I can’t remember exactly when I decided that I wanted to moderate my drinking but I do know that period in my life was one of the most painful.
I spent years trying all sorts of things to try to moderate wondering why it was hard and wanting to go back to being a ‘normal’ drinker.
After all, for so many years I had been what I considered a ‘normal’ drinker why couldn’t I return to that?
In my teens and early 20s I drank a lot but so did everyone else, so I didn’t question my drinking and I certainly didn’t consider moderation!
My life as a ‘normal’ drinker
In my mid-20s I started a family and moved to the suburbs, rarely drinking as waking up with a hangover to young children was not an experience I desired.
This was pre ‘Mummy Wine Culture’ days and, I’m sure if I’d have had my children a decade later, things may have been different.
So life moved on. A relationship breakdown, more freedom as my children got older, a stressful job and a new partner all led to drinking more regularly.
And it was a gradual – some may say insidious – increase in the way I drank.
Fast forward and at some point I started to worry that my tolerance levels had increased – I was drinking more than I used to, the side effects (hangovers, broken sleep, low moods) were getting worse and I was scared that I was heading into a dangerous relationship with alcohol.
Attempts to moderate
The truth was, when you start worrying that your relationship with drinking is getting a bit toxic, you’re probably already at that point.
So I started to moderate. I tried all sorts of things:
- I would only drink on the weekends (of course, if there was a social event on a weekday, if I’d had a particularly stressful day at work or was on holidays that rule didn’t apply)
- I would drink one glass of water for every glass of wine I had (I would do this for the first, possibly second drink then my glass of water would be forgotten until the next morning when I would thirstily drink the entire contents to help rehydrate me)
- I would only drink two glass of wine – maybe three (whenever I did this I felt that I was depriving myself and would either cave in and have another glass or make up for it next time)
- Take a month off drinking to prove that I didn’t have a problem (I could do these month-long breaks but I always felt that I was missing out and would be counting down until the end of the month)
I can’t believe I spent so much energy trying to moderate. The time I spent thinking about it – planning how I should moderate then berating myself for not being able to do so – was ridiculous.
I now know why it was so difficult and have outlined those reasons in my guide Four reasons why moderation is so difficult, but at the time it was a painful exercise.
“What is wrong with me? Why does everyone else have a handle on this?”
And that was the issue. I wasn’t necessarily drinking more than those around me. My partner, my friends, family members all drank at similar levels.
Sure, there were people who didn’t drink a lot and those who drank way more than me. I felt that I fell somewhere in the middle – so why was this drinking thing so difficult?
While I was going through this tug-of-war with myself I would often threaten myself:
“If you can’t learn to moderate, you are going to have to give up.”
It was a real threat and my biggest fear (well death and snakes may be my biggest fears, but it was up there!).
Giving up seemed like the last resort, a drastic measure and something that I resisted … for years.
So how did I finally get a handle on my drinking?
I finally took back control of my drinking by changing the way I approached the whole issue of moderation and giving up.
I started to look into my beliefs and thoughts around alcohol in a totally different way.
It was a process and it wasn’t easy but it took me from years of struggling with moderation to now having a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to drinking.
I now choose not to drink but, when working through this with my clients, I suggest that they take the concepts of moderation and not drinking off the table.
Instead, I suggest they look at it in terms of how they want their relationship with alcohol to be.
For me it was that I did not want to be worrying so much about the effects drinking was having on my life but I also didn’t want to feel like I was depriving myself.
It seemed these two wishes were at odds with each other but they really weren’t.
I not only got to that stage, but I also now help others to achieve a take-it-or-leave-it approach to drinking.