Kate's Blog

8 Things Normal Drinkers Don’t Do

How often have you asked yourself, ‘Do I really need to stop drinking?’
Answering that question truthfully can be hard, especially when you desperately want the answer to be ‘no’.
When it comes to defining problem drinking, most of us think in stereotypes. We picture the down-and-out, the loser who’s drunk their life away. And then we think of ourselves, with our successful careers and nice homes and expensive wine. How could we have a problem?
For me, the fact that I didn’t drink every day was a big stumbling block. I was convinced that you could only have a ‘proper’ problem with booze if you were a nightly drinker. Or you drank in the morning. As I didn’t do either of those things I was ok … right?
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that problem drinking comes in all shapes and sizes. But in the boozy world we live in, working out what’s ‘normal’ and what’s not can be tricky.
Sometimes we just need a bit of a reality check. If you’re questioning your own drinking, or wondering if you need to stop, then check out this list of 8 things that ‘normal’ drinkers DON’T do:

1. Normal drinkers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol.

There’s the time you spend wrestling with yourself about whether you’ll drink or not; the time spent thinking about what you’ll drink, where and when. Afterwards there’s the guilt, the self-analysis and the promises to yourself. If booze is taking up a lot of brain space, that is a warning sign.

2. Normal drinkers can stop after a few drinks.

Once I’d started drinking, I never wanted to stop. It was like a switch had been flipped. I was always amazed by those take-it-or-leave-it drinkers who’d stop after a couple of drinks or – gasp – leave their glass half full.

3. Normal drinkers don’t create rules around their drinking.

Only drinking after a set time, only drinking at the weekend; not keeping alcohol at home, only buying it in small bottles, buying stuff you don’t really like; forcing yourself to have water in between drinks … these are all ways of trying to control your intake (and they never work for long!)

4. Normal drinkers don’t feel annoyed if their drinking plans are interrupted.

Ok, so maybe they feel mildly irritated, but it’s not a big deal. If you find yourself feeling resentful when you’re asked to drive or do something that requires you to stay sober, then pay attention to that.

5. Normal drinkers don’t worry about putting out the recycling bin.

You know what I mean on this one…

6. Normal drinkers don’t tend to visit websites like this.

The same goes for filling out online quizzes or typing the same questions into Google night after night. You only do that if you’re worried about your drinking. And you must be worried for a reason.

7. Normal drinkers prefer to drink socially.

Most people begin their drinking careers in a social context and for many people it stays that way – something they like to do in the company of others. When you start drinking alone, to experience the intoxicating effects of alcohol by yourself, you have to ask why that is.

8. Normal drinkers don’t suffer as a result of their drinking.

This is the big one. Take-it-or-leave-it drinkers might experience the odd hangover and moment of regret, but alcohol does not cause them problems on a day to day basis. If your relationships, health or work are suffering as a result of your drinking then that should make you stop and think.

I’d love to hear from you…

If you’ve quit already, what was it that made you stop and pay attention? What signs have I missed from this list? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Have a great week!

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


55 responses

  1. The only point I disagree on is the socially drinking. I’m an introvert and the hardest part for me was dealing sober with social situations, especially involving large groups of people. I find that a drink was such an important crutch I found myself relying on…

  2. I have asked myself this question more times than i care to share! I too used to have a “switch” that once i was out it was very hard for me to stop…I was having so much fun (or so i thought)! As i’ve gotten older i have found it easier to stop or limit myself to two drinks. The thing is…that alcohol…no matter the amount does not agree with my body, my mind or my spirit. It dulls all three and keeps life away and me in my safe comfort zone. I have finally come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work for me. Does that make me “an alcoholic” or not a “normal drinker”(whatever that is..i’m not even sure there is any such thing as “normal”)…I don’t think so!! All that makes me is someone who wants to live without alcohol. I want to live honestly and i don’t think i can do that and also drink alcohol. It holds me back and keeps me small..I don’t want to live small. I want to LIVE BIG! I just think if something inside you is leading you away from alcohol (for whatever reason) it is our best interests to listen and have courage!! It is scary to change, scary to go against the social norm, but I do think there is a lot of life on the other side of alcohol. I’ve decided to try courage.

    1. I like your comment and love the idea of choosing to live big! Very inspiring. I agree, there may not be such a thing as a ‘normal’ drinker (I hesitated over whether to use that word… and I am definitely going to write more about that another day)
      You could argue there is never anything normal about consuming a mind altering substance. But alas we live in a society where this behaviour is very normalised!

    2. This comment is wonderful and has summed up exactly how I feel. I was trying to articulate something similar but my body, mind and spirit are most definitely “dull” this morning. Thanks for saying it so well. I’ll try courage too…..

      1. Hey Annie,
        I hated Mondays like that! Good news is today is Tuesday and Monday is over. Time to say so long to living “dull”!! Good luck with everything.

    3. “‘Limit myself to 2 drinks?’ Why even have 1 drink then? What’s the purpose of just having 2? I might as well stay home.”
      Yea….that’s how I USED to think…back when I had a drinking problem…before I quit alcohol for good.

    4. This is similar to my experience of deciding that alcohol does not work for me. I decided also that I want to be honest and present in what remains of my good years. Enough time already wasted being wasted. I choose to really live instead of being dulled down and repressed by the negative impact of drinking.

    5. Wow, that is so spot on! I love the idea that being alcohol-free empowers us to live bigger, it’s such a positive take on it. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    6. Dear Christina! Thank you for your reply! I really do appreciate your perspective and feel stuck when I think of my drinking and adding the “alcoholic” label. It makes me feel small and I want to live a bigger more alive life. How I act, think, behave when I drink is no longer aligned with my values or the person I strive to be.

      1. Hey! Let me tell you i have bought every book there is on trying to understand the “alcoholic” definition and I still have never read anything that make perfect sense.You could ask 10 people “what is an alcoholic?” and get 10 completely different responses. In the end it just doesn’t matter. I have decided i am not going to even think about the label and just not drink! Label…shmabel…why do we all feel the need to label everything!! It sounds like a lot of us just want to live without alcohol and want to live fuller lives. I mean….GO US!! We just need to put the alcohol down and get going!! We can do it!! (I will say i sound really positive on this little note, but i promise i struggle everyday with staying up and believing this is the path that will give me peace…I do go to AA meetings and they always give me some relief and strength. Maybe just fake it till we make it??)Good luck Anne!! I think aligning our insides with our outsides is the first big step in being the people we want to be!

  3. Ha, I’m literally sitting here asking myself that exact question. I’m working from home today because I feel like crap after 3 (4?) instead of 1 glass of wine last night at a party. I don’t even know anymore whether it’s the malfunctioning “off” switch or if my body is just rebelling because let’s face it, even after 1 glass I don’t sleep well or feel all that great the next day. So although I don’t fit all the questions above, 1,2,3 6 and 8 get a thumbs up. I’m actually just really, really tired of thinking about it so much (#1). Thanks for this – I have my answer. Onward.

    1. This strikes a chord with me, the “thinking so much” about it…
      I didn’t realise just how exhausting it is. And also thought it was just me! Clearly not!

  4. After having spent my entire Sunday at a tailgate/football game and not drinking, I woke up feeling cranky and irritable and I was asking myself this very question. “Do I REALLY need to stop drinking all together?” Unfortunately, several things on your list of 8 resonated with me and bring me back to the same conclusion that I’m not a “normal drinker”.

    1. Kelley – FYI – when I stopped drinking I woke up cranky and irritable the 1st few days as well. I assumed (correctly) that this was my body’s way of getting rid of all the toxins and garbage that I was constantly putting into it. It took a good week of no alcohol to wake up feeling better…and by “better,” I mean feeling AMAZING!! Hang in there, it’s so worth it, I promise!

  5. I think this is an amazing blog and love this list. I had to google ‘becoming sober’ a month ago because I realised I wasn’t a normal drinker. I was beginning to sink a whole bottle of wine in the evening(s) midweek and I used it as a deflection tool for the mindnumbinglyboring task of being a mum to two kids that rarely sleep…. It brought life back to me, or so I thought, but really the hangovers were what did it for me. Getting worse and generally my middle was expanding and my health suffering. Going 100% sober wasn’t too difficult for me as that’s my personality I think, all or nothing… I read an article recently that says choosing less than 100% is more effort- I have been trying to regulate my drinking to no avail for a couple of years now (buying small bottles, downloading apps, counting units per week, ending up hiding empty bottles of wine etc) and nothing worked til I simultaneously came across your website on a day with a v bad hangover. I did manage to go sober during pregnancy and I don’t remember having an issue with alcohol pre-children (?!?!). Alcohol steals fun out of the next day I have heard said – but it can steal the life out of you generally & literally. I am determined to find my mojo at parties again, but I do get a bit bored past 11pm… Maybe without the mind altering drug they are a bit boring eh?!! Thanks for the non preachy, very relevant and accessible website and blog. Hugs to you all on this journey xxxx

  6. Oh and I bought a little silver charm to add to my necklace to remember why I am sober and I do love it – has helped me if I have ever wobbled xxx

  7. Perfect timing Kate. I had been thinking about this very issue. My cousin and his wife live on Block Island. They have been heavy drinkers and we used to laugh about the block island flu also known as hung over. We are visiting them in October and your timely reminder is welcomed

  8. 1,2,4,6 & 7 are all me…and confirmed what I really already knew…I am definitely not a ‘normal’ drinker. I have a very over active mind which the clearer it gets after a few days of not drinking I ‘have’ to tame down with alcohol and I find myself thinking I wish there was something else I could have that would relax my mind . I am already do yoga and meditation but sadly they don’t cut it the same as the wine! I get so frustrated with myself that I can’t just have 2 and stop…the bottle HAS to go. I too think I could be doing a lot more with my life ( and would be slimmer to be honest!) If I didn’t have this tie with alcohol.

  9. Great post! Sigh, I went 6 weeks sober and then reintroduced drinking to my life. Although my experiment worked in some ways (I am definitely NOT drinking as much or as frequently as I was before the 6 week break), I am still thinking about it too much (#1), and feel weird about it. Maybe that answers my question for me?!

  10. Great post! This was one thing that was a massive barrier to me giving up drinking. I could go for *weeks* without drinking, but it was always because I knew I would have that safety net of another big night out planned, another drinking session planned- it was honestly like my safety blanket and I was really content to wait because I always had another binge planned!
    And then I was obsessed with the idea of drinking, even when I wasn’t drinking every day, or even every week. I still loved it, it was like my hobby.
    Just seems sad now.
    I came to this conclusion when I did Kate’s course and I’ve kept it since. I wrote:
    “Often, I feel I am overreacting about my drinking. Friends and family think I am on the rare occasions I’ve mention my worries to them. And for every ‘bad’ drunken night, there’s a ‘good’ drunken night. There are plenty of times, even recently, where I can have one or two and then stop and go to bed fine. But I know that each drink I have makes me a drinker, and it doesn’t matter whether it takes three weeks or three months to experience a ‘bad’ drunk night, for me, that is now enough to stop me drinking altogether. My friends and family mostly see me drink one or two drinks at the most. But I know I can be absolutely wasted and get away with looking fine/sober. It’s the pain afterwards that no one knows about, and it’s that that I’m stopping for.”

  11. I have asked myself this question for many years. I have always struggled with my relationship with alcohol.
    I have been reading Kate’s blogs for quite a few months now, they have helped me so much, thank you Kate.
    Today I am celebrating my 100th day alcohol free .
    Feeling healthier and positive. I plan to stay this way.

  12. I really appreciate the ‘reality check’ list. I do think about alcohol alt, constantly seeking ways to justify my next drin. I became concerned that I was measuring the time between drinking in “hours”!! When I couldn’t cover days without drinking. I would congratulate/reward myself with a gin & tonic on Monday at 6pm because I hadn’t had a drink since 4pm on the Sunday !?! I welcome the honest advice/comments on this blog as I don’t generally get the chance to be open and honest about my drinking concerns/questions around family/friends. Thank you everyone.

  13. Before I quit drinking (167 days ago) I did every one of these things. I can’t believe I lived that way for as many years as I did. I just think of how much I missed or stumbled through… All the money wasted… And the relationships that suffered. When I couldn’t remember what I did or said to make my husband so upset with me (he still has never told me, I think out of love and respect for me, and because he knows how horrible I would feel), I just knew enough was enough. Turning 50 also made my decision more urgent. I want to feel and experience the rest of my life! My children, now 16 and 19, have also really supported me in quitting. I know they saw and heard too much over the years, but that they are so proud of me quitting now… I can’t let them down. I don’t know if it is any one thing that is making it stick this time, or a combination of all of them, but I feel great, and very fortunate to have the love and support of my family (still!) and the chance to live differently, to live BIG❤️

  14. Hi everyone, I have been months trying to convince myself that I didnt have a drink problem but when I started to physically hurt myself even ended up in hospital with concussion months ago that didnt even stop me, that was just a stupid fall in heals I convinced myself, I was plasetered. I wake up every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and possibly Monday with a hangover and the whole day and weekend is wasted after working all week. I think the first sign to me was that i was drinking two to three drinks while everyone else in my company was having one, so I would go up and order extra for myself until they were ready. I decided last Wednesday 14th of September to do something about it (after months of reading websites trying to convince myself that i didnt have a problem). I went to see my Doctor (most embarressing moment of my life)I told him everything from the falling, the verbal abuse, the drinking two bottles of wine and no one even noticing I had taken a drink, so I am now sober since last Wednesday (must seem sad to you all but i got over my first weekend without a drink and that is such an accomplishment for me). I am afraid of the future… seems sad but i am, dreading christmas, parties, weddings, meals out, weekends away, out annual holidays the whole lot and I really dont know how i’m going to get through them, I just hope i can stay sober,I am getting great support at home and from my family but I am very afraid of taking that first drink… I’m only 7 days sober everyone out there must think I’m mental. Anyway I agree with every point on your blog this week, that’s me down to a tee… D

    1. Denise, don’t feel that way! I had the hardest time the first 3 weeks! You should be very proud of your 7 days! I was drinking everyday and my first 7 days were arguably the hardest! It will get easier! Allow yourself some grace. What is the worst that can happen? You take a drink and have to start over. That’s ok! The point is you have 7 days that you have woken up and made a choice to live better! One day at a time. And try not to think down the road to holidays and parties. There is no party today. Just another day to choose to be sober. You got this!

      1. Thanks Bridget for the kind words,hopefully will make it through this weekend and all to follow, never thought it was going to be this hard, what started out as a bit of fun…

    2. Denise, Congratulations!!
      I had the same decision a couple of months ago. And my situation was very similar with yours. But the rewards are amazing, the energy, the long nights of sleep are priceless.
      But, yes there are the cravings. One day at a time and you will do it.

    3. I don’t think you’re mental at all. I am sitting here wishing I could have seven days under my belt. I admire your seven days. You inspire me

  15. This list is outstanding, right on the spot.
    Like number 7. All my friends and coworkers have no idea that I have a drinking problem. Once a psychiatrist said: people that have drinking problem are a different ‘jurisdiction’, meaning their decisions and judgements are different and they have to manage that differently.
    But life without alcohol is so more intense and full of energy.
    Thank you for your blog.

  16. I love your blog Kate. This particular list resonated with me, each item rang true. Thankfully, I am 51 days sober, and have so much more clarity it’s almost scary (in a good way). No more hangovers, no more self loathing… It’s very liberating to no longer have to plan my life around alcohol.

  17. I resonate with everyone so yes I have a drinking problem. I love the courage of everyone here. Looking forward to starting your course in a few weeks. I really want to stop drinking knowing how bad it is for us but there’s the wicked witch I’m going to miss in social gatherings, crazy!
    Why do we miss something that is so toxic & will never be any different?
    It will always make us feel like shite in the morning. I’ve never knowing hangovers to be full of joy, love, kindness etc., the power of the witch when we take our first drink kidding ourselves it will be different this time.
    These thoughts stay away until the morning when “why do I keep doing this” STOP. Today I going to start again with a fresh mindset. Wishing everyone the inner wisdom to move forward knowing the path we are on is the right one. How can it not be when it can only make our lives better xxx

  18. Thank you for all your wisdom. So want this sober life to start. I have been reading posts for month or so and have been drinking off and on. Thinking I had control it, guess not. Funny I am 58yrs old and never had issue til now.

  19. I’m soon to be 60 and want so badly to stop drinking. My obstacle is that my husband’s an alcoholic and has no intention of stopping. I’ve talked to him about doing this together, but he has no interest living alcohol free. I know I’m the only one responsible for me not drinking, but damn it would make it so much easier not to come home to someone drinking.

    1. Hi all. A lot about this blog really resonates with me. The whole “wine o clock” feeling and all of the points above. I know I’ve had a problem with drink for a long long time but being an Entertainer I’ve found it near impossible to stop. However lately I’m just getting tired of being guilty , hungover, low etc etc all the time. The combination of work and alcohol have been part of me and my life for over 30 years and I still love the work but I’m so tired of loosing so much time. Anyway enough ranting from me. Thank you for the blog and thank you all for contributing and giving me a place to go when I need a drinkers reality check.

  20. I agree with all of these. A couple more for me where that I’d started to manage the consequences of my drinking before I’d even started i.e putting my phone in flight mode before I’d start drinking so that I wouldn’t call people and cancelling plans for the next day when I’d decided to drink as I knew I had lost that element of control. I also stopped spending as much time with people that drank moderately and spent a lot more with people that binged as I felt people would judge me (they would I was a mess!)

  21. I am shaking as I write this, and I don’t mean having ‘the shakes’. I am shaking because I am 80 years old and scared to write. I don’t think there’s anyone else on this blog that is that old and still struggling with ‘quitting’. This time, I promised my grandchildren I would never drink again as long as I lived. Too much? I have been sober for five weeks (again – was sober once for nearly 3 years, six months) but always had that ‘just this one drink’. I need support.

    1. Sometimes I guess the struggle never ends for whatever reason. But that you are still in it and making your life matter is remarkable. Your life is important for you and for anyone in your life (fellow strugglers). Thank you for your insight.

  22. I quit 414 days ago. What finally made me quit? Well besides realizing nothing good ever came from my drinking… Ever. It was the local bar owner in my small town who instructed his bartenders to make sure I ate something no matter what time I came in. Not sure why, but it hit me hard. That was just 1 of the many reasons, and I’ve had no regrets in 414 days. Actually 1… why didn’t I do it sooner?

  23. Well puking into my bedroom garbage cans when my kids could’ve come in. Twice in a week Normal people don’t do that from drinking.. And I never used to drink beer, used to stay in fridge for husband for weeks if he was away. No I buy him 15 pack and he said I had drank nine. The other day, I’m sure I had 12-15. That was the puke night. Enough.

  24. This blog resinsates so well with my position – thank you Kate for caring enough to create this space – it gives me great hope.

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