‘Stopping at the Buzz’: How to Control Your Drinking

two drinks at the barIn my practice as an addiction psychologist, it’s probably the most common question I encounter; when it comes right down to it, it’s what most people who are struggling with alcohol really want to know:

“How can I control my drinking or drug use?”

Only a small minority of people come to my practice with the expressed agenda of stopping their drinking altogether. Most seeking psychotherapy for alcohol dependence, misuse, or abuse have experienced some consequences due to their drinking and would like to minimize or stop those consequences but do not want to give up their drinking entirely.

For some drinkers, controlled drinking or moderate drinking is an option, and for a small portion of the population, about 5%, controlled drinking is nearly impossible. While many people believe “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic,” many people diagnosed with alcoholism can learn to control their drinking and become social drinkers again. That said, if you have been diagnosed with alcohol dependence, most addiction psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, and addiction counselors would strongly recommend abstinence. This is always a very personal decision that should be made with careful consideration of the risks and benefits of drinking versus abstinence.

If one has never exhibited signs of alcoholism, then controlled drinking, a technique or approach that is a form of harm reduction, is a reasonable yet delicate first step. If one wants to pursue this approach, it is best not to go it alone. Talking to an addiction psychologist or other addiction professional can guide you through some generally recommended techniques.

Notice Feelings and Set Limits

Most addiction therapists will recommend two basic procedures that may differ in numerous ways but have the same central premise. The first is that you cut back your use of alcohol in whatever way you decide and that you then pay attention to what thoughts and feelings emerge. The idea here is that alcohol serves to mediate feelings by numbing, dulling, or blocking them entirely, and when you reduce your use or even stop drinking, your feelings will come back. As this happens, it is often recommended that you keep a journal or that you talk to your friends, family, partner, or therapist about these thoughts and feelings.

The well-known acronym “HALT” captures this eloquently. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are the types of feelings people will experience as they reduce their alcohol or drug use. It reminds us to halt, or stop, and pay attention to what we need. Somehow, we have to cope with those feelings or risk relapse. If you are hungry, then eat. If you are angry, then tell someone, vent, exercise, pound a pillow, or express your anger in a healthy way. If you are lonely, then surround yourself with friends or start the process of finding new ones if all your friends drink. If you are tired, then sleep. Many people with alcoholism have an inability to take care of themselves, and learning this new skill in recovery is essential even with such basic behaviors as eating and sleeping.

A second basic tenet to alcohol counseling for people who are attempting moderate or control their drinking is to pick an amount of alcohol that they will not exceed and to stick with it. The National Institutes of Health recommend that, to maintain “low-risk drinking,” men consume no more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 per week. For women, the number is no more than three per day and seven per week. My personal belief is that this is fairly generous; a man can drink four beers while at a party on Friday or Saturday night, three or four during the football game on Sunday, three or four at bowling or poker night with the guys, and still have two or three with his partner on another day during the week.

When we can learn to stop at the “buzz,” we are well on our way to having our relationship with alcohol fully in check. For most people, three or four drinks make them feel tipsy or buzzed. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, yet the initial effects of alcohol in these amounts are more stimulating and euphoric feeling. People tend not to get into serious trouble from these amounts, but since the initial effects feel good, many people continue to drink past these amounts, assuming more alcohol equates to more good. It does not. It takes time for alcohol to work itself into your system, so people don’t realize how drunk they are getting, and in larger amounts alcohol has a depressing effect. The alcohol you drink today can make you feel depressed days and weeks later, and these small amounts can contribute to depressive feelings over time. Rarely has anyone come into my office with concerns about alcohol abuse because of drinking three or four drinks a few times a week.

Other Useful Techniques

To stick to the above drinking goals, there are other moderate drinking techniques that you can employ, such as avoiding hard alcohol and sticking to beer. Beer has lower ethanol content, and the carbonation can fill you up, so it tends to take longer to drink. Switching from alcohol to nonalcoholic drinks and back can slow you down as well. Holding a drink with lime or lemon may deter others from thinking you are not drinking an alcoholic mixed drink, and they may be less likely to offer you another drink. Remember, you are more aware that you are not drinking your normal amount or that you have reduced your consumption, and others probably aren’t even aware that you made any changes.

One technique to help you be honest with yourself is to take four coins (or as many coins as you are planning to have drinks that night) and place them in your back pocket. Each time you take a drink, move one of the coins into your other pocket. This may be more important if you are planning on drinking larger amounts of alcohol, and many of the people I work with start out reducing their drinks per setting with numbers more like from 10 to five or six, for example, so counting drinks becomes more important. This way, when your coins run out, you can be sure not to exceed the previously determined limit that you imposed on yourself.

Many addiction therapists recommend one drink per hour as another way of limiting oneself. Since alcohol leaves the bloodstream at about .02 blood alcohol content (BAC) per hour, this will most likely keep your BAC at a reasonably safe level. In using this technique, it is recommended that you discuss your upper limit with a certified addiction professional or addiction psychologist.

It goes without saying that it’s important to pay attention to drink equivalents. A typical shot equals one 5-ounce glass of wine, which equals one 12-ounce standard beer. If your favorite bartender is pouring your drinks and he knows you are a big tipper who likes to drink, you might need to have a brief conversation with him. Believe me, bartenders are used to these conversations, and they will not hold it against you. In fact, most bartenders will be very respectful and discreet and will keep an eye out for you thereafter. If your buddies are trying to get you drunk, that’s another story. Watch how much they pour. A Long Island Iced Tea counts for three drinks, not one.

Don’t Try to Drink Away Emotional Pain

While I consider myself to be an open-minded therapist, what would an alcohol blog be without a major caution? Here’s my warning: Don’t drink when you are sad, anxious, lonely, worried, or in any negative feeling state. These are times when you should figure out healthy ways of coping. If you drink during these times, you are at high risk for using your drinking as a crutch.

What happens if you can’t control your alcohol use with these techniques? After trying these techniques and determining your level of success, you should be able to assess whether you can be a social drinker. To the extent that you break any of the rules that you set up as an experiment and exceed these drinking limits with resulting consequences, then it is time to reconsider lowering your upper drinking limits and decreasing the frequency, quantity, intensity (alcohol content), or duration of your alcohol use.

If you are wondering whether you have a drinking problem, please read Do I Really Have a Drinking Problem?

An addiction psychologist or other psychotherapist specializing in addiction can help you answer any questions or develop a plan that, over time, will enable you to understand the role that alcohol plays in your life and make decisions about what, if any, changes you are ready to make. You don’t need to figure this out on your own. It takes courage to seek help for alcohol use. If you are reading this, you are well on your way to understanding yourself better and getting what you want and need in life.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jeremy Frank, PhD, CAC, therapist in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jax Logwood

    August 2nd, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    This is the first time I have ever heard anyone say that an alcoholic can return to being a social drinker. I was also surprised at the “low risk” guidelines. It seems to me that someone who drinks four drinks a day would be at a pretty high risk for a drinking problem. Then again, maybe I’ve been living under the proverbial “addiction rock.” It just seems like these are some very high limits and would be giant red flags.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    August 3rd, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Donald’s comment below maybe a good example of this. I personally believe four drinks is too much for anyone. We can’t make people change though. The National Institutes of Health issued their guidelines in the interest of preventing harm. The best way to prevent harm is not to drink at all. Serious consequences can result from drinking. I have never seen a patient complain of serious consequences due to sobriety!

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    August 5th, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    These limits are considered low risk because they are associated with fewer consequences in general but they may still be red flags for many people. I don’t believe addiction is a choice. Initial use is perhaps but people will always experiment. Abstinence is the safest option and in my opinion if one has had problems related to drug and alcohol use then continued use is just not worth the risk.

  • Donald

    August 2nd, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    I was addicted to alcohol until about two years ago.There was a point wherein i was rushed to the ER because I drank too much. I saw a therapist after that and was helped in my quest to reduce. I am into drinking only at social events now and never go beyond two drinks at one time.It does require some resolve but it is not entirely difficult either.

  • Tyrell Wilson

    August 3rd, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    One of my favorite TV shows is My Big Redneck Vacation. It has absolutely no redeeming value, but it has gotten me thinking about what is considered normal alcohol consumption. From the looks of it, the characters on this reality show consume much more alcohol than what is recommended in this article. But, are they really considered to be alcholics? It doesn’t appear to be interfering with their personal relationships and they certainly don’t seem to be trying to hide what they drink (in fact, it’s really just they opposite; they seem quite proud of what they consume). One thing I am 99.9% sure of though. None of them will be apppearing in a therapist’s office asking for help anytime soon!

  • Angela Franco

    August 3rd, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    I’m not sure why we are paying so much attention to alcohol these days. If people could just take control of themselves and act respsonsibly, this sort of thing would never happen. Why won’t people just quit acting like kids and start acting like adults? It’s just like any other addiction. It’s a choice. If you don’t want to be addicted to something, quit using it. Or, better yet, don’t start in the first place!

  • Lori LADC

    February 13th, 2015 at 5:59 AM

    Addiction is not a choice, its a disease @Angela

  • Helen.N.D

    August 3rd, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Alcoholism is just a disgusting whirlpool that can destroy the best of people..I have seen a friend fall prey to this and even after his de-addiction course when he tried to be ‘just’ a social drinker, he ended up relapsing and eventually losing the plot.

  • Beth M

    August 5th, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    I have never met a true alcoholic who could stick with the just one drink approach to life. That’s asking a lot of someone who really does struggle with addiction, to be able to stop just at that right moment. I think that for me, if I had this issue, then abstaining totally would be the best answer fpr me, and I have to say that I think that’s the best approach all the way around. Why tempt fate if you have it under control? Just stay away from the alcohol if that sounds like you. There are ways to get a buzz (just get high on life!) and don’t rely on alcohol to provide that for you.

  • Janna

    August 6th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    @Jeremy Frank- thank you! That is absolutely right!
    If you can’t handle the booze and you know it then why even try to do it in moderation.
    Aren’t there better things to do than have this to worry about too?

  • Regina ellis

    August 7th, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    I go out on many social occasions but have had a problem with drinking in the past. I want to join in the fun too but know that I can’t. I have never been able to have the self discipline to stop when I needed to so complete and total drinking abstinence has been the right choice for me. I have some friends who completely understand and then newer friends who encourage me to drink more than I want to. But they just have understand that I am not trying to kill the party, but that this is how I have to live in order to stay sober. And I always tell them to look at the positive side, that with me they always have a designated driver!

  • Jonathan

    August 8th, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    I am not able to support this notion that someone who has a drinking issue can find ways to tell themselves to stop.

    If they had the ability to do that then we wouldn’t be talking about this at all, it would be a non issue.

    Ask around- I bet there are tons of alcoholics who have thought that they could just say “when” but we all know that this isn’t possible for them to do.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    August 8th, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    To Jonathan, I agree to a large extent but I disagree in that it is a matter of degree and severity. It depends on the extent of the consequences and the severity of someone’s addiction. If it is just a drinking “issue” or it is milder alcohol abuse as opposed to severe alcohol dependency it may be possible for someone to control or moderate their drinking. I’ve seen lots of people do it. If on the other hand someone is a stone cold hardened alcoholic then by definition you are right they can’t handle their drinking. The safest thing is always abstinence but it doesn’t matter if we tell people that people need to come to this conclusion on their own. The important therapy question is why do they need to drink in the first place.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC Addiction Psychologist

    August 8th, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Regina, thanks for your comments. It’s hard to have those conversations with friends but so important. I’ve found that most people have friends who are capable of understanding the changes that we have to make. In a friend group of ten there are usually two who will support you and not drinking around you and who completely understand. Then there are two who are threatened with what you are doing and they won’t be able to stop drinking around you if you ask them to and they might even push you to drink. They aren’t being malicious, they have problems themselves. They’re thinking, “well if Regina says she has a problem and I drink just as much as she does, then maybe she thinks I have a problem… Do I have a problem?… No way! …” COME ON REGINA HAVE A DRINK WE’LL BE REASONABLE, IT’S NO BIG DEAL! These friends are threatened. Then there is the middle of the crowd 60%, and most of these people are able to be supportive and won’t make a fuss. Part of making changes in our lives and entering some sort of recovery involves being honest with ourselves and those around us so it becomes critical at some point that we tell people we care about what is going on in our lives. The decision to stop drinking or cut back may be a significant issue in our lives and it is therefore important that we don’t feel we have to make those decisions and changes alone.

  • Courtney

    October 13th, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    It’s refreshing to have another perspective offered when it is not uncommon to hear the fear inducing lectures about an alcoholic always being and alcoholic. I do not subscribe to this all or nothing mantra. I believe in the individual and their ability to change their behaviors to enrich their life. From a psychological standing, I think it’s fair to say that stigmas are incredibly dangerous to the individual and indoctrinating someone with the belief that they are never going to be able to control their drinking because it’s in their genes, it’s programmed through sociological factors, or they’ve tasted the forbidden fruit and now they won’t be able to have another apple ever again is just ludicrous. How often are we taught in psychology that running from the problem helps? I see the abstinence only efforts following this mantra. While abstinence helps some, it is not a cure all and may even deter some from even trying, why not focus more on the causation for abuse rather than to focus on just avoiding those things that are easily abused? I believe strongly that we’re undermining many recovery efforts by demonizing alcohol and shortchanging the individuals that could be better aided by focus on not when they take the additional drink, but what compels them to do so-that’s when recovery begins. Recovery doesn’t begin when the person just stops drinking necessarily (dry drunk), it’s when issues are addressed that have little to do with spirits as the underlying problem.

  • JIm

    December 19th, 2016 at 4:02 AM

    Well-said and spot-on in my own experience.

  • Courtney

    October 16th, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    This is in reference to beliefs that moderation is not possible, “why risk it,” or “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.”

    A sobering statistic, pun intended, 50% of marriages end in divorce. That’s a pretty high risk percentage. Why risk that? Just like someone may have a love for the individual, another kind of love exists in the art of wine making or passion for distillery methods, why deny yourself something that you care about whether it be marriage to the person you love or traveling around to vineyards and sampling wine. Some may respond to this with marriage does not end up killing you, but I’d refer to you the frightening statistics about how much greater a risk women are of being murdered (by their spouses) when they get married. Much higher if married, than single. Eeps.

  • Anon

    April 1st, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    I found this article to be really interesting, refreshing and helpful. In my opinion, for some people who have not been diagnosed as having an alcohol addiction, controlled drinking can be a positive approach to managing the issue. I also think that turning alcohol in to the thing you can’t have can tun it in to the thing you most desire.

  • Anon

    June 6th, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    My wife is currently undergoing therapy for alcohol dependence – third time in three years. Her goal, optimally, would be to become a social drinker. Her therapist does not believe that this is an option (if she could manage her drinking, she would have by now). So she takes medication to curb the cravings on a daily basis. At the same time, her therapist treats her for the triggers of her alcohol use, even though he believes she is genetically predisposed to alcoholism. My question is whether having competing interests with her therapist is normal in these situations and would she be better to seek a therapist who can help her achieve her desired outcome.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    June 6th, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Great question. I would say that, yes, having competing interests with your therapist is normal, as is having competing interests with your partner or family or anyone in life and these competing interests need to be negotiated. That is part of the therapy and part of the struggle to determine what role exactly alcohol plays in her life. It is not up to your wife’s therapist to make these decisions it is up to your wife. In fact, it is more up to you than it is to your wife’s therapist. In other words you too, have to decide what you can or can not put up with in terms of her drinking though ultimately it is up to her. Even if someone is genetically predisposed they can sometimes control or moderate their use. Most people want to try that initially and it may or may not work. It is a reasonable place to start though and then we encourage people to be willing to step up their level of treatment, commitment, care or recovery if it doesn’t work at a lower level of controlled drinking. These days medications can be tremendously helpful. For me, I have chosen not to drink at all and I have been sober 22 years. I might be able to return to drinking but I am not sure if I would be successful. So I conclude that it is just not worth the risk. I have too much that I am happy about in my life and I don’t want to lose that.

  • Lisa McFadden

    July 2nd, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    I don’t know whether alcoholics can return to becoming normal social drinkers again, but I do know that a guy who drinks 4 drinks a night and 14 drinks per week on a regular basis is an alcoholic. Most health-related web sites recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink for women including the Mayo Clinic site. The NIH recommendations are irresponsible and justify people drinking much more than they should. The writer of this blog should not only rely on the information provided by one authority of safe drinking.

  • Tom

    January 24th, 2017 at 8:00 AM

    People keep saying 4 drinks a day… It’s 14 Drinks a week it isn’t 4 drinks a day! If it were it would be 28 total! Fourteen is the limit, so you could have 4 on two days, and none on a 3 days, and 3 on two more days, to complete the 14 in 7 days. That is NOT an achoholic, sorry but it is mild to moderate drinking at best and is perfectly healthy!

  • Jacob

    July 3rd, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    I am currently in therapy for acohol addiction…it’s been a couple months now. I don’t seem to be feeling any better about my situation but made a year goal to go without drinking that is driving me completely insane. I feel like I’m not handling this the way I want to but the way I feel others will respect me for. I am at the point of no return it seems and vent to a journal. Any other advice in my situation would be great.

  • Vamp

    September 30th, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    I am not alcohol dependant, I don’t drink a drop from Sunday to Thursday but I do have a drink on Friday and Saturday socially. The only problem is, I never know when is too much. My friends are starting to complain about my behaviour and that I totally change into a different person after so much alcohol. I end up offending people, being loud, irrelevant and just annoying.

    Any tips to help me know when to stop?

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    September 30th, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Vamp you are asking good questions and considering good feedback and data from your friends. You say you have “a drink” which sounds like a tendency to minimize things but I know you didn’t really mean one drink. Maybe it’s one glass but it might be a big one :). It may be and it may not a tendency to minimize things. When friends complain it is usually a sign that there might be a problem. The National Institute of Health recommends that to maintain “low risk” drinking that men have no more than 4 drinks in a day and no more than 14 per week and that women have no more than three a day and no more than seven per week. If your friends are complaining then try reducing that number to three or two. Then I suggest that you pay attention to what feelings and thoughts you have as a result of the change and learn to deal with those feelings and thoughts by sharing them with people you are close to or a therapist. Of course being abstinent for a month or two week period would be worth consideration in order to learn more about yourself during these weekend social times. If it is too hard to be sober then it might mean you have more of a dependency than you think. Since I can’t provide adequate professional advice via this blog and post it could be very helpful to have a meeting with an addiction psychologist or professional who is knowledgeable about these things.

  • Kimberly

    July 16th, 2015 at 1:10 PM

    It’s also good to consider if you are taking medication, your limit may be less. I use to live by the one drink an hour rule and no drinks 2 hours before driving. This doesn’t work for me now that I take daily meds. So, when ever I go out now, I have to a few drinks when I arrive and nothing after. My body processes the alcohol differently. It has a very delayed effect. If I forget, I stop at buzzing and two hours later. I’m vomiting. So,r thete is no hard fast rurule here. You just have to listen and learn from your body.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    September 30th, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    Jacob if after a year you are still struggling with not feeling yourself or as happy as you think you can be then it is important to be in treatment. George Vailllant who has studied men struggling with alcoholism and followed them for over 50 years found that those who were successful had three important elements. They had 1) structure, 2) a non-alcoholic substitute for drinking and 3) spirituality. Therapy can help you achieve goals in these areas. He also found that those who were successful and happy were not happy because of money or power or materialistic things but that they had good relationships. That’s it. That’s the secret to life! So, examine whether you have put in place adequate structure in your life and that you have some sort of spirituality (loosely defined) and that you have meaningful and purposeful substitutes for your drinking but above all examine your social world and if that needs some tweaking…get to work.

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    September 30th, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Hey Lisa, two drinks per night is 14 drinks per week. The recommendation is that men drink no more than 4 a night but that they keep their week total to no more than 14. So if you drink 4 while watching a football game on Sunday then 4 on Tuesday night while playing cards with the guys and 2 on a date with your wife you can still drink 1 on each other night and still stay under 14. This is considered to be low risk drinking. I highly don’t recommend it for people who are or were alcoholic but it seems to be a generally recognized standard for low risk. I personally think it’s too much alcohol and agree with you but it is considered low risk. Please remember that women have different metabolisms and so for women it is suggested that low risk is no more than three drinks per night and no more than seven per week total.

  • Gerald

    December 2nd, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    My wife and I are terrified that our 28-year-old son will relapse. We are fairly sure he plans to revert to social drinking at some point. He claims that his severe drinking problems were short-lived, but that he has had about four drinks of bourbon every night for more than a year. Then, when he was laid off work, he binged heavily 24×7 for several months. He dried completely out by himself, suffering through sweats and severe mood swings. To me, that qualifies as alcoholic withdrawal symptoms. We have told him that trying to be a moderate drinker is too large of a risk. But I suspect he will try. What is your advice?

  • Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    Jeremy Frank PhD CAC

    December 4th, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    Gerald I agree that he would benefit from treatment and I think you and your wife should consult a professional in an office setting where you can really take the time to figure out what are all the factors and variables that could be considered in helping him and confronting him. There is a good book on the subject, “How to Get Your Loved One Sober” by Meyers and Wolfe. There is very little research to suggest that confrontational interventions like those seen on the Arts and Entertainment Network’s show, “Intervention,” really work at all. A professional can help you determine the best way to gently and lovingly confront your son and to share your concern and to explain your concerns to him in a way he might be able to listen. Then you can give him some treatment options and see if you can develop a plan together. You want to speak to that part of him that wants to change. There may be some leverage that you have which can “raise his bottom,” if you will. Al-anon offers a lot of support too and if you have never been you should go because it might be something that you would find helpful. It is important to take care of yourselves as much as you can in this process.

  • Katie

    September 11th, 2015 at 5:38 PM

    I’m a stay at home mom with a one year old daughter. My husband ships out ten weeks at a time and comes home for ten weeks. My daughter is being well taken care of and my worries aren’t with her. I just wish I didn’t need to drink every night. When my husband is gone I drink and when he’s home I drink. He isn’t a big drinker. Before I became a mom I was a big bar fly and heavy drinker and I thought it would’ve passed after not drinking during my pregnancy. It’s affecting our love life. I know I want to get a handle on it but I can’t. I know that getting a handle on it is more important than having a terrible life where me and my husband are just cohabitating and not in love or interested in each other intimately. We’ve made love 3 times in the last year and we’re both good looking people attracted to each other…

  • Anonymous

    May 31st, 2016 at 9:36 PM

    This is my first time posting anything related to this topic. I’m 30 years old divorced, 3 beautiful children. In my early 20s I started to black out from drinking. I never really paid attention because I thought “it happens” I’m young and most of all very petite. Once I got married I was very aware of my drinking and was good about controlling my alcohol 70% of the time. I have experienced many things in my life such as abuse, inequality, and low self esteem that I know trigger my “bad drinking nights”. In the past 3 years since my divorce. I started to go out and drink and have fun, but my blackouts started to creep up on me. Now I feel like I experience them more often than ever before. I am currently in a relationship with such a wonderful man that understands me. I’ve been completely honest about how I black out and I do t even know who I am. I become very upset and violent. I seem to always run away or try to get out of the car as if I’m looking for safety. My demons come out and I become a person I don’t know. Someone whom I am ashamed to be. My last incident was over a week ago. Things got really bad and I could have hurt myself or have put my boyfriend in a very bad situation. I felt the guilt and the depression for days after that incident. I had came to terms with myself that I would have to stop drinking period. Well that’s cery difficult to do when my bf enjoys drinking a few here and there. I’m in the military and everyone there drinks. Lastly I’ve accomplished so much and have such a good job(stressful but good) that if I want to have a beer to unwind I should be able to. So many things were in my mind- if I stop drinking it’s going to be an awkward situation for my friends, family, my bf. No one is going to feel ok drinking around me because “I have a problem”. But on the other hand if I continue on this destructive path I will probably loose everything I have worked so hard for. Either side was very uncomfortable to choose. If in fact I decide to stop drinking that’s great, however I feel like instead of facing and overcoming my problem I am running away from it and I feel as though it will catch up with me one day. On the other hand if I can overcome binge drinking by exercising self control and getting help via counseling to help me overcome my past which is what triggers my anger maybe I can be a social drinker again. I guess I just don’t want to stop drinking completely. I just want to be a responsible adult that doesn’t make an ass out of herself because she blacks out. If any of you have been able to find that balance I would really appreciate some feedback

  • Mills

    September 23rd, 2016 at 8:59 PM

    Anonymous on May 31…I am currently experiencing the same situation. I began drinking at age 13 but have never been the type to need to drink every single day, I am the type that goes big when I do drink which leads to acting like a jack ass and black outs. It has really caused a strain in my marriage, my wife is done with it. I have finally come to the realization that I need to take this serious as I do not want to lose my wonderful kids and life I have created. Rather, I want to be the great role model that my father was to me. I also do not want to just run from this problem and I do not want to exclude myself from social events. I want to build myself as a new person who can enjoy drinking responsibly. I compare my situation to a person with an eating disorder; they don’t just stop eating food, they learn to control their cravings. I see it as more of a habit that it has become. It’s a lifestyle change that needs to occur. I am currently seeking counseling with my wife and trying to work thru this. She does not agree with me, thinks abstaining is the only way. I am encouraged and look forward to gaining her trust back and showing her, and myself, that I am strong and can do this. Good luck to all reading this and I guess I will keep you updated. Any encouragement or comments are appreciated.

  • Joe

    December 8th, 2016 at 7:41 PM

    I grew up not drinking. Later on in my 20’s I always set a limit of two on a Saturday night, when out with friends to keep me safe to drive home. Later on in my 30’s, I had friends in my neighborhood, we would eat and drink together. Because we could all walk home, there was no need to set a limit. At this time, I started drinking more and more. Then realized I was drinking more than I should.

    Then one day it hit me. With setting the limit before going in, (like your coins example), I had the needed self-discipline and plan. For some people the line gets gray, but by establishing boundaries beforehand, you can drink in moderation once again. This limit setting worked for me.

  • David R

    March 15th, 2017 at 8:16 PM

    You hit the nail on the head about trying not to drink away your emotional pain. For years, mainstream recovery believed that anxiety, stress and depression where induced by alcoholism. I believe it’s just the opposite. Do the work to eliminate anxiety or depression goes a long way towards moderate drinking.
    howtostopdrinkingwithoutaa.net/how-to-stop-drinking-alcohol-forever/

  • Bethany

    June 16th, 2017 at 5:16 PM

    So, the title of the article is “Stopping at the Buzz”. That is not possible with an alcoholic, that in fact is what defines an alcoholic, not having control. Once we have that first drink, it is a track we can’t get off of because the alcohol changes our thoughts about what is going on. We think we can just have one, we think we can stop at a certain time but when that time comes, our addicted mind tells us that ‘one more’ is ok. This is the thing that no one understands, the tricks our mind plays on us! I believe that is what separates alcoholic from others, the way alcohol makes us think while we are drinking. It’s almost as if another being takes over our thoughts. I know it sounds crazy, and it is! Anyone that is alcoholic KNOWS what I am talking about! So back to your article: If a person could just simply “stop” when they got to a certain point, then they wouldn’t be classified as an addict. Your points are good for those who can control themselves but the ONLY cure for an alcoholic is not starting, period. The HALT has to come before, not during.

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