“If you have only one life, you can’t altogether ignore the question: are you enjoying it?
Whenever the subject of my not drinking comes up with people I’ve not met before there are several standard responses that go something like this.
- Them:“Oh, yeah, I don’t drink that much either, only on weekends really “(as they inhale a bottle of red at the Monday parent’s evening)
Me – “OK”
- Them:“What? why? Followed swiftly by, I mean sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that, sure yeah, no worries…er I’m just going to the bathroom, lovely to meet you” Exit stage left.
Me – “OK”
- Them:“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you pregnant/driving/sick etc.? God, I can’t imagine not drinking, I mean I’ve thought about it you know, but, well, I love a drink, and you know, it’s just what you do …. isn’t it…? I mean I’m not a big drinker me, I just drink on special occasions or of an evening you know, after a hard day, it relaxes me etc
Me: “Er I’m just going to the bathroom, lovely to meet you” Exit stage left.
- Them: “Wow, how much were you drinking (that made you need to give up)”?
Me: “Too much for me” (see below)
And on the rare and delightful occasion.
- Them:“Good on you”.
Me: “Thank you”
In responses 1 to 4, I am certain the person is not 100% comfortable with how much they drink, (mainly because I used to use say the exact same thing when I met a non-drinker, except for 4 of course, I’m not a total idiot).
But for this post I’ll focus on point number four – the comparison request.
HOW MUCH WAS I DRINKING?
People want to know how much people drank who are now no longer drinking. We humans like reference points, we seek them out, so that we can use them as a benchmark. If they drink ‘less than’ they feel OK, and if it’s ‘more than’ they often lie to themselves. In my opinion and experience the question is entirely pointless.
- Because BOTH parties will very likely LIE (either to the person asking or to themselves)
- The amount means absolutely nothing to anyone but you, your physiology and your unique biochemistry.
It has been nearly two and a half years since I quit drinking and I’ve not once answered this question with a specific amount. Not because of shame but because my too much is different to everyone else’s on this planet.
I made the excuse for way too long that my drinking wasn’t bad enough to stop. So, when I quit alcohol, I didn’t want to feed into the narrative that there is a definitive line in the sand where one should stop. “Too much for me” was always my answer.
So, what if you’re curious? On the verge of questioning your drinking but you’re still not quite sure? Google is not your friend.
First up here’s the out-of-date (according to new guidelines*) top google result that came up.
“According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking is considered to be in the moderate or low-risk range for women at no more than three drinks in any one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week. (Thanks Google)
“And what dare say does a drink entail” asked no drinker ever?
It leaves a lot of wiggle room. For me back in the day, a drink was a 250ml glass of Sav Blanc (= 2.5 drinks) so happy days!
So, to get more specific, we need to dive further. I went to the Alcohol and drug foundation who tell us this;
‘To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day’
Hmm, still some wiggle room – I mean how do we define healthy, alive? And what is harm? A headache? (I’m being facetious here). But the fact is we will find what we want to find and, as a drinker, I would’ve read this and not been overly concerned.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to dig into the detail with a real-life case study. MOI!
Here I am, a healthy woman.
And here are standard drinks:
Thanks to a nifty and pull no punches questionnaire on the ADF website I added what I was drinking and how it affected me prior to my quitting.
It turns out I did have a problem. I was a High-Risk Drinker when I was drinking what I thought was an average and acceptable amount. I was, in my mind, drinking responsibly (like a healthy grown-up).
BUT the truth is 12 months before I gave up, I was drinking 30-40 standard drinks a week. That equates to.
7 glasses of wine (200ml) a week = 14 standard drinks
Two bottles of wine over the weekend = 15.4 standard drinks.
= 29.4 STANDARD DRINKS A WEEK
Some weekends this would at least double, so let’s say 35-45 standard drinks a week to make up for this and throw in another 5 for any denial I still cling to.
According to the National Health guidelines, I was drinking four times the amount I should be drinking to avoid the risk of all the horrific diseases and risks (referred to as harm) that alcohol causes.
And to find out that information (as in the definition of harm) I have to follow about four links till I got here where you will find a list of the potential harm you healthy folk are doing by drinking over the 10 standard drinks a week.
My case study is not unusual, in fact it is many of the people I know. I also know that scare tactics don’t work…. but I’m adding them here just FYI.
A standard drink is 10g of alcohol. Alcohol is a poison to the body and is a highly addictive substance. It is delivered in attractive packaging and masked with ‘sophisticated’ flavours and a shed load of advertising and messaging that tells us we need it to have fun, relax, make dinner, sleep etc BUT we must also drink it ‘responsibly’.
Taking shame off the table here if someone, anyone, drinks enough of it (for you), over a period they WILL become addicted to it. It’s a highly addictive substance ( did I mention that already)?
The lethal dose of alcohol is 5 to 8g/kg (3g/kg for children) – that is, for a 60kg person, 300g of alcohol can kill, which is equal to 30 standard drinks (about 1 litre of spirits or four bottles of wine) * – Basically what I was drinking a week for many years.
Two and a half years ago I was slowly, unwittingly shortening my life, all in the name of ‘fun’. ‘taste’ and ‘relaxation’. And that’s when I decided enough was enough.
I want to be fit, vital, with a zest for life. I want to be the mother of the groom(s) one day, and a grandma. There are so many amazing things I want to achieve in this life. I don’t want to lose a minute. I have not felt this fulfilled in years. And I attribute this in great part to removing alcohol from my life.
When I was a drinker, I was a liar and when I was a drinker my reference point for someone with a problem was the guy sleeping on cardboard on the street with a bottle of meths in a paper bag.
This is absolute BS.
The bottom line is if you’ve asked question number four and/or questioned yourself, then you most likely do have the most wonderful problem. I say this with absolute certainty.
If you have this problem and you do what it takes to address it, it can become a priceless gift. You have the opportunity to see if you like life, and yourself as a non-drinker, more than you do numbed and dumbed by alcohol! Most of us have been drinking since we were in our teens, so we don’t even know how that feels!
So, here’s the steps. If you’ve read this far, I believe you are someone with curiosity and intelligence. You likely know in your heart that you, or someone you love, is drinking too much.
There are now multiple ways you can seek help. From books like This Naked Mind by Annie Grace to online courses and group programs like Thrivalist and my own new coaching and programs here. In Project 90, where I also coach, we work with people at the top of their game, A TypeS who have excelled at what they do, only to dull all the shine of their achievements and the joy in their relationships with alcohol. Once they commit, they find out that quitting alcohol is the missing piece & the sky becomes the limit!
If you need more information or inspiration.
Visit my site TappedIn where books, courses and apps are all in a directory.
Listen to some of our Project 90 successes on the Alcohol-Free Lifetsyle podcast here
Or get in touch. I offer free 30-minute consults to steer you in the right direction.
You can book one here
You can never know how the story of your life will end. But it will. Your opportunity is now.
“If you have only one life, you can’t altogether ignore the question: are you (really, really, really) enjoying it?
Sebastian Faulks & moi