Taking a Break From Alcohol: Suggestions for 30 Days

Abstinence Assistance

Occasionally, decisions need to be made about the use of alcohol. Maybe you just want a break, or university, parental, academic or legal pressures have come to light, or you believe you just need to cut back. Regardless of the reason and goal, 30 days of abstinence is the best way to start. Even if the goal is to cut down, abstinence can assist with lowering tolerance to ease moderation of use, and your body could use the break. This site is meant to assist you through 30 days of not drinking. When you finish the 30 days, you can make the decision to continue not drinking or to moderate your use.

Why abstinence if your goal is to moderate your use?

Every time you drink alcohol, you begin to build tolerance.The frequency of drinking, the amount you drink, the age at which you began use, and your family history all affect how fast your tolerance will grow.The higher your tolerance, the more difficult it is for your body to gauge what is normal. Most people who try to moderate use without lowering tolerance do not find much success. You are already aware that it takes more alcohol to get the same buzz you used to get. As you build tolerance, you become quite skilled at acting relatively “normal” even though you may have a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Students will engage in poor judgment or risky dangerous behaviors because they feel they are fine. Your body needs to change this. In order to moderate use, temporary abstinence is the best way to get there.

"First, man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man." - Chinese Proverb

Getting Started

Everyone pretty much drank alcohol for the first time out of curiosity. Most everyone’s first experience was not a big deal. Eventually, use can become a little more frequent or regular or, for some, rare to none. On college campuses, drinking to socialize tends to be the number one reason students report drinking.

So how do you know when use is becoming a little more than social? Maybe things are happening that indicate you should take a break. Alcohol can be very deceiving and we tend to have stereotypes of what an alcohol problem looks like. However, issues with alcohol come in many different forms. Simply put, the first question needs to be: has alcohol caused problems for you in anyway? The second question may need to be: is alcohol becoming the only way to have fun?

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Katie is a first year student. Her rector catches her intoxicated at an SYR, and gives her a warning. Katie now drinks two times a month and usually has 2 beers. On this night, she has 4 drinks prior to the SYR. Spring semester, Katie is walking back from an off-campus party with friend. NDSP stops her and her friends and they are breathalyzed. Katie registers a .03, and now goes to OCS. Sophomore year, Katie’s friend is intoxicated and hits something while driving. Katie is a passenger in the car and this time she is breathalyzed along with her friend. Katie is a .03 and is ticketed for minor consumption. She now has a legal ticket and again has to visit OCS. Is it time to stop drinking or should she continue drinking because she just has really bad luck?

Scenario Two:

Kevin just turned 21 years old. On his 21st birthday, he goes out with friends to celebrate. Kevin wakes up in the morning downtown, sleeping in the back of a stranger’s car. He doesn’t know how he got there nor does he remember anything past 11:00 p.m. The incident scares Kevin, and he uses a BAC calculator to determine his BAC. From his estimate, his BAC was a .5 with the last drink (most people would have been dead). He has never been in trouble with anyone, he drinks at least 3x a week, usually about 10 drinks maybe more. He weighs 180 lbs. Should he stop drinking?

Although these are two very different scenarios, there are different reasons that these students may need to change behavior. Problems with alcohol don’t always have to do with frequency and amount, but can have to do with what happens when a person drinks. Or, can it interfere with future goals and plans. Do you plan to go abroad, enter medical school, law school, graduate school, the Peace Corps, or government work? How might alcohol violations or issues come into play here?

The information in this site provides a self-assessment and daily suggestions to support your decision to be abstinent whether for temporary or permanent reasons and/or for moderation. Education is also available through the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, 204 Saint Liam Hall. You can call 631-7970 to consult with a professional.

The following link(s) can help you self assess your current drinking patterns and offer some feedback:


Alcohol Self-Assessment Online Screening

Additional Self Assessment Questionnaire

Harmful consequences are unwanted, negative complications resulting from use. Listed below are some typical examples. Check yes or no to the ones that are true for you or have ever been true for you.

Social Self

“Social self” is defined as the way one relates to others and the ability to feel comfortable with other people. Initially, and for sometime afterward, alcohol may seem to enhance certain experiences. People may seem more accepting or less judgmental, and you might feel you “fit in.” You may convince yourself that experiences are more enjoyable and conversation more relaxed. These beliefs can help rationalize the negative experiences that might also occur.

Question Yes No
1. My girlfriend/boyfriend has expressed concern about my use. ___ ___
2. I have changed friends to be with people who use like I do. ___ ___
3. My friends have sometimes called me a "drunk." ___ ___
4. I have argued with friends about my use. ___ ___
5. I have done things to my friends while drinking that I have regretted later. ___ ___
6. I have made plans with friends, but didn't show because a "better" opportunity to drink came up. ___ ___
7. I have lied to friends/others about how much I drink. ___ ___
8. I have upset or lost friends because of my drinking. ___ ___
9. Some of my friends have avoided me since I started drinking more. ___ ___
10. If I had a choice between being with my sober friends or drinking friends, I would choose the drinking friends. ___ ___
11. I have endangered the lives of my friends through my use (driving while drinking, taking foolish risks, etc.). ___ ___
12. Being under the influence makes me feel less shy. ___ ___


In the beginning stages of drinking, the experience and effect can be subtle on schoolwork. However, with increased frequency and amount, concentration, motivation and memory can be affected.

Question Yes No
1. I have a reputation for being a partier. ___ ___
2. I have come close or have been caught under the influence. ___ ___
3. I have skipped or missed class because of using or being hungover. ___ ___
4. My grades are not what I expect them to be. ___ ___
5. My motivation for schoolwork has been declining. ___ ___
6. I skip class more often since I have been drinking. ___ ___
7. I can't concentrate on classes as well since I started drinking more often. ___ ___
8. The university has asked that I have an evaluation. ___ ___


Families may not know exactly what is going on, but they begin to mention changes they are noticing. You may tell yourself that nothing is different and your family is just being paranoid or picking on you. Denial of these changes can negatively affect family members and family life.

Question Yes No
1. Parents have asked if anything is going on due to my mood. ___ ___
2. Parents have asked me if I was on anything or if I am drinking too much. ___ ___
3. Parents have found my alcohol. ___ ___
4. Parents have waited up to see what I was like when I got home. ___ ___
5. Trust with my parents has changed. ___ ___
6. My siblings have expressed concern or seen changes in me. ___ ___
7. I find it harder to talk to my family since I have been drinking more. ___ ___
8. I avoid family functions because I want to get drunk or have been drunk at family functions. ___ ___
9. I isolate myself more from my family. ___ ___
10. I have lied to my family about my drinking. ___ ___


Money can become an issue with the need to support drinking or other use. Stress about money can become an issue in taking care of personal needs and appearance, as it might be spent on use in place of basic necessities.

Question Yes No
1. Many times, I am broke because I use too much money for alcohol. ___ ___
2. I owe people money for alcohol. ___ ___
3. I have stolen to support my drinking. ___ ___
4. I have put off buying things I need to use the money for alcohol. ___ ___
5. I have gambled to get more money for alcohol. ___ ___
6. Most of my money goes towards alcohol or I have begun spending more money on alcohol. ___ ___
7. I have done things I am ashamed of in order to get money for drinking. ___ ___


Though you may not have experienced any legal problems resulting from your drinking, you may have had some close calls. Legal consequences often affect future opportunities such as employment, admittance to academic programs, or studying abroad.

Question Yes No
1. I have done risky or foolish things I could get arrested for while under the influence. ___ ___
2. I have gotten in a fight and come close to or been arrested while under the influence. ___ ___
3. I have been fined by the courts for my alcohol use. ___ ___
4. I have had legal problems related to my drinking. ___ ___


Effects of alcohol can influence your life in many ways, ways in which you may be afraid to admit to yourself, let alone anyone else. You may not always recognize them until somebody else points it out.

Question Yes No
1. I have done things I am ashamed of while under the influence. ___ ___
2. I have given up interests, sports, hobbies, or other events I used to do for fun. ___ ___
3. I have had blackouts or memory loss while drinking. ___ ___
4. My memory is not as good as it was before drinking.  ___ ___
5. I get anxious and sometimes preoccupied about drinking. ___ ___
6. When I am not drinking I think about and look forward to when I can drink. ___ ___
7. I don't seem to care as much about things I used to. ___ ___
8. My goals have changed since I have been drinking or it is hard to set new goals. ___ ___
9. I have hurt myself physically when under the influence (unidentified party injuries). ___ ___
10. I find it harder to talk to friends/others when I am not under the influence. ___ ___
11. I have done things while under the influence that, when I thought about them later, really scared me. ___ ___
12. I have overdosed on alcohol and passed out. ___ ___
13. I have had to go to the hospital because of being injured while under the influence. ___ ___
14. I have had suicidal thoughts since I have been drinking ___ ___
15. I have seriously thought about suicide. ___ ___
16. I have previously tried to cut down on use because I have worried about what it may be doing to me. ___ ___
17. I have tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past and question if I can do it successfully. ___ ___
18. I have done things that I am ashamed of in order to get alcohol. ___ ___
19. I found found myself hooking up more when under the influence. ___ ___
20. I have gained weight since coming to college and drinking regularly. ___ ___

Hopefully, this self assessment has helped you to evaluate your use and make decisions that will best work toward your success as a student, as a leader within your community, and as a family member. The site provides self-help tips and strategies that can aid you in quitting.

If you have been a frequent user of alcohol, you may need to have a physical and consult with a physician about the possibility of experiencing withdrawal symptoms while abstaining from alcohol. Symptoms can occur to different degrees based on history and prolongation of use.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

Physiological Behavioral Sleep
Nausea Restlessness/agitation Insomnia
Persperation (sweating) Irritability Disrupted sleep
Tremors Depressed mood  
Increased body temperature Aggression (in different degrees)  
Seizures Loss of motivation  
Increased pulse rate (over 100) Anxiety  
Hallucinations (visual or tactile)    

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, please seek a physician's care.