Taking Control of your Drinking

For a while I was very successful at cutting down my alcohol consumption.

It all started with a bad event – an excessive drinking embarrassment. I was sufficiently ashamed of my drunken behaviour to want to cut down. I believed there had to be a better way than to make an arse of myself over booze, and besides I had got a little bit closer to causing damage to a relationship, and that was serious. No, I was completely up for some self-discipline and I was actually eager to get started on a better regime.

I remembered a wine-tasting evening at which the sommelier had encouraged us to savour the wine by swilling it around in our mouths in order to pick up different flavours and acidity levels.

focus on the taste

I figured that this was what I would do from now on when drinking. I decided to stick to one type of alcohol – wine –  in the first instance and set some limits for different types of occasion. Savour the flavour; concentrate on the way the wine complemented food, whether it had a fruity or earthy taste, whether it was acidic or alkaline, knowing which bit of my mouth and tongue to employ in the process. I would consciously fight any desire for intoxication, but remain acutely aware of what effect the reduced quantity was having over me, slowing down if necessary so that I didn’t run out of wine too soon. It was all about the quality of the experience. I loved it. I couldn’t understand why I had never thought of doing this before.

It was a great exercise. I could have carried on forever like this (but didn’t, for reasons that are not relevant at this point). I felt in supreme control of my drinking and was able to enjoy it without any of the downsides associated with excess. I was overjoyed.

I set a limit of no more than half a bottle on any single occasion. But on quiet nights in, I would set a limit of one (large) glass of wine – no more. I would try to have food with this, but either way, I was to savour the flavour and think about the taste as well as the effect. I would aim for 2 nights off per week too.

It worked. Even on holiday with my girlfriend it was a roaring success. I had the best of all worlds and better still, I now had the tools to appreciate everything there was to appreciate about wine, sobriety, hang-over freedom, relaxation and me-time.

when it falls apart, it’s difficult to put back together again

It didn’t last all that long; about 6 weeks before I was led astray at a music festival. I let myself go and I drank all day long for several days, without rules. It was at that festival that the desire switch got permanently flicked the other way. Afterwards, I had no desire to change it back again – proving that ‘to deal with your unwanted desires, you have to unwant them’

But if you decide to cut down, it’s important to set some clear rules that you know are achievable. Slowing down your intake is obviously going to be one rule, but try to think about how this is working for you. Concentrate on the quality not quantity of the drink.

  1. Set your limits
  2. Get the most out of every sip by savouring the taste
  3. Be aware of the effect of the alcohol on your brain and enjoy it
  4. Slow down if you are getting to the end of your set amount of alcohol
  5. Be strict with yourself and do not go over the limit – ever.

This is a good way to re-introduce yourself to alcohol after a dry month. It’s also a good way to prepare yourself for quitting, if that’s what is on your mind… more of that on my “quitting” page.

My favourite alcohol Quote:

“There are better things in the world than alcohol, Albert”

Albert: “Oh, Yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them”

(Terry Pratchett)

My second favourite alcohol Quote:

“If I had all the money I spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink”.

(Vivian Stanshall)

Drinking Anomalies

Anomaly number 1.  Until you reach rock bottom, there is always a chance you’ll get your drinking under control. That’s why I carried on.

Anomaly 2. After I quit, I felt out of place at AA meetings. I hadn’t hit rock bottom, which made me feel like I didn’t really belong in the club.

3. When drinking, I had control of my alcohol intake, but not my behaviour. That’s what I thought was my problem.

4. I know people who are slowly ruining their lives through alcohol and drugs. Fear drives them on. The fear of quitting; the fear of never being happy again.

5. A dry January has almost nothing in common with a sober life.

6. Some people are able to stick to strict limits all the time. It doesn’t mean their life isn’t ruled by alcohol.

7. I didn’t like free bars. If I came back for more drinks, too often, I felt like I wasn’t welcome. At least if you pay, you are appreciated.

8. If I see someone on the streets drinking a soft drink from a can or bottle, I always wonder if there’s alcohol in there as well.

9. I get social hangovers. Mental tiredness and a headache after socialising all evening. I love it!

10. 36 years of drinking was ended by a decision that took me 5 seconds to make.

11. For all the upheaval and change that quitting entailed, the actual moment was no more than the flick of a switch.

Drinkers’ logic:

If I’m in control of my drinking I can’t be an alcoholic

I don’t drink until the evening, so I must be in control

I don’t always drink to blackout, so I’m in control

I drink most days but I know when I’ve had enough, so I’m in control.

…And If I’m not alcoholic… then it’s just a question of keeping control.