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I drank 100 units a week and it was ruining my health – but I learnt to moderate and here’s how you can too

I LOVE booze. And I’ve learned to love it more by drinking less of it. 

I used to drink between 50 and 100 units a week. These days I’m down to something between ten and 30.

Moderation is undoubtedly hard, but I am living proof it is possible

I wasn’t waking up in shop ­doorways, wetting the bed, getting into fights or drinking Pernod in the morning.

But I was adversely affecting my health, and I needed to make a change. 

It is widely held that the only realistic option available to heavy drinkers is to give up completely.

There are certainly some problem drinkers for whom the only answer is to stop.

But I believe there are many more who do not seek help for their ­drinking precisely because they are frightened of being told that ­abstinence is their only option. 

This is a tragedy because, quite unable to countenance the prospect of life without alcohol, they just continue drinking as they were.

This means their consumption of alcohol won’t be addressed, and instead they’ll sink deeper into problem-drinking ­territory.

Missing out

This in turn leads to a level of dependence that means abstinence, in the end, really could be the only answer. 



Moderation is undoubtedly hard, but I am living proof it is possible.

Furthermore, I’ve managed to do it without missing out on alcohol’s benefits.

I can honestly say I now get greater enjoyment out of my drinking than when I was drinking more. Less has turned out to be more.

In my new book, I share my easy steps on how to cut down without cutting out.

And below is my advice for becoming a good drinker.

  • The Good Drinker, How I Learned To Love Drinking Less, by Adrian Chiles, is out now.
The Good Drinker, How I Learned to Love Drinking Less is out now – here are five top tips to cut down

MY THREE-MILE LINE OF DRINKS

DRINKING has been the focus of my social life since my mid-teens.

If all the drinks I’ve put away in my life were laid out in a line, it would stretch for about three miles.

But how many of those did I really enjoy, want or need?

If I walk along my three-mile line of drinks I’m appalled to realise that by the one-mile mark I’m seeing drinks I could have done without — drinks I could have not drunk without diminishing my enjoyment of anything.

Let’s put a figure on my proportion of “essential” drinking.

I’ve got it at 30 per cent. So, 70 per cent of what I’ve glugged has been for nothing. Two miles of drinks for nothing. What an idiot.

Not only have I gained nothing by squirting that lot through my system, I have to consider the downsides — the money, the calories and the detrimental effect on my physical and mental health

I resolved to find a way of ­living my drinking life in the beautiful 30 per cent of the drinks I want and leaving the pointless 70 per cent behind.

I always want to be able to take a quiet early evening pint or two with a friend; share a bottle of wine over dinner somewhere; and, yes, occasionally drink too much at a wedding, say something inappropriate to a relative of the bride, and dance with wild incompetence.

This is the greatest motivation for cutting down.

I never want to get to the stage where doctors are telling me I mustn’t touch another drop. 

THE LEE MACK RULE OF TWO

WANT a single tip I’d recommend?

It’s this one from my friend, the comedian Lee Mack.  

Lee’s parents were publicans. Both died in their fifties as a result of their alcohol intake.

His brother also had serious alcohol issues.

Lee decided to cut down on his drinking a lot, but then decided to stop all together as he was persuaded that the whole thing was, essentially, a con.

Interestingly, it wasn’t complete abstinence that led Lee to his conclusions, it was his early attempts at moderation.

This is what he said: “When I first thought about cutting down or stopping boozing, I made a deal with myself that I would start every night with two drinks that were ice-cold and no-alcohol, usually zero- alcohol lager.

“After them I could have whatever alcoholic drinks I liked, with no limit.

“I found that by the time I’d finished those two drinks, I was just not as interested in booze as I was at the start of the evening.

“Why would I be when, without it, I was still relaxed, refreshed and having a laugh?

“Also, two pints of any ­liquid is enough. It’s only the addictive element that makes you want more.”

It’s worked so well for me that I’ve given it a name — the Lee Mack Rule Of Two. The expression is To Do A Mack.

I hope that the words, “Oh, an alcohol-free please — I’m Doing A Mack” will be heard in pubs across the UK.

COUNT THE BLOODY THINGS

IF there’s one reason I’ve managed to cut down on my drinking, it is because I know how much I’m drinking. I count, and keep a record of what I’ve drunk.

It is boring but if you want to drink less, you must do it.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • A unit of alcohol is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol: a single 25ml shot of spirits or a very small glass of wine. 
  • A pint of beer tends to be a bit more than two units.

There are apps to help you keep track of your units. My favourite is Drink Less, as it is simple to use.

There are patchy areas in my data and this is when I’ve slipped into drinking too much and stopped keeping track.

This is a warning signal. It doesn’t mean I’ve failed — it means I’ve slipped up and I resolve to tidy things up. 

But I couldn’t wrest back control like this if I hadn’t been keeping tabs on my intake in the first place.

ASK WHY YOU ARE HAVING THAT DRINK

I’VE had no trouble at all remembering the good times I’ve had while drinking.

And the few really bad episodes, featuring vomiting and assorted blunders, do stick in the mind because they are shocking.

But more shocking is the revelation that most of the drinking I’ve done is entirely forgettable.  

A professional gambler once told me: “Being a successful gambler is less about the bets you make than the bets you don’t make.

“Keeping your money in your pocket is the hardest thing to do, when you’re thinking you might as well.”

The same applies to drinking — being a good drinker is about the alcohol you choose not to drink. 

“Might as well” was a good-enough reason for me to have a drink.

Now I ask myself if I want this drink, if I need it and, importantly, if I’ll enjoy it. If two of those three apply, I’ll have it.

If it’s a case of “might as well”, I won’t. 

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