How I Learned Not To Drink More Than I Should, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:57am

I want to give you a gift.

Let me tell you what I have learned about reducing alcohol consumption to medically recommended levels. A personal 10 year lesson, with all sorts of tests.

I understand that alcohol holds no sway over some, so if managing your drinking is not hard for you, then all I offer today is a story. Thanks for listening.

So. As you may know, doctors now say women should have no more than one drink/day, and no more than 7/week. In other words, when you find yourself at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant, down one artisinal gin martini and contemplating a refracting glass of Sauvignon Blanc, you’re going to have to compensate tomorrow.

At one point, this was very hard for me.

Why? How did it happen? As a young woman I was never much of a one for alcohol. After a few bad college experiences with binge drinking, that is. As a young married person, I drank only when we went out to restaurants, or had people over. Could take it or leave it.

Life got more difficult. My work more demanding, my marriage, well, more difficult.

I began to drink regularly. First, after work with colleagues. You know, tough day, out with the team, have a martini. A glass of wine. Then at home. You know, very tough day, long commute, arrive home after the family has finished dinner, drink half a bottle of wine at the kitchen counter with your cold food. Don’t forget the expensive cheese and Acme bread.

Then I got divorced. Let me hasten to say mine never became a story of alcohol abuse, technically. But I did get to the point where I’d have 2 glasses of wine every night, alone. Sometimes 3. Every now and again, when I felt the need to blow myself up, if you will, 4. That’s a lot of alcohol for a 120 pound woman. Technically, that’s what they call “heavy drinking.”

My doctor told me I had to cut back. So I tried. But ambiguous and uncertain future health dangers proved an insufficient incentive. What to do?

Here is the set of practices that finally worked.

How To Drink Only As Much As You Want To

  1. Confirm there’s a problem. Duh, I suppose, but I really did have hear from the doctor that this mattered. I was too good at swatting away my own internal voices.
  2. Find or create a near-term reward. Vague future punishments like health problems are infinitely less motivating than near-term good things. In my case, it was sleeping through the night. Everything changed the morning I realized that I could sleep a whole night through if I kept to one 5 oz glass of wine/night.
  3. Focus tightly on drinking behaviors.
    1. Settle on a habitual glass. Find out how 5 oz fills it. Too many heavy drinkers will say they had “one glass” when they are in fact holding a tumbler.
    2. Do not starting drinking alcohol until you’re well hydrated. No need to waste a gulp of tension release on slaking thirst.
    3. Get yourself situated with food or whatever your drinking trigger is before you start. A sofa. A tearjerker. White tablecloths always make me want wine. Satisfy all the needs at once.
    4. Drink slowly. Watch your glass.
    5. Have an “all done” signal for yourself. In my case, it’s a few squares of dark and milk chocolate, and/or a piece of fruit. I believe there’s a scientific reason these choices work for me – alcohol converts to blood sugar, and fruit and chocolate trick the addiction into believing I’m still giving in.
    6. And most importantly, I remind myself all day long that I’m not going to drink heavily. I have a little mantra, “No Alcohol.” I don’t really mean No Alcohol, of course. But I say it whenever I notice that I’m storing the stress of the day in a little space only alcohol held the key to. Refusing to put the stress away means I have to breathe a lot more. Means I have to pay attention.

And yes, although I can’t call myself an alcoholic, it’s an addiction. But a managed one.

Managed without 12 Steps, by the way. I’m an atheist, so that wasn’t going to work. But more importantly, abstinence wasn’t my goal. I’m rarely a bad drinker, I’m fun. I smile. I tell you I love you. And the one drink is good for one’s health. So I wanted, with all the tools I could collect, to keep drinking.

I wanted to drink the way I wanted to, not the way the alcohol wanted me to.

That’s the final piece. I’ve concluded that when you want a drink you shouldn’t have, it’s actually the alcohol that you’ve consumed before, 5 years ago, last night, 20 minutes past, just now, that’s calling for more. I tell myself, it’s the alcohol that wants more, not you.

I confess that I wish I didn’t miss it, I wish it weren’t work to control. But alcohol runs in my family, and now that it’s in my blood, I think I’ve found my way to a sustainable relationship.

Maybe this is useful, or maybe it’s just a reminder that everyone’s got their stuff. Have a wonderful weekend.


Post updated in 2015, here

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  • If I may pry, why did your doctor to tell you to cut back? Was this in response to you honestly answering the standard annual check-up “How much do you drink?” question, or were there some health issues? In any event, bravo for getting it under control. While alcohol has never been an issue for me, food sure has. I admire anyone with the self control to handle their stuff — whatever that may be.

    11:55 am
    Lisa said...

    I had no health issues. It was me answering the question honestly. Health issues would have been another incentive.

  • I’ve found that drinking for enjoyment rather than strictly for stress release is a lot more enjoyable.

    A gin&tonic on a summer porch overlooking a lake, sangria next to a pool, a glass of red wine in crystal on a white tablecloth, a lovingly mixed whiskey sour curled up on the couch with husband and books… those are pleasures of life, and I’d hate to give them up. I find that couching the drinking with enjoyment makes the enjoyment the key, and I’m less likely to reach for a glass of wine after a hard day when I know that a cup of moroccan peppermint tea would calm me down just as well.

    Also, I’ve found that, after the age of about 25, more than 3 or so glasses of wine leads to waking up with a migraine, no matter how much water I drink (and then you can’t take migraine meds if you value your liver, so…). It’s a lot easier to keep it to 1-2 glasses on a Friday night when you value your free time and don’t want to spend it in bed with a migraine!

    9:44 am
    Pauline said...

    I love this comment. Drink for enjoyment, not stress relief. An excellent precept to keep in mind!

  • I love this post and could talk for hours on this topic. One thing I’ve managed to change was how I looked at alcohol. Once I began my blog and became interested in cocktail photography I started to view “cocktailing” as more of an art form. I also do not keep wine in my house. I buy small individual bottles for cooking but rarely do I open a bottle to drink unless it’s with company. It just flows too easily. Good luck and thanks for posting on this topic.

  • I’ve made a concerted effort to cut back this year. I did have that “honest” discussion with myself, not my Dr. I applaud your techniques and your honesty. The tumbler comment is so true. That’s the one my friend uses. I think drinking very slowly has been the most helpful for me.
    Have a great Saturday.

  • Agreed that a small something that starts out as an innocuous choice can rapidly bend toward an addictive habit.

    One likes to maintain control over such behaviors, put them in that space where they’ll cause no trouble, make no demands. It’s nice to be a social drinker; rather less so to be a drunk, even a happy one.

    Brave of you to address the issue. You never fail to surprise.

    1:08 pm
    Marcy Simmons said...

    So true, Elsa! Lisa never fails to surprise…
    I have been thinking about this topic myself lately. The timing of this post is so apt; right after the holidays, when “happy” and “drinks” go hand in hand, and during the reflective month of January, when it is still not too late to set in motion the tone for the year.
    After I finished my (3rd) Friday night martini last night, I decided that good old water will now be my after dinner beverage of choice.
    Thanks for the nice reminder, and it sure feels good to be in your company.

    10:59 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. Good to have your company too. I should maybe have said, it isn’t really very brave – although I thank you for the kind words. Speaking out helps, I have found, to remove the shame. I don’t think of alcohol as a vice. And once I realized that I had a problem to manage, vs. a vice, I began telling everyone I know well that I was trying not to drink so much. It isn’t a sign of weakness to notice you have a problem and try to deal with it. And once said out loud, it’s easier, I’ve found, to keep working on the issue.

  • Brava! Glad you got it under control with intelligence.
    I was very fortunate early on in that I got a hangover from my first glass of wine. No fun, no relaxing ‘high’ just a terrible headache almost immediately.
    Thank heaven that no longer happens. I do enjoy a good glass of wine from time to time.


  • I wish my father had made the same decision you did and controlled his drinking. When life got difficult, he started drinking, first a glass of wine, then also a glass of whisky, then half a bottle of wine at dinner, then a full bottle at lunch as well. He was also a fun drinker at first, until he wasn’t. The doctors warned him but he didn’t listen. “I have to die of something”he used to say “better be something I enjoy”.He died at 56, from pancreatitis (his pancreas exploded a night 5 years ago and started hallucinating that giant spiders were coming to get him). He died after having ruined every meaningful relationship he had had, including our own. By the time he died he had become so self destructive, so aggressive, so toxic that I had stopped talking to him, had not invited him to my wedding and had decided that my children were not going to meet him, ever, if I were to have any.
    I am happy to hear you will not go down the same road. You are smarter than he was.

    11:00 am
    Lisa said...

    I am so sorry for your experience with your father.

    7:27 pm
    Violet said...

    Marcela, you are still angry with you dad and that is understandable. I write only to tell you that his alcoholism had nothing to do with his decision making or how smart he is. Knowledge and intelligence are irrelevant.

  • We had a large party this past holiday season that caused us to shop for wine glasses. Our 30 year old wedding gifts were down to 5 mismatched stems. A modern white wine holds about 3 glasses of yor. A red wine even more. It’s a good suggestion to reacquaint oneself with what a serving, 6 oz. looks like!

    11:39 am
    Eleanorjane said...

    Very true – I’ve had small, short wine glasses for years for that reason. And so they went in the dishwasher (when I had one) and aren’t so crazy fragile.

  • Excellent piece, and I can relate to every bit of it. Even the recent duh moment about paying attention. So thanks. xo

    11:00 am
    Lisa said...


  • Good for you. Lately being on Weight Watchers and having to track points has helped me keep tabs on alcohol as well as food consumption. My mother was a bit of an alcoholic, so I’ve been very conscious about my own consumption since my 20’s. I’ve also found that my tolerance has dropped with age. Two glasses of wine with dinner is the most I can usually drink anymore without having a hellish night later on.

  • Great post, Lisa. Very thoughtful, well-written, clear, and compelling. Congratulations to you for taming the beast that consumes so many of our people. Thank you for sharing your story, and your journey, told with honesty, grace, and candor. With affectionate respect, Reggie

    11:01 am
    Lisa said...

    You too, Reggie. And I maintain that a drunken night or two, complete with bar shenanigans, among friends, is perfectly fine:).

  • Another excellent, thoughtful post. Keeping a stainless bottle of tap water in my car for the commute is a good way to hydrate at the end of the day so that I don’t try to drink wine when I’m thirsty. Love the idea of a square of dark chocolate as a closing ritual. Saving my 5 oz of wine as “dessert” is another tool that works for me.

  • Good for you! I have to say, though, I still remember an old post of yours about wine charms — that wine didn’t need to be more charming. So funny.

    11:02 am
    Lisa said...

    You’ve been reading FOREVER! That was maybe when I first started focusing on the issue, now that I think about it.

  • What an honest post, and very gracious of you to share your story. It is so easy, when not paying attention, to just have another of whatever. And yes, sleep is so much better with just one glass of wine.

  • Oh my what a well-written and helpful post. I am going to keep all of these things in mind. I’ve struggled with wine consumption as I’d rather have 3 glasses than just 1. I stopped drinking completely last year for a couple of months and that sort of broke the habit, though I do have to watch myself. I am going to copy and use all of these tips. Thank you Lisa!

    11:02 am
    Lisa said...

    Dani – I am very glad you find this useful. That was my hope.

  • Very gutsy post. I appreciate and honor your openness.

  • It’s very brave of you to write this. As the daughter of someone who rationalized how much he drank, I appreciate your honesty with yourself.

  • I have been recovering/recovered from alcohol abuse for 28 years. Abstinence is necessary for some of us (actually many of us). Had to laugh at “a bit of an alcoholic” – sort of like being a little bit pregnant!

    11:05 am
    Lisa said...


    I did not mean to imply that everyone should take my approach. My apologies if I’ve been insensitive. I completely agree that some do need to abstain completely. To address your second comment below, I agree, it is a problem, my relationship with alcohol, one that I had to address and continue to work on. If tomorrow the medical profession tells me that any alcohol at all is bad for me, I will quit altogether. I never drank during my pregnancies. But as it stands, given that I enjoy it, given that I seem to be able to stop at one drink – usually – if I pay attention, this is the solution that works best for me.

  • Another thanks for your honest post. I discussed the alcohol issue with my female physician some time ago. She was a bit squishy on how much is too much for a woman. She said that in the case of a woman who eats a healthy diet with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, no one really knows how much is safe. However, better to err on the side of safety. I stopped drinking Jan 1 and find i don’t miss it at all. I was drinking more wine because of stress and decided that isn’t a good reason. Once I’m through this current stressful period I will evaluate the situation and see if I can moderate it. So, your post is timely for me.

    I admit that I’m much relieved that so far it hasn’t been a struggle to stop. I have reevaluated some friendships though. Those based on an evening of wine-drinking will be put on the back burner.

    11:06 am
    Lisa said...

    Congratulations on stopping and how wonderful not to miss it.

  • Alcohol is such a pervasive part of HW culture it’s a wonder we’re not baptized with gin. Alcohol trickles through my family tree as well, and I count myself lucky to have avoided the addiction gene (though you’d have been hard-pressed to tell during my exuberant college days). Much as I love a good social glass of wine, I’m not much tempted anymore. Lately I feel the next-day “post-drink’em” effects after a single glass–but without the warm fuzzies or giddy jollies on the front end. So the risk/reward ratio is not in my favor. But don’t get me started on high-quality extra-dark chocolate!

  • I am right there with you. I find it hard to just drink one glass of wine when there is a whole evening stretched out in front of me and I am at a party or whatever. Add to the mix Lexapro and you have a recipe for disaster.

    11:08 am
    Lisa said...

    I can only imagine.

  • Very gutsy post. It gives me a lot to think about. Thank you!

  • This was a brave and informative post. I admire your honesty and grace – it is much easier to gloss over addictive behaviour, I should know because I do it myself.

    I am under a lot of pressure at present with a very sick husband on palliative care. Alcohol in moderation is a great tonic, unfortunately when life feels out of control it is easy to overdose.

    Your solution struck me as eminently sensible and reasonable.


    11:09 am
    Lisa said...

    Sue – I feel for what you’re going through with your husband. There are times when we have nothing left to address our own issues.

  • Thank you for a very valid point. Women are much more susceptible to alcohol damage than men. Even more so if they have genetic conditions that make them more susceptible.

    I am an A1AT carrier – a condition that affects 3% of the population and makes us very susceptible to liver damage from alcohol. Very few carriers know their status unless, like me, they lose a non-alcoholic sibling to liver failure.

    11:09 am
    Lisa said...

    Very sorry for the loss of your sibling. Very glad that you now understand what you face.

  • I do enjoy reading your blog, dont always have the time to follow it but this one really caught my attention. So honest, so open, and I am sure it will help others. In my job I come across colleagues that have alcohol problems – from the “partydrinker” to the alcoholic whose body is chemically dependent on alcohol. In Sweden alcoholism is oficially a disease and our employer has a program for help. Have seen many fight their way back from this -they were much farther down the line than you, but if you dont stop in time you will eventually end up there. And the disease will eventually kill you- that is the bottom line – if you dont control it. Controlled drinking is a very good way of assuring that you never get too far down on that line. Good for you for doing that on your own! Hugs from Sweden

    11:10 am
    Lisa said...

    Northern cultures seem to embrace hard alcohol, which makes this all the more difficult. Sweden, as usual, takes such a humane approach to society’s issues.

  • I do have my weaknesses , mainly chocolate related , but not alcohol . I think I have juvenile taste buds . However can I add one little tip to your list – dilute your white wine with soda water or something similar . If you do drink too quickly ,like me , at least you are only downing half the alcohol . We call them Spritzas which sound fun .

    5:29 am
    Duchesse said...

    Spritzers wreck good wine. I get the dilution factor but would rather enjoy one glass of fine wine, then switch to Perrier.

    5:45 pm
    Staircase Witch said...

    Spritzers may wreck good wine, but they improve average wine. Five ounces of so-so Riesling and twelve ounces of chilled lime-flavored seltzer is a very pleasant and light afternoon drink, similar to what I was often served in Bavaria or Zurich when I eschewed Weissbeer for Weisswein. Perrier, however, should be drunk unadulterated.

  • Lisa,
    I guess we humans all have our very own vices. Married to a European, dinner without wine is a sin. I think there are worse things, such as those that consume liter’s of sugary soda’s or packs of cigarettes. I have gone many a time without wine or liquor and I think giving one’s system a break is always beneficial for one’s good health.
    Studies have shown that a glass of wine with your meal does add to your life.
    Read “The Blue Zones” and you will respect cultures who create wine and honor a daily glass to add years. “A votre sante” – To your good health!

    11:11 am
    Lisa said...

    Exactly. It’s about health, not virtue per se.

  • Well thanks, great post. I can so relate. I have enormous alcohol tolerance and used to work in publishing in my salad days where drinking was part of the culture. We just did it because we could, I suppose and I still have to take care not to overdo it.

    I usually feel like having a drink to wind down at the end of the day, when there is still too much going on in my head. I can totally understand it’s a writers’ addiction.

    The chocolate/blood sugar level suggestion is a good one and was new to me. I kind of do it the other way round: I have fruit juice instead of water or wine with my evening meal and the appetite for alcohol subsides.

    People always think this is about lack of willpower which is not correct. Willpower has been proven by studies to be an exhaustible resource. If you have used up your quota during a challenging day it’s good to have a no-brainer solution in place when you come home. Yours sounds, as always, very smart!

    And thanks for the lovely starter comment!

  • After I’ve had a day to digest this, it’s occurred to me that a good many of my friends probably drink more than seven drinks a week. And some, way more. While it’s not possible to be “a little bit pregnant,” I suppose it’s very common to be “a little bit of an alcoholic.” I wonder how many women fall into that under-the-radar category of being highly functional but not necessarily healthy? I am guessing a lot.

    11:13 am
    Lisa said...

    I think this is very definitely a syndrome that women succumb to. It’s just wine, after all. The taint of sin fades as you move from whiskey to wine, which allows for more self-deception.

  • Thanks Lisa for your honest post. It just so happens, that I meet people with addictions, mostly those addicted to alcohol, in my weekly life.
    You wrote, that your drinking is in control. If so, congratulations. You belong to a very small minority of people who are able to do it. Not to forget, that you have a genetic burden to carry along.
    Meeting people with the similar difficulty, I have to agree with Sally above: A woman either is pregnant or then she isn´t. The same applies to alcoholism- either you are one, or you aren´t.
    There is no in-between state.
    Keeping drinking in control is difficult, once you have realized that it is a problem for you.
    The best thing to do, is to give up drinking alcohol totally, IMO.
    Finding out the reason for the drinking is vital. That has to be solved, before you are able to proceed.
    If you have been able to cut your drinking into one glass a day, why not cut it out completely?
    My comment is a serious one, due to the fact, that alcoholism is a severe thing.

    11:15 am
    Lisa said...

    But Mette, why should I cut out the one drink if it helps me manage stress, tastes good, and is statistically assumed to be healthy?

    I will say this again. I attribute no virtue per se to abstinence. If it is what you need to do, however, I applaud your decision and your capacity to follow through.

    12:26 pm
    mette said...

    Lisa, the healthiness ( ! ) of alcohol is contradictory.
    Once you have created a problem with alcohol, it is always there with you.
    Needing the glass of wine/ or whatever to get rid of stress sounds frightening. There are/ must be other ways to face difficulties.
    Does alcohol really taste good? It is a subjective issue.

    11:49 pm
    Elizabeth said...

    (responding to your comment below)

    Alcohol does indeed taste delicious to most people. Wines and beers were created to accompany many different cuisines. Cocktails, aperitifs and digestifs as other ways to enjoy the taste of alcohol.

    Drinking for celebration rather than stress relief is the ideal, but there are days when the better half and I will pick up a couple of Tsingdao beers after a particularly tiring day at work – big bottles, the same size local Beijingers drink – and it helps to loosen our tongues, talk about things, and put the day behind us.

    PS: I’ve never had a problem with alcohol. Smoking was my vice for many years. A few people are able to be casual/social smokers. After trying to be a casual smoker, that’s not possible for me. Some people are able to turn back from alcohol problems too.

  • It’s true everyone has their own personal struggle with something. I know it’s not easy to put it out there. Thank you for sharing, missy. xoxo

  • Yep. Exactly. Although probably very few of us actually fall into the category of “problem drinkers”, it is true that the very small amount that is considered healthy is actually the amount being consumed. Hell, I just got back from a ski holiday, I have had my allotment, my husband’s allotment, and that of half of France. But as the others say, sleep is very telling. You feel so much better when you stop at one, and your sleep just feels so much more….natural. Trouble is, when you go out to a very nice dinner, the aperetif and wine pairings already put you well into what they consider “binge” territory.

  • @Dawn– I completely agree. This post is very timely for me, since I am in the under-the-radar category, as are most of my friends. I don’t have a problem as in “drinking a ton as passing out all the time” but I do have a problem if a problems is defined as “more than 7 drinks in a week.”

    I’m in the 10-12 drinks a week category, and it bothers me a little. It seems like something I just need to keep an eye on. I really like the ritual that Lisa has with the chocolate. Half the time I think I drink because I want something that tastes good. I don’t keep candy or soda/fun non-alcoholic drinks in the house, but if I did I wonder if that would satisfy my craving. I’m going to try that.

    Also, for me, wine is way more addictive than anything else. If I have a martini, I enjoy it greatly and then I’m done with drinking for the night. If I have a glass of wine, I want a lot more. Every. single. time. I wonder why that is…

    11:16 am
    Lisa said...

    E. – yes, there is something about wine to me too. You know that old phrase, “What’s your poison?” Maybe different chemical compounds affect people differently.

  • Thank you for sharing this. So many women aren’t aware that alcohol has become a problem for them. It doesn’t take much – two glasses of wine with dinner seems so reasonable, yet it is more than most women’s livers can tolerate on a regular basis.

  • So much common sense here. There are certainly people for whom I would agree that absolute abstinence is a must, but it’s a slippery slope in reaching that point. Tackling something that could become a major problem before it reaches that state as you did is huge. It’s hard for most people to address these type of things before they get completely out of control.

    Other than a few nights of crazy partying in university, alcohol has never been my vice, but of course we all have those things which can slip from being enjoyable, to overindulging to out of control and the advice rings true to many vices.

  • Wow! I keep coming back to this entry and these comments. I am not at all comfortable with “controlled” drinking. In my opinion (based on the fact that I am an alcoholic and fairly well versed on addiction) if one has to think about/ control it, one may, just maybe, have a problem with drinking.

  • Great post. Especially since I’m reading it while laying on the sofa nursing a hangover. “Why did I have that last drink”? = Famous last words.

    11:18 am
    Lisa said...

    I appreciate your sense of humor:). One more drink always seems like a good idea, and for me at least it far more often a bad one. Sigh. The good news is that the 3rd drink used to be the one I missed, now it’s the 2nd, and eventually maybe that will diminish even more with continued attention. I don’t want to stop drinking, per se, but I like reducing the need.

  • Thoughtful touching piece. Inspired thoughts of strategies for addressing other tendencies that might not be productive. I also enjoyed the constructive comments and dialogue you shared with others on this page; something rare and refreshing.

  • Lisa, this is a gift. I’ve managed the food, the smoking, financial discipline, most everything. But wine. I only drink wine with food, love the pairings, love the relaxed time to talk with my one and only. But it’s getting down to the single 5 oz. glass instead of two, rarely three, that has me concerned. My health is excellent, my stress is negligible. But I have this little nagging voice saying I need to keep it that way. Heartfelt thanks to you and all those who have made such good comments.

  • Great post and interesting points in the comments.

    I’m totally on board with managing drinking. I enjoy a glass to wine with dinner, but just like anything else, I need to pay attention and make healthy choices.

    To me, it’s similar to food (I can VERY easily slip into more fat, sugar etc than is good for me), exercise, sleep, socialising, church etc. I need to constantly pay attention to keeping a healthy balance.

  • Lisa, your generosity and bravery in sharing this is humbling. Thank you.

  • These are really excellent suggestions, and this is a topic that’s been on my mind as well. A strategy I’m working on lately is to collect the perfect glassware, all the special bartending tools, etc. so that I can mix each drink to perfection and get the most out of the experience of a single cocktail. I’ve found that the process of selecting the right recipe and crafting the cocktail is gratifying in and of itself, and nothing beats serving it up in an elegant glass with just the right garnish. Among my recent bar purchases was a set of 5 oz. Nick & Nora cocktail glasses, which look satisfyingly full with a 4 oz. pour.

    2:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    And Audi, I look forward to more evenings out with you. Great way to spend a 2-drink night:).

  • Dear Lisa,

    This myth that alcohol has health enhancing effects has been brought up in the comments and you use it as an argument.

    The truth behind those studies is this: A glass of whine is not per se healthy.

    The statistics prove that people who consume this or that amount live healthier compared to others.
    It is not the alcohol that makes people healthier but the capability to stick with 1 glass (=125ml, not 250ml!!)

    People who drink no more than 125ml obviously are in control of their lives. So to say: if someone can control the intake of alcohol, he also controls the intake of fat, sugar, amount of sleep etc.

    To say alcohol is healthy is like saying the birth controll pill reduces the risk of breast cancer. It is not the pill, but the regular visits at the gynecologist that make the difference!
    You would reduce your risk of breast cancer by going to the gynecologist as well without taking the pill.

    There is no proof, that the pill per se is healthy and there is no proof, that alcohol per se is healthy.

    Statistics are often about the way people lead their live. And the pill comes with regular visits at the gynecologist and a glass of wine – as you pointed out – comes with controlling your life. Statistics are always ONE way of looking at something.

    One thing is for sure: You don’t need to drink alcohol to be healthier than others.

    A friend of mine quit drinking when his partner died. He hasn’t touched alcohol ever since. He prefers to be on the safe side. And I am glad he did.

    How safe do you feel, with your set of practices at hand? How sure can you be you won’t slip one day?

    The path you have chosen does not seem to be an easy one. It seems to demand a lot of thoughts and attention.

    Mr Paula once looked at me in the living room in the evening and said “If you drink this glass of wine to realx, you must not drink it”. I thought he was rude. But he was right! One simply should never, drink for the purpose to relax. There are tons and dozens of alternatives to alcohol. It just isn’t right to relax with a glass of wine. That’s an image commercials successfully made us believe in which is just as wrong as the image of Marlboro-man.

    In Austria they recently started to ask really thorough questions about one’s alcohol intake.
    One question was “Did you ever hurt someone after drinking alcohol?” My answer was: “Hurt? By words, emotionally – yes.”

    kind regards,

    11:10 am
    Marcela said...

    I had read about a similar study concerning alcohol, but don’t know how reputable the agency that did it is. It’s here:–say-French.html

  • Another side note:

    The use of the word “binge” as it relates to alcohol consumption is often incorrectly used.

    It doesn’t mean over-consumption. It refers to a prolonged, excessive bout of drinking – often for several days. Or longer.


    2:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    Sally, thanks for your voice from the ranks.

  • Paula, Where do you get your facts from? Everything I read says that to a point alcohol is good. The science makes sense. The benefit of relaxation and the effect on blood pressure rises until you hit the 1 glass limit, then the risks of inflammation and increased cancer percentages kick in.

    I have no fear that I’ll tip over some mystery cliff. And what’s wrong with a glass of wine to relax? How is it more “right” than yoga or exercise?

    My theory is that this attitude is the Lutheran systems in which denial equals virtue. I don’t subscribe to that. I believe in kindness and generosity as the ultimate virtues, and self-denial and discipline to be important only insomuch as they support kindness. To yourself or to others.

    So you have your idea of “right” and “wrong.” As you should. But an additional theory I have is that this attitude towards alcohol sometimes drives the behavior underground, into denial, and therefore makes the problem worse for some.

    I believe people are good. At heart. Always have. I get told I’m nuts, but we all have to pick a mantra.

    5:49 pm
    kathy said...

    Completely agree Lisa. Numerous studies have found one drink per night to be extremely beneficial to one’s health, not necessary, but actually better than none, for those of us who can limit it.

    4:32 am
    mette said...

    Lisa, all I can write after reading your reply to Paula, is that is it really the Lisa we all know, who is writing this?

    7:03 am
    Lisa said...

    Mette, as this seems to be more a personal comment than topical, I will answer you in an email. But the short answer is, yes.

    12:59 am
    Paula said...

    Hi Lisa,

    my sources are Nature Neuroscience and the Austrian broadcasting corporations covers them:
    Not just once they criticize the methodologies used in studies everytime something is proved. It is the same with Omega 3 fatty-acids (it is found in fish and those who eat fish live longer so Omega 3 must be healthy – until they find out that fish are full with nutrition from Wakame and Nori and not the Omega 3 that is healthy but the algeas).

    When I read Nancy’s comment I thought she will get through to youm finding the right words as a native speaker. I feel like her about this discussion. Your answer to her comment shows that we don’t get through.

    You write about denial. That’s what I read in your reply to my comment. Not just once. It is interesting you mention denial.

    Maybe you can return to this posting one day in the (near) future with a distance – the distance it takes to see things as they are – and read your and our words form a different perspective. And Flo’s comment on the genes, alcholo and anxiety. I loved that one, so true!

    best wishes,

    6:52 am
    Lisa said...

    Paula, yes, of course, statistics can lie. They can also reveal a good deal of truth. Given uncertainty, it is always tempting to pick the anecdotal information, the limited information, and draw conclusions that align with what one has already decided to believe. Similarly, it can be tempting to sweep people into the psychological categories one has settled upon. In all these instances, the quality of information matters most. You are lacking information here because you have not met me in real life. Therefore you sort my post into your previously established categories. I could, as I usually do here, speak in a dispassionate manner and say that you may be right. However, in this case, I know from comments and emails that advocating for my approach may help people. So I oppose your statements with a moderate amount of forcefulness.

    You are, needless to say, entitled to your opinion. You are, however, incorrect.

    12:05 pm
    mette said...

    Lisa, I just can´t understand your way of thinking. I thought you were an intelligent woman, and once again, here you go again, torpedoing everything Paula writes.
    Perhaps you should change your doctor, get a second opinion about your use of alcohol.
    I too thought that Nancy´s comment would make you think the subject over!

    2:21 pm
    Lisa said...

    We will agree to disagree. Also, I have begun to moderate this comment thread. You may all say whatever you like to me. I am unlikely to delete those comments, although I may choose to answer you in email if I feel the sentiment is inflammatory. I will, however, delete comments which I feel are directed with too much hostility at any of my other commenters/readers. Thank you all in advance for your understanding.

    1:11 pm
    Anne said...

    Hi Paula, you challenge studies that show a correlation between moderate consumption of alcohol and health benefits, and you compare it to the assertion that there is a positive correlation between taking birth control pills and reduced risk of breast cancer.

    I stumbled a bit on your comparison because I have never heard anyone – not any study, public health organization, doctor, or even drugmaker – claim that taking birth control pills reduces the risk of breast cancer. To the contrary, numerous studies link birth control pills with increased risk of breast cancer. So the analogy was a bit confusing.

    That being said, the premise that you cite – that studies can’t be trusted because they often miss the true causal relationship – could also be true for studies that purport to show negative health effects from moderate alcohol consumption.

    Food (or beverage, for those of us who prefer) for thought.

  • Very good post. Even if we take addiction out of the picture, alcohol = calories. I can’t stand sweets anymore, but love cheese and nuts. And both make a cocktail or wine taste better, and then with a bit more wine I want more cheese (and artisanal bread, and charcuterie..). Now you have the calories of a large meal in “cocktail hour” and dinner still to go. Not helpful for weight and cholesterol management!!! Moderation is the key, if one can be moderate.

  • Thank you for sharing something so very personal, Lisa. Your tips to keep the over doing under control are superb and can be personalized by all. The motivation to succeed each and every day must come from within, usually originating from unique trigger points – like the nasty headache, not liking the way one looks or feels, nights of restless sleep, etc. I think we all battle over doing something, of which mine is sweet and fatty foods. Bravo on your success!

  • Lisa, I’ve been enjoying your blog for about a year now and realize it’s high time I thank you for taking the time to share. You so clearly and intelligently express what’s often just a fuzzy notion in my head.

    I enjoy wine at dinner with my husband or when hanging out with girlfriends. It’s a happy and good part of my very good and happy life. I refuse to give it up, but I do try to limit it to a total of 7 glasses a week. Some weeks are more successful than others, but I think it’s the quality of my life that counts.

  • Remind me to tell you about the time I got a brochure from the doctor on a program that had testimonials like “I stopped the crack right away!” “This helped me kick meth to the curb!” (no exaggeration) when I admitted to drinking a small glass of wine most nights at dinner.

    That day, I almost moved to Italy.

  • “I want to give you a gift.”

    Lisa, thank you for your gift, and thank you for the gift of your responses to so many commenters. We all have our own embedded frames by which we understand/misunderstand. Which is why the back/forth conversation is so appreciated in this forum, if we’re listening at the same pitch we’re speaking, then this is how we confront ourselves.

  • Lisa, your honest post and the comments I’ve read are very appropriate for me to read at this particular time. I am in the slightly over recommended range of enjoying wine. I have had some thoughts about reducing the amount lately and your post helps me sort it out. Thanks.

  • I’m glad this is working for you.

    I tried but after one glass I could always rationalize more.

    So I stopped. 26 years ago. And while I may miss champagne on New Years and a shot of vodka in the morning :-) i don’t miss the places alcohol escorted me.

    I will never be a social drinker. But now I’m always invited back.

    xo jane

  • Thank you for your very brave and honest post. As you said, we’ve all got our stuff. It sounds, though, that you’ve found your happy medium.

  • Fascinating post, more for the comments than the post honestly. I like the post (find it to be lovely and agreeable if a bit overly concerned) but it’s the comments that cause me to think and think (because my reaction to some is pure incredulity).

    The idea that abstaining from alcohol completely is a reasonable response to having trouble not having a third glass of wine sometimes is so foreign to my view of the world, alcohol and alcoholism that knowing that several reasonable, intelligent people think so is paradigm shifting.

    Certainly I think my hours in front of my computer are far more damaging to my health than two habitual glasses of wine.

    I often wish I could drink more – my migraines are triggered by alcohol so it’s a rare thing that I feel up to one glass of wine, let alone three, I almost always abstain. To me, it’s one of the more serious negative effects of my migraines (though not the most serious). The very rare days I can manage half a bottle of wine makes me very happy.

    But my perspective is informed by my background of coming from a Russian family where alcoholism is regarded as very serious and very bad but having very little relationship to what Lisa described. It seems a very American view to me that alcohol is on the whole a negative thing and that there is no value to the lovely affects of alcohol and what it can do for you and your life, that it is better to give it up than to allow for the remote chance that you’ll go from 5 to 60 and not notice.

    Though I realize music doesn’t come with quite the same drawbacks, it’s similar to saying music is useless and thus of no value – it’s beautiful, humans derive so much pleasure from it, to me it’s a “good”. Or amazing food.

    I think it’s great that Lisa shifted from a habit that concerned her to one that makes her feel more in control and healthier. And I admire her for it, it’s hard to shift such things. But I clicked on the comment expecting to want to defend her from “Dear, that’s not a “problem”” comments and am surprised at how many people think that 7 drinks a week is a “problem” indeed and a serious one.

  • The idea that we should give up all alcohol if we have to “think about it”, is like saying we should stop eating completely, if we have to think about how to moderate our food intake. Moderation and mindfulness is the key to so many areas of our lives. It’s all about paying attention.

    1:45 pm
    Lane said...

    Amen, Kathy.

    I am an internist and have practiced for 25+ years. Lisa is indeed brave and honest, and not an alcoholic. There is a spectrum of problem drinking.

    Alcohol does have many good health effects at low “doses”; in fact, teetotalers have a higher mortality rate than light drinkers. Of course, heavier drinkers have a progressively higher mortality rate for many reasons ( a J shaped curve).

    All of your ideas for controlling your intake are fantastic; the fact you could be honest about your consumption with your doctor is a bit rare. Commonly, it comes up with elevated blood pressure ( over half of 55+ women have high BP); moderating intake can preclude the need for medication. Too much alcohol can increase breast cancer risk as well.

    I love wine and enjoy it greatly; I too try to be mindful of my consumption. Tough living in California for you with all that winemaking talent!

  • What an insightful post and the comments were so thoughtful as well. I appreciated reading all of the strategies for living with it and without it. I realized not so long ago that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life thinking about alcohol because alcoholism runs in my family. Though I was lucky not to draw that card in gene roulette, enough family members did that it has required me to develop all kinds of my own strategies over the years for dealing with it.

    So, Lisa, thanks for your candor. And you are so right: we all have our struggles with stuff of some kind.

  • In one of the earlier comments, I noted it’s “brave of you to address the issue” and “you never fail to surprise.” You replied it isn’t really very brave.

    To clarify: What I meant was the idea of addressing it here in this particular forum, talking about it, opening it up for discussion. And what a discussion it’s become. By “surprise,” I meant the willingness to discuss ideas that can be thorny ones. And about which people hold strong beliefs and feelings and opinions. As well they should.

    No judgment here. It’s not my place to determine whether one, two, or three glasses of wine is too much or just right for you. Or no glasses at all. Every singular body is different and reacts differently.

    Choice is good. That’s what you’re really driving at, the idea of you choosing instead of the thing choosing you.

    Thinking more about your response, though, if I’m interpreting your words correctly, I do believe it actually is brave to address a behavior if one has questions about it.

    It takes courage to look honestly at ourselves. Dare I say, with a gimlet eye? To examine how our personal behavior affects us and consider how our choices might be or become distressing in some way—not easy. To adjust, modify, or otherwise change said behavior—well, even tougher slogging.

    Changing behaviors (especially habitual ones) can be awfully challenging.

    Acknowledging the need for assistance, even a bit, and enlisting others’ aid is a sign of strength. Absolutely.

    6:56 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. And I apologize for not taking your comment with a simple thank you previously:). I think I meant that the hard part, the brave part if there was such a thing, came in admitting it to myself. Telling people about it has felt far more happy than scary. Does that make sense>

    11:34 am
    Elsa Louise said...

    It does make sense. A fascinating discussion, which has indeed provoked much thought.

  • Lisa, I read this earlier but wasn’t sure what to say, because I needed to think about it.

    Martin and I think this is the very best post you’ve ever written. It is hearfelt. I’ll be thinking about it all week, and reviewing my own situation.

    Thank you. xoxo

    5:31 am
    kathy said...

    I agree with you and Martin. Excellent.

  • I read your post and inserted my vice (indulgent, unhealthy food) for your vice (alcohol). I’m going to give your tips a try, and hope that I can make better and healthier choices. Your words are so honest and also so inspiring.Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for a thoughtful and intelligent post!
    I think the fact that drinking is so glamorized by a large segment of our culture makes it hard to remember what moderate drinking for women actually is – thanks for the reminder.

    7:25 am
    Lisa said...

    I think this is true. Especially among the young, these days. It seems almost a badge of strength among young women.

  • I thank you for this post. I think it was brave, too, not just because it is personal, but also because it was bound to invite some disagreement and controversy, all part of the process of civilized adulthood.

    As a wise old psychiatrist once told me, about the first, second, and third drinks:

    1. The man takes a drink

    2. The drink takes a drink

    3. The drink takes the man

    For those who can stop after the first or second one (the acceptable rates vary between countries, but this is the maximum range for women), it will be difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. Habits don’t form all of a sudden, but when they’re established,, they’re hard to break without careful attention being paid.
    When s habit slides over the fine line into an addiction, then a different approach is usually called called for.

    The other thing I learned from a wise young doctor (actually, several of them) is that doctors routinely double the amount of alcohol patients report drinking, because most people aren’t truthful about how much they drink — even to themselves.

  • This is one of those topics that starts me on a backward trajectory in search of original cause. Addictive behaviors, what’s the root cause. Is it all about Control? If so, what’s the out of control root that needs to be controlled by outward behaviors of repetition. Is it Anxiety? I trace many observable behaviors in my family to undiagnosed Anxiety. Everytime I read that various addictive behaviors are “genetically inherited,” I mumble to myself “Unacceptable, it’s the Anxiety that’s genetic, not the attempt to control the anxiety via overeating/alcoholism/bulimia/panic attacks/smoking. These behaviors, according to my theory of one, are not inheritances, they are the outward symptoms of runaway anxiety, the invisible symptoms being the gradual consumption of one’s tissues and organs from the inside, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, even chronic lyme disease. I come at this theory from the inside since my own anxiety nearly devoured my body, certainly brought me to my knees until I got myself properly diagnosed and treated.

    Here’s a little gift for you, Lisa. In trade for giving us such chewy material for thought.

    7:26 am
    Lisa said...

    Sisty – that quote from your doctor is genius. That’s exactly what I have come to understand, and I am so pleased to hear a doctor affirm my personal feelings. Thank you very much.

    7:30 am
    Lisa said...

    Flo – I think there are two root causes. One can start drinking separate from anxiety, just because it’s what one does in certain segments of society. Then a predilection towards alcohol addiction, combined with the genetic anxiety (which my family has as well) escalates a habitual behavior into an uncontrolled addiction. I confess to an addiction, and anxiety – but not to loss of control.

  • I have always wondered, who are the proverbial women in these studies who drink one glass of wine per day? It seems that the majority of the women posting here fall into two camps: those who would happily drink two glasses of wine per day, usually with dinner, but feel that they should stick to one (put me in that camp too), and those who don’t drink at all, or rarely. This is consistent with my personal observations as well.

    So who are the people in the study who drink daily, and yet always stick to the recommended limits? I haven’t met many. And what do they do with all the leftover wine in the bottle? I suppose if you’re drinking wine from a bottle that has been open several days, it might be easier to stick to just one glass (blech) – that could be a strategy.

    Or maybe the participants are understating their actual consumption, as people tend to do, so that in fact a higher amount of consumption is safe (if not beneficial). Or maybe the studies do show that a higher level of consumption is safe, but as public health organizations tend to do, they publicize a lower recommended exposure level.

    All of this says to me that is very hard precisely to determine from a medical perspective just how much alcohol is right for any individual, and so that decision should be based on a multitude of factors.

    7:50 am
    Lisa said...

    It’s a very interesting question, the real statistic on all this. Removing shame would be a good first step towards a real understanding.

    10:09 am
    Heather said...

    Completely agree. I know many, many professional women who don’t blink about two glasses of wine with dinner or at happy hour. The only ones who stop at one are interns or candidates we are interviewing.

    Perhaps chalk it up to my office and social culture (I’m an attorney, and most of my friends are either attorneys or in similarly demanding professions), but these mythical 1-drink-per-night women don’t exist in my universe.

    To respond to Lisa’s original post, I agree with the sentiments of the other commenters: thanks for addressing an issue I think many people deal with and shy away from discussing in polite company. I fall in the 2-drinks, most nights of the week camp and have occasionally wondered if I were really putting myself and my health at risk.

    That said, I think it’s perfectly fine to have a plan for limiting one’s intake (just as one would have an approach to avoid overeating), but I think having 3 drinks on rare occasions (girls night out, weddings) isn’t going to be a problem for anyone who can limit to 1-2 drinks on any other night.

  • Lisa,
    This is one of your best posts ever…and that is saying a lot.
    When I was a young matron I couldn’t understand why my husband came home every evening and had a couple of martinis. Now that I leave my office every evening with a certain level of stress, the idea of having a nice glass of merlot is certainly attractive. Unfortunately, some nights, one glass can morph into 3 glasses and that is not a good long term solution to stress.

    5:31 am
    kathy said...

    I don’t think we’d be having this conversation in most places in Europe, would we? It’s also nice to have a good glass of wine or cocktail (not just to relieve stress) but because it tastes great, and I think, makes the dinner more enjoyable and celebratory. In my life, nothing wrong with that.
    What I do think is a question to ponder as well, is why we Americans are under so much stress, and don’t seem to have the ability to enjoy life the way a lot of other cultures do? Another topic and post entirely.

    9:01 am
    Marcela said...

    Kathy, maybe because of how hard you have to work for getting things that, in Europe and some other countries are provided by the State (health care, education, longer vacations)?

  • What a post! Brave. Fearless. Brava.

  • This is a wonderfully heartfelt post and many thoughtful responses. My reaction, though, is sadness. I believe that if you have to make up these sorts of “rules” it is a sign that, yes, you are addicted to alcohol. I find it sad that one can realize there is addiction but not make the connection to alcoholism. My experience tells me that controlled drinking is very difficult, if not impossible, in the long run, especially for people who know their drinking has been out of control. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Whether it is named or not, it will get worse.

    Even if you don’t believe that, the amount of mental energy spent thinking about and managing your drinking is such a waste of time. The compulsion to drink takes up a lot of space in the mind, as evidenced in the long explanations of this post. Better to real with the reality of the compulsion and get on with living life on life’s terms. Just my opinion. I wish you…and all those who a struggling with “managing” their adidictions…only the best. There is another way to face this.

    7:36 am
    Lisa said...

    I promise you, you should be happy about my post. I feel so proud of myself for what I’ve managed to do. I mean, consider, I do the same for food. I pay attention all day long to eating well, to managing my consumption of chocolate, having enough vegetables, avoiding low-value carbs. How is that different than managing alcohol? I’m proud of my capacity to delay gratification, to pay attention to my needs.

    And, as I understand it, even alcoholics who quit drinking always feel themselves to be alcoholics, always take it one day at a time, are always aware that they could take a drink.

    Again, I absolutely understand that my approach is useless for some. Either the habitual consumption bar has already been set too high, or the addiction and underlying psychological structures are too all-or-nothing. But it is working for me and I feel no fear at all that I’m going to revert.

    My body is helping me. I sleep better. I have lost 5 pounds. I am happy. Again, not for everyone. But I hoped it was valuable information for anyone in my particular circumstances.

  • Thank you for this! I could go on about its strengths, and yours, for a good while.

    Essentially, we all have to figure out how to Manage Stuff: booze, food, sex, any of the pleasure/pain elements that can damage in excess. We have to think about what kind (if any), how much, when, with whom. And also why, but “to relax” seems like a valid reason to me. Sometimes I even have sex *and* a glass of wine, but- I’m wild that way.

    And hi Anne, I’m your one-glass a day woman (measured, like Lisa’s). Here’s what I do: stick a cork in the bottle. There are also these canisters of gas that you can spray in the in the wine bottle to create a barrier so the wine doesn’t go off, if you wish.

    7:46 am
    Anne said...

    Hi Duchesse, thanks for your comment. I am familiar with the corkage and the gas device — my question was a bit more rhetorical, since I feel that both methods still greatly degrade the quality of the wine, which is one of the main reasons we drink it (and pay a bit more per bottle!). I am lucky to always be sharing the bottle with my husband (European, like some of the other commentators), and if he has his two glasses and I have my one (or one and a half even!), we’re really left with an awkward amount of wine.

    Given that the bottle size was designed in Europe, where people drink wine with less self-doubt, it was likely made with two people at one sitting in mind. It will be interesting to see if, as U.S. consumption increases, more bottle size options become available.

    Last, in the theme of how Europeans v. Americans consume, wine, I will comment that I think soaring alcohol rates in California wines is a big problem. One glass of a California Zinfandel at 17% is not equivalent to a glass of French Bordeaux at 12.5%. Be sure to check you labels and opt for the lower alcohol content wines if you are concerned about alcohol intake. It makes a big difference.

    8:33 am
    Anne said...

    I was actually curious about the size of the wine bottle, since in a household of two it really does present a dilemma, in that it gets you just a bit too much wine, and here is what I found (caveat that this came from the Internet and spoiler, if it were up to the French we’d be drinking even more!):

    Up until around 1945, wines from Burgundy and Champagne often came in 800ml bottles, with various other similar sizes used for other regions and countries. Beaujolais was known for its 500ml “pot”.

    In 1979 the US set a requirement that all bottles be exactly 750ml as part of the push to become Metric. That is almost exactly the same amount of alcohol as an “American Fifth”. Around the same time the European Union also asked winemakers to settle on one size to help with standardization. The 750ml size has become adopted by many countries, so the winemakers could ship to the US with ease.

  • I’m interested by a doctor who just parrots back received wisedom rather than investigating your actual state of health. Remember when coffee was bad and then it was good? I think the amount of alcohols/carbs/fat/protein/chocolate consumed has more to do with genetics than anything else. Spartan self-denial is a big theme in HWASP life, except when it isn’t.

    6:07 am
    Artsy in Boulder said...

    “Spartan self-denial is a big theme in HWASP life, except when it isn’t.”

    Hilarious, and so true!

    7:39 am
    Lisa said...

    Which doctor do you mean? My doctor? She pays attention to my health – but she was primarily concerned with breast cancer, which you don’t have until you do have it, and so preventative measures are important.

    And I’d say that High WASPs have a love affair with delayed gratification, so, as you put it, spartan self denial until it isn’t:).

  • Hi Lisa
    I love your blog, and am really enjoying reading back through the archives.
    Alcohol does raise string opinions doesn’t it? Well done on your post and your commitment to good health. I say enjoy the one glass! One really special occasions… have two! It may be cultural, or I may be totally off target, but I feel Americans are far more for total absenance than us Australians? ( who generally drink too much anyway!)

    7:43 am
    Lisa said...

    I have been blown away by the reaction. I had no idea. Cheers:).

    10:16 am
    Eleanorjane said...

    As a New Zealander, I agree. I think the Prohibition has a long shadow (and the thinking behind it still goes on in some areas i.e. certain brands of Christian, the ‘war on drugs’.).

    In New Zealand the ‘6 o’clock swill’ has a long shadow. For some reason, the govt decided bars should close at 6pm, so people (men) left work and got as much beer in them as possible before 6pm. 40+ years later, we’ve still got a binge drinking culture to contend with.

  • I keep returning to read more comments. I’ve worked as an addictions counselor, and note some distortions of fact and also questionable logic in a few comments, as well as much compassion, experience and thought. The field of addictions is full of varying opinion and differing ideas concerning both cause and management. I urge everyone to be very careful about sweeping statements and moralistic judgments, though they are easy to make.

    5:26 am
    kathy said...

    Thanks Duchesse,
    I had just come back this morning to read the comments again, and to try to say something similar to what you just wrote. It’s about 5am, and I’m not feeling all that articulate. Beautifully said, and you have the weight of having been an addictions counselor behind you.
    I too, am finding this conversation fascinating..on so many levels.

    5:52 am
    Swissy said...

    Thank you, Duchesse. I value your…values And your opinions on this subject enhance the conversation. Last night and the night before I drank one glass of wine from a lovely, old, small wine glass. Just fine so far.

    7:44 am
    Lisa said...

    Duchesse – I did not know you had worked as an addiction counselor. Thank you so much for weighing in. And Swissy – go you!

  • Fascinating conversation. So well worth multiple readings. Again, thank you.

  • Thank you for this post, Lisa. I do enjoy reading your blog and this really hit home with me. I drank too much on social/work occasions in my 20’s and 30’s. Did some truly embarrassing things. In my 40’s I’ve dialed back on the number of weekly drinks/dinners out as a way to manage my drinking. I also avoid drinking alone as I know once I open a bottle of wine, the whole bottle will go. I believe we all manage behaviours, from what we eat and drink to how we treat eachother. While I may need to moderate my drinking, others may need to keep an eye on their righteousness.

  • my name is barbara and it appears i am a alcoholic. we are 68 and 67.46 years of marriage. for most of this time we have gathered in the kitchen and cooked dinner, told about our day and….had a few drinks. gasp. two successful careers, two lovely children and a wonderful life.i am sure there will be many warnings of the stroke waiting around the corner. good for you lisa for reconizing the need for managing life. proud of you for choosing to live with disipline. all aspects of our life need this and thank you for such a entertaining post! you always help me smile, ponder and learn. xo

    10:02 am
    BV said...

    opps….i forgot to add my 92 year old mom and dad (living on their own in their home) truely love their martini each night. as does my husbands 95 year old mom….it sure isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ is it? we each find our way. xo

    6:39 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you for a smile in return:).

  • Lisa,

    I have been reading for a few months now and enjoy your insights into life’s challenges and celebrations. I find your writing to be deeply comforting as I realign myself in a world in which I am not strictly defined by the family legacy.

    This post, especially, resonates with me. I do not have a drinking problem, but I do come from a family in which drinking is often the medicine to cure our demons, big and small. I’m hopeful that my husband and I will start a family in the next few years. I wish to have healthier methods of healing my wounds and my occasional anxieties in daily life. Taking these steps now is important to me.

    I limit myself quite a bit now, and with a few exceptions, I allow myself one drink in an evening that I’m drinking, and follow my alcoholic beverage with a chic carbonated fruit juice drink. It gives me something to hold in my hand with friends and it buys me some peace of mind.

    Thanks for writing with sensitivity and grace about your chosen topics. It is refreshing to read.


    Jenny (Sturdy Gal with well-chosen forays into Artsy Cousinhood)

    6:40 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you so much for reading. It’s really peace of mind I’m after too.

  • Thank you for a frank and useful post about this subject–for me it is serendipitous, as I have just begun tracking exactly how much I drink on a daily basis, and the results are a bit shocking.

    My father’s family was very…festive…in that way that WASPs tend to be. My mother, the product of an Irish Catholic father and a rather puritannical Irish Protestant mother, refused any alcohol whatsoever. At college, I think I may have had two drinks in all: when X took me out for a nice dinner on my 21st birthday and I had a chocolate martini for dessert, and when his mother opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in his summer sublet after our graduation ceremony. After that, it was very occasional. I didn’t start drinking more until after my father left my mother; their divorce and the stress it created for all of us, as well as my loneliness and isolation as a liberal Yankee in a genteel Southern college town during one of my husband’s postdocs contributed to a depression against which I gradually began to anesthetize myself with a couple glasses of wine, then maybe a shot of anejo or whiskey or a gin and tonic followed by a couple glasses of wine or three (couldn’t hurt) or four (might as well finish off the bottle).

    I don’t drink nearly as much as I did then, but it’s a little stunning to consider that the margaritas I make on Friday evenings and occasionally during the week, which involve three ounces of anejo and two of Gran Marnier, are the equivalent of four alcoholic drinks each. (A serving of tequila is 1.5 ounces; a serving of Gran Marnier is 1 ounce.) I’ve been trying to obey the 1-drink-per-day rule, which has been hard, and while I have not quite succeeded, I have definitely cut down quite a bit.

    I had a habit of sipping from a glass of wine while cooking, and then having another during dinner, sometimes even a third when conversation happened to be particularly engrossing. Now, I drink flavored seltzer water while I cook and during dinner. Or my favorite drink of all–seemingly only available around the holidays–diet cranberry ginger ale, of which I have a large glass sitting beside me as I type this. (I made certain to stock up in December!)

    I’m not ashamed to say that my primary motivation was not my health, or even my cognitive function–it was my looks. Alcohol consumption is prematurely aging, especially for people of Northern European extraction–it aggravates rosacea and facial redness, causes capillaries to break and leave purplish streaks on one’s face, even causes skin to thicken and features to distort. And it dehydrates one, of course, and makes skin dry and wrinkly. And if you log your daily calorie intake, as I have been doing over the past month, you can see that it contributes a lot of useless carbohydrates that seem to be converted directly to fat around one’s middle.

    I’m not alone in reducing for the wrong reasons–there was a surprisingly successful poster campaign in the U.K. some years ago intended to reduce binge drinking among young women by showing them what twenty years of hard drinking does to a woman’s face–the image is terrifying. And the Scottish government has apparently recently put out an app that shows you the effect of drinking over ten years on your photograph–shades of Dorian Grey. But cutting down for the wrong reasons is far better than not cutting down at all.

    12:38 am
    Paula said...

    Hi Staircase Witch! In Scotland they started a campagin, including an app that shoes how your face changes, it is calles drinking mirror:

    6:41 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you for your honesty. So wonderful to see intelligent women speaking about this topic so straightforwardly.

  • Whoa…

    You’re right though, health matters. Don’t we all hear that small voice eventually? The one that asks, “do you really need another….(plate of food, pill, snack, smoke, bet, hsn purchase, cat etc)?” Live and let live, judging none is vital. Our achievements come from shifts within. Being true to ourselves and busy doing what we love. Living.

    11:35 am
    Lisa said...

    Eloquent. I thank you.

  • Very impressed by this, by your honesty and your good sense and your generosity in sharing this. I notice I sleep better without alcohol, the quality of sleep seems better.xx

  • Not your central point, but one side comment you made confuses me a bit. No one seems to have addressed it so please pardon my diving in to ask. “I believe this is the Lutheran systems in which denial equals virtue.” The Lutheran church has the same open view of drinking (called moderationism) held by the Anglican church. Martin Luther himself (as a medieval guy) drank. Possibly a lot. Your comment was in reply to Paula, who from looking at her former blog I believe is Austrian. (Austrians are rarely Lutheran). And no, not Lutheran, but related to them, that’s why it stood out for me. Thank you for an interesting discussion.

    11:37 am
    Lisa said...

    You are right. I made that comment out of ignorance. I was looking for a term to mean religion of self denial. What should I say? Or am I talking from atheism without knowledge?

  • What an exhausting subject, Lisa. Well debated. Individually, we are on our own. Free to be who we are, regardless of how our neighbors’ believe we should behave, even in the face of science or religion. Believe me, I’ve been there on many fronts. It has never amounted to much more than rock throwing. At the end of the day, where are these folks? Exactly. No where to be seen.

    7:39 pm
    Lisa said...

    Exhausting indeed. I suppose I feel that since I post this stuff, I bear the responsibility of seeing it through to the end of the discussion. And, with that, maybe I’ll go read a book and go to sleep:).

  • It isn’t an issue for me, but I do so appreciate how honest you are, and how giving. as they say, if it helps just one person, it’s made a world of difference.

  • My late MIL never drank, didn’t consume caffeine and died of liver cancer at 63. My mother, who died last year at 85 after she was hit by a drunk driver, smoked Lucky Strikes since she was 16, drank whiskey daily and took more risks than she should have, Genetics–I think those DNA geome-mapping tests should be free.

  • For years I had escaped the alcohol that had a strong hold on my parents and other family and I was so often grateful I had somehow, someway, escaped its hold. Until now that is…I now recognize the over drinking but have yet to take the next more difficult step of making necessary changes. Your words touched a nerve in such a shocking but meaningful way that I could immediately relate too…thank you for such an honest and real account of your own journey. Your honesty can empower others…that’s a gift.

    11:38 am
    Lisa said...

    Deborah – That was my single greatest hope. Recognizing is the first piece of a project that can take some time for progress.

  • Thanks for this- I am in the middle of divorce, he left me after 10 years the week my baby was born- and have been drinking a drink sometimes 2 after work to drown my stress and want to get motivated to do yoga etc. instead but it is HARD. After not drinking for several years per choice, then pregnancy and breastfeeding, and now being under extreme stress, that slight buzz is soooo welcome. It was nice to read about someone who went through something similar and mapped a course to address it.

    11:38 am
    Lisa said...

    I am very sorry for your troubles. It will get better.

  • The key is whether we can control AND enjoy our drinking. There are atheists in AA.

    11:38 am
    Lisa said...

    That is very good knowledge to have. Thank you.

  • Lisa, I pop in every now and then to read your blog and have found this post so interesting to read. Very thought provoking. I am 52 and rethinking my approach to drinking, too. How long have you been using your new method? Since the new year or longer?

    11:41 am
    Lisa said...

    Oof. It’s been more like 6-9 months? Going from 2 drinks and occasionally 3, to 1 drink and occasionally 2, took 3-6 months. Then adding in the 0-drink nights after a 2-drink night has taken another couple of months to put in place. You just have to be happy with small bits of progress. The best part, maybe, and one I should have focused on, is that it gets easier. I now exercise the same will power on having 0 occasionally as I use to use up on have only 1 most nights.

  • I found this discussion very interesting, not least due to being at the close of Australia’s national day of celebration (i.e. drinking). I used to work closely with an academic whose key position was that anything more than 2 drinks in a day was a binge. I’m not a regular drinker but I could never fully buy into that. Yes, I would call the 4 standard drinks I might have once a month a ‘binge’, but just one less – surely not! Unfortunately, due to his influence it seems this is becoming an accepted rule of thumb.

    11:41 am
    Lisa said...

    3 a binge? To me that’s the kind of exaggeration that is less than helpful. A splurge is not a binge in any kind of impulse control.

  • My apologies for tagging along so late, but this was an extremely interesting post and comment thread. As someone who basically doesn’t drink (I might have one glass of wine with dinner in a restaurant every 6 months), I’ll confess that this approach does sound like an awful lot of work that consumes a lot of mental energy. (You mentioned that you do this for food, so how is alcohol different? And to me the difference is that no one needs to drink alcohol, whereas obviously you need to eat, regularly.) I am completely NOT suggesting that therefore it’s a sign of alcoholism – I don’t know you, I can’t possibly draw any conclusions about that. But I do think that many people who don’t drink – perhaps especially those those who don’t drink because they can’t – have a hard time seeing such energy going to the issue of drinking without getting concerned. It’s not that they/we are right and you’re wrong – not at all. It’s just a fundamentally different perspective on the role that alcohol should play in our lives (which doesn’t give either side the right to judge or impose their perspectives on the other – I just think it’s a divide that’s hard to cross).

    Mostly, I don’t drink because it truly doesn’t interest me (I did drink in college and a few years after, and gradually stopped), and while I don’t have a problem with alcohol (except that red wine gives me hay fever), it just doesn’t appeal to me at all. So while I get, in an intellectual sense, the relaxation and pleasure it gives to so many, I don’t get it in an emotional sense because it just doesn’t do that for me. However, the other reason I don’t drink is that my husband is an alcoholic (sober for 11 1/2 years). He’s read a lot about the practice of controlled drinking and is intrigued by it, but not willing to try it himself because for him – obviously unlike you – the consequences of failure would be too severe. But my sense is that there’s a very strong debate in treatment/rehab circles about whether controlled drinking is even possible or whether it’s simply an illusion/invitation to failure. So I think the post unwittingly triggered part of something much larger?

    I say all this not to justify those who say that controlled drinking is a sham/sign of problems – just to maybe provide some perspective on why the practice can be such a trigger for some. (And I also don’t mean to speak for all non-drinkers, either.) I’m glad that you’ve developed an approach that works for you. It’s just interesting for a non-drinker like me to see how much mental space alcohol takes up for other people. (I mean genuinely interesting – that’s not meant to be some kind of veiled judgment.)

    2:27 am
    Paula said...

    Hi Anna!
    “So while I get, in an intellectual sense, the relaxation and pleasure it gives to so many, I don’t get it in an emotional sense because it just doesn’t do that for me.”
    Could it be that this is where the addiction is speaking – what you call the “emotional sense”? And that’s why you don’t get it?

    10:27 am
    mette said...

    A well thought through comment, Anna D.
    Over here, we have a saying: No smoke without a fire.

    11:07 am
    Lisa said...


    Thank you for communicating your opinion so carefully and gently. One thing I need to point out is that alcohol is taking up this mental space right now as I go through the process of reducing consumption – just as any habit one changes will take up space. First one has to muster the intention, then set the logistics in place, then remember to live the change. Over time, it gets easier, less effort is required for more results, and subsequently less mental space gets occupied.

    And let me say again, that if I saw undeniable reason to quit, I would. For example, if my significant other needed me to, or my health did. I drank not a drop during either pregnancy, and would do that again if needed. I’m just trying to eke the last little bit of optimization out of my life, as I do with my wardrobe, and many things. To others this approach often feels, and is communicated as, “You think too much.” Perhaps I do. My assessment is that I’m a person who functions best when I use my intellect as my guide, so someone else’s “too much,” is my “just right.”

    Again, thank you for your careful communication. I do appreciate your perspective. Very valuable to the discussion.

  • A bit late to the party here, Lisa, as I’ve been snowed under with work. But just to say that this post really spoke to me. I come from a long line of hard drinking Irish men and women and the key is to know when it’s becoming a crutch. Most of us don’t. I’m so proud of you for recognising where to put healthy limits.
    Happy New Year!
    Delia Lloyd

  • Homeopathic remedies address the desires/cravings for alcohol or any foods.
    Research homeopathy. Engage a skilled practitioner to prescribe a single, well-indicated remedy. It can change everything, with gentleness and ease.

  • thank you! how topical. i needed this. i get into party binge mode quite easily…

  • Thank you for this post. I admire your resolve to be in charge and keep it pleasurable (as well as healthy). For many people, alcohol may tend to take over, but a rule can keep the tendency in check. The discussion weighed health concerns against a perhaps puritanical view of drinking as a “vice”. Self-control is both a virtue and psychologically healthy, and yours is a journey in that direction.

    I like the idea of a closing signal (the chocolate). Low blood sugar as well as hydration may be a factor at the start of the evening’s drinking – it’s been a while since lunch and you’ve been working hard. So sometimes I’ll have a glass of fruitjuice at six o’clock instead of something stronger (or beforehand).

  • “Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove that we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 30.

    Alcoholism is a serious illness. Words like “a bit of an alcoholic” “control drinking” have no meaning to the real alcoholic and his/her family. It is not a moral issue. It is an illness for which the only solution is total absence. There is not cure, just a daily reprieve.

    5:41 pm
    Tim said...

    But not every drinker is an alcoholic. Some of those who are not use strategies like Lisa’s to keep it that way. Many alcoholics are “in denial”, but that doesn’t mean every light drinker is a closet alcoholic. What works for one person may not work for another.

    7:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    That is so precisely what I would have wished to have said that I almost want to go and delete every single one of the replies I’ve made on this thread to date.

    7:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    I am sure this is wholly true.

  • My GF drinks. I don’t. She works from home by herself and will typically drink 2-3 beers during the afternoon at home alone and then a couple of glasses of wine in the evening. In a typical week she drinks abt 4 six packs and 4 bottles of wine. She never gets drunk. No slurred speech. No staggering. She never drinks a lot at once. She spreads it out. What concerns me is the drinking alone and the total amount consumed in a week. She would quit totally if I asked her to but that would only cause tension. I do want her to quit but I want it to be her decision and not because I asked her to. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    7:40 am
    Lisa said...

    My $0.2 is that drinking alone can be fine. Drinking that much alcohol in one week is probably not. Some women may have genetics that allow them to avoid health impacts, but I wouldn’t want to make the gamble. What does her doctor say?

    As for you asking her to quit, and then coping with the resultant tension, that’s a relationship dynamic and all are different. I’d guess that if she quits for you and you only, after drinking so heavily, that it’d be hard to make stick. But I am no expert, and can really only send you and her my best wishes.

  • Thank you for sharing this post with us so honestly. My Mom is in recovery, has been for well over a decade, and it has completely changed our entire family’s life. But she had a disease, and you had a bad habit that you learned to taper. Big difference, but not any easier to do. Thank you again.

  • Your ascent to demi-god status in my mind is slow, but consistent. How do you write so well and thoughtfully with all those clouds in your eyes!?

    8:22 pm
    Lisa said...

    Aw. You are a doll.

  • You are wrong you are an alcoholic but you are in denial. 12 step programs can work for any one even the most arrogant alcoholic, you can be an atheist or an idiot it still works they are not about alcohol or drugs they are about you. You don’t understand addiction at all it’s not something you can think away or out smart. If you want to fool your self that is your unfortunate business but you shouldn’t lead others to believe that you have some answers or a new way. If you are not an addict why don’t you just stop? From your words it is obvious it is a problem for you so you construct a way to keep doing what your addiction tells you that you love, the alcohol buzz, Cut the BS and be honest with yourself the truth will set you free or alternately keep trying to do your controlled intellectual drinking and your field research then see where you are with it in 5 years. Alcohol doesn’t care if you have a phd or a ged it’s a progressive illness all the facts in the world back this statement nothing backs your delusions of being able to safely get your daily alcohol maintenance dose and buzz.

  • Lisa

    I am in the process of bringing my alcohol consumption back into “normal” range. It does escalate, big job, challenging marraige etc. Thank you and I love your summary in one of your replies.

    “First one has to muster the intention, then set the logistics in place, then remember to live the change. Over time, it gets easier, less effort is required for more results, and subsequently less mental space gets occupied.” Lisa

    Also a helpful blog for others continuing on the journey of responsible use of alcohol is Drink to enjoy not because you need to !!!!!!
    Love and hugs to all, AnnieP

    6:42 am
    Lisa said...

    Thanks for the link. It’s taken some time for me, but I seem to have reached the stage where it gets progressively easier, not progressively harder to cut back. I have been working on this for a while, and finally posted when going without a glass was manageable and occasionally even what I wanted to do.

  • Muster the intention set the logistics in place? Then remember to live the change? Please ? You should save those meaningless words for a power point sales pitch. There is no easy way you either quit at this point or the addiction grows it is already a problem or you wouldn’t be trying to rein it in and writing about it right? Do you think your unique ? Millions have been right where you are don’t kid your self there is only one answer you know it but you won’t accept it yet but you will. When you finally realize your new age way doesn’t work and are terrified because you find you can’t quit remember there is another way , you can’t do it alone. I wish I was wrong for all your sakes but I am not. Remember in the future when it gets worse and it will, when you finally hit the bottom ask any doctor and you will probably see a few of them hoping they will tell you what you want to here ask them what else can I do and they will send you where you should go and tell you what you have to do… Good luck it is going to get worse before it get’s better remember
    I told you the truth here.

    11:02 pm
    mette said...

    Mike P.,
    Sadly I have to agree with what you wrote.

  • Personally i’m scared, terrified! I’m drinking far too much,.. usual story, illness, followed by marriage breakdown which hurts like mad, more and more alcohol just to sleep at night. Think i’m getting chronic alcohol use symptoms now and i’m scared. i’m only 41. i’m terrified. so i drink :( x

    5:04 pm
    Lisa said...

    I am so sorry. The first step can simply be telling your friends and family that you are trying to cut down.

  • Lisa, This is a nice success story. As a past ‘binge boozer’ and ‘functioning alcoholic’ myself, 6 years ago I read a fantastic book called ‘The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure’ written by an american called Chris Prentiss. It changed my life – immediately deciding to quit alcohol for a 3 months detox and I havent had any alcohol since! While this approach may not appeal to everyone, it may be useful for some of your readers. Best regards, Michael

    5:05 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thanks. I am happy to have resources here for everything.

  • Sorry people, not all of us who like alcohol are alcoholics. I’m sure Lisa never got close to rock bottom but simply wants to improve her health. Drinking less is just like exercising more: it just takes a bit of motivation and self-discipline. If you need Jesus and 12 steps to do that then that’s your business but many of us don’t. My best wishes to everyone in whatever course they choose towards better health.

  • Fascinating read – so brave and honest. I was sober (and in AA) for three years then decided to control my drinking six months ago. I’d love to know how long you’ve been controlling your drinking Lisa? The past six months have been up and down. I try to stick to 2 glasses per day with 2 nights off per week. But I spend so much time thinking about it, it’s ridiculous. Bordering on an obsession if I’m honest. Jesus didn’t cut it with me, but that’s not a requirement for AA. I feel it’s only a matter of time before I’m back “in the rooms” but I’m trying really hard to postpone it for as long as possible.

    5:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    I think we’ve all got a different path. I’ve been controlling it for 3 years now, progressively more and more tightly. It does require thought, but the results of the thoughts get better and better.

  • I drank too much for too long, but nobody thought I was an alcoholic. I went to AA, much to the chagrin of my family, because I needed the support to stop. I just could not stop drinking on my own.

    After 7 years in AA, I felt stifled by it. I also felt I had stayed in AA long enough to “give back” to the community by helping others get sober. I left amid howls of disapproval from the AA community.

    I had no desire to drink any more and I was happy on my anti-depressant and went on with my life. It has been 10 years since I left AA.

    In the last couple of years I have become a social drinker – that means I have a drink at a wedding, or Happy Hour with my co-workers, or whatever. I have never felt the need to drink any more than that – I have not returned to daily or even weekly drinking.

    Do I don’t know what to make of it. I believe in changing habits and I support you Lisa.
    Personally, I am staying anonymous to say this because my example might not work for others who need to abstain completely. I don’t want the responsibility of being a bad example for someone else.

  • ah haa hhaaa, well I did not use my name – I forgot that pictures show up! SO I am not anonymous – LOL!!

  • Sorry I am late to the conversation, but I just found your blog via ifb(?) and read back to this post. Just…wow. You could be describing me. Same pattern (minus the divorce)…drinking in college, not having much interest after college, even going out after work wasn’t a big deal. I rarely drank when my kids were young. But as they got older, got to the point where I was having at least one glass (if not three) each night. Then I’d get the munchies, overdo it on the sweets, and I gained 15 pounds. So I went on Weight Watchers and was very good about my intake, although I’d totally sacrifice food for my two or three glasses of wine each night. I still lost the weight, but it took FOREVER. Then I stopped going, and gained some of the weight back. And you know, WW says not to deny yourself, so I figured, why not have wine each night with dinner? It’s supposed to be healthy for you, right? Hah! I was drinking too much and I knew it. So I am cutting back. There were two turning points for me: 1) my kids started making comments about my having a cocktail or a glass of wine every night, and 2) someone said on a reality TV show, “There’s nothing uglier than a drunk woman.” Eeesh.

    Anyway, I am at the beginning stages of cutting back. When my kids are grown, I don’t want them to wonder if I had a drinking problem. Also, my youngest started asking to try my drinks, and I don’t want to go down THAT road. Lastly, I feel better when I don’t drink to excess (as most people do). No more headaches, night sweats, or heartburn. And I know that I will drop a few pounds in the process.

    Anyway, I read this post with interest and went through all of the comments. I just had to write and say thank you for sharing and making me feel like I’m not alone.

    I’d like to get to the point where I only drink when going out to eat or when I get together with friends, and I’d like to stop after 2. But I think I may have to go cold turkey first.

    4:57 pm
    Lisa said...

    It is a difficult and necessary process. I congratulate you on making the decision to take it on.

  • I am a first time reader of your blog, and I am glad I came accross this post. This is a subject I think about and identify with a lot. I drink every day, and more than “a couple of glasses with dinner”. That said, I don’t get slurry or sloppy, I am not driving or passing out or fighting or blowing off my responsibilities. I just sip at my wine from around 5-ish till bedtime, which ends up adding up to a bottle per day. I get anxiety thinking about not having my wine each day, so I guess I am an alcoholic? But, other than the calories and possible health issues, what’s the problem? (Lol!, I know!)

    I would like to reduce my quantity or even break the daily habit, but still be able to drink on occasion and in moderation. I recently became certified as a Sommelier, and really appreciate wine. I also really feel happier after a glass or two. I am more fun and more creative and happier. Even my husband, who wants me to stop drinking and go to AA, admits that I don’t act up or act irresponsibly.

    That said. I suppose the answer is in my question. “Why should I have to stop?” -because it’s hard to do, which means that it’s in charge and I am not.(right??)

    I think that I will try to go cold turkey for a bit and let my body adjust to not having wine every day. Then, maybe I can reintroduce in smaller amounts successfully.

    When you said that its the alcohol that wants to drink more, not you, I thought that you were very insightful, and I plan to remind myself of this fact in the future.

    Thanks for the great conversation. I also appreciate the controversy – when presented with different perspectives you see the subject much more clearly.

  • Oh, and one last point: why is it ok to drink coffee for it’s effects, but not wine? I am referring to the comments which seemed to be stating that you shouldn’t want to drink or feel like you have to try not to. Tell that to people who can’t function without their coffee in the morning. It’s the same thing, really. They drink coffee because it makes them feel better.

  • You. Are. Fearless.

    The post alone worth gold. The fact that you hung in there with the commentary is

    I carry great gratitude for you you and your readers responding on this platform.
    Mostly, though, Lisa- I thank you for hearing. All of us. I’ve been deeply and acutely
    pained by the excesses of alcoholism in my world and this dialogue is a testament
    that openness shall set you free. Set us all free if we just listen and hear a bit.
    We all just may evolve a little differently.

    11:19 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you very much.

  • Rereading this again now… Wonderful post, and glad to know that other bright, successful women suffer from this. My husband and I drink for stress… And to celebrate… And to loosen up with friends… And out of habit. We drink Too Much. We are in the beginning stages of trying to cut back, after numerous failed attempts before. My rules : if I drank yesterday I can’t drink today, and when I drink I am allowed no more than (at most) half bottle of wine, or one cocktail and one glass of wine.

    Sigh. Rough day today… Walked around with a dark stress cloud over my head like a cartoon character… And no drinking until tomorrow. Came here to remind myself that it will get easier, that this struggle is ok.

    Anyway: thank you.

    8:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. We all have some rough days. I remind myself that if I can sleep, the days are less rough. And I sleep so much better when I drink only a little bit.

  • As a new subscriber to this fabulous Forum I was led to by “Amid Privilege’s” own comments on “The Preppy Princess”–my fave blog which I have followed for years–I was intrigued when I spotted “Alcohol” among the Archived “Topics”. My first thought was what would the lovely Lisa opine on this? Better yet: how would this distinguished group of intelligent, savvy readers take to such a hot topic? Before commenting, I wish to commend Lisa for her honest, forthright approach apparent in every new offering.
    This subject was no exception: originality and truth sprung from every line. As I read on through the threads, grace abounded and coolness in response rang out in Lisa as perhaps unbeknownst to her, she practiced a guiding principle of 12-Step philosophy: “restraint of tongue and pen.” (Alcoholics Anonymous aka “The Big Book”) I struggled to put down the drink for many years at the urging of others; long before it was my heart’s desire; though heavy damage was present around me. Every time I was diagnosed with cancer AGAIN, I would retreat to the comfort of alcohol to steady myself before trying to put on a “happy face”, pull myself together and go home with the horrible news. I would be diagnosed with one type of cancer 5X. I flew to a world-famous NYC Cancer Center only to be incorrectly told the pathology slides I had presented were “clean” and asked what I was doing there. No matter what I did (attended 12-Step programs for years, spent > $250K on psychotherapy, went to treatment centers, made “rules”, etc.), nothing worked. I loved Champagne! I loved the wining while dining which by then I was only doing alone when my husband was on business trips for weeks at a time–alone. Having faced mortality five times, I became more spiritual and was praying for an answer: I got it. After 7 wks.
    of once-in-a-lifetime intensive radiation treatments, I returned home a beaten woman. My husband left for another business trip and I stocked up w/ my fave vintage Champagne & a bottle of fave vintage white Bordeaux. As the wheels were tucking into the plane on take-off, I popped the cork, poured the bubbly rosé into the best flute and took a wee sip. It tasted like something one might have found in the back of one’s refrigerator after 6 mos., a living, breathing basis for penicillin. “No!!”, I thought, “This can’t be so! Serves me right for spending so much on this bottle.” I capped on my handy Champagne device to preserve the bottle–thinking it might be a mistake. I opened the Bordeaux: a blowback to my college years, got out the Brie, apples, bread, a book. (Yes, I’m a ritual Queen). Took it all to the bedroom, took a sip: blecchhh!
    Same effect! The radiation had apparently changed my taste buds. The change was ultimately permanent. Yes, I do miss my romantic memories of drinking. My husband has memories/nightmares of the reality of my drinking days. Now my memory of the moldy flavor is what springs to mind immediately five years later even though I have lived through a new type of cancer since & a recurrence. Today, I await the results to discover if my cancer has returned after going through an emergency CT scan yesterday. I am relieved I don’t have to fight the gnawing feeling of wanting a drink any longer. I believe there are silver linings in the most awful circumstances; my release from the desire to drink was the silver lining in the 27 intense radiation treatments I had even though within a year four vertebrae in my neck crumbled. But that’s a story for another day.

    8:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    I so hope your news was good.

  • I enjoy your blog but am a bit confused. A WASP (from my understanding) implies protestant, not atheist…and alcohol use or abuse is referred to as cocktail hour (which most wasps participate in).. it’s tradition. A true WASP respects the Lord, is proud to be a member of the DAR, enjoys reruns of Little House on the Prairie, has a handmade quilt on their bed, and does not break from tradition in favor of “progression”. Am I off here? Admittedly, I may just be describing myself.

    8:51 pm
    Lisa said...

    WASP technically just means White Anglo Saxon Protestant. A host of behaviors are associated with the term, many of which are wrong. I set out to paint a more truthful picture.

  • You are in denial. You are an alcoholic. Get real help.

    8:50 pm
    Lisa said...

    I am not, by any definition I have uncovered.

  • Hi LIsa, may I suggest the book I am now reading? I think you really will like it. It is called, “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Sobriety” by Bert Pluymen.

    I am in your boat. I am in the research mode. From everything I have understood, if you feel the need to “control” or regulate your drinking, you have a problem. If you read the book, maybe you could let me know what you think because I’d love to have a friend in this…

    Thank you for your honesty.

    8:50 pm
    Lisa said...

    Karen, I have a need to control my eating of chocolate too. Is it a problem? Sure. Is it a manageable problem? Yes. From my readings I have what they call an established mild dependency on alcohol. That said, I have one on tea and whole grain toast too. So I have decided to manage my drinking to the healthy level and not below. If research determines that any alcohol at all is unhealthy I will revisit my strategy.

  • I seldom write remarks, however i did a few searching and
    wound up here How I Learned Not To Drink More
    Than I Should, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:57am | Privilege.
    And I do have a few questions for you if you don’t mind.
    Is it just me or does it give the impression like some of the remarks appear like left by brain dead people?
    :-P And, if you are writing on other sites, I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have
    to post. Would you list of the complete urls of your shared
    sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  • You are my twin (except the relationship part – I am very happily married with kids) so thank you VERY MUCH for this timely post. I googled for “how to stop drinking after a glass of wine” and expect some wishy washy advice…but bingo, you are describing me right there….and I really appreciate you sharing your journey!

    Printing this out :)

    8:51 am
    Lisa said...

    Glad to be of service. BTW, I’ve managed to ratchet my drinking down even further now, to only on weekends and nights out. Slow and steady. Oh, and I’m also now happily married myself:). Good luck. It’s worth the effort.

  • }

  • Today is 8/8/16 I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your post. I saw that the last post/response was some time ago. Are you still inspiring people?

    8:12 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you very much, I’m happy to hear that you liked the post:). You reminded me to do something I’d intended on, i.e. add the link here to the update post I did in 2015. Those are really my only two posts on my alcohol-in-moderation strategy. But I am still writing about my other topics, style, gardens, interiors, motherhood, and the meaning of life;). If you click on the word “Privilege” in the header you should be taken to the most recent post. I’m on a break for the month of August, but will be back after Labor Day.

  • I’m kinda stuck at the point you were before the self re-programming. I do need to do something because like you said, sometimes 1 quickly becomes 4 and sometimes 1x a week becomes 2,3 or 4

    8:23 am
    Lisa said...

    I wish you all the best.

  • I don’t understand how I hadn’t found your blog until 24 hours ago. Damn, you’re insightful and a beautiful thinker.

    And thank you (years later) for this particular blog post and your slog through all the comments, 99% of which added meaningful insight. You have attracted such a lovely community. So happy to have found you.

    Completely coincidentally, in the last month I’ve moderated my one drink (no more) per day (yes, we women do exist) to one drink every other day. Just wanted to see if I could do it. Sturdy gals have control issues. ;)

    7:04 am
    Lisa said...

    Very nice to meet you. Such a literate comment, much appreciated. And Sturdy Gals do like to test the limits of their competency. That’s what we call it when we put together the Sturdy Gals’ marketing data sheet;). I am impressed that you have that granular a level of control.

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  1. […] wrote recently about cutting back on alcohol. Moving from heavy to moderate drinking took much more effort than giving up milkshake prohibition, […]

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  4. […] forfend that one’s glass might touch the lips of another. Oh, and if one keeps on drinking less and less alcohol as time goes by, one no longer feels the need for these admonitory sayings in one’s […]

  5. […] and a half years ago I wrote a post about cutting back on alcohol. Last week I got an email from a reader, about her own struggles and progress in the same endeavor. […]