I now feel well on my way with my moderation journey and I feel quietly optimistic about my prospects. I am clear in my mind that I do NOT want to give up alcohol which means that in order enjoy it without putting my health and self esteem at risk I need to start changing my habits and behaviour around alcohol. That is going to be a long term process as making changes to long term patterns of behaviour is always notoriously difficult.
What is also becoming clear to me is that the old dichotomy of alcoholic or abstainer is of little help to me and many others. There is a continuum of alcohol dependency and I see myself as quite different in my alcohol dependency to some of the people I have worked with and also to some of the sober bloggers out there. I completely accept that there are some drinkers who are at that end of the alcohol spectrum who have to go the abstainenance route. Equally there are those who have developed bad habits around alcohol and have alllowed a harmful dependency to develop but who are capable of changing those habits. My motivation to make moderation succeed is that I enjoy drinking alcohol; the change in consciousness, the mellow feelings, the camaraderie, the enjoyment and appreciation of fine beers, wines and spirits. I want to carry on enjoying these and to do so I need to change my habits.
I started this process by recording how much and when I drink. It has been an important step. I used to drink oblivious to how much I was drinking and developed bad habits of drinking quickly and with a crazy enthusiasm. Sometimes I was drinking for the wrong reasons. The relationship to alcohol for me and many others is complex. Key to succeeding with moderation will be adopting a vigilance with alcohol, specifically how much I drink and setting limits both in terms of units consumed in any one session and over the course of a week. I’m going to do this gradually and I am going to go easy on myself. The motivation is there so if I fail to meet targets it is because the process is one of gradual change in the right direction over time.
This week I have been very moderate in my drinking, having 4 alcohol free days Sunday to Wednesday. Yesterday I was intending not to drink but a surprise test sprang up. My friend turned up for a quick music rehearsal and very unusually he brought with him a third of a bottle of wine. I was also due to tutor a student later that day. My instinct was to say no thanks but sharing that third of a bottle would mean having one small glass of wine. This could be the test I needed. I hate drinking one glass of wine. My habit is to have one then immediately want a second. But then this is one of the habits I need to change. We drank the wine. It was gorgeous. The alcohol went straight to my brain and I felt that lovely subtle change in consciousness. I monitored myself. I tried to drink slowly. My friend knows my drinking pattern and said to me that he could tell I wanted another glass. It was easy to resist. I had a student coming round in a couple of hours and I never drink just before teaching. This small glass wouldn’t count. We went back inside and rehearsed. That was moderation in practice. One small glass and stop. It was different, felt slightly strange but this is the landscape within which I must now operate. A small unexpected test and I had passed. Later on after my teaching I had an alcohol free beer and recorded my first ever one and a half units of alcohol day, ever!
Tomorrow will be a proper test. A family BBQ at my ex wife’s house with my grown up sons, she with her new husband and me with my girlfriend, coming together to commemorate the 9th anniversary of my middle son’s death from cancer. It would normally have been an ocassion difficult on a number of fronts and I would probably drink excessively. I will drink tomorrow but I shall go with a plan. I will record drinks on my app as I drink them. I will alternate with soft drinks and I will drink slowly. I am fully aware that despite this plan I may just revert to old habits. I’m determined not to, and I am strangely looking forward to the challenge. It seems the right thing to do as well as showing respect for my son. When he was ill, I often didn’t cope well and on one ocassion turned up with a terrible hangover and was sick after a two day feeling sorry for myself bender in London.My son got angry with me and pointed out that he couldn’t do anything about his cancer whereas my “illness” was entirely self inflicted. He pointed out I had the power to make myself well which he did not have. It was humbling and I felt like a jerk. Nine years later I hope I can finally redeem myself.
Any change needs motivation and I think I have found mine.