Monday, 28 May 2012

Learn at Home – The Art of 'Stopping' after one glass

Why doesn’t good advice work more often?  What’s the human trait that gets in the way of habit change?  And what’s a simple way of addressing this trait?

The home is the ideal testing ground for changing habits because you have control over the environment.   When you change the environment, behaviour changes can become much easier.

A few years ago

I’d wanted to moderate my drinking for a long time but I didn’t find a way of doing it. I came across a key bit of advice for people who want to moderate their drinking;

“Think before you drink.  Decide how you’re going to drink before you start and when you’ll stop.” 

Whilst this is good advice, it does overlook the ‘how’ and a condition many of us suffer from.   The classic image of someone trying to change a habit (someone on a diet, stopping smoking or cutting down on the drink) is someone struggling with ‘carvings’.  They fight against themselves, sometimes winning and sometimes losing.  I hardly ever got to this stage because I simply forgot to ‘think before I drink’.

Forgetting was my main problem with changing this habit.  But why did I forget? 

Well, I think, it’s partly because we have a rush of thoughts that are pro-drinking before we start drinking.  If we’re going to meet friends, we’re probably thinking many things like; how are my friends? What stories can I tell them about me? What news do I know that they don’t?  How can I make this night fun? etc.  (Many of these thoughts might be pro-drinking, if we have beliefs such as ‘I’m more social when I drink’, ‘drink makes things more fun’, ‘I talk more when I drink’ etc.)

We also lead busy lives.  Our lives are full of information, which complete for our attention and keep us preoccupied.  There could be issues at work, with the family, we might be busy with our social networks and the environment is getting filled with information too (ads especially).   With all this information going on, it’s not surprising that we can’t remember to ‘think before we drink’.

Accept that we all ‘forget’ because it can be addressed.  This is especially easy in the home.

A trigger gets you to automatically do something.  In drinking, a classic trigger is when we finish a glass of beer/wine/whiskey.  What do we do?  We fill it up again.  And if we don’t fill it up, people will ask you ‘Do you want a drink?’ or ‘Is everything ok?’   People are incredibly uncomfortable with empty glasses.

To address ‘forgetfulness’, the easiest way I found was to put a reminder by my wine bottle.  This put the message ‘think before you drink’ in the right place.  I also saw it at the right time. 


When I saw this,  my thoughts went like this.  I’m going to drink just one drink.  Why?  Because I won’t get a hangover tomorrow, I’ll feel fine and energetic, and I won’t be a drunken idiot tonight.  Drinking one is healthy.   It’s easy to do.

And it was.  Once I thought about ‘what’ and ‘why’ before I started drinking, the change was easy.  The trigger also meant I did it every time.  Consistency is what changes habits and triggers make you consistent.

I stopped using the triggers after about two months because I automatically ‘think before I drink’ now.

Friday, 18 May 2012

You drink at home – GREAT!

Whilst the health authorities, the government and experts lament about the number of people drinking ‘behind close doors’, if you’re a heavy drinker and want to modify your habit, there some great news!

It’s easier to modify at home than in a social environment!


Like the old saying, your home is your castle, you’re the one who wears the trousers there.  You are the King or the Queen, the President, the Dictator (or however you’d like to call yourself) of the environment there.  You control everything and that’s great news for modifying your drinking.

In Your Castle.  You control Policy!

·         You control what you buy. 

·         You control what and how much alcohol to store.

·         You can control the labelling on your alcohol.

·         You can have messages in your house.  Like in Animal Farm “Two legs bad, Four legs good”.  For example “one drink is good, any more is bad” or “More than two, Alcohol makes you feel like poo” (Anything that helps you remember how too much alcohol makes you feel).  “Alcohol steals my time”.  You already know in what you don’t like about ‘drinking’, use that knowledge!!!

·         You control how alcohol is displayed.  Perhaps, it could be locked up, so it’ll give you a couple of extra seconds to think about drinking.

·         If there’s a soft drink you like (doesn’t have to be sugary), make sure you have a supply of it.

So take control.  Modify your drinking.  It’s easier in the home.  You’re the Boss!

Next time – How I learned the skill of ‘stopping after one drink in my home’.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why do we drink? Part 2

Last time we watch 10 adverts for alcohol and tried to work out how they were selling alcohol to us. 

Knowing why we drink can help us questions those reasons.  Are they valid reasons?  Are we deluding ourselves?

Allen Carr is famous for helping people quit smoking and drinking.  His approach to quitting smoking focuses on debunking myths surrounding smoking – it’s physically addictive, it’s beneficial (i.e. helps against boredom, helps concentration, relaxes me etc). 

Here’s a video of him explaining his method for smokers to quit.
Alcohol Relaxes Me (My interpretation of Allen Carr)
Alcohol relaxes me. It’s true that when you start drinking, alcohol changes the way you feel.  That’s probably why after a hard day of work, people like this change in state that alcohol provides.   But if you carry on drinking, up to the time you go to bed, then alcohol disrupts your sleep.  You might fall asleep faster but alcohol disrupts the second half of your sleep, leaving you tired in the morning.  Not only that, alcohol’s a depressant, which basically means it slows down your brain activity.  That’s why after a heavy night, most people feel ‘washed out’ the next day. 
Alcohol and alternatives for relaxation.

Short term

Medium term

Long term
Changes how you feel
Changes how you feel
Changes how you feel
Cold Shower
Changes how you feel
Don’t know
Don’t know
Allen Carr's Fourth Point from the video
I've found this to be true.  I was surprised at first but when you see someone getting more and more drunk, it's really isn't a pretty sight.
Back to the adverts

Advert 1
It makes things different.  Something unexpected might happen.  You’ll be living but with a different tune – fun because it’s different.
This is held to be true by many drinkers because many drunken nights led to unexpected things happening.    But I also think a bit of alcohol blindness is happening here as well.  Too many people think of ‘drinking’ as the ‘night out’ but the effect of alcohol last much longer.  Unexpected things might happen on a night out but nothing much tends to happen the day after a night out.  The day can be lost because you’re recovering from the night.  So you lose the chance to do different and exciting things in the day because you’re too wasted.
This gets to be more true as you get older.  Perhaps, you don't even have the excitement of going out because you drink at home.  If you're in your 30s, 40s or 50s, you've probably done this over a 1,000 times before.  What's going to be different if you get drunk one more time?  The end result is likely to be the same, especially for the day after.  Many heavy drinkers write off the day after, simply because alcohol is determining their routine.  They deny themselves the chance to do something different the next day.
Advert 3
It’s a manly thing to do.  Men and beer relate.  When men and beer get together, you can relax and have a good time.   The pub is place for a man.  If you drink and you’re a man, you’re still a rebel – young at heart
Whilst men like to drink beer together, is it really a manly thing to do? 
·         Beer, especially helps towards man boobs.   Man boobs are the very antipathy of manliness, cause in part by alcohol increase oestrogen, a female hormone.   Alcohol in general is seen by many as empty calories, which can lead to putting on weight. 
·         Alcohol lowers the sexual performance of males.
·         A sports field, a garage and a kitchen are also places for men. 

Advert 4
Beer is better than a beautiful woman.  It taste really good too.
Both might seem like good ideas but ultimately they both lead to trouble.
Advert 7
Beer makes you dance and brings out your hidden talents.
Arguably for some people, they only dance then they’ve drunk some alcohol.    From my personal experience and of seeing friends the day after, alcohol is usually disastrous for developing ‘hidden talents’.   It’s a huge time killer.  After big nights, it usually leaves you useless the next day.  This can be from tiredness and also from the ‘downer’ affect alcohol has on your nervous system, leaving you unmotivated and feel disengaged.  

What can we learn from Allen Carr?
·         Understanding and questioning why we drink will help us change our view of 'drinking'.
·         Many of the reasons why we drink are based on false beliefs. This is good in a way because we can question and address those beliefs.
·         It's easier to change your habit, if you believe it's easy.
·         Like smokers who need to smoke to relax, drinkers who need to drink to relax ( or socialize, or feel comfortable, or address boredomness) are putting themselves in a vicious circle.  It's a form of complusive behaviour.  If you put a heavy drinker next to a non-drinker/moderate drinker, who do you think is more relaxed?  And if you take away the drink - would their behaviour change?
·         And I'm sure a lot more.
Allen Carr also has a book that helps you quit drinking, even though its called 'Allen Carr's Easy Way to Control Alcohol'.  From the reviews on Amazon, it seems very anti-drinking and a lot of reviewers who had read the book, ended up quitting alcohol.
Remember, you can change your drinking habit.  You can quit if you want or you can modify it. It's your choice.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Why do we drink? Let’s learn from the Advertisers

Understanding why we drink is an essential key to changing the way you drink.  Many of the ‘whys’ are based on myths about alcohols;  Alcohol relaxes me, alcohol makes me more social, the more I drink the better I feel, etc.   People like Allen Carr believe that tackling the ‘drivers’ of drinking removes the desires to drink.  Allen Carr basically turns reasons to ‘drink/smoke’ into reasons not to.  
Why learn from the Advertisers

Because they’re expert at influencing behaviour and using ‘positive’ association with the product they’re pushing.
Sorry, I'm having terrible embedding this video, so there's just a link.
These are my thoughts, feel free to adds yours too.
Advert 1

It makes things different.  Something unexpected might happen.  You’ll be living but with a different tune – fun because it’s different.

Advert 2

Beer tastes great and it’s quenches a thirst.  It’s related to sex, the tongue and the couple snogging. It’s related to the night and excitement.  The swimming with the ice – it changes your state and refreshes you.

Advert 3

It’s a manly thing to do.  Men and beer relate.  When men and beer get together, you can relax and have a good time.   The pub is a place for a man.  If you drink and you’re a man, you’re still a rebel – young at heart.  You might be married but if you're a real man, you still drink beers with the boys.

Advert 4

Beer is better than a beautiful woman.  It taste really good too.

Advert 5

Something magical happens when you drink.  You become very creative and a carnival atmosphere prevails.  Drinking beings the community together.  Everyone is happy when they drink.  It’s ok to hijack a beer lorry, if you’re hijacking it for the community use. 

Advert 6

Drink beer if you’re a man.   (nice play on the ‘politics of rounds’).

Advert 7

Beer makes you dance and brings out your hidden talents.

Advert 8

Beer solves the biggest of problems, even drought.

Advert 9

Australia is great because of Bundaberg Rum.  The UK sucks and because we all like our alcohol, we all want to move to Australia for Bundaberg Rum. 

Advert 10

Beer is epic!  It’s classical and makes us do great things.

I'll follow this up with a video of Allen Carr talking about his method for giving up smoking.  It's equally applicable to cutting down or getting up drinking.   And attempt to tackle some of the reasons these ads give us that 'drinking' is 'great'.
Any ideas about why we drink and thoughts on the adverts, please add a comment.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Why Don't More Heavy Drinkers Moderate?

Who’s this for;

Heavy drinkers who want to cut down on their drinking but so far haven’t found a way.

Moderation would be easier if we did the right things.

If you want to moderate, do what moderate drinkers do.  They drink in a way that’s different to heavy drinkers.  Learn some of the skills that moderate drinkers have and your drinking will become more moderate. 

Unfortunately, this is not what a lot of heavy drinkers do.

Why don’t more heavy drinkers moderate?

You wake up with a steaming hangover and end up doing nothing the whole day.  You feel like shit, not only because you’re hung-over but also because you’ve wasted another Sunday.  You really want to cut down.  So you stop drinking for a week. 

End result.  You feel much better but when you start drinking again you’re drinking like you always have.  And then you forget about moderation until the next time you drink way too much.

Drinkers who want to moderate confuse ‘abstinence’ with ‘moderation’.  Abstinence and moderation are two different things.  They are two different skills.  Abstinence is not drinking.  Moderation is drinking small amounts which are not harmful to the body.


If your goal is to moderate your drinking then abstinence at best can provide you with some breathing space.  It’ll detoxify your body and you’ll feel healthier.  But abstinence by itself is unlikely tomoderate how you drink. 

You moderate by learning the skills that moderate drinkers have.  These are the skills that will help you cut down.  They work because they give you a new way of drinking.

What are these skills?

·         Learn to stop after one drink.  (I recommend one at first because it’s simple and the effects of the alcohol are light). 

·         Drink water or a soft drink with alcohol.

·         Learn to say to no to alcohol.

·         Understand why you want to drink – then question this.  Most of the reasons we used for drinking are based on myths or misunderstandings about alcohol.

·         Increase the gap between your first drink and your second drink.  Perhaps use a timer or alternate on the drinks i.e. soft drink than alcoholic drink etc.

·         Increase the gaps between every drink you have.

·         Think long and hard about the pain and trouble alcohol has brought you.  You already know that too much alcohol is bad for you.  Use this knowledge.

·         If you go out, start off with a soft drink.

·         Opt out of the round system.

There are probably more as well but if you learn two or three of the above, I’ll guarantee that the way you drink will change and you’ll be drinking less on more occasions.
So if you want to  moderate your drinking, think like a moderate drinker, do like a moderate drinker and the end result, you'll drink more like a moderate drinker.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

How to moderate your drinking – Your ideas

Who’s this for;

People who want to cut down on their drinking but haven’t been able to achieve this yet.

First thing first.

If you want to change something, it’s easier if you understand where you are now. Recording the drinks you drink is a good place to start – Review of Mydrinkaware

Also ask yourself the following questions;

How many times have I got drunk in my life?
Who do I drink with?
What do I drink?
Is the same throughout the night?
Do I change drinks?
Do I always drink the same amount?  If not, when do I drink more; when do I drink less;
When do I start drinking?
Do I drink more in the home or outside?
Where do I drink most?
What do I do when I finish a drink?
What do I feel before I drink?
Why do I drink?

This is visual representation of how I used to drink;

This is how I used to drink some nights. Beer after beer after beer. What can you do to moderate this kind of drinking?

How about this pictures;

Again beer after beer. In this pictures, there are times showing the time between emptying a beer and getting a new one.

Again the question is: What can you do to moderate this kind of drinking? There are many answers!

Also Read

Comprehensive guide to becoming a moderate drinker
Why become a moderate drinker?