Why Can’t I Cut Down Or Control My Drinking?

Why Can’t I Cut Down Or Control My Drinking?

At the height of my drinking career, I’d often wonder:

Why don’t I have an off switch?
Why can’t I control my drinking?
Why can other people have 1 or 2 drinks and then stop?

Back then, my inability to control my drinking felt like such a personal failing – a weakness.

Nowadays, things are different. Not only am I five years sober, but my views on all this have changed too.

If you’ve been beating yourself up about your inability to moderate, this blog is for you.

 

Why can’t I stop at just one drink?

A better question to ask is, why should you be able to stop at one? After all, alcohol is a powerful, mind-altering, addictive drug. It zaps your willpower and changes the way you feel. It makes you lose control.

When it comes to other drugs, we seem to understand this. We don’t shame smokers for becoming addicted to nicotine – we just accept the fact that it happens. We should be doing the same with booze.

You are not weak or broken because you can’t ‘control’ alcohol. Becoming addicted to booze is a completely normal (and predictable) side effect of consuming an addictive substance.

 

But some people DO seem able to control their intake!

Moderate drinkers do not have superhero powers or huge reserves of willpower. Instead, their drinking is likely to be controlled by other factors.

For example, some people don’t like feeling drunk or out of control. They actively avoid that sensation rather than chase it. For others, drinking just isn’t their poison – it’s not a coping mechanism for them. When they’re feeling down, they don’t turn to booze. Perhaps they have healthy coping mechanisms in place, or maybe they overeat or gamble or do something else instead.

Other drinkers will be seriously restricted by finances, responsibilities or the influence of those around them.

 

So is moderation something I should work towards?

Yes and no. If you’re honestly just beginning to evaluate your relationship with alcohol, cutting down is a logical place to start. But the chances are that if you’re reading a blog like this, you’ve already had a good go at moderating. (I bet you’ve tried a few things on this list.)

There’s no secret to moderation. There’s no magic trick that you haven’t discovered yet. If moderation was something that worked for you – on a consistent basis – and made you feel good, you would know that by now.

 

Here’s the big problem with moderation.

Cutting down, rather than cutting out, stops you from exploring sobriety properly. It reinforces the idea that you cannot truly enjoy life without booze.

Moderation makes a drug like alcohol seem extra special. And because you’re trying to be ‘good’, you’re never satisfied. There’s never quite enough and all your focus is on alcohol (the thing you’re trying not to have so much of).

Plus, moderating requires a lot of effort. It ain’t for wimps. You’re constantly having to make decisions. What will you drink? When? Where? How much? It’s much harder than just making one wholehearted, committed decision not to drink.

 

If moderation is off the table – but I don’t want to quit forever – what should I do instead?

It’s normal not to be ready to quit ‘forever’ as that is a pretty overwhelming idea. But what about an experiment instead? You only get to find out what sobriety is really all about when you do it and keep doing it… so why not take a break from booze?

Commit to going alcohol-free for a month or two. Give sobriety 100% (no ifs, no buts) whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that at a set point in time, you will stop, review and decide what happens next.

Maybe you’ll go back to drinking. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and fall in love with this awesome alcohol-free lifestyle. (I talked more about taking a break from booze in this video.)

 

Final thoughts

The days of me waking up and feeling sorry for myself are long gone, thankfully. I never feel as if I’m missing out by not drinking – I just feel relieved that I don’t have to drink anymore.

I don’t know anyone who’s struggled with alcohol and then morphed into a happy, carefree, moderate drinker.

However, I know a LOT of sober women who are living fulfilling lives after letting go of booze. They got their happiness back. And their freedom. Isn’t that what we all want?

 

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50 Comments

  1. Love this!! Thank you! ☺️

    Reply
    • I’m pleased this resonated with you!

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  2. I like what you said about there being no secret to moderation. I think I tried every trick in the book, but nothing worked, and it helps to remind myself of that. It’s day 40 for me today and I’m feeling good!

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    • Congratulations on your 40 days! That’s brilliant Em, keep going 🙂

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    • I’m AF since September 3rd and agree with so many of these comments. My “best” moderation idea was only to drink when I went out so of course I ended up going out lots! I’ve by and large not found it too bad being sober as I feel so much better in myself but surprised myself this last week by feeling tempted a couple of times. I didn’t drink but this article has come at a good time. Thank you Kate. Keep up the good work everyone!

      Reply
  3. I’ve been sober now for a little over a month and I’m feeling great. I was out of control, drinking for the wrong reasons and never thought I would be able to quit. I did and I’m happy I did,

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    • Congratulations Amy! It sounds as if alcohol-free living suits you 🙂

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  4. This is just what I needed today. After doing 83 days sober I have had a few slips the past several weeks and now I’m feeling ready to start fresh again. I also do not have an off switch once I start drinking and it is just not how I want to live my life anymore. I’m sad to be starting over again (today is day 3) but I’m happy that I have been able to reaffirm that an alcohol free life is truly what I want.

    Reply
    • It sounds as if you’ve learnt a lot from those experiences. Now you know for sure: you’re so much better off without booze. Keep going Tamara!

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  5. I love this! How many times have I asked myself that question and though what is wrong with me? I have found that the only time I really WANT to drink alcohol is to have a ciggarette. I like to smoke but hate the taste so I used alcohol as my buffer for cigs. Today is my first day to not have a ciggarette or wine when I get home from work!

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    • Go for it Jenny, you can do it 🙂

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  6. Thanks for that word. I just embraced my 4 month sober. You have been a big part of my sobriety. Although I have not attended The Sober School, I have been following along with you and your reading comments from your strong and sober women. I too have had thoughts of why I can’t just have one drink or two drinks one night a week. Why is it that other people can have one glass of wine with dinner when I couldn’t wait for the server to come back around so I could order another drink. Thanks for being such a special part of my new sobriety.

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    • Congratulations on your 4 months Cath!

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  7. Thanks for another great piece Kate. I’m 10 months with no alcohol. I tried moderation for years and it just takes up so much headspace and time! I like your comment about being relieved you don’t have to drink. That is exactly how i feel. I feel totally liberated and life is just so much better in every single possible way. To those who think they are starting again with their sobriety after a blip. You aren’t. Your just carrying on. It’s just a blip.

    Reply
    • That’s fantastic Bex – I’m pleased to hear you’re loving sobriety so much! Well done on your 10 months. You’ll be at the one year mark in no time!

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  8. So needed to read this today. Today I will give 30 days a try! Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Go for it Dee, you won’t regret it! If you need any more support making this change, be sure to check out my online coaching programme: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  9. Your blog is so helpful and has really made a difference for me in knowing that I’m stopping for good this time. My one month sober will be next monday and I can’t wait! I’ve tried basically the entire list you mentioned when it came to moderating and “rules” and none of them worked. Now that I have so many summer activities coming up that I used to drink at it’s a relief knowing that I won’t have to plan my drinking. I can enjoy my time spent with friends, living it up because sober people aren’t boring, and know I will enjoy every second rather than thinking about my drinking.

    Reply
    • Congratulations!!!!! One month sober is a huge milestone. I’m hoping to get there one of these days. And I like you would love to not center my thoughts and activities around drinking. It’s got to be such a feeling of freedom.

      Reply
      • Thank you! You can do this! Isn’t it great? Now it’s all about focusing on the fun and knowing you can go home at the end of the night to the comfort of your own bed and wake up feeling amazing. Rather than hungover and tired on an uncomfortable couch.

        Reply
  10. I’m just wondering, most comment on how much wine they drink. I never see anything about hard liquor? My drinking problem involves hard liquor..Will your program help me?

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    • Hi Holly, I haven’t done her program but I wanted to chime in if that’s ok. Along the question with liquor….I mostly drank wine at home but when I went to spend time with friends or go to different gatherings I always drank liquor. It sounds like wine is just the common preference for most.

      Reply
    • Hi Holly – I received this question from you on email and replied to you directly. Did you see that? Just to recap, it doesn’t matter what form you consume alcohol in, my coaching programme will still work for you. With that said, if you are consuming high quantities of hard liquor I would need you to see your doctor first as you may need medical supervision to cut down. Please let me know if you get the all clear from them.

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  11. This is me to a tee!!!!! I’ve tried every form of moderation only to fail at all of them. And that makes me feel even worse about myself. It’s a horrible vicious cycle. I am getting help and hope to be done with booze completely. I love your emails. Thankyou so much

    Reply
    • No problem Kristen. If you’d like some more support to stop drinking, do take a look at my online coaching programme. I’d love to help you stop drinking and actually feel good about it! Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  12. Kate, your emails always seem to appear at the right time! Now, at just over 4 months into being alcohol free, my life is not dominated by decisions about alcohol but I still have little niggling thoughts and temptations from time to time. That seems to be when another ‘Kate’ email arrives. Love love love them. Big big thankyou x

    Reply
    • Stick with your alcohol-free lifestyle Tracey! The only thing you’re missing out on right now is a hangover 🙂

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  13. Wow…the timing on this was perfect. Thank you everyone.

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  14. It’s been nearly 9 months now that I have been alcohol free(took your course last fall), and every now and again I wonder if I should try moderation. This was a goid refresher for me!!! I’m happy sober so why mess with that?!!!

    Reply
    • Exactly. An alcohol-free lifestyle is the best option, every single time. You’ve got this Margaret 🙂

      Reply
  15. Yes you are so right you feel so much more alive without drink x

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  16. Dear Kate,
    I relate to every single word. THANKS!

    Reply
    • I’m pleased this resonated with you. Have a great week Nat!

      Reply
  17. I just seem to be unable to do this….

    Reply
  18. Hi Kate!

    Still going Sober Strong since Nov 25th and your January School. I thank you for the information that has helped me see alcohol in a different light.

    My day to day challenges in life and work are much easier to cope with in a sober state of mind. You are a breath of fresh air and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    Reply
    • It’s good to hear from you Jean – I’m so pleased all is well and you’re still going strong! 🙂

      Reply
  19. I so want to totally stop drinking for my health. I’m just tired of this ride and want to get off. Looking forward to your course in July.

    Reply
    • I look forward to working with you Amber. July will be here before you know it! 🙂

      Reply
  20. Hello Kate!
    I’m a big Gretchen Rubin fan and she writes about the Abstainer v. Moderator personality type in her books and speaks about it on her podcast. Some people can moderate substances like alcohol or sugar and for some people it is easier to have none. I’m definitely an abstainer, hence I found your blog. Great article!

    Reply
  21. Hi Kate, I’m sitting here reading you’re blog after waking up feeling like a failure for drinking again last night. I want to stop drinking! I don’t like the way I feel in a morning and I worry what it’s doing to my body.
    I managed most of January without a drink, and I don’t drink the evenings before I am working, so I know I can do it. But I am already worrying about social events that are coming up and how I can manage those when people expect me to have a drink. I know I have to be strong and say NO to that glass of wine, so today I’m going to take control, I’m joining a gym in the hope that if I’m exercising and taking control of that part of my life I can control what I put in to my body. I’m going to take it in bite size chunks, one day at a time. I’ll be carrying you around on my shoulder as a little reminder that I CAN SAY NO TO ALCOHOL. Thank you for your blog and wish me luck. Jx

    Reply
    • Hi Jules, my top tip for you is to some time to work on your mindset and think about the benefits you perceive alcohol to have. It’s great that you’re feeling so fired up, but willpower will only get you so far, as you’ve discovered from your experience in January. If you want to stop drinking (and actually feel good about it) you’ve got to debunk the myths and illusions and see alcohol for the cold, hard drug it is. We cover this in detail on my coaching programme. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  22. Hi Kate – I’m not doing so well. One thing I enjoy is the flavour of wine. I’ve tried to find something I find equally nice, but struggle with a lot of soft drinks. I hate the feeling of self loathing in the morning at weekends after downing almost a bottle. Help?

    Reply
    • Get exploring Christine! There are lots of great alcohol-free cocktails and alcohol-free wines and beers out there. Now is the perfect time for you to experiment.

      Reply
  23. I have just found your blog and I love it! I have come to the decision to quit drinking. I have been a pretty heavy drinker for over 20 years so it wont be a walk in the park but I am motivated to change. Luckily, in the last couple of years I have ditched toxic alcoholic friends, have a job I love, a wonderful daughter and I don’t want to jeopardise this life. I am tired of feeling sick and tired.

    Reply
  24. Today is my third day of no drinking. Been on/off for past month and a half. I have a problem with drinking. This week I am really feeling down about how I let myself slip so far into this problem. Any blogs on depression and getting over the past?

    Reply
  25. Hi Kate, I’m about to start your July course on Monday. Is it ok to drink no alcohol wine in the beginning to ease into the program?

    Reply
    • Hi Cindy, alcohol-free wines and beers are fine to drink if you like them and feel they help you. Some people find them a bit too much like the real thing and that makes them uncomfortable, whilst others absolutely love them! It’s a really personal decision, so go with what works for you. I think it’s fine either way. Just make sure you buy the alcohol-free versions, and not the ‘low alcohol’ brands which can look very similar

      Reply
  26. Hi Kate,
    I am very intrigued by your ‘sober living’ philosphy and all of the wonderful tools that you share (even if I have not signed up for your program) which I am grateful for.
    I am in my 60’s, have, in the past had years of sobriety (with the help of a 12 step program) and most recently have had 2 years of nightly drinking which will often leave me very, very depressed; pre-suicidal (if there is such a thing). I still attend 12 step meetings which I find helpful but am unable to stop the insanity. The insanity can include multiple ways of self abuse; always drinking + overeating, bulemia….etc.
    Kate, I know that being addicted to alcohol and stopping drinking is only the beginning of change. Can your program help someone like Me?

    Reply
  27. Hi Kate, I really enjoy reading your blog! This one in particular rings a very loud bell for me. The final straw for me was my last holiday in Sicily; I was there for 8 days and got drunk every single night. But getting drunk wasn’t what scared me: it was the fact that I was literally UNABLE to either decide to stay completely sober for one night or even to have just one drink. I felt totally out of control: I was drinking knowing that I was making the wrong choice, yet I could not choose differently. It was a truly horrible feeling. Finding your website gave me hope that I can change. I have already downloaded your Wine O’Clock Survival Guide and I am determined to break the habit.
    Thanks again!

    Reply

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