I started this blog 4 weeks ago as a way of reflecting on my attempt to moderate my consumption of alcohol. The first phase has been to:
- Admit that I am dependent on alcohol– I’ve done the questionnaires, I have looked at my drinking behaviour, there is no doubt- I have become dependent on alcohol in some situations. I think about alcohol, I plan around its use, I disguise my drinking and I often lose control over how much I do drink. My use of and dependency on alcohol has reached a point where action was necessary.
- Record my intake of alcohol. I needed to record exactly how much I drink and when I drink. I use an app provided free by Drinkaware that lets me record simply what I drink and shows me my consumption over time. over the last 2 months my average consumption is between 50-60 units of alcohol.
- Reflect honestly and openly about my relationship with alcohol by writing about it on this blog. It feels like the relationship is so complex and multi-layered that it will take time to truly unpick how my drinking evolved to the point I am at today. If I am to change the relationship by cutting back my consumption then I have to understand how and why my drinking behaviour became problematic.
- Read other people’s journey to moderation and/or sobriety. Looking at other people’s blogs and stories has really helped me understand my own situation better. Those stories have inspired and supported me. Everyone’s story and situation is unique but it is interesting how many similarities there are to my situation in many of the individual stories I have read. These accounts resonate and inform.
- Set a target of 3 alcohol free days per week. I know the attempt to moderate is going to be difficult and I am open to the idea that I may ultimately fail but this target of 3 days without alcohol every week is achievable and will help reduce my weekly consumption.
Four weeks in and I can see that it is going to be a tough journey of ups and downs, successes and failures. On the positive side I am maintaining this blog and therefore recording and reflecting on my journey warts and all. Secondly I am recording how much I drink on my Drinkaware app and recently I have managed to have three alcohol days a week. On the downside this last month has not been overly challenging in terms of “difficult” situations such as celebrations, meals out and other occasions where my drinking gets out of control and yet I have still had too many days where my drinking has been problematic. In particular there have been 3 or 4 occasions where I have been on my own and still drank to excess and felt guilty about this.
Yesterday was a good example of a bad day. On Friday i went to the concert I had planned to go to with my son. I spent the day in London, saw some sights and avoided having a drink. I then met up with my son who is in his 30`s. I knew that I would be drinking and my aim was to have about 4 pints and that would constitute a successful evening of pleasant, moderate drinking. We met about 6 with the concert starting at 7. Knowing there would be a support act we decided we would find somewhere to eat. Our first stop was a lovely pub in Kentish Town. I went for a weak beer. Wasn’t I being good? 2 pints of that and we went to another pub for something to eat. At this point I should have switched to a soft drink but my pattern of drinking has never included that and I also felt that pull of ,”It’s Friday night, out with my son, a buzzing atmosphere, have a beer and enjoy yourself.” So that is exactly what I did. 2 more pints, off to another pub. We arrived at the venue ready for the main act and 5 pints inside us. I was also well into my “drinking persona.” I get to the bar and I do not just order two pints of strong lager but insist we have chasers. By the end of the evening I have probably had around 8 pints and a couple of chasers so probably 18-20 units.
Yesterday, having managed to get back on the train without falling asleep and missing my stop, I wake up with a proper, old school hangover. I feel annoyed with myself at having failed miserably at one of my first moderation challenges. Worse is to come. A big reason for wanting to cut back is the effect heavy drinking has on my health and diet. A day of heavy drinking is bad enough but the next day is often worse. Yesterday was like that. I craved food. This always happens. Cheese on toast, crisps, biscuits. I pile crap into my body in a vain attempt to feel better. Then I have a drink to try and make myself normal. I try to distract myself by doing the garden. I reward myself with wine. I then stop for a while because I do not want to appear drunk before my girlfriend comes round. She arrives and I pour gin and tonics as though its my first drink of the day. I finish the day sipping wine. My attempt to get over the hangover has resulted in me drinking around 15 units of alcohol, eating huge amounts of food and feeling angry with myself.
It’s now 5 in the morning on the Sunday. These physical consequences; feeling hungover, not sleeping, sweaty, bloated are why I have to moderate. I do hear the voice that says,”just bloody stop drinking completely,” and that will be an option if I do not learn to moderate. July is a big test. I have a meal out on Tuesday, a wedding on Saturday, family reunion the following weekend and then a trip to Germany where I will stay with my lovely but beer loving cousin. I need more than a vague “I will try and cut down,” for these events. Friday showed me that that approach is useless. I need a definite, agreed plan for each ocassion. This coming Tuesday is a a meal with colleagues I trained with last year as part of my volunteer work with a charity. I have already organised a lift so that I can drink and last time we went out I pre-loaded at home. This time I will set myself a limit of how much I am going to drink; no more than 2 pints and 2 glasses of wine. That would still be a lot for some people but for me that would represent succcess.
In conclusion I think the past month has been good in that I see my problem more clearly than before and I do I accept that I do have a problem. Change is always difficult but it is possible. It will take time, but I will have to start showing a bit more resolve and planning ahead. I know I am trying to control my use of a powerful drug , a drug that usually ends up controlling the user, but I want to try and get that control back. I have to get that control back. If I fail, I know I will have to consider sobriety and that feels too big a challenge to contemplate at present.
Onwards and upwards.