Tuesday, 8 November 2011

You don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining

Who’s this for?

Heavy drinkers who want to cut down their drinking but who don’t want to stop. There are many advantages in moderating your drinking, namely better health, save more money and better relationships with the ones you love.


Abstaining can be great and though I’m not religious I believe that modern society is missing out because we don’t practice lent anymore.

I’ve abstained quite a few times, the longest ones being Feb 09, Dec 07 (India) and Feb 99 (India). Yes, I felt great afterwards and I thought they were worthwhile. They were welcome breaks for my body and my mind. They both felt better for not drinking. But when I started drinking again, I just went back to my old habits. You don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining.

The skills are different.

Abstinence is mainly about avoidance of drink and saying no.

Moderation is finding new skills that help you handle drink better, like stopping after one or two drinks, drinking a soft drink with alcohol and being aware that drinking too much leads to unpleasant consequences the next day.

Practice the skills, to get better at them.

From my experience the only way to learn these skills is to do them and do them consistently. I found the use of triggers really helped me develop these skills. After you do them consistently for a while, they start to become natural.

Triggers I used

Another possible trigger to use

Drink water with, before and after an alcohol drink. If in the house – use a notice on your bottle of wine (or whatever it is you drink) “One wine, one water”. I feel strongly that the message needs to be with the drink as this helps you get consistent at doing it.


Many people believe that if they stop for some time and then start again, they will miraculously be moderate drinkers. I learnt from experience that this is not the case. Moderate drinking and abstinence are different. You need different skills to drink moderately.

I’m not against abstinence, I think for some people it’s the right choice and even for moderate drinkers a period of abstinence could be good for them. If you abstain from drinking, you will feel better (at least different).

If your goal is to be a moderate drinker, then you need to learn skills that help you be a moderate drinker. Simple as that.


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