Kate's Blog

25 Ineffective Ways Of Controlling Your Alcohol Intake

For a long time, I was very keen on the idea of moderation.

I was drinking too much and feeling awful… but I didn’t want to stop completely. Sobriety was way too radical a step for someone like me, right?
I was one of those people who bought nice wine. I didn’t drink every day of the week. I held down a good job. I went running and drank smoothies and practised yoga. I was definitely not some rock bottom, down-and-out drinker.
But… when I did drink, things went a bit crazy. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I definitely seemed to be missing an off switch!
I was convinced I just needed to find some better strategies for cutting down.
So with the help of google, I devised some creative schemes to help me manage and control my alcohol intake.
I’d really hate for all that ‘research’ to go to waste, so please do let me share it with you…

(Consider this the opposite of a list of suggestions!)

  1. Buy low alcohol drinks
  2. Keep alcohol out of the house
  3. Don’t drink alone
  4. Wait until 6pm to start drinking
  5. Buy alcohol you don’t actually like the taste of
  6. Only drink with meals
  7. Only drink wine
  8. Only drink beer
  9. Only drink during happy hour
  10. Only drink at the weekend
  11. Only drink on alternate days
  12. Buy miniature bottles of wine
  13. Use smaller glasses
  14. If buying regular bottles, tip away some of it first
  15. Draw a line at the halfway mark on the bottle
  16. Add water or ice to your drinks
  17. Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic drink
  18. Take less cash out with you
  19. In pubs, buy all your own drinks and avoid rounds
  20. Drink only low calorie drinks – use weight loss as a motivator
  21. Book an early morning gym class as a deterrent
  22. Pace yourself: commit to only having one drink an hour
  23. Or set a timer and have one sip every 5 minutes
  24. Keep an alcohol units diary where you set goals and targets
  25. Take a week off every now and then to try and ‘reset’.


Here’s what I learnt…

When it comes to dealing with a mind-altering, addictive drug that zaps your willpower and changes the way you think, it’s really hard to stick to your plans, no matter what tricks you use.
The methods above would work every now and then, but never on a consistent basis. Plus, sticking to these self-imposed rules was really hard work. I’m nearly five years sober now and just looking back at this list makes me feel exhausted!
It’s the decision-making fatigue that gets you. You’re constantly having to exercise willpower, negotiate with yourself about when you’ll drink, what you’ll have, whether you’ll stick to the rules, break them, push the boundaries, etc etc… it’s a constant drain on your energy.

I wish I’d known back then…

That not drinking at all was actually so much easier. Honestly – it’s such a breeze by comparison! The problem with cutting down (rather than cutting out) is that it reinforces the belief that you cannot properly enjoy life without alcohol.
You carry on feeding that part of you that’s been duped into thinking you can’t be truly content unless you have a little bit of this liquid drug in your life. Putting a toxic, cancer-causing poison up on a pedestal like that is really not a good idea.
When you’re sober, you get to see booze for what it really is i.e. a load of crap that’s holding you back.

Tolerance will bite you on the bum

Here’s the real kicker. Even if you’re determined to play the moderation game – and you’re happy to put lots of willpower, effort and energy into controlling booze – tolerance WILL screw you over in the end.
No matter what your alcohol intake, there will eventually come a point where you need more booze in order to feel the same effects.

Ok, so what do I do now?

Pause and reflect
Be honest with yourself: how long have you been trying to cut down for? How have those attempts to control your drinking made you feel? As I discovered, there’s no real secret to moderation: it’s highly unlikely that there’s a magic trick out there you’ve missed.
Ask the right question
Too often we focus on whether our drinking is ‘bad enough’ for us to quit, when really, we should be asking, “Is this good enough for me to stay as I am?” In other words, are you willing to keep on putting up with all the downsides to drinking, because they’re not going to go away. I wrote about this here.
Take a break from booze
If you’re ready to try something new, take sobriety for a test drive. Give it 100% for a set period of time e.g. six weeks. Then you can see how you feel at the end – you might just be surprised how much you love it! For more help with this, check out my stop drinking course. I also talk more about taking a break here.

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. 


73 responses

    1. Congrats on 50 days. Me too.
      I’m enjoying it but the people around are not too happy with the non drinking me. Working I. Trying to be more social around them … but actually I’d must rather just skip one or two gatherings and stay home and sleep.
      Keep going Sharon

    2. My last drink was Jan 1. Felt so horrible after New Years said to myself. No more .. aside from not being the fun friend anymore I like the peace of mind I have day to day . Don’t have to negotiate with myself anymore. Getting up feeling healthy is wonderful ! I do wonder if and when I will cave in. But so far I don’t feel like I am missing anything so don’t feel the need to drink . ESP don’t miss the hangovers. .. days of misery are over. !

  1. I think it’s such a huge revelation and personal breakthrough when you don’t bargain with yourself anymore about drinking! It saves so much energy and brain space that was previously wasted trying to figure out how to control the amount you drink, or when to drink, or what to drink to lessen the negative impact. When you remove that variable, it frees you up to think about other things that are way more positive and less energy-depleting!

  2. I’ve tried so many of those, currently trying the: Album in my phone of inspirational pics/quotes, pics of my kids and embarrassing pics from not so good nights. Hoping that referencing this album will keep me in line. My husband and I own a nightclub and a corner bar and he doesn’t want me to quit because its part of our lifestyle. I’m still in the hopeful stage where I’m praying I can exercise restraint from going overboard. I have given up all drinking when at home or out without my husband. Starting small but still starting.

    1. Only you can decide whether you ingest a highly toxic, cancer causing drug – it’s not your husband’s choice! Seriously, it’s one of the most dangerous drugs out there (have you googled this stuff?) If you’re drinking just to keep him happy, I’d reconsider. Also, owning a bar and having a party lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to drink 🙂

    2. I’d like to echo Kate’s comment. I took her class and will be two years alcohol free in six weeks. I enjoy going out with my friends to a bar or nice restaurant, and I happily drink mocktails! And your husband wanting you to continue drinking appears to by, sadly, common for partners who want to keep you down in the “mud” with them. Check out the course, and good luck.

      1. I’m on day 4 of no wine, fags or joints. I’m pretty chuffed with myself. And I’m decorating my hallway today to keep my mind off these things

  3. I am still doing this exhaustive ridiculous bargaining with myself and alcohol however I have no off switch so really there is no bargaining I just need to quit I continue to struggle I want sobriety very badly

    1. I am so with you. I’ve been trying for a couple years now. Made a fool of myself at an event my husband threw for me (drank beforehand – it was a surprise) and then this weekend hand some friends over and didn’t drink for the first part but then started with ‘a’ glass of wine, which led to the bottle. I just want to let go of this.

      1. I’m like this I try and try to control my drinking but once I start I have to drink until I’m smashed. I went to rehab and gave up for 5 years. I convinced myself this time will be different but, it didn’t take long for alcohol to begin to control me again. I manage to go three nights from, Monday until Wednesday alcohol free. Thursday comes along and that’s the night we go out for a meal, and all day the two voices in my head begin to talk to me. One says, drink tonight the other voice says, don’t! I always give in though. I think I’m a hopeless case.

        1. I can totally related to those two voices. Once there’s a trigger (like coming to the end of my shift) there an argument going on in my head. In fact it probably starts that morning, or even the night before. It’s starts with the won’t drink winning and usually ends with the “what the hell I deserve this” succeeding. Annoyingly I know that when I walk out of work without the wine I feel great and so much happier next morning. I really don’t understand why I can’t just kick this toxic lover where it hurts.

        2. You sound very similar to me. I have three drink free nights and I start feeling good and think I can have a couple of glasses then bang. I’m smashed and sick for two days.

        3. Nobody is a hopeless case honey and you’ve already proved that for a whole 5 years… you’ve experienced the upside, slipped into the downside, now choose which one feels best and give yourself permission to feel that good again. Sending love x

    2. Kathy, I just finished Kate’s online program yesterday actually, and I HIGHLY recommend it! I’ve been sober for 50 days today, and am sooo thrilled ! I did all of those tricks when I WAS drinking, and none of them worked. I hope you jump on board.

      1. I’m hoping to do the course, the next one is April. Do you you thing it would help me?even though I know I’m an alcoholic.

  4. Sober since nov 1, 110 days. It gets easier as I go. Funny how engrained the actions were in my weekly rythem, but now I have a new rythem. A new way of life that gives me so much more, that I can pass on to my children or to be husband or to my friends. It took 20 years to get here. 20 years of hangovers, 20 years of guilt. 20 years of waking up feeling like a failure. Now I wake up and dont have to wait til 15.00 to feel human again. I am in my natural rythem and it feels great

  5. This is a wonderful blog!
    Im on day 30 AF, I look and feel so much better! I do miss the wine at times, especially Friday afternoons, to wind down for the week end, but Im hoping that this niggly feeling of “missing something” also dies out with time passing

  6. The words in your blog sum me up perfectly. I have tried to con myself for years that because I am healthy(ish) in all other respects and had a good job etc etc – my alcohol consumption was not a problem. More recently I have tried so many of the items on your list – none worked. I’m only sober since 1st Jan but feel so positive and it is so much easier that trying to moderate. I’ve read quite a few amazing books and joined an online community and feel so happy about being sober. It’s not all plain sailing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  7. Exhausting work! 27 months sober now, best thing I ever did was to quit completely, its changed my life and for the better 🙂

  8. I want to be AF but I’m scared of failure, stupid I’m sure but its my crutch it gets me through tough times. We have a daughter who’s in very I’ll health and drinking gets me through the night I know it’s an excuse but don’t know what to do next. U crave a glass or 5 of wine. My friends encourage me as I’m such fun (friends ah!)

    1. Hi Linda, I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. However, I think you might be falling for a bit of an illusion here – alcohol can’t help you cope or support you; it’s all smoke and mirrors and wishful thinking. I explain the stress myth in a lot more detail here. If you’d like some support to stop drinking (and actually feel good about it) then do take a look at my coaching programme. It’ll completely change your mindset.

  9. I have tried many of these plans. I’ve struggled with alcohol for over 30 years. I’m just don’t want to stop drinking completely. An thoughts on that? Anyone successful with reducing alcohol and able to continue drinking socially?

    1. When it comes to people who read blogs like mine… I haven’t heard of anyone who’s morphed into a successful (and happy) moderate drinker. You say you’ve been struggling with alcohol for 30 years Tonia – that’s an awfully long time to let a drug have control of your life and make you miserable. I think you’ve proved to yourself that alcohol isn’t working in your life; just imagine how good things could be without this poison holding you back! I’d recommend you follow the steps I’ve outlined above and take a proper break from booze. Have you done this with support, education and community? If not, don’t you owe it to yourself to see what that’s like? There’s a reason people rave about sobriety! If you’d like my support, do take a look at my next course: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  10. I go off drinking to manage it for 6 minths at a time and feelbit really is a habbit not an addiction but that feeling of missing out and everyone else drinks so why cant I creeps back it its easy to give up i have done it heaps of time …..but thats not giving up…yet.

  11. Great article! Anyone here who hasn’t done the Sober School course should really consider it. I have just completed it and my life has changed so much for the better, I can’t recommend it enough. I used alcohol to cope with life’s ups and downs but seriously all it does is pile on more misery and make things worse.

  12. Thank you for this. It re-affirms for me that the way I was living was insane. I really appreciate this ESPECIALLY because I know that as time goes on, I will possibly do those mental gymnastics of telling myself that things “weren’t really that bad” when in fact, they were. I don’t want to go back to the madness. I don’t want to drink “just enough” that I have a buzz but think I can safely drive to my daughter’s high school. That life was not ok. I am into my fourth month and I appreciate your blog.

  13. I can soooo relate to everything you said! I did dry January thinking I would try “moderation” after. But I felt so good at the end of January that I don’t want to drink again! I’m currently on day 50. My life is better in every single way! Having 1 drink (like that would happen, it would be more like 10!) is not worth going back through the misery that drinking was causing me. Would your sober school be beneficial in helping me make this stick?

    1. I have not had any alcohol since 23rd January. Feeling so much better in myself. Health was going down hill. Never want to drink again. So much more energy and head much clearer.

  14. I’m pretty sure I have tried every one of these. Thank you for the reminder that none of it works! If I had a nickel for every time I (or my friends and I) would say “I’m going to try to just drink on the weekends”…and of course A. there was always a reason monday-thursday to have an excuse to drink and B. I’m quite sure if I were even able to manage only drinking on fri, sat and sun. I would have had the attitude that since I hadn’t partaken all week that I surely could have more on those nights. Ugh! All that crazy thinking went out the window when I decided once and for all that just like smoking, one cigarette and I’d be back in the saddle again! So I am most definitely committed and through your course Kate, (for all that are reading this and haven’t taken the course, do yourself a favor and take it. It’s awesome and will change your life for the better) all the tips, suggestions, and homework has really hit home and that there is so much more to my life then counting the minutes until cocktail time. I am 54 and every day I realize that there is nothing I can do to change what I may have missed out on but I intend to make the most of the my life sans alcohol! I’m not saying I’m going to change my life and quit my job and travel the world (although I know I could if I wanted to 🙂 but just knowing that the most ordinary day or simplest of life’s pleasures will be magnified just by not drinking is exhilarating and fills me with hope!

  15. Giving up the booze is the best thing I ever did. I’m now 407 days sober.
    I tried most of the things on your list, all of them failed. I spent years, banging my head on the wall, determined to ‘moderate’. And couldn’t.
    Now, when I get that ‘everyone else can, why can’t I, I’ll just have ONE’ feeling, I play the tape forward – and remember that one is never enough, I want to drink as much as I can without actually falling over. Every time.
    My new normal is a peaceful state of mind, it mostly doesn’t occur to me now to drink alcohol. I have a new, more healthful, routine, which is more respectful of ME.

  16. Boy, Kate – I got a big chuckle out of this list! I tried almost all of those, and the only thing that worked was listening to you and quitting. Your lessons are in my brain always. I agree that being completely alcohol free is so much easier! I enjoy life, have fun, and feel like a complete, aware person. Six weeks until two years! <3

  17. I am extreemly new to this. Having been drinking wine every evening for YEARS I keot waking up saying to myself’not today!’
    Come 6pm I’ve brought and poured a wine. 2nd bottle in the fridge ‘just in case’
    The only days I didnt drink was if I was ill.
    Dreaded every January but this year I thought hey lets not give up alcohol altogether. Give up wine for lent. Not alcohol just wine.
    No wine since 13th Feb and just drinking very weak lager shandy.
    GET THIS 2 days now totally no alcohol. Not even a shandy! There has been an open bottle of wine in the fridge that has been there since 12th.
    I may be able to go back to social drinking I may not. I may be able to have a wine with a meal but I may not. At this time I am feeling strong and determined. Is it hard? Not really but its not easy either.
    I’m staying hopeful. I don’t understand why this time I am able to do it. Maybe its because I am allowing a shandy if I want one. But atm I dont.
    Wish me luck

  18. Of course this comes up on my Facebook feed tonight when I decided to have the first beer I’ve had since December 31st. 🙁 Resolved to pour the remainder down the sink though.

  19. Another great post, thanks Kate. I tried a number of the ‘rules’. I could keep to it once, and then my brain would get the message that I was drinking again and go hard the next time. Moderation makes sense on paper of course. But really, I rarely wanted just one or even two. I was drinking steadily more and getting in to more trouble, and I knew it would be the end of me if I kept drinking. I just celebrated 1000 days a couple of weeks ago. Onwards. : )

  20. I just hit 30 days yesterday & i feel more free than i have ever been. The constant thoughts revolving around alcohol & its consumption or non consumption are long gone for me. I’m never going back!!!

  21. I could have written that list as I had tried many of those options,truly believing that those tactics were the way forward. The thought of giving up wine scared me. I never thought I would be able to give up wine as I drank every single day, but your 6 week course was a real game changer for me. So proud of myself – 320 days sober.

  22. Lovely reading all this encouragement. I’m just not sure anything will work for me. I have a big family, always busy and by Thursday I say I owe it to myself… (wine). Friday morning wake up disappointed in myself and by Friday afternoon I’ve convinced myself it’s the weekend and I deserve a drink… Saturday the same, I always overdo it and feel terrible (just hung like a dog) and trying to cope with my daily duties. Not gonna lie… I’m scared of not being fun and being strong because ALL my friends and family enjoy socializing with alcohol. I’m definitely ready to be sober, just need to get past Thursday and I’d feel amazing. My husband would be delighted with me as he hardly touches the stuff. I’ll have to fill those drinking hours with something very productive and uplifting to distract me! I’m ridiculous and pathetic and really want and need to change. Sober since Sunday… this is day 3! Let’s try again …..x

  23. Thank you Kate. I am already finding everything that you write so helpful. I started reading your blog just over two weeks ago….I am not quite at the end of it yet, and am determined to get to the end of it! Having been hopping over to this new website of yours periodically, i can see now that all the teething problems i have been reading about in your blog are now long gone! This gives me hope and inspiration in knowing that it does become easier and enjoyable eventually. x

  24. The moderation issue is such a common theme among drinkers who want to stop. I spent at least 5 years trying all the things Kate listed, even reading books, listening to podcasts, etc. I think I was trying to convince myself I did not have a problem when I knew I did. I just finished Kate’s Unstuck course and it is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I could not figure out how to stop and did not want to go to AA. I would recommend anyone struggling should take the course.

  25. Fabulous post Kate. One I’ll have to tag. It has all the reminders and truth of what alcohol does and the games we play with ourselves. I’m not going back to that! Nope, not doing it!
    Thanks for all your help Kate!

  26. Kate, you r right again. I even said that to someone on the secret FB group yesterday I think (which I bet is why you sent me this email lol!) I learned the hard way just like most others did. Feeling like crap and not remembering the evening after dinner time. I’ve got it now, I’m kinda stubborn, I live in a beach area where the sun coming out and waves splashing are celebrating times, all with booze or wine at the boardwalk bars. It’ll be tough but I’d like to think I CAN!

  27. From June 2016-July 2017 I didn’t drink. I was so proud of myself and felt amazing. Then, inexplicably, I started drinking again. For nearly six months I was back to being a ‘normal’ drinker – meaning I would have one or two drinks sometimes, and other times I would have many drinks and feel like rubbish the next day. In mid-December 2017 I decided to quit again. I lasted 52 days. A fortnight ago I went to a work function and drank lots of champagne. Then I had a drink the next night, and a drink or two on other nights since.
    I feel trapped. I feel unhappy and unhealthy. I really miss the clarity and pride in myself that I felt after that year alcohol-free. But when I am offered a drink, especially when it’s free at a function or party, I just think ‘why not?’
    I’m so frustrated with myself.

  28. I’ve done all 25 ways to “control” my drinking. They all failed. I constantly make rules for myself to control my drinking and I break all of them. I can’t moderate. I can’t control how much I drink. Once I start, I don’t stop. I refuse to stop. I become belligerent and stubborn and rebellious. I stop when I want to stop. So, I’ve had to stop drinking. Moderation doesn’t work for me. I have been addicted to many things in the past. I have obsessions and I always have to work hard being level-headed and balanced. Drinking is a drug and it affects me negatively. Thank you for your reminder on why I have to stay away from alcohol.

  29. I give up alcohol for lent each year and love it but then i get back into it, promising myself I’ll only drink at weekends when we go out but then i see the slippery slope.. my brother died last year of alcohoic cirrhosis which noone knew he had- he was 45 and very much a social drinker… like myself.
    I need to change my pattern . For me.. x

  30. Oh my! I think I have done every single one of these things you listed.
    I have been nearly 4 months sober and had one of those tough days today, where work was hard, my relationship was rocky and I generally felt like I needed some perking up. I visited a friend after work who was having a glass of red and I thought “gee I would really like a glass”. Then I started going through the mental game of, “well I could just have one glass. It’s been 4 months. It’s been a tough day. I deserve it. I would just have one…” But…I’m so glad I didn’t because I too haven’t mastered my off-switch and in reality, I know that one glass would have turned into driving past the shop on the way home and grabbing a bottle, which I would drink in its entirety. Thank you, Kate. Your insights are so authentic, relatable and grounding. You’re amazing!

    1. I tried most of these for years. Constantly trying to exercise willpower is exhausting! When you’ve made the commitment to stop its like a weight’s been lifted off your shoulders. It’s simple, you don’t drink!
      I stopped 2 years ago and found the first 6 months the hardest. I don’t even think about it now. I feel amazing and would never go back, all of the benefits so out weigh anything drinking could give you.
      Congrats on your nearly 4 months Nikki, keep going it will get easier.
      Thanks Kate for your blog it helped to get me to this point, especially in the early days.

  31. I really want to quite for good. I am sober since Jan 1st. I definitely come under the same category, not addicted but find it hard to moderate and not a one glass type of girl. Trouble is I have a few big dates coming up i really worried about, big all inclusive ho!iday, 40th birthday and more. How do you say no after months of being sober then feel so tempted to say yes! (I hope i am not tempted!!) Love this blog and it does inspire me to keep going.

  32. I am exactly that person, I’ve tried pretty much all 25 I think! Healthy food, runner, gym goer, don’t drink everyday so I think I’m fine… but if I get to Wednesday without drinking (normally since Saturday) I feel really great (because I’ve been sleeping better thanks to the lack of booze) and get excited and head out… and by Saturday I’m shattered again and have to rest all day. Excited to start the course next week and about all the things I can do and achieve without being so tired and broke!

  33. What a great article. I had to laugh at the suggestions for moderation as I have tried most of them, at least I am in good company! This is my first day in a long time without a drink of some kind, and somehow I am the highest functioning person I know –so I have always wondered what rock bottom really meant. I admit to my family and (close) friends that I am an alcoholic and they tease me about my wine intake but that just encourages me. I tried a local support group though I am a counsellor and cannot be in both a personal and professional relationship with clients so I stay away and feel really alone. I think alot about sobriety as alcohol brings so little to my life now, I think the only time I would miss it would be on vacation when I usually stay quite active anyway.

    1. Hi Amber, it sounds as if you’re ready to finally tackle your drinking? Life’s too short to let alcohol hold you back – especially if (as you say) it’s not bringing very much into your life. I think an online course or support group would be very beneficial to you as you’d be able to remain anonymous. There are lots of online communities out there, and my coaching programme is one of them. The next class starts on October 1st: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  34. I am so happy I have found you Kate. You are exactly what I need right now. After failed attempts at quitting, pointless AA meetings and too
    UCB trouble caused by drinking, I’m ready to stop altogether, scared by the prospect but thank full I have found you and this blog/website. Thank you.

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