You're Not Alone - Alcohol Awareness Campaign

Are you wanting to explore your relationship with alcohol? And, depending on what you discover, take steps towards actionable change? Beginning February 21, over a six-week period, you're invited to do just that with Cornell Wellness. There are multiple reasons to change a relationship. 

  • Maybe you feel like your relationship with alcohol is okay but you're wanting to make a change for health benefits associated with a reduction
  • Or, maybe you're unsure about your relationship with alcohol 
  • Or, maybe you find that your relationship is harmful and/or problematic 

If you find yourself pondering these questions, register for this Wellness experience. Take this opportunity as Wellness guides you to explore and try out actionable steps towards creating a different relationship with alcohol. Wellness will also provide you with resources to support your personal journey. Not comfortable registering for this offering, you can still connect with great information over the six weeks by visiting this page and following along below. 

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Things you will need on this journey:

  • A log book (paper or digital)
  • An attitude of exploration and kindness to self

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Guest Interviews:

WK 1: Explore Your Relationship With Alcohol

As you think about joining us on this journey, start with these 4 Actionable Items:

  • Take this 11 question quiz to start exploring your relationship with alcohol. 
  • Think about your behaviors and patterns with alcohol (past, present). Write/type a few of them down in your log book.
  • Think about how you want your future relationship with alcohol to be. Write/type a few of your thoughts down in your log book.
  • Over the next two weeks, write/type down each time you have a drink/s. Record the where, when, why, and how much in your log book. Do this without judgement.

When beginning this phase of behavior change, you may feel like everything is fine, you feel comfortable with your current habits. You may decide to end your journey with us here. And that's alright; we wish you well. 

  • Or, you may feel like you have an okay relationship with alcohol but you still want to make a change. 
  • Or, you may feel unsure about your current relationship with alcohol and whether or not it is healthy, but you think it’s not serving you well. 
  • Or, you may feel like your relationship with alcohol is problematic or harmful and you’re not sure what to do about it or even if it is within your control to change these behaviors. 

If any of these resonate with you, we invite you to continue on this journey with us throughout the next 6 weeks in whatever capacity feels right for you. If you registered, we will send you engaging messages once per week (Mondays) with actionable items for you to try and resources to keep you moving along on this journey of self-exploration and change. If you did not register, the messages that go out on Mondays will be posted on this page on Tuesdays.

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WK 2: Engaged Contemplation

Actively engage with your thoughts as you contemplate making a change to your relationship with alcohol. This stage of behavior change may bring conflicted emotions and periods of thinking why bother followed by periods of hell yes I’m ready. It is normal to find it challenging to move past this stage because it involves creating actionable and attainable items towards change. But you CAN do this, and we’re here to help guide you through to the next phase. Take a step forward this week by answering these questions for yourself below.

  • When I think about the future relationship I want to have with alcohol, what are some of the positives of making changes and some of the challenges I anticipate? Write/type these in your log book.
  • Assess your readiness and ability to make small changes. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being very ready, how ready to make small changes to your relationship with alcohol are you? Draw a scale in your log book and circle where you’re at, or type the number in your digital log.
  • Continue to write/type down in your log each time you have a drink including the where, when, why, and how much.

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WK 3: Get Ready, Get Set, Get A Plan In Place

In this phase, you will prepare for, and start mentally experimenting with, some small changes, knowing they don’t have to be permanent, just seeing how they might feel for you. Like trying on different shoes. Start to assess which changes may feel like a good fit for you to put into action next week.

  • Identify a few small changes that you think may work for you. Here is a list of some changes. You can pick one or more from the list below or come up with your own small change/s. (credit: adapted from Tips on cutting down - NHS, www.nhs.uk).
    • Set a limit - Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you're going to drink.
    • Set a budget - Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.
    • Let them know - If you let your friends and family know you're cutting down and it's important to you, you could get support from them.
    • Take it a day at a time - Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.
    • Make it a smaller one - You can still enjoy a drink, but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one.
    • Have a lower-strength drink - Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You'll find this information on the bottle.
    • Stay hydrated - Have a glass of water before you have alcohol and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks.
    • Take a break - Have several drink-free days each week.
    • Other
  • Write/type down what change or changes you want to try.
  • Let’s now create a system you will use to support and reach each change. Systems are about the processes that lead to the change (aka new habit) you are wanting to establish. For each change (aka new habit) you’ve identified you want to try, write down next to it an implementation intention sentence. People who make a specific plan for when and where, or how, they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through. Implementation sentences look like this. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y”. Or, “I will (Behavior) at (Time) in (Location)”. (credit: adapted from Atomic Habits, 2018, James Clear).
  • Reinforce why you are doing this. Remind yourself, what is your motivation? What is your why, for doing this? Write some of these reasons down.

Review your plan a few times this week, because Coming Up Next Week you’ll put your plan into Action!

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WK 4: Let’s Take Action

This is the time to take all this thinking, analyzing, preparation, and planning and turn it into action. You’ve already identified why you are wanting to change your relationship with alcohol, what changes you are wanting to try, and what systems you’ll use to support those changes. You’re Ready to take action and implement the changes!

  • Try out the small changes you identified as wanting to try. You can do this! Lean into actionable change as you follow through on the implementation sentences you created to help you through the process.
  • Reward your successes. Write down 5 specific things that will make you feel like you have had successes this week. Identify how you will reward yourself for 1 of these successes. How about 2 of these successes, 3, 4 or 5? It’s important to give yourself rewards to acknowledge that you have made accomplishments. Not sure how to reward yourself? Check out a few ideas below to get your creative mind going. 
    • Put $5 in a jar every time you have a success. At the end of the week, spend the money you have accumulated in the jar purchasing something you’ve had on your “I want” list
    • Take a soak in the bathtub with a book, or magazine, or listen to some music
    • Visit a place (park, museum, art gallery) that you have been wanting to go to but haven’t been to yet
    • Book a lunch or dinner date with a friend
    • Buy yourself flowers or chocolates

If you find yourself struggling with making changes to your relationship with alcohol, and are wanting or finding yourself needing additional help, here are some Cornell Resources you can reach out to:

Also, connect with a friend or someone who you know will be supportive. 

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WK 5: Stay The Course  

You have now tried out small changes you identified as wanting to try. You’ve leaned into actionable changes and supported these changes with implementation sentences you created. And, you rewarded your successes. Congratulations! To use the shoe analogy again, you’ve picked one or more new pairs of shoes and you’re now walking around in them. Continue to see which feel like a good fit for you that you could maintain walking around in for a while. To move forward with supporting this phase, sometimes it is helpful to re-frame your behavior change from outcome based to identity based. What does this mean? Here’s an example. A person who recently quit smoking may respond to being offered a cigarette by a friend in the following way “No thanks, I’m trying to quit”. This is an outcome based response. An identity based response would be “No thanks, I’m not a smoker”. Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity. What you do is an indication of the type of person you believe that you are – either consciously or non-consciously. (credit: adapted from Atomic Habits, 2018, James Clear).

  • To continue to support your new behavior change/s, play around this week with moving from outcome based responses to identity based responses when talking with others (or talking to yourself). For example, if a friend you are hanging out with asks you if you want another drink (because you typically would), instead of saying, “No, I’m trying to cut back” try saying something like “No, I’m only a one drink person when I’m out on a week night”.

If you find yourself struggling with making changes to your relationship with alcohol, below are multiple groups providing Tompkins County based support and connections.

  • The Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County provides confidential individual and group counseling. Fees are on a sliding scale, and many insurance plans are accepted. Learn more about the Council at alcoholdrugcouncil.org. To make an appointment at the Alcohol and Drug Council, call (607) 274-6288.
  • Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) offers individualized services tailored to meet the needs of individuals. CARS accepts most insurance plans, and fees are on a sliding scale. Learn more about CARS at www.carsny.org. To make an appointment, call (607) 273-5500.
  • A variety of AA, NA, Al-Anon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) groups are available locally. Visit the Ithaca Community Recovery ICR website for local meeting times. Other websites which offer meeting information are the AA website and the Al-Anon website
  • Fitsober is a new local organization offering free fitness classes and outdoor events (such as hiking) in a supportive environment for those who are in recovery from addiction. The only requirement for attendance is 48 hours of clean time. Family, friends, support people and those choosing to live a sober lifestyle are also welcome. Check out their website to sign up for their newsletter and receive information about upcoming events. Fitsober.com.

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WK 6: Climbing Over Obstacles And Continuing Forward

You may still be trucking along in those shoes and continuing to feel successful with your behavior change/s. That is fantastic; keep moving along your path, enjoying the journey and rewarding your successes.

Or, maybe you’ve stumbled on your path and encountered what feels like a barrier impeding your forward progress. This is often experienced when making changes. Don’t let this overshadow the positive work and progress you’ve made. If you find yourself temporarily stalled at a barrier, assess what is making it feel like a wall. Once you have identified what is blocking your forward progress, brainstorm ways to make the wall feel shorter so that you can step over it, or less wide so you can go around it. Create and use implementation sentences (week 3) to support yourself moving from brainstorming to overcoming the wall. As a reminder, an implementation sentence looks like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y”. Or, “I will (Behavior) at (Time) in (Location)”. (credit: adapted from Atomic Habits, 2018, James Clear).

For example, if the change you picked was to set a limit for how much you’re going to drink before you start drinking, and you’ve identified a barrier to this being that one of your friends offers you more of your favorite beer above and beyond what you’ve brought with you when you’re hanging out at her house, and you’ve brainstormed that if your friend didn’t have your favorite beer on hand it would be easier to stick with your behavior change, then your implementation sentence could be: “I will ask my friend to no longer stock my favorite beer next Wednesday when I go to her house to hang out”. This implementation sentence includes the behavior (asking friend), the time (next Wednesday), and the location (at her house).

If after trying this method a few times you feel like the barrier is still too big, re-visit the list of small changes you can make from week 3 and pick a different one that you think may work better for you in this moment. People and situations continually change and evolve; and if you find something isn’t working for you, try something else.

Thank you for taking this journey with Cornell Wellness over the past 6 weeks to explore your relationship with alcohol, try out some changes, and learn about the many support resources available to you. Stay tuned for more. Next month we’ll be releasing video interviews with representatives from FSAP, CARS, and FitSober providing engaging discussions on several alcohol topics of interest.

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