that problem.


Alcohol: the reason for the season

The Robert Street Clinic has a guide to knowing whether your drinking is a problem and, if you have made a resolution to quit but are finding it tough to stay on the wagon, it’s worth going over those points again.

If, on the other hand, you are finding that a month into the new year your drinking is preventing you from keeping other resolutions – for example to quit smoking or to do more exercise – then now may be the time to harness those resolutions to a decision to cut back on or quit alcohol too. Using alcohol as an excuse to avoid other areas of your life is a sure fire sign of an issue.


Work it out

A major influence in our drinking culture is the hours that we work, and the return to the office after the Christmas holidays can often curtail a resolution to cut back or quit alcohol.

Research carried out in Finland (which has an identical alcohol consumption rate for adults as New Zealand according to OECD figures) and published in the British Medical Journal earlier this month reveals those who work more than 48 hours a week are 11{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} “more likely to increase their alcohol use to levels that pose a health risk”.

According to data from the 2006 Census, more than a quarter of Kiwis in full-time employment worked 50 hours or more a week.

The comprehensive study, which analysed data from 36 published studies and 27 studies with unpublished individual participant data collected through Europe, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, also found “depression and sleep problems might contribute to the link between long working hours and alcohol use”.

Put simply, trying to quit drinking at the same time as working long hours is going to be tough. It makes sense to create a framework around how you achieve your goals.


Build your support network

Once you have re-confirmed your resolution to limit or quit alcohol, and once you have worked to limit the environments which can prevent your success, it’s time to work on building a support network to achieve your goals.

Many resolutions start off as solitary affairs but there’s plenty of help available.

According to the 2011-12 New Zealand Health Survey one-in-five people who had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months exhibited “hazardous drinking patterns”.

Although many of these 532,000 people have friends and family to lean on, it’s important to realise that addiction is a mental issue, and is can be hugely beneficial to receive support from professionals trained in this area.