Thursday, 26 April 2012

March – A month off the booze.

Reflections on abstaining for a month

From 25th Feb until to 1st April I didn’t drink any alcohol. I won a speech contest and with it a bottle of wine but I didn’t drink that bottle until the 1st April. This has been the longest I haven’t drunk any alcohol for more than 20 years, possibly longer.

What I learnt!

• There’s always a reason to drink i.e. there’s never a good time to stop.
• It’s not that hard, once you get into it (though I’m a moderate drinker now)
• Drinking non-alcoholic beer has some benefits.
• People would benefit from the practice of Lent.

There’s always a reason (excuse) to drink – during my non-drinking time;<br />
• I won a speech contest.
• I came second in another speech contest.
• A ‘drinking’ friend came over from Taiwan.
• Helped out on a well-paid photographic project.
• Wales won the Glam Slam.

From when I was younger, even if I felt rough, there never seemed to be a good time to stop because there’s always someone’s birthday, someone leaving work, a party, etc. Reasons to drink seem to be non-stop. If you want to want to stop or have a break, don’t let ‘excuses’ like it’s so-so birthday, Liverpool are playing this weekend, it’ll be our Wedding anniversary next week get in the way. They’ll always be there.

It’s not that hard, once you get into it

Except for a few moments, like when my friend from Taiwan came over, it was very easy not to drink. It’s probably easier now than before because I usually only drink one or two glasses anyway.

Drinking non-alcoholic beer has some benefits

I’ve always thought drinking non-alcoholic beer was a con. Why drink it if it doesn’t have an effect! And why do I have to pay the same about of money for it.

The above says a lot – so I only drank beer for the effect? And it certainly seemed that I was willing to pay for the effect.

But not drinking non-alcoholic beer kind of limited my choice in pubs to soft drinks and I’m not that fond of them, especially in the evening. Now that I’ve accepted non-alcoholic beer as a legitimate drink, it gives me more choice going out.

A funny thing happened with non-alcoholic beer, I actually got quite into it. Some evenings I drunk six bottles in various ‘beer’ relax positions i.e. on the balcony looking out towards the river, on the sofa watching a film and in the kitchen chatting with my girlfriend. The most surprising thing was I actually enjoyed drinking ‘beer’ without getting the ‘effect’. It was liberating. I was drinking beer and it was enjoyable but without the effect, I felt more like my real self.

People would benefit from the practice of Lent.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Christian and when I was younger I used to argue against things Christian. But strong opinions can blind you. Religion has been around for 1,000s of years and they’ve gotten some things right. I believe Lent is one of them and it especially needed in our modern times.

And it’s not just Christians and religious group that recommend giving up something for a time. Seneca, the great Roman writer, practiced ‘poverty’ for short periods on a regular basis. He would eat the most basic foods or dress in rags for a week or so. He asked himself the question “Is this the condition I so feared?” The idea was to cut out what wasn’t needed in life and to experience your fears, so that you’re not paralysed by them.

That was a long time ago, why is Lent and ‘giving up’ things needed now?

We have everything we need and much more. But business must go on. So they ‘manufactured need’ to keep us buying and because of this we have become needy. We need a TV, we need to be connected, we need a scotch, we need an energy drink, we need something sugary, we need a Gucci top, etc. But the truth is we won’t die if we don’t have any of these things.

You don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining

In a previous article I argued that you don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining. I still stand by this but I now think that a period of abstaining can help in more ways.

If you still go to pubs and parties and get the chance to ‘practice’ saying no. This practice is important, especially if you don't want to give up on publife and parties.

Accept that non-alcoholic beer etc, is an acceptable alternative. It will give you more choice. Also you can discover what it’s like to drink ‘beer’ and still be you (i.e. sober). Perhaps you’ll also like it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Why Heavy Drinkers Drink - a look at motivation

Motivation can go two ways. There’s motivation not to drink and there’s motivation to drink. In heavy drinkers, the motivation to drink is usually strongest when they start to drink and then once the drink takes over - there’s no stopping – only sleep, lack of money and closing time can stop them.

This doesn’t mean that heavy drinkers don't have any motivation to drink less. In fact, heavy drinkers have some of the strongest feelings against drinking. Ask them when they have a hangover, when they’re sick from drink, when they feel crappy the next day, when they ruined a close relationship and you’ll find many of them against drinking. The only problem is that this motivation evaporates when drinking time comes round.

The Motivation to Drink Less.

In the graph, the short red lines represent times that you start drinking.  For heavy drinkers, it’s these points that their motivation to control or not to drink is at its lowest.

In a heavy drinker, the motivation to drink less varies quite a bit. Probably more so than someone who doesn’t drink because they regularly suffer the ill effects from drinking too much. Personally, I don’t know how many times I’ve said “Never again, I’m never going to drink again” when I’ve been suffering from a severe hangover.

From looking at the graph I could conclude that;

• Heavy drinkers already know that drinking is bad for them.
Motivation to drink less is inconsistent.
• Heavy drinkers must also think there are big benefits to drinking.

So why does the motivation to drink less go?

From high motivation to low motivation to control your drinking – what happens?

Numbers correspond to the graph

1 – severe hangover – feeling towards drinking – hate
2 – hangover subsides – it’s bearable.
3 – friend calls – he wants to go out drinking tomorrow night. You’re not enthusiastic but you agree. You think you’ll drink less.
4 – you see an advert on drinking – it reminds you why you drink
5 – you’re excited about meeting your friends, going out, the possibilities of what might happen. You don’t think about drinking directly but it’s an integral part of it.
6 – you start drinking. Your feelings towards drinking is positive.

Heavy drinkers drink for a reason. They have strong positive associations with drinking, otherwise they wouldn’t drink so much the next time.

What are those reasons?

Manliness, sex, fun, good times, more socialable, chance to meet the opposite sex, stress, relaxation, nerves, sophisticated, cultured, status, exciting, makes my life more interesting, social bonding, etc.

If you want to control or stop your drinking, it’s these positive associations you need to address.

For example;

Does drinking really make you more manly?
Are you more socialable when you drink?
Does drinking really make your life more interesting?
Are times really better if you drink?
Are you really more relaxed from drinking?

I’ll focus more on some of these individual points in the future.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Drinkers are Conformists

They like to think of themselves as free, rebels, living life how they want. They party hard and really believe they’re the wild ones, the ones who do things differently.

They break the social norms. They flash dicks if they’re men and tits if they’re girls.

But drinkers are Yes Men. Yes Women. Yes People.

What happens if you ask a drinker ‘do you want a drink?’ They’ll say YES. They always say yes. They say nothing but yes. They’re programmed to say yes. They’re YES people.

They conform. They conform to the group’s expectations of them. And with a group of drinkers, that expectation is to drink. To drink and get drunk, like you did last time. Everyone has a role, to drink, to drink together and get drunk together.

It doesn’t matter if you got sick from drink last week. You’ll be expected to drink like you always do tonight. Even if you’d like a soft drink, you won’t because you’re a conformist. You’re scared of what will happen to your image if you don’t live up to expectations. Someone offers you a drink, you’ll say YES and then you’re in the circle of ‘rounds’. The circle of ‘yes’. Hey, drinker, YOU ARE A CONFORMIST! You sacrifice what’s good for you for the misguided benefit of the pack.

Be angry with me, if you want. I’m only a half rebel at the moment. I want to be a full rebel. To be the man I know I an. But I’m still not a full rebel. I know because I was a conformist and occasionally I still am. I still say ‘Yes’ when I mean ‘No’. I still am susceptible to saying ‘Yes’ despite what’s good for me.

Drinkers – don’t fool yourselves! You’re not rebels! You’re yes people. Can you say no to a drink? Can you drink water in the pub? Can you be calm when you’re drinking non-alcoholic drinks in a bar?

You don’t have to be a conformist. You can be a rebel too. Put your interests first. Sometimes it takes guts to say ‘NO’.

Other Articles on Moderate Drinking

About the Moderate Drinker

How to be a moderate drinker

How many times have you been drunk in your life!

Why the British drink so much

Monday, 2 April 2012

Drink Awareness

What's this post about

Recording what you drink and how this is helpful. It will also introduce you to a very useful online tool.


Recording what you drink will give you insights not only about how much you drink but also when, with whom, where, how often, to what extend etc. It will help you understand the ‘structure’ of your drinking habit. This information is incredibly useful if you want to change your drinking habit.

Drink Awareness

You’re already aware that you drink too much. You’re probably already know where and who you drink with but when you start recording how much you drink, these facts become more salient, more real. You also become more aware that it’s a pattern. It has a rhythm. It has a structure. It’s a HABIT. This is important because once you can see the ‘structure’ of your habit, you can target weak points in that structure to change it for the better.

Video - How one or two changes can make a big difference to a structure.

Structural Weakness in Drinking Habit – some examples from my life.

• I drank mostly at home. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was a weak point in my drinking habit. It meant that I could try out changes without the added stress of peer pressure. There was my girlfriend but she was fine with me making those changes (maybe because she thought I would failure??).
• Stopping after one or two drinks was a skill I didn’t have. It was vital to becoming a moderate drinker.
• When I started drinking (not the first drink ever but the first drink in the evening), my default attitude towards drinking was positive. I associated it with being social, talkative, having fun, good personal stories, etc. I didn’t think/remember all the negative things about drinking like the hangovers, being out of control, puking up, bad personal stories, feeling drained the next day etc.

Recording the amount you drink.

I started with pen and paper. I recorded the actual drinks that I drank. I actually started when I began making changes to my drinking habit. This was still useful as it gave me vital information on where I was succeeding and where I was failing. I did very well at home but less well at parties and in the pub. Seeing the pattern of failure allowed me to consider the failures more objectively and make new adjustments, so that I coped better with those situations.


I now use Mydrinkaware. This has many advantages over pen and paper.

• It converts drinks into alcohol units. This helps you understand the different strengths of drinks more.
• Allows you to see the information visually.
• Allows you to see the amount you drink in different ways i.e. money, calories, exercise needed to burn off the drink. This is useful if your motivation involves money, weight loss etc.
• Doesn’t take much time.
• Lets you set up ‘favourite drinks’. Which makes recording quicker.
• It also has a lot of other features. I haven’t tried these out but they might appeal to you.

If you’re not recording your drinking habit, I strongly recommend that you start. Do it for a limited period. Perhaps 2 weeks. It will certainly let you see your drinking in a different way.

Mydrinkaware is a very useful tool for recording your drinking. It’s fun and simple. It also converts your ‘drink record’ into many different graphs, in a way that pen and paper can’t do.

Become drink aware. Become a moderate drinker! Leave your hangovers behind!

Other posts that might be helpful for you

How to become a moderate drinker

Alcohol - Scary Yourself with Numbers

Triggers - Making changes that work