How I Transformed From Heavy Drinking To Moderate Drinking
If you have read my other blog posts where I talked about changing your relationship with alcohol, you might have these questions:
- Is what this guy is saying relevant to my situation?
- What can I expect at the end if I start on this path?
I’m going to answer these questions by describing my path from drinking a lot to drinking much less.
My journey to a different relationship with alcohol started in September 2015. My lifestyle involved drinking about three strong craft beers every weeknight.
A typical weekend night involved at least 4-5 beers, and sometimes maybe 6-7. I VERY rarely skipped a night – in the previous 30 years, I probably hadn’t gone 30 nights without having at least one beer.
PHASE I – Changing My Drinking
The catalyst for me to change my drinking habits was the breakup of my marriage and my interest soon thereafter in getting back into the dating scene.
Over the next couple of months, I reduced my consumption by about a third. I was motivated by the desire to lose some weight and to maximize the effects of the new weight-training program I had undertaken. And I was feeling excited about my life in a new way and therefore wasn’t inclined to stay so numbed out.
Initially, I just reduced my nightly quantity, but then started also skipping a few nights per week.
This was quite difficult to start with – I had serious psychological (not physical) cravings, and I felt a little deprived. Dinner just wasn’t the same without that good beer.
Eventually, the lower quantity and skipping some nights each week became my new normal. My tolerance decreased significantly and a BAC of 0.08 (the legal limit for driving) felt like a big buzz. Before this, 0.08 felt like I was just getting started.
I was at this time happy with how much I was drinking. I was staying close to the recommended limit of 14 drinks per week for men. I skipped several nights a week and didn’t miss it too much on those evenings.
I had also adopted intermittent fasting as part of my lifestyle – no eating before noon. Back in the days, when I was drinking more heavily, this was unimaginable. My blood sugar was destabilized such that I needed breakfast, a mid-morning snack (usually almonds), lunch, and an afternoon snack.
It has been amazing to easily go 14 hours without eating and not get that miserable low-blood sugar feeling (hypoglycaemic).
PHASE II – Changing My Mind
After my life coach certification training, I decided to focus my practice on helping people drink less. I had seen in my life that there was tremendous value in moderating and that there was almost nothing being offered to help people moderate their drinking.
As I mentioned, I was happy with my drinking already, but I decided to apply the drinking-related coaching tools to my life to see what would happen.
I recently got married and moved overseas, and this new lifestyle is much more social than I had been used to. Despite this, my weekly drink quantity has dropped further.
More significantly, my attitude about alcohol has changed to the point that I feel complete freedom from alcohol. I was surprised at the improvement this brings.
Here are some highlights:
Often when I was only halfway through my first drink of the evening, I would start getting a craving for my second drink. I would start scheming on how to get it – did I have time, what would my girlfriend think, etc. I didn’t always act on this craving but it was not comfortable.
When I came to understand that this was a natural part of the dopamine-fuelled habit cycle, this pattern lost all of its power. Sometimes that craving still occurs, but I know what it is and I just laugh at it.
I started experimenting with not drinking when being around other drinkers. I used my coaching tools to manage the feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) and fear of not fitting in.
The result now is that I can spend time with people who are drinking heavily with none of that discomfort. I have absolutely no desire to go with the flow of drinking ‘too much’. I feel powerfully authentic in my ability to do what feels right for me, and I actually make much more powerful personal connections with people than I used to when I was all buzzed up.
I never drink to ‘take the edge off’. I assure you that I still have that edgy feeling, but I’m committed to being a person who is willing to feel any emotion, and I don’t want to hide from any part of my life with alcohol.
I now have a truly take-it-or-leave-it attitude about drinking. It’s a fun thing to have a drink with my wife or a friend. A fine cocktail or a good beer is enjoyable. That initial little buzz feels ok. And that’s it – it’s enjoyable and ok, no more, no less.
My ‘Phase I’ was done organically, with me figuring it out on my own. I had the benefit of an external shakeup to get me started, and my evolving life situation helped keep me motivated.
‘Phase II’ showed me the incredible power of what I teach. The fact that it made an already good situation better was amazing to me. And the challenges I faced in my earlier effort would have been so much easier with the systematic approach that I coach with.
The work I did to manage the social aspects of ‘being different’ in how I drink is a huge strategic by-product of my effort in ‘Phase II’.
There is a significant transformation in ‘just’ cutting back on the quantity you drink, especially if you’re able to do that on your own. The benefits that accrued to me were significant – a great new relationship, better physical health and fitness, and more free time and money.
But the potential exists to create an even more profound transformation in your life, in your relationship with alcohol, and with other areas of your life – personal relationships, emotional resilience, and your ability to master other challenges in areas such as exercise and diet, procrastination, and time management.