Moderating your drinking

As public awareness of alcohol problems increases, more people with less severe problems are asking for professional help. The usual advice of stopping drinking altogether isn't always appropriate or realistic for this group.

Let's start by saying that the following people should definitely be advised to stop drinking completely:

  • Anyone scoring as alcohol dependent (see here)
  • Anybody with health problems that are caused by alcohol
  • Anybody with health problems that are sensitive to alcohol
  • Anyone who has previously failed to control their drinking after a number of attempts

Secondly, I'd always recommend a 'firebreak' - a period of not drinking before you start again. This will give your body and mind a break, and prove to yourself that you're not dependent. I'd suggest somewhere between 3 to 6 months. Remember that even very moderate drinkers can suffer from insomnia and agitation when they first stop: but this soon settles down.

Once you return to drinking, you need to set yourself non-negotiable 'drinking rules'. Do a deal with yourself that if you break them then it's a signal that you can't control your drinking, and that therefore you'll have to stop completely.

Here are my suggested Absolute Rules:

  • No more than 3 units per day
  • No more than 2 drinking days per week
  • No drinking alone
  • No drinking before 6pm

You might want to set more rules for yourself based on your own circumstances.