Mental Health Helpline For Wales

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About Alcohol


  1. Getting Help
  2. Emergencies
  3. Urge Surfing
  4. Sensible Drinking Tips
  5. Professional Help
  6. Dealing With The Difficult Things
  7. Self Help Resources
  8. Act Now!
  9. Helping agencies
  10. Disclaimer
  11. Page 1: Alcohol Information

Getting help

If your drinking is getting out of hand, or is causing problems for you or for other people, there are self-help measures which can help get you on the road to recovery.

Taking stock of your drinking habits is a good start. Keeping a careful diary of one week's drinking is a useful way of doing this. A 'drink diary' can also help work out the relationship between events in the week and the times you drink more.

If your diary shows that drinking is outside sensible limits or causing problems, a good first plan is to set yourself a target to reduce your intake, or stop completely.

Identify the challenging situations when you might be tempted to drink. These might include the people you drink with, the time of day, and the feelings that trigger drinking. Take steps to avoid or deal with these situations. It often helps to involve a partner or friend in setting your goals and discussing progress.

It can be hard to give up drinking completely. Try stopping and see how you feel without it. At first you may feel cravings or a sense of loss and some shakiness and restlessness. If these symptoms are severe, it is wise to consult your health professional for help and advice about coming off alcohol and get help with withdrawal symptoms.

Call the emergency services (999) if you have any of these symptoms when you stop drinking

  • Severe vomiting
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme agitation
  • Seizures or fits

If you think you might benefit from help with problem drinking, a quick Internet search will reveal local support groups.

You can also contact DAN 24/7, the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline: DAN 24/7 website or call them on 0808 808 2234.

Urge surfing

'Urge surfing' means dealing with the urge, or craving to drink as though it were a wave in the ocean. Urges start small, grow over time to a peak, and then reduce till they disappear.

Think about a confident swimmer - when they see a wave approaching, they relax into the wave and, with a minimum of effort, tread water until the wave passes. A less confident swimmer might become tense, fight the wave, and splash around so much that they go under.

The confident swimmer knows there's nothing to fear, so is much more relaxed and deals with the waves much more easily.

Urge surfing involves dealing with the urge to drink, secure and confident in the knowledge that it'll pass.

Three steps to urge surfing

1. Notice how you experience the urge or craving

Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor and your hands in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths, and allow your attention to range through the body. Notice where you experience the craving and what the sensations are like. Notice each area where you experience the urge and tell yourself what you are experiencing. For example, you might say: 'The craving is in my mouth and in my stomach.'

2. Notice one area where you're experiencing the urge

Notice the physical sensations in that area of the body. Do you feel hot, cold, heavy, numb? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? Describe the sensations to yourself and notice any changes that occur in the sensations. For example, you might say: 'My mouth feels dry. There is tension in my stomach. I keep swallowing. As I breathe, I feel tension in my jaw.'

3. Surf the urge

Notice any changes in the sensations in the body. Notice how the urge changes over time. After a few more minutes of simply noticing your urge, you will likely find that it fades. Stay with it. Don't try to stop the urge, change the urge, or distract yourself. Simply keep noticing.

Most people notice that after several minutes of urge surfing their craving fades noticeably. If it doesn't, don't give up - keep trying. This may take some practice.

The purpose of urge surfing is not to make the craving go away but to experience the urge in a different way.

As you practice urge surfing, you'll become more familiar with your urges, cravings and impulses. You'll learn how to 'ride them out' until they fade on their own. Most importantly, you will learn that you can tolerate them without automatically doing as your impulses dictate.

Sensible drinking tips

  • Don't use alcohol to 'drown your sorrows'
  • Take stock of your drinking habits - a diary helps
  • Space your drinks with non-alcoholic drinks in between
  • Swap to smaller glasses
  • Don't drink on an empty stomach
  • Have at least two drink-free days each week
  • Don't suggest a drink to someone who is upset
  • Offer non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol on social occasions
  • Don't mix alcohol and drugs
  • Alcohol is a drug - use it with care

Professional help

Your first appointment with a professional can feel difficult, especially if you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or ashamed. Many people find it helpful to write down what you want to talk about before they meet. Make a note of any questions or worries you might have. Some people find it helpful to take a friend or family member along.

Sometimes it can be hard to summon the courage to get help. A simple 'phone call to your GP can get things moving and start you on the road to recovery. If you think alcohol might be a problem, you can contact the DAN 24/7 helpline on 0808 808 2234 or text DAN followed by your query to 81066 (Wales only).

Deal with the difficult things

Putting off problems can make them mount up. Are there things in your life you're putting off dealing with? Might an advocate or some extra support help? The Citizens Advice Bureau can help with a range of issues from housing to money worries. Doing things to address our problems relieves the burden and makes us feel 'in control' again.

Ask yourself, 'what small thing could I do today that would help me begin to feel better about myself?' Make a note of your answer below.

Self-help resources

There are many good books and websites that can help. Your GP, practice nurse or primary care mental health practitioner will be able to recommend from a range of excellent and helpful material.

Act now!

The sooner you get the help you may need, the sooner you'll feel better! Speak with your GP or a health professional for extra information or to get on the road to recovery today!

Helping Agencies

You can find a list of national agencies that can help with alcohol here: National Alcohol Agencies


This material is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. We have used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. We recommend you consult a doctor or other health care professional for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, or if you are at all concerned about your health.