For many of us, the beginning of a new year presents an opportunity to evaluate our happiness, personal growth and health. And after a holiday season filled with excess, many of us start by thinking about our alcohol consumption—and end with goals to drink less or stop drinking altogether.
Rich Lugo, EdD and Ed Diaz, MS, LAADC, provide alcohol use counseling to people at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. They help people explore their options before deciding to make a change, and explore the role that alcohol plays in their life. For example, by asking people to consider the situations and contexts when they drink (or feel that they drink too much).
There are a variety of ways that a person may change their relationship to alcohol—complete abstinence being only one option. Many people find that learning about and implementing harm reduction strategies can also be effective. (If you’re new to harm reduction, it’s really simple: harm reduction just means that you’re taking steps to reduce the negative consequences of whatever you’re doing or using.)
Sound interesting? Rich and Ed have plenty of alcohol-related harm reduction tips to share. Below, you’ll find some of their favorites. If you’re a gay, bi or trans man in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in speaking to a counselor one-on-one about your alcohol use, consider Cheers Queers.
Find activities where alcohol is available, but limited
One easy way to make sure you don’t drink more than you want to is to find activities where alcohol is an option, but not necessarily the main entertainment (bars are one place where alcohol is the main entertainment). Enjoy a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, get tickets to a comedy show or find an interesting educational or community event at Strut.
Explore virgin territory
Pick a virgin cocktail to order when you go out or have at home. Get fizzy with sparkling water and lime or lemon, or experiment with fruity punches, spritzers and other mocktails.
Ask a friend to hold you accountable
Set a plan when you go out with friends. What time do you want to be home? Talking to a friend before you go out and sharing your intention to leave at a certain time can be helpful. They can hold you accountable by giving you a signal or reminding you when it’s time to call it a night.
Pass on shots, stay away from mixed drinks, and avoid mixing
Many of our clients say that it helps to avoid mixed drinks and shots. It’s easier to get tipsier than you mean to if you take shots, since they go down quickly. And mixed drinks can be tricky because you never know how heavy-handed the pour you’ll get will be. Sticking with beer or wine is oftentimes a good choice when you want to manage how much you drink.
The migraines and headaches of hangovers are caused by dehydration. Avoid them by drinking a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
Re-evaluate your social commitments
FOMO is real, but so is that hangover from Saturday night. Look through your calendar and decide which events are more likely to make you feel worse the next day. You can limit how often you go out if you find that this helps you drink less.
Consider Cheers Queers
Cheers Queers is a one-time counseling session to talk about how you’re drinking for gay, bi and trans men. There’s no requirement to change how you drink, although we encourage people who are curious about changing how they drink to participate. This is a free service provided by San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
For more information, visit cheersqueer.org. Take the survey to see how your drinking compares to other people in the Bay Area, and contact Rich (email@example.com) or Ed (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in participating in a counseling session.
The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
Our diverse programs help thousands of people every year. From testing to prevention to care, our services assist communities where need is greatest.