How Much You Drink Doesn’t Matter – Here’s Why

How Much You Drink Doesn’t Matter – Here’s Why

I get a lot of emails from people who want to know if I think they’re drinking too much.

They’ve added up their drinks, worked out the units… and they’re worried. Or confused.

After all, don’t most people drink more than the government guidelines? Doesn’t everyone have a raging hangover every now and then?

And just to make things even more confusing, we all handle alcohol differently! What might seem a lot to one person may not be that much to another.

So how do you assess your drinking and figure out what to do?

Personally, I think that how much you drink doesn’t really matter. Seriously – there’s a much better question you could be asking instead. I explain all in this week’s video:

 

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The breakdown – why focusing on ‘how much’ isn’t a great idea:

 

It can lead to a false sense of security

When you’re just focusing on quantities, you’re always able to find someone who’s drinking more than you. It’s easy to find books or blogs about heavy drinkers and convince yourself that you aren’t ‘that bad’ – even though you know alcohol is making you miserable.

 

How much you drink might vary a lot

If you’re like most people, your drinking changes day by day. Sometimes you might have a lot and feel relatively ok afterwards; other times you might have less, but still wake up with regrets. How do you decide what an ‘average’ night is?

 

It reinforces the idea that sobriety is a last resort

When we’re focused on how much is too much, what we’re really saying is that sobriety is only for people who are ‘bad enough’. You don’t need to be anywhere near rock bottom in order to decide that you’re going to change or raise your standards. (I wrote more about rock bottom here).

 

So what should you do instead?

Rather than focusing on how much you drink, ask: how is alcohol making me feel? Keep a diary, so you have a record of your mood and general wellbeing when you’re drinking compared to sober periods.

When you keep a proper record of this, you will notice patterns. You’ll start to see whether alcohol deserves a place in your one and only life. If you decide it’s time to stop (or take a break) you can find more help here.

 

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31 Comments

  1. This makes so much sense. I’ve been trying to quit for a while now, only I keep talking myself out of it because I don’t think I actually drink that much (not compared to some of my friends). BUT when I do drink it makes me really miserable – even a few glasses gives me a headache and I’m tired and snappy. I felt so good during my recent sober periods, I need to focus on that feeling.

    Reply
    • Very on point!
      I’m working toward a full commitment…just need to stay firm on nights out and Saturdays.

      Looking forward to the class beginning 10/1.
      I’m going to start the diary today!

      Thank you for your inspiration!
      Cathy

      Reply
      • Having a plan can really help with those nights out. Plan what you’re going to drink in advance, offer to drive, think about what you’ll say to other people… it makes it so much easier. This kind of stuff takes some effort in the beginning, but when it clicks it’s so worth it – I’ve had some of the best nights out since I quit 🙂

        Reply
    • It sounds as if alcohol isn’t really doing anything for you Ellie. Sometimes we romanticise the idea of drinking, and forget that the reality of consuming a mind-altering substance is very different. Those side effects just aren’t worth it!

      Reply
  2. Dear Kate,

    I just wanted to say what a blessing it is that I found you and your wonderful website! I have been drinking socially and “moderately” every day since I was seventeen (with the exception of a few days off here and there if I were sick)… and I’m now fifty six. Since menopause at fifty, I have not felt as good drinking, and so for the past few years, I’ve read articles online to try to justify my drinking or help me quit… like you always talk about. It’s amazing to me how many articles out there talk about how healthy it is to drink, and if we don’t drink anything, we will die early! Rubbish, as you would probably say. I wanted to believe the articles… but there I’d be, waking up at four o’clock in the morning with a dry mouth and a slight headache and saying to myself that I’m not drinking anymore. Then the evening rolls around and I let my husband pour my vodka and fizzy water… but I’d ask him to make it a light drink. Then on my second one, I would say to go ahead and make it strong. What a hideous roller coaster to be on… even if I never had major hangovers or blackouts (oh, wait… that was when I was a teenager!)… it was still a ride I wanted to get off of.

    Recently, my blood work came back as showing that I drink too much… even though I only drink two drinks a night, it is way more than that, since like you say, non of us really drinks according to the guidelines. I don’t know anyone who really just drinks one five ounce glass of wine or one shot of hard liquor! My doctor suggested I quit drinking completely… and so since it is doctor’s orders, it’s making is much easier for me to give it up. I am to have my blood retested in three months and I do not want to disappoint her… or myself. This was last Thursday September 6th, so today will be my fifth day without alcohol! I know it’s early in the process for me, but it’s quite simple actually… I feel so much better already!!

    I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate what you are doing to help gals like me, and that it is so meant to be that I found you the day I quit… I’m so happy that I have you, via your website and blog, and as a support! So, thanks a bunch!!

    Take care,

    Wendy

    Reply
    • Thanks Wendy, I appreciate your feedback! There has been a lot of conflicting information about alcohol, but recently study after study is saying there aren’t any benefits – and that there’s no safe level of alcohol use. So you are definitely doing the right thing. Congratulations on your 5 days!

      Reply
      • Good for you Wendy! I am in the same situation as you and near the same age. I too have been told by my doctor I need to stop. I can’t seem to get to that point. I can only go about two days. I wish you the best!!

        Reply
    • Well said Wendy!
      Good luck to you
      I’m finally my GP tomorrow morning for some honest, practical help…. I hope!!

      In the meantime I have found watching Kate’s videos and reading the comments very helpful and supportive. Nice to know you’re not alone!

      X

      Reply
    • OMG Wendy This could be me writing this comment- we are the same age practically- I’ve been drinking since I was a teenager- gradually building up my intake and knowing that I have to stop- Drinking was becoming the foremost thing on my mind, a battle – should I? Shouldn’t I. I know if I went to my doctor she’d tell me to stop! I was drinking a bottle of wine each night, more at weekends- swapping wine for vodka “the healthier option” and waking at 3 every morning feeling crap, unable to get back to sleep and facing another day of lethargy. I’ve tried Hello Sunday Morning, read Allen Carr’s book and Annie Grace’s. Joined up with OYNB, wasted my money, then just over a week ago started listening to and reading Kate’s blogs! It’s working! She’s marvellous- I’m in Australia and Father’s Day was on the 2nd September- I drank my last bottle of wine and have been sober since! I intend to keep going. Perhaps we could share each other’s journey?

      Reply
      • Hi just read your article and comments..alcohol consumes my thoughts…im so excited for you and your sobriety…your a strong person…i try and try…its easy for me to drink easily 2 bottles a night..i feel miserable and depressed everytime..ive been a heavy drinker since i was 14..im now 45…ive not had a drink for 2 x nights so far..and i feel good..im hoping i can be as strong as you and keep trying.

        Reply
      • Wendy and Janet, you guys are telling my story as well. Just turned 57 and have been drinking on and off (mostly on) since I was seventeen. I have been struggling with making the decision to quit for years! While I have had no legal issues due to my drinking, never landed in a jail cell etc., I have come to realize that the alcohol and my “gut” belief that alcohol is diminishing my life and in its own way has put me in jail, a jail of bad decisions, decisions I may not have made if alcohol hadn’t clouded my judgment at times.

        Reply
    • Well done you Wendy, I’m about to turn 51, knowing I don’t want to be an alcoholic like my mum and forgetting more and more things everytime alcohol is a part of my life. I’ve just come back from a weekend away with girl friends and had a big boozy session at a festival in London. It was a hoot but I have serious poops now and feel full of regret, which I shouldn’t. I am starting my journey today, day 1, I am thinking about the course but I want to see if I can do it on my own although maybe I’m not on my own? We need to share each others journey. I’m on it for two reasons, one to lose weight (about 4 stone) and 2 to make sure my kids dont see me like I saw my mum. Keep at it girls and boys, I’m not good being the only sober one so I may have to keep myself in for the first couple of weeks. Thanks for listening, I feel better for talking to someone even though I’m hiding behind this computer screen. Thank you Kate for not being a smug B**** about being sober and trying to help others.

      Reply
      • Hi loubyloo

        I really struggled to stop drinking , I’ve tried several times. I switched my focus from not thinking about my next drink to eating healthy and exercising. I got a Fitbit and set targets to do each day.
        Alcohol free wine is great when I really feel I need a drink. It gets easier & you will find you have willpower too! Keep at it

        Reply
    • Lovely post Wendy, well done for saying what you feel. I’m 51 and I’ve just had my birthday weekend and have gone too far on my birthday night out, I daren’t tell anyone just how ill I was and how big my UDI (unidentified drunken injury) was. I love this blog and it’s going to keep me going until the next course starts in January 19. I wish it were today but instead I think I’m going to see a counsellor to help me understand why I have no stop mechanism. I’m taking each day as it comes, maybe I won’t need the course but I think I will. I’m on day 2, I am still hungover from Saturday but by tomorrow I’ll have shaken a two day hangover and be ready to move forward to being a better me. Everything I read in all of these blogs and videos applies to me so that tells me I have a problem. I’m actually prepared to go to AA it’s got so bad. So, no more embarrassed post drinking days wondering what I’ve said and forgetting most of it, it’s time for a new start. I’ve never felt more positive about making this choice, I have a weekend away in a couple of weeks but we will go out walking instead of drinking and eating. I will drive and hubby can have what he wants drink wise as he understands the concept of when to stop. Have a great week everyone!

      Reply
  3. Thanks Kate, once again you make so much sense. Raising my standards have been the best thing I have done for myself outside of my daughter. Thanks again Kate for keeping me honest and on track!

    Reply
    • Happy to help Sherrie – sounds like you made a great decision there 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wendy, it sounds like you have a fab doctor! I found myself in the strange position of having to convince mine that quitting was really working for me. He kept suggesting that I drink according to guidelines! Well, I think I have changed his mind on that score.

    My rule of thumb, which I share with everyone, is that, if you are questioning your alcohol use, you should probably quit. It doesn’t matter how much you are drinking, but that something tells you that it isn’t right for you. And take the course, Wendy, it’s money very well spent!

    Best wishes,
    LizFR

    Reply
  5. Great post + video Kate! Yes, I would love if the conversation around drinking changed – that a person doesn’t have to hit ‘rock bottom’ to make the ‘drastic’ choice to not be able to drink. If it doesn’t serve you, in any quantity, you are not required to consume it! I find it empowering to say “I don’t drink” not “I can’t drink.”
    Thanks for your thoughts this week!!

    Reply
    • I so agree – there’s a big difference between saying “I can’t drink” and “I don’t drink”. I choose to be a non drinker and I’m very happy about that. Sounds like you are too 🙂

      Reply
  6. This is a light bulb moment for me. I listened to your talk this morning whilst in the midst of yet another hangover. I will give the diary a go as something needs to change, and right now that is my perspective.
    Thank you Kate.

    Reply
    • I’m pleased this resonated with you Susan 🙂

      Reply
  7. So on point! thank you so much for the video, I’m going to go buy a diary on lunch today, so I can start to write down my feelings every day and came on track! I only use to drink when I went out! but I had a friend that came and stopped with me for a couple of months and they would come home every night with a couple of bottles of wine and once he left again it turned into a habit! but once I have a glass of wine sat at home I start to feel lonely and a bit depressed! I’ve managed to cut it back down to weekends! but I’m wanted to cut it out totally! so I can get the most out of my weekends and free time with my children and so my energy levels rise. I really enjoy the video and can’t wait for another one to keep me on track. I want to be Christmas be totally free, so I can enjoy my first sober Christmas in years.

    Reply
    • That’s a great goal to have Katie – an alcohol free Christmas will feel amazing! You’ve made a brilliant start, now it’s time to kick booze out the way properly 🙂
      You might be interested in my next stop drinking class: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
    • Well done you Katie, you cN get an private diary app on your phone and password protect it. I have done this as I’m now keeping a daily diary in an attempt to give up the juice and lose weight. I’ve looked back over the past three days and a pattern is already emerging. The app I’m using is simply called diary and most impirtantly it logs your mood, well you log it. Good luck, let’s us know how the diary goes. Xx

      Reply
  8. I have wanted to quit drinking for so long and have had the internal dialogues comparing my drinking behaviours to others. I woke last weekend with yet another unplanned hangover ( Friday nights are to blame) and a stronger voice inside said “No more. This is it”. Like you say I always sought out examples of friends that drank every night and “much more than me”. I tended to battle through the week “being good” and then binge drink at the weekends. This is day 11 of no drinking and I have never felt happier in my life. I used to enjoy drinking but the guilt and anxiety of recent months/years had made my relationship with alcohol toxic.Sometimes I would struggle to remember all aspects of a night out. I would go out for dinner and barely remember how the food was. I would make plans for the weekend to do “stuff” and then make excuses as to why I couldn’t/would’t make it. I haven’t yet said that I will never drink again but the way I’m feeling, I don’t ever want to go back to the fog of my existence before. I’m going to the gym, running and my weekend feels twice as long. My husband is doing the same and we are just bowled over by our energy levels and appetite for life.We went to a party at the weekend and it felt so good to actually listen to friends and remember what they said the next day! I don’t want to go back to the old ways and will continue to count my AF days x (Day 11 today)

    Reply
    • That’s great to hear Ali – congratulations on your 11 days! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Makes sense! Thank you for this.

    Reply
  10. It took a long time to get here, but this is how I eventually quit alcohol. I realized that it didn’t make me ultimately happy. It didn’t make me feel proud of myself. I didn’t make me feel fulfilled. The short 20 minutes of buzz was never worth the lows I felt the next day.

    Reply
    • Much needed message today!
      I am aiming toward fully committing. Lately it’s be a yo-yo!
      Giving it a go today.
      Making a day full of positives.
      Very weary of regretful mornings!
      Thank you!

      Reply
  11. I’m 51 and I’ve always enjoyed a drink – too much ! I had to finish the bottle of wine – a greedy drinker. Two years ago I was AF for over 9 months but naively thought I could manage one or two glasses socially , but the old habits soon took over and wine o’clock became frequent .I’ve been AF for 7 weeks – the first two weeks were a struggle but I had a glass of AF wine , after one glass I fancied a decaf coffee instead. My mindset is so different and I don’t have any inclination to drink wine at all. I asked my family to help by coming out for walks or going to the gym at wine o’clock. Planning healthy meals stops me from wanting to snack – so I feel more healthy & have tonnes of energy to exercise. I feel so calm and in control. It’s good to have a clear head and not feel ashamed.
    The focus of the health service in the Uk is very much to make being AF the norm and it’s great for young people to see it’s cool to be sober, safe and healthy.

    Reply
  12. I am so grateful for stumbling onto your Blog. I’ve read and watched every possible video for inspiration to stop drinking. At 61 I think, “what’s the point… too late now,” but there is a point. Life’s not over and there are still so many happy days to be lived.

    Reply

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