Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Three Gear Drinking Brits

This article is for;

People who drink too much and want to cut down.

Reading this will give you;

You’ll realise that British drinking patterns are just habits. British drinking habits might be unhelpful and limited but they can certainly be changed. Moderate drinking is a skill and like all skills it can be learnt by most people.

Brits and their three gears of drinking

0 (neutral if you like) – Don’t drink.
3 – Drink fast
4 – Drink until you’re very drunk.

If this was a car, you wouldn’t be very happy. It’ll get you into a lot of trouble and you’ll be making an ass of yourself most of the time you’re driving. Same with drinking, you either be fine, when you’re in neutral or when you do drink, you risk the chance of hangovers, missing much of your weekend, feeling bad, sounding slurred, insulting someone you didn’t want to or even getting into trouble with other people. Drinking with three gears isn’t great and yet many British people drink this way. I did for twenty five years and the majority of people I know who drink, drink this way too.

Why are we so bad? Culture, perhaps? Weak minded? Peer pressure? The causes could be debated forever, the end result is that many of us only drink using third and fourth. We don’t drink using gears one and two because essentially, we don’t practice them. When was the last time you stopped after one? When was the last time you started with water? When was the last time you ordered a jug of tap water with your round?

What are gears one and two?


1 – Drink one or two drinks and stop
2 –Drink two, three or four drinks, with a soft drink starter or alternating between alcohol and soft drinks.

If you can master even one of these gears, your drinking will radically change. They are not difficult skills to master, you only need to practice them to get good at them.

I’ve practice ‘drinking one or two drinks and then stopping’ and for me, this has been my silver bullet. It has changed my attitude towards drinking. I now think before and during drinking about what could happen the next day. If possible, I drink with a soft drink too, to slow me down. The amount I drink now is much lower than before. I hardly ever drink more than four pints at a time. That used to be my minimum.

You don’t have to be a three gear drinking Brit. You don’t have to get drunk every time you drink (check out Scare Yourself with numbers). You don’t need to feel bad about yourself the next day. Take control of your drinking by practicing gears 1 and 2. Once you’ve got these gears, your drinking will change for the better.

Other articles on Moderate drinking

Overview of the Moderate Drinker
Will-power is overrated

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

You don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining

Who’s this for?

Heavy drinkers who want to cut down their drinking but who don’t want to stop. There are many advantages in moderating your drinking, namely better health, save more money and better relationships with the ones you love.


Abstaining can be great and though I’m not religious I believe that modern society is missing out because we don’t practice lent anymore.

I’ve abstained quite a few times, the longest ones being Feb 09, Dec 07 (India) and Feb 99 (India). Yes, I felt great afterwards and I thought they were worthwhile. They were welcome breaks for my body and my mind. They both felt better for not drinking. But when I started drinking again, I just went back to my old habits. You don’t become a moderate drinker by abstaining.

The skills are different.

Abstinence is mainly about avoidance of drink and saying no.

Moderation is finding new skills that help you handle drink better, like stopping after one or two drinks, drinking a soft drink with alcohol and being aware that drinking too much leads to unpleasant consequences the next day.

Practice the skills, to get better at them.

From my experience the only way to learn these skills is to do them and do them consistently. I found the use of triggers really helped me develop these skills. After you do them consistently for a while, they start to become natural.

Triggers I used

Another possible trigger to use

Drink water with, before and after an alcohol drink. If in the house – use a notice on your bottle of wine (or whatever it is you drink) “One wine, one water”. I feel strongly that the message needs to be with the drink as this helps you get consistent at doing it.


Many people believe that if they stop for some time and then start again, they will miraculously be moderate drinkers. I learnt from experience that this is not the case. Moderate drinking and abstinence are different. You need different skills to drink moderately.

I’m not against abstinence, I think for some people it’s the right choice and even for moderate drinkers a period of abstinence could be good for them. If you abstain from drinking, you will feel better (at least different).

If your goal is to be a moderate drinker, then you need to learn skills that help you be a moderate drinker. Simple as that.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Alcohol Diary - 14th - 31st October

Welcome to the Moderate Drinker.

After a busy start to the month, things settled down into a much healthier pattern.

Overall, I’m happy with the way I’m approaching drink. It feels natural to just have one in the home now and I was happy that I took action to reduce my drinking when I went out to the pub earlier in the month.

I'm loving the side benefits of moderate drinking too, especially the additional quality time that I have and I don't miss hangovers!
Overview of October

• 12 days alcohol free
• 10 days - 1 drink
• 4 days – 1-2 drinks
• 3 days – 2-3 drinks
• 2 days – 4 drinks

For November I’d like to increase the alcohol free days and reduce the days with 2-4 drinks. Only problem is that I’m going away to a vineyard for one weekend.

I’m thinking that a month off the alcohol would be good too but I don’t envisage that happening until March next year.

14th - 2 and a half small glasses of wine. Went to a friend’s house for dinner. Drank slowly and left the last glass of wine unfinished.
15th – 1 glass of red wine
16th – 1 glass of red wine
17th – 0
18th – 0
19th - 1 glass of red wine
20th – 0
21st - 1 glass of red wine
22nd – 4 and half small glasses of white wine
23rd – 0
24th – 0
25th – 1
26th – 1 and half small glasses of white wine
27th – 0
28th – 0
29th - 1 glass of red wine
30th - 1 glass of red wine
31st – 0

September Results

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Alcohol - Scare Yourself With Numbers

Since deciding to be a moderate drinker, I’ve become more aware of a few facts about my drinking.

A scary one was that I’ve been drinking heavily for about 25 years. That’s roughly 60 - 61% of my life.

Another scary one is to calculate roughly how many times I’ve been drunk (lets say four pints of beer or a bottle of wine) in my life.

• If it’s twice a week that will be 2,600 times.
• If it’s three times a week that will be 3,900 times.
• If it’s four times a week that will be 5,200 times.

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that it’s around the 3,900 mark. There have been times when I’ve drank less, but there’s definitely been times when I’ve drank more. That’s scary.

• 3,900 times I’ve drunk so much that its damaging to my brain.
• 3,900 attacks on my liver.
• 3,900 times that my speech has been affected by alcohol (maybe).
• 3,900 times I’ve been affected the next morning.
• 3,900 times before I took decisive action to drink moderately.

Also, another scary number. If I’ve been drunk 3,900 times, then that’s like being drunk every day for nearly 11 years. Now that’s scary.

When faced with numbers like this, I really wonder why I’ve continued to drink heavily for so long. It’s looks ridiculous to me now but it’s helping me to be stronger as I’ve realise the damage I’ve already done. These numbers scare me but they’ve also made me stronger.

Calculate your own numbers. Use equation in Excel.

=25*(52*3) (number in this equation are mine)

1. The number of years you’ve been drinking
2. Weeks per year
3. How many times a week you get drunk

Remember, scaring yourself is pointless, unless you scare yourself into action.

Posts for taking action

How to be a Moderate Drinker

Use 'Triggers' to change your drinking habits

Monday, 24 October 2011

How to be a Moderate Drinker!


This simple model gives you the tools to adjust your drinking downwards to levels where alcohol is harmless. You’ll also enjoy the day after drinking much, much more and develop new skills so that you can still enjoy a drink and have the confidence to determine how much you want and when to stop.

The Model

People blame their lack of will-power for failing to change things they don’t like about themselves. This pre-occupation with will-power tends to make people a bit short-sighted of what they can do to change their habit. Habit change is not only about will-power, it’s a bit more involved than that. It’s like trying to make a table by only using a measuring tape. There are more tools you can use. Once you use a saw and a hammer, the job becomes much simpler. The same is true for habit change, once you start using all the tools available to you, habit change becomes easier.

BJ Fogg - Model of Habit Change

• Motivation (will-power)
• Abilities

BJ Fogg has said in an interview that ‘abilities’ and ‘triggers’ are more important than motivation for actually creating a new habit.


What will you get when become a moderate drinker?

Some of my motivation

• No hangovers
• More quality time
• Peace of mind – 25 years is a long time to have a risky habit
• Lessen the risk of a serious accident
• Healthier
• More focus
• Move on from drunken behaviour (Drinking less has given me the opportunity to see people get drunk and it’s not that pretty. It makes me cringe to think I’ve done that so many times over the past 25 years

Motivation and being a Moderate Drinker

It’s very inconsistent and when I’ve planned to moderate my drinking in the past, new habits didn’t form because I was too inconsistent. It was hardly ever there at the right time and place, which is why I’ve used triggers. When combined with triggers, motivation is much more powerful because it’s there at the right time and in the right place. It has also led to a consistent approach of determining how many drinks I’ll have before I start drinking.

Abilities (new skills)

• Say no.
• Understand how and when you are drinking.
• Stop yourself. (after one, two or three drinks)
• Congratulate yourself when you say no and stop yourself.
• Deal with peer pressure
• Order water with a round/drink.
• Drink water in a pub.
• Disassociate being sociable, having a laugh, feeling open with drink and associate these things with yourself/being your friends.
• Associate hangovers, being down, being lazy more strongly with heavy drinking.

What I love about ‘abilities’ to be a moderate drinker is that none of them are ‘rocket science’. We can all say ‘no’ and we can all stop ourselves at having too much of something. Perhaps, we just don’t do this with drinks.

In Britain, many people drink fast and heavy. They don’t say ‘no’ to having another drink and they rarely stop themselves. Their habits dictate their actions and this won’t change until they start practicing saying ‘no’ to drinks and ‘stopping’ themselves. Once they practice, it’ll become easy. All it takes to get a new skill is practice.

Abilities and being a Moderate Drinker

I decided that at home, I would only have one glass of wine a night. One glass, partly for simplicity, easier to record and also I thought it might be easier to stop when I only have one glass. I used a trigger that basically told me ‘only one glass per night’ and this caused me to think before I drink (I think about the benefits of only drinking one). I was surprised at how easy it was and still is.

It’s now, almost natural to think before I drink. I’ve kept to only one glass per night, except for last Saturday when we had a small dinner party. This think before I drink has extended to when I go out with friends too. I don’t necessary keep to one drink on those occasions but I’m certainly drinking less than before.

Side effects – I’m starting to drink wine slower now, I drink a lot of water with and after drinking wine and I’ve used this tactic in the pub as well.


Triggers for your old/current habit

• Looking forward to a night out
• Rounds – keeps you drinking without gaps. Also encourages fast drinking, to be the same as everyone else. In the home, this habit continued, even without the ‘round’ trigger.
• Empty glass – this can trigger someone to fill it up for you.

There are many more.

The important thing about understanding triggers for your old habit is that you’re better equipped to disrupt them.

Triggers for introducing a new habit.

• Message stuck to my wine bottle – only one glass!
• Message by my wine bottle to remind me to celebrate only drinking one glass (celebrate no hangover in the morning and that I’ll feel good then too)

Possible other triggers, which I haven’t used.

• Message that reminds you why you want to cut down. In place where you can see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
• Small bottles of wine.
• Limited alcohol supply so that you can only drink one or two drinks.
• Associate buying a drink with also getting a pint of water.

Triggers and the Moderate Drinker

Most of my drinking is in the home and triggers really made becoming a moderate drinker easy. They reminded me ‘why’ I wanted to moderate my drinking and they did it at the right time and in the right place. They kept me consistent at stopping after one glass. This skill is transferable to the pub, where I’ve had a beer and next to my beer is a glass of water. I’ve turned down offers of drinks mainly because I didn’t feel like them. All this has come from being consistent in the home.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Will Power is Overrated!


Will-power/motivation is not the only key to changing a habit. It can help you decide to take action but it’s the actions you take that are the keys to change. Stop blaming yourself and stop making motivation an excuse.

Commonly said things about failure to change

I lack motivation! Where's my motivation - I don't have any! I'm pathetic! I said that I’d change but I don’t have the guts! I'm too weak! I don’t have it within me to change! I'm spineless!

As a society we seem to have an obsession with will-power, especially our lack of it and we end up staying with bad habits because many of us think we are too weak to change. Where does this obsession come from? Our parents, the boss, the wife, education? Who knows?

But all I know is that will-power is naturally a wibbly-wobbly thing.

Take will-power to moderate your drinking

• Stinking hangover – your will-power is probably 10/10 (a lot of people promise they will quit at this point)
• The worst of the hangover goes away – will-power goes down perhaps 7/10
• Someone calls you a day later. They want to meet-up for some drinks. It’s always fun with this person. Will-power goes down again 5/10
• You read about the damage heavy drinking does your body – will-power goes up 6/10
• You see a funny ad for drinks. It makes you smile – will-power goes down 5/10
• You’re excited about seeing your friend. Will-power goes down 2/10

When you need your will-power the most

It’s usually not there. Many people look forward to drinking, mainly because it’s associated with many enjoyable things – socialising, friends, laugher, going out, relaxing, after work activity etc.

It’s hard to even to think about ‘moderation’ when there’s so much to look forward to. Apparently, your conscious mind can only hold one thought at a time and there’s little chance that will happen if your mind is abuzz.

So stop blaming yourself and stop making ‘will-power’ the be all of habit-change. It’s not.

Next Post

I’ll introduce a Habit-Change model by BJ Fogg that has made it easy for me to moderate my drinking. In his model, motivation is only one of three tools that we can use to change a habit.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Trigger You Consistency – A Valuable Key for Habit Change

What will you get from reading this.

You’ll be able to change your habits that much easier by using triggers. Change bad habits into good ones and adopt new habits because ‘triggers’ keep you consist. Consistency is gold when it comes to habit change.

Hangovers are like motivation, they never happen at the right time.

How many times have you heard yourself or a good friend say ‘I’m never drinking again, never ever, not after last night!’ But as the hangover goes so does the motivation to stop or drink less. A day later it’s ‘I’m cutting down. I’ll just have a couple.’ And a couple of days later when you start drinking again, the hangover’s gone, the motivation’s to drink less has gone and you drink like you always do. Too much!

You know that you drink too much. You know that when you drink too much it can affect you the next day. You know that it does damage your body but yet, you still don’t moderate. Why?

My take on this, is because your brain is busy. Apparently, your conscious brain only holds one thought at a time and the likelihood of it thinking about ‘moderation’ at the right time is slim. There are too many other things to think about.

You could be thinking of your friends, the latest gossip, the bargirl, stress at work.

So if motivation doesn’t work well what does?

BJ Fogg has come up with a model of habit change which contains three elements. One of them is motivation and he’s says that motivation is the least important element. The other two are ability (to change) and triggers.

Take smoking for example

• Motivation – most smokers want to give up. They know that their habit is bad for them.
• Ability – most smokers give up when their ability to give up increases. This could be nicotine patches or a new mindset thanks to Alan Carr.
• Triggers – (to stop) strokes, serious illness, the warning on a cigarette package. (to smoke) fag break, coffee, reading the morning paper.

Triggers have worked where motivation hasn’t in the past. You need your ‘trigger’ to fire at the right place and the right time. What’s worked for me, has been placing 'two homemade triggers' by my wine bottles.

The first trigger

Reminds me that I’m only going to drink one.

It’s been surprisingly effective. Since putting it in place, I’ve only had one drink a night at home (half the time I don't drink).

It has also helped me build two useful ‘abilities’

1. Helps me to think before I drink. I think that I’m only going to have one. After that I’ll be on water again. I smell my drink more and make more of an effort to saviour it.

2. Stop at one. I only drink one per night because it’s easy to record and it’s also easier to stop after one than after two or three.

The second trigger

Reminds me to congratulate myself for only drinking one drink. This is a new habit and if it’s going to replace the old habit I need to enjoy it and celebrate it.

I added this one later as I noticed that I wasn’t always congratulating myself for stopping at one.

Celebrating 'good behaviour' is important as it’s going up against habits that have lasted twenty five years or more.


Triggers have consistently kept my mind on ‘moderation’. They helped me get off to a great start and have reminded me at the right time and place so that I can practice moderation. I had the motivation (the right intention) before but it was never consistent enough to really change my drinking habit.

Now, after five weeks, not only do I always think before I drink in my home but when I'm out this new behaviour is also present. I have said no to drinks and free ones at that. I’ve really got to a stage where I’ve thought about my habit quite deeply and I’m changing my views and associations on drinking which should have a lasting effect.

When you want to change a habit, be it drinking more moderately, stop smoking or eat better, use triggers to get you think and take action at the right time and place. Use triggers to keep you consistent. Once you're consistent, your new habit starts to take root. It starts to be become automatic.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Alcohol Diary - October update

Alcohol Diary

The first ten days of October I was back in the UK visiting friends and family. This was a challenging time for me as most of my moderation practice has been in the house. I’ve definitely changed my approach to drinking. It’s more moderate and I’m taking a lead in ensuring that our table in the pub has water. So overall I’m pleased about this.

I drank 4 drinks once. This is less than what I would’ve drunk in a similar situation previously. I took action to mix the drinking of beer with water. Ideally, I would’ve drunk three. I’ll have to think about what changes I can do to make this happen.

I was impressed that the pubs I went to in Bristol gave us a jug of water. This is positive move on their behalve and it was good to hear other people ordering pints of water with their drinks (though this was a Sunday).


1st – 250 mil bottle of beer and small glass of wine.
2nd – 0
3rd – 2 pints of Guinness with my dad. Only in pub from 9:30 to 11 that’s the main reason why I only had two pints. Previous, I would have three pints on these occasions.
4th – 0
5th – 3 pints of bitter (alcohol % ??) – in Bristol, each drink was accompanied by water. The bar gave us a jug of water. People I was with also drank moderately, previous some of us would’ve drank more.
6th – 1 and ½ cans of Guinness – at my dad’s place
7th – 1 glass of red wine – at my dad’s place
8th – 3 small glasses of red wine. No drinking water or spacing drinks – at my sister’s place
9th – 4 pints of ale. This was from 3pm until 8pm. We went to the pub earlier because my friend in Bristol had to leave very early in the morning. Acceptable, though ideally 3 pints would have been better. Again we had a jug of water on the table and each drink was accompanied by a glass of water. Refused a couple of offers for another drink.
10th – one glass of wine on the plane to the Netherlands
11th – 0
12th – 0
13th – 1 glass of red wine in my house.

September Alcohol Diary

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The moderate Drinker

What’s in it for you?

Heavy drinkers, there’s a lot in it for you! How about a better sex life; better relationships; a better self-image; being more productive; saving money; being a sexy rebel; better health; more go; being a leader, how to cut down and ultimately for a lot of heavy drinkers a new ‘take it or leave it’ attitude towards drink (you can be in control of your drinking rather than the other way round).


You already know the answer to this one. The government, the health authority, your family, perhaps even your partner are constantly reminding you of the dangers and drawbacks of drinking too much. They can be annoying but you know they are right. And just in case you’ve forgotten, here are some reminders.

Hangovers – these are nasty things and when you moderate your drinking you can avoid them altogether.

Time – I’m not talking about the fun times, the parts where you are socializing with friends or getting close to a love one, I’m talking about the time after you drink. Your weekend, your free time, the time you put aside to write your novel, to practice your punches, to learn new dance steps etc. Drinking too much can ruin how you use your free time. Do you want to be left with just work-time, drunk time and recovery time?

Focus – When I was in my twenties, my focus was on the night. I associated this with the good times, socializing, women, and lots of fun. It was an expensive focus as I didn’t put in much effort with my career, things that I love doing outside the bar and many other things, like my family. Become a moderate drinker and your focus will probably get stronger and be more on what’s important.

Health – Heavy drinking is bad for you. Bad for your liver. Bad for your brain. Bad for your mood. Bad if you are trying to start a family. And probably bad in many other ways too.

Other areas of life that could change for the better if you become a moderate drinker – relationships, productivity, self-image, etc.

It’s not about Will Power – it’s about habit change

Too many people think they can change themselves and the world though ‘will-power’. For most people, relying on will-power sets them up for failure. Habit change is more than just will-power.

Habit Changers that helped and influenced my transition to being a moderate drinker.

BJ Fogg

Three elements of habit change

• Motivation (will-power)
• Ability

BJ Fogg – underlying approach to habit change

• Make change as easy as possible
• Take small steps towards your goal
• Motivation is the least important element of change.
• Celebrate ‘victories’ (drinking water in a pub)

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits


• Understand your habit, what are the triggers for your habit, where and when does it happen.
• Make small and easy changes
• Develop half habits – rather than an all or nothing approach, constantly try to move towards your goal. Failure is feedback.
• Tackle one habit at a time.

New Skills

The great thing about becoming a moderate drinker; you have to start doing things differently. If you’re a heavy drinker, some new skills that you might learn are;

• To say no to a drink.
• Understand how and when you are drinking.
• Stop yourself.
• Congratulate yourself when you say no and stop yourself.
• Order water with a round/drink.
• Drink water in a pub.
• Disassociate being sociable, having a laugh, feeling open with drink and associate these things with yourself/being your friends.
• Associate hangovers, being down, being lazy more strongly with heavy drinking.

A lot of these skills are pretty basic, like drinking water in a pub, but they are new to many heavy drinkers.

The author

I was a heavy drinker for twenty five years. I started binge drinking when I was 16. Getting drunk seemed so much fun. It was such a release. My heaviest drinking years were my college years where I was almost always drunk in the evenings. I puked up a lot and generally felt unwell. I continued dinge drinking through my twenties where my focus was more on the night than the day, at the expense of a career. In my thirties binge drinking continued but was starting to be replaced by heavy drinking in the house. In my early forties, most of my drinking was in the home. Then I saw this video on the brain 'How to improve your brain.' (This is part 1 of 7 - I'm not sure which one alcohol is a focus) and decided it was time for a change.

It took me twenty five years to change. To be honest, I’m still changing. I started on 3rd September 2011 and my new habits are still babies compared to my twenty five year old heavy drinking habit. It’ll be an on-going process, at least until the end of this year but I’m confident that change will be permanent. Actually, I’m surprised at how easy it has been so far!