In Episode 15 of the Don’t Change Much Podcast, host Dan Murphy chats with sports and entertainment broadcaster Dan O’Toole (you probably know him from the groundbreaking SC with Jay & Dan Show) about his career and personal journey with substance abuse. He shares how his alcohol consumption increased, the advice that helped him through rehab, and how sobriety rewarded him with stronger friendships and a happier life. 

The right decision for Dan was to quit drinking alcohol. For others, it might be to cut back and have more alcohol-free days. Either way, the goal is to live healthier and feel better. 

In 2023, Canada introduced new Guidance about Alcohol and Health. The report spells out a simple message—the greater your number of drinks per week, the greater the risk to your health. So goodbye to standard weekly drink limits, and hello to knowing your risk with alcohol use. It’s up to you to know the facts and make informed decisions about your health.

Benefits of drinking less

After Dan quit drinking, he felt healthier physically and mentally and had a better relationship with his kids and himself. “Now I’m happy. I’m spending more time with my family and not being a zombie.”

As Dan puts it, “That’s my biggest thing, I’m actually present now, and there’s no guilt. There’s no shame.”

Experts recommend taking one or more days off of drinking per week. Drinking every day can quickly become a habit and have negative health impacts.  

There are many benefits to drinking less alcohol, including:

  • Better sleep quality 
  • Improved concentration 
  • Improved immune system function
  • Weight loss
  • Saving money

Incorporating alcohol-free days into your weekly routine doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are a few ways to get started.

How to have more alcohol-free days

Swap alcohol for exercise

When you feel like having a drink, especially if it’s coming from a place of stress or boredom, a great substitute is exercise. You’ll get the feel-good hormone release that comes with exercising, and the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it. Being active also helps to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and increase focus.

So hit the gym or do something as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride. No matter your fitness level, there are plenty of ways to get active that can also help you have more alcohol-free days.

Change your drinking habits

If you’ve thought about having more alcohol-free days, one place to start is to understand your drinking habits. There are simple ways to change your drinking habits which include understanding your triggers and recognizing patterns.

Try near-beer 

Non-alcoholic beer has come a long way over the last ten years. Here’s how to cut the booze but still enjoy your brews. You can also try starting with a regular beer and then switching to a booze-free option to keep your drink total in check.

Apps that work

Want to drink a bit less? There’s an app for that. Cutting back on alcohol may not be easy at first, but luckily, there are apps to help get you started. Here’s a list of useful apps that can help you track, plan and cut down on alcohol.

Ways to socialize without alcohol

It’s Friday night, and you’re going out with the guys. They want to meet at a pub to get drinks before the game. You want to go, but you know you usually end up drinking more than you’d like. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are tips to help you be social without alcohol.

Why are you drinking?

Answering this question can be revealing and may be a good place to start. There are many different reasons people drink alcohol, such as stress relief, habit, social pressures, or boredom. 

Sometimes alcohol seems to resolve an issue, for example, helping you feel less agitated after a stressful day at work when actually it’s covering up the problem. Research shows that excessive drinking ultimately causes or worsens the problems people think it solves, such as anxiety, stress, depression, and relationship conflicts. 

When Dan moved to Los Angeles to work on the Jay & Dan Show for Fox, he separated from his wife and had lots of alone time. 

“I’d fly back to see the girls every three weeks. So I was living essentially a single life in LA for a year…For the last 22 years, I’ve had something to do at night. I’ve had my job to go to…So those evening hours were taken care of. But now, when I would get home and didn’t have the kids, I would get into weed, get into wine and all that.”

Drinking can become a way to fill the time, cope with stress, or make it seem easier to be with yourself, but in the long run, it can do more harm than good. 

Does less alcohol = less fun?

When guys think about cutting back on drinking, sometimes they worry about losing friends or having less fun in life. This was true for Dan. 

Initially, he thought, “I’m not gonna have fun anymore; I’m going to lose my friends; why am I doing this?” His friend then told him something that helped him through rehab. He said, “Dan, you’re about to experience life for the first time.” That statement changed Dan’s life. It’s now something he says to people considering sobriety.

“I have gained in the last two years a stronger network of friends than I’ve had my entire life…I have this new group of friends that I have told more, that I have more faith in, than people I’ve known for 30 years.”

Start with you

It’s important to be patient with yourself. Building new routines or habits can take time. 

“Just be easy on yourself,” said Dan. “So many people put so much pressure on themselves. Love yourself more and realize that if you’re unhappy—buying something, getting a new girlfriend, leaving a marriage, going on a trip—relying on those things (won’t) make you happy. Start with you.”

An important note about alcohol disorders

If you or someone you know has an alcohol addiction, talk to a healthcare professional for a safe treatment plan. Access these resources to learn more.

Have you found ways to cut back on alcohol? Share them with us in the comments.