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Moderate Drinking, For Those Who Aren’t Quite Alcoholics

I drink a lot. Like, an embarrassing amount. I am not proud of this and I know it is bad and, yes, I am trying to work on being better about it—but I don’t want to quit drinking. I’m not in a position that drinking is ruining my life but I am aware that it has become a bit of a habit and that how I drink needs to be reshaped and reformed, molded into something more manageable and realistic: my drinking needs to become normal again.

But how? Is that a thing? Is there a scale for drinking, something that is a little less cut-and-dry than “alcoholic” or “sober”? Apparently, this does exist: it’s called moderation. “Duh,” I can hear you say—but it’s more than that. NPR has a wonderful story on this idea which provides many options and avenues for seeking self-help. It takes a more adult approach to drinking, allowing you to be the driver in this operation—not someone that is sat down as a passenger in their own alcohol responsibilities.

A lot of this way of thinking comes from the antiquated jargon of people being either “alcoholic” or “sober.” As they note, it isn’t as cut and dry as it used to be.

Problems with alcohol run the gamut from mild to severe. And there are as many kinds of drinkers along the continuum as there are personality types.

People with severe problems, such as those who keep on drinking even after they lose jobs or get DUIs, need treatment to stop drinking completely.

But there are other drinkers, including some who are in the habit of drinking more than one or two drinks a day, who may be able to cut back or moderate their consumption and reduce their risk.

In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the majority of Americans who drink more than one or two drinks a day are not alcoholics. They don’t report symptoms of dependence.

This speaks directly to me. I love to drink—but I know I drink too much and I know, while it has yet to have a negative affect on my life outside of a hangover or slightly embarrassing social media taboo, that shit has got to change. And I don’t want to not drink: it’s such a part of my personality and my only vice. I don’t do any drugs and I have a very Californian, healthy diet and I only drink wine. Drinking is the only “bad” thing that I do and it is very much a part of my identity.

Thankfully, there are options. One is the Drinker’s Checkup, AKA online Intervention. On a somewhat old website, you are asked many questions that hope to let you know if you are at risk or if you are normal. It also has you break down exactly why you are drinking and what happens when you drink and after you drink. There are suggestions for help and a lot of real talk. The only “downside” to this is that it costs a little over thirty dollars to use. I jumped to pay this because I felt like it was a way of holding myself accountable, to make a serious step forward. I am confident that it will help.

Another great—and free—option is Rethinking Drinking. From drink tracking cards to helpful tips, they are a fantastic resource for guiding you toward a solution. After going through the therapy that is Drinker’s Checkup, Rethinking Drinking gives you some tangible coping mechanisms that will help you reach your goal.

I plan on doing a few things, based on my experience with both of these websites. First, I’m going to cut back a lot on how much I am drinking. I’m going to start tracking every drink I have on my phone, to look and see what I am doing. I’m going to start using smaller drinking vessels, measuring out what I am consuming in order to keep both accountability and regulation of the activity. I’m also setting rules, limits on how much and the where and when of drinking. They’re all manageable, too. Nothing is too big and overwhelming: it’s all shit I can handle and am not ashamed of and I like that.

For us young people who came of age in a culture of collegiate booze mania, steps and practices for monitoring your drinking is important. It’s the adult thing to do. Build good habits and think of your future self. Help yourself be your best self.

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