Like many of us, I have, for some time asked the question. Am I drinking too much? Is this a problem? Do I need this in my life?
Like many Australian men, my “rite of passage” was getting into pubs underage, getting “blind” and surviving the worst hangovers.
Although the dial has shifted on this in recent times, hangovers were a bragging point. As a result, binge drinking became a part of my social scene. Ev’s always in for a big night became the theme.
This continued, even after I was married, after I had children, and, as they grew. Although the regularity of my drinking decreased the extremes remained. For many people there is an extreme point which defines the need for a change. For me there were multiple, however, none of them were too extreme, some were a bit embarrassing, others not at all, but I certainly came to the point where I decided that my values and my binge drinking were at odds with each other.
I value being healthy. Throughout my life I played sports and competed at different levels, mostly for the enjoyment and the feeling of being fit and healthy.
More importantly, I value my family and I knew that the example I was setting alongside my inability to function as a husband and a father were also at odds with my behaviour.
Like many blokes in their 50’s I wasn’t bouncing back any more as well, in fact it was more of a “splat” that left me running on two cylinders the next day. So I took a week off here and there, and took a month off once or twice. After each period, I would then pick up a drink again, but also each time I did this I was a bit wiser and self-aware. If you’re waiting for the crash to happen, it doesn’t. This is a story about moderation and my experience of it.
I live in an environment which is quite unique, if I go to a party, my wife and I walk there. There is no “nah, I’m driving” happening. We have fairly regular dinners both at our home and at others, there is always wine and beer, there is a club up the road, we walk there. What this means is that the environment is very “forgiving” for someone who drinks too much. So when I cut back, I braced myself for inevitable pressure from others. I braced myself for wanting more and having to say no, not only to others but to myself. I read books on quitting with most painting fairly bleak pictures of the moderation approach.
For me, if I have too much coffee - I get anxious and ineffective, and so I moderate it. I now take the approach that alcohol is in the same boat.
I like to have a glass of wine with friends, but I know that if I have too many then I don’t get funnier, or smarter, I don’t become a better husband or father and I know that I will not look back tomorrow with fondness about my decision. So, I set some rules, the same way I do for regular exercise, coffee, chocolate and a range of other things in my life.
What I also find is that the peer pressure aspect is less than I anticipated.
I have had periods of abstinence and that has been respected, sure, there have been comments and a nudge here and there but I have a few lines that I rattle off and that tends to do the trick. My standard is….
“nah, it’s been knocking me around I’m off it for a bit.”
“I’m topping out at two tonight, that’ll do me”.
If people don’t respect that, well, that’s on them.
I know that moderation isn’t an option for many, and abstinence is seen as the only true approach. I respect, that for many, this is the case. But for those who want to simply cut back, or take a break, there is a way. My way is to take what I call a value driven approach. Essentially my actions are either helping me head towards these values or they aren’t. If they aren’t, I take corrective action, if that doesn’t work then I ask for help. This is my approach to alcohol. I have had many times where I have headed in the wrong direction.
These are the times I speak to people and use Daybreak. It works for me and perhaps it will for you as well.
Ev – from Hello Sunday Morning