I LOVE booze. And Iâve learned to love it more by drinking less of it.
I used to drink between 50 and 100 units a week. These days Iâm down to something between ten and 30.
I wasnât waking up in shop Âdoorways, 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 Âdrinking precisely because they are frightened of being told that Âabstinence 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 wonât be addressed, and instead theyâll sink deeper into problem-drinking Âterritory.
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, Iâve managed to do it without missing out on alcoholâs 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.
MY THREE-MILE LINE OF DRINKS
DRINKING has been the focus of my social life since my mid-teens.
If all the drinks Iâve 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 Iâm appalled to realise that by the one-mile mark Iâm seeing drinks I could have done without â drinks I could have not drunk without diminishing my enjoyment of anything.
Letâs put a figure on my proportion of âessentialâ drinking.
Iâve got it at 30 per cent. So, 70 per cent of what Iâve 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 â the money, the calories and the detrimental effect on my physical and mental health.
I resolved to find a way of Âliving 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 mustnât touch another drop.
THE LEE MACK RULE OF TWO
WANT a single tip Iâd recommend?
Itâs this one from my friend, the comedian Lee Mack.
Leeâs 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 wasnât complete abstinence that led Lee to his conclusions, it was his early attempts at moderation.
This is what he said: âWhen 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.
âAfter them I could have whatever alcoholic drinks I liked, with no limit.
âI found that by the time Iâd finished those two drinks, I was just not as interested in booze as I was at the start of the evening.
âWhy would I be when, without it, I was still relaxed, refreshed and having a laugh?
âAlso, two pints of any Âliquid is enough. Itâs only the addictive element that makes you want more.â
Itâs worked so well for me that Iâve given it a name â the Lee Mack Rule Of Two. The expression is To Do A Mack.
I hope that the words, âOh, an alcohol-free please â Iâm Doing A Mackâ will be heard in pubs across the UK.
COUNT THE BLOODY THINGS
IF thereâs one reason Iâve managed to cut down on my drinking, it is because I know how much Iâm drinking. I count, and keep a record of what Iâve drunk.
It is boring but if you want to drink less, you must do it.
Hereâs 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 Iâve slipped into drinking too much and stopped keeping track.
This is a warning signal. It doesnât mean Iâve failed â it means Iâve slipped up and I resolve to tidy things up.
But I couldnât wrest back control like this if I hadnât been keeping tabs on my intake in the first place.
ASK WHY YOU ARE HAVING THAT DRINK
IâVE had no trouble at all remembering the good times Iâve 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 Iâve done is entirely forgettable.
A professional gambler once told me: âBeing a successful gambler is less about the bets you make than the bets you donât make.
âKeeping your money in your pocket is the hardest thing to do, when youâre thinking you might as well.â
The same applies to drinking â being a good drinker is about the alcohol you choose not to drink.
âMight as wellâ 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 Iâll enjoy it. If two of those three apply, Iâll have it.
If itâs a case of âmight as wellâ, I wonât.
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