Let’s get real with one another, shall we?
Very few people that love to drink alcohol want to stop completely. If you are like most people, this means you. What you really want is to learn how to moderate your consumption.
Maybe you are at the point of recognizing your overindulgence at times. Have you said quietly to yourself that you should cut back? Alternatively, you promised you would only have a few glasses but drank more than you intended? Or maybe you possibly thought that switching from wine to vodka/club would help?
Regardless, you’ve made up your mind. You are going to moderate moving forward.
However, can you do this successfully? Is moderating your drinking possible?
Even with the right intention, this desire may or may not be obtainable. It is imperative to consider multiple factors while becoming super clear on the reasons why you drink in the first place.
Changing patterns along with your environment can aid in the success of moderation, yes, but without implementing new habits that are rewarding, you may not be successful long-term.
The victory is working on your mindset with a deeper understanding of how your brain functions.
The duration and severity of your drinking play a large part in the equation. This may include any negative episodes that may have happened in your life.
The desire to moderate…
There has been some evidence that if you are an individual that believes your drinking is a habit rather than a disease, you may have a higher chance of being successful in moderating your drinking. There is a fine line here, not a green light.
So often, our desire to cut back is due to the consequences that have happened because of our drinking. This doesn’t always mean a “rock bottom.” It could be running late for work every day, being sluggish, having a hangover, drunk texting, or social media posting, etc. It could also mean a strained relationship with a loved one or driving while intoxicated. (There is no safe amount of alcohol for anyone that gets behind the wheel. Period.)
Whatever the reason is you want to try to moderate your drinking, it is not a black or white answer. For some people, the answer is yes. For the majority of excessive drinkers, most likely not.
Where should I begin?
Wanting to try is an excellent first step. Some apps can track the number of drinks you consume. I highly recommend a journal for additional record keeping. You can do this on your phone or with a notebook. Writing it down on paper is highly recommended. Seeing your handwriting gives you better accountability.
To begin, here are steps to try:
- Tracking your consumption. It is, to be honest, and know what a standard drink is – 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer (8 oz for malt liquor) and 1.5 oz of spirits (hard liquor). For context, a standard bottle of wine holds approximately 5 glasses. Risky drinking is more than 3 for women, 4 for men in one day OR more than 8 per week for women, 14 for men.
- Being mindful of your mood. How do you feel when you drink? Sad, angry, normal, happy, stressed, frustrated, bored, etc?
- Where are you? This is important to recognize your patterns, habits, and triggers. Are you at a bar, at home, a party?
- Who are you with at the time? A friend, coworker, client, spouse, alone? It’s important to identify your patterns.
- What happened before and after your drinking? This is crucial as it will show you the circumstances leading up to alcohol and any issues following drinking. Examples would be a stressful day, stuck in traffic, missed a meeting, went to bed late, woke up in the middle of the night, felt terrible the next day, said something you shouldn’t have said, etc.
When you identify the patterns surrounding your drinking, it’s a game-changer.
There is NO one-way approach. You are unique, and not everyone drinks the same. Take time to assess this carefully.
Substitution can be beneficial. Consider trying non-alcoholic beverages such as tonic with lime, N.A. beer, cranberry & club soda, sparkling juices, and well-crafted spirit-free cocktails. Choosing an alternative such as these can help you fill the desire while feeling included when in social settings.
If you are considering moderation, it is a great place to begin. Being mindful of your drinking is the key to success. If you would like to have someone walk alongside you, consider working with a coach that specializes in gray area drinking and/or addictions.
Take caution and seek medical advice if you find yourself treading dangerous waters. Of course, there are also 12-step programs, online assistance, and other resources available to you as well.
Caution: For those with alcohol-related problems in the past that have successfully stopped drinking should not test the waters by “trying to moderate.” This inevitably fails. Family history, medical history, and mental illnesses need to be taken into consideration as well. For your individual needs, it is advised to seek your physician’s advice.