Alcohol -The Debate - Cutting Down or Cutting Out?

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queenie
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Alcohol -The Debate - Cutting Down or Cutting Out?

Post by queenie »

this thread is a place for the debate about the relative merits of abstinence as against cutting down. people hold strong views on both sides of the argument and sometimes the heated debate has made people feel uncomfortable on threads where they are seeking support.

here you can thrash out the issues, and be as frank as you like, as long as your posts don't breach the forum guidelines.
how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change...

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Lush
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Lush »

Brilliant idea queenie, it certainly was getting a bit heated on the cutting down thread which made me very uncomfortable, because none of the 'cutting-downers' would dream of going into the abstinence thread and suggest we try drinking sensibly.

My stance on the subject is this: I have tried cutting down, it didn't work. I lost my off switch again and couldn't find it, so it's back to abstinence for now. That is not to say that after a long period of abstinence I won't reconsider and re-evaluate my goals. I've also said before that I truly admire anyone who can achieve 'normal' drinking as it takes far more strength to stop at one or two than it does to abstain altogether.

There is absolutely loads of room on the forum for both 'sides' (for want of a better word). Personally I believe we're ALL here because we couldn't control our drinking, and whether you're aiming for abstinence or cutting down then I'm here to support anyone who wants to make a change regardless of their goals.

Susie
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Gracie »

Great thread queenie, and good comments Susie,

This is a difficult one. I honestly believe there are people who will absolutley never be able to dink 'normally' or even ' a bit much very occasionally'. For people who feel they fall into this category abstinance is probably the only way forward, and is probably less stressful in the long run.

However every single one of us is genetically different, so i don't believe 'one size can fit all'. There is a whole spectrum of dependance and i think it is up to the individual to be honest with themself, not only as to where they are, but where they REALLY want to be. For example I probably should abstain completely, but is that REALLy where i want to be for the rest of my life? Guess thats my decision.

I don't think you can generalise and say that one thing will work and another won't, you'd be surprised what works for some people! I do believe, and know, some people who have gone from drinking daily, to cutting down to sensible levels, and good for them, it won't work for everyone of course!

For me the beauty of this forum is that we have a choice, and offer support for which ever choice that is, with the option to change our minds! ( frequently sometimes!)

Love Gracie x

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by hamster »

Brill idea Queenie. :D
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Housemartin »

Well done Queenie for coming up with this eminently sensible squabbling solution. In fact as an avid lurker I have been wondering where you are and also where Byron is. Anyway to get on topic - it is not a distinction I have ever really thought about nor am I hampered by any informed literature or research on the topic. However I am not sure that in personal terms any graphs, pie charts or statistical tests on the matter would be very meaningful. Tobin talks about the role our beliefs play in our problematic attitude to using alcohol, and how challenging those beliefs and developing new ones can alter our "unique" problematic relationship with alcohol.

So what I reason is that

if we develop a new belief that we can't control our alcohol intake then we abstain,

if we develop a new belief that we can control our alcohol intake then we do drink in moderation or occasionally or sensibly or within guidelines

Is that the reasoning of a simple mind?

HM
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Bupster »

I think the problem with the latter 'new belief' is that we often develop it a few days after our last bender regardless of the available evidence. As you probably know, I do think that moderate drinking is possible, but not for everyone, and to be honest I've found the process involved is just as hard as stopping, except that you have the option of drinking to wrestle with all the time, and you have limits that you have to set yourself every time you drink, and most of the reasons you originally drank for are no longer available.

Gosh, that was a long sentence. I suppose what I'm saying is that you can develop a less problematic relationship with alcohol, but that relationship will never be simple. I think the only simple relationships with alcohol are for people that either don't drink or have never drunk to excess the way we all have.
Do not wait; the time will never be "just right." Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. George Herbert

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Lush »

Hi muriel, Byron posted on the 'keeping in touch on the forum' thread a few weeks ago saying she wasn't going to be around, she said she was fine but left it at that. Hope she's ok, haven't heard any updates.

Susie
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"I love the English language, it has a certain je ne sais qoi".

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by queenie »

hi peeps

i am in touch with byron via e-mail and stuff and she is fine. thanks for popping in on the new thread!

Q
how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change...

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Anna »

Hello,

I've gone for the 'cutting-down' as the 'cutting out' didn't really work for me.

The reason it didn't really work, ( or that I failed :( ) is that I have two ways of drinking.

1. Every night, on my own, horrible hangovers, depression etc etc.

2.In company at a meal or party in a jolly, convivial kind of way . (Also entails horrible hangover if i overdo it )but I'm a happy kind of person in these situations. I love company and don't drink for a confidence boost.

So, Obviously , number 1 is something I am very happy to try and eliminate from my life entirely but number 2 is something else.
I can 'do' social events without alcohol and without, exactly, missing alcohol but I can't really see why I shouldn't drink as I enjoy relaxing, eating, drinking and chatting.
Maybe alcohol doesn't make it more fun if you look at it objectively but it makes it feel more fun....'subjectively'. :? and its 'normal' and just pleasant really.

I've found with abstaining, that I avoid making arrangements for people to come over or to go out because abstaining is quite complicated and involves treating myself with mistrust. I have to think there's something wrong with me and I can't be trusted to drink.
Its this 'self-policing' rather than any desire for alcohol as a substance which makes me pretty uncomfortable in the end and eventually I just think 'boll@cks', I'm not a baby, I'm not obnoxious or ill, I'm going to have a blinkin' drink.
But, instead of this just being ' a drink' ; because it automatically registers as a 'failure' ,it becomes a momentous-fall-off-the-wagon-and-get-lost-in-the-bushes-blimey-you-really-are-an-alcoholic type of disaster which has, in the past, set me off on a good old wallow in the number 1 style of drinking. 'I've blown it, I may as well stay here for a bit...' kind of attitude.

So, for me, 'cutting out' creates a problem of its own...a mistrust of myself when I really feel that being happy in my own skin is what I want to achieve. A few glasses of wine are not going to unleash a wild all-consuming bogey-man from my inner psyche unless I believe that this is what will happen.

There are no monsters under the bed....I'm a grown-up! :D

Anna.xx

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Bupster »

Hi, Anna,

I'm sorry you feel like you've been treating yourself as a child, that must feel frustrating. It's interesting, because neither of us are abstainers, that we come at this from such different angles. I felt when I was sorting myself out that I was doing the opposite, that finally I was making grownup decisions that would apply over an extended period of time and I would reliably keep my promises to myself, instead of making a decision on the spur of the moment according to how I felt right then - which to me was being child-like.

That's the trouble with me and booze; the times that look fun to drink when they're right in front of me are often fun at the time, at least for the first few drinks. It's why drinking is so seductive. The reason it's problematic for me is firstly the cumulative effects of it all, because I start putting myself into 'fun' social occasions so that I can drink (if it were the other way round I wouldn't have had any problems being in social situations sober), then I realise that I can't do that every night and still function (as I drink more in company) so I start finding other reasons to drink, like relaxing on coming home from work, or rounding off the evening, or making sure I can sleep, and suddenly there's a reason to drink every night. And the truth of it is that I can't be trusted to drink without keeping a constant eye on myself. That's why I'm here. For me though it doesn't feel like my new regime is treating myself like a child; it's just looking to the future and keeping promises I've made in the past, instead of always living in the present. For me it feels like finally growing up.
Do not wait; the time will never be "just right." Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. George Herbert

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by tricia »

Hi All

What a great idea this is, I have never joined in but certainly browsed the rather heated flouncing
debates that have flared up from time to time.

I have been on all sides of the fence and know now that I have to put my heart and soul into abstinence.
Previously I had 7 year of my life without drinking after putting my familythrough sheer hell for 3 years of freefall never sober drinking. My life wasnt a bed of roses in those 7 years but it was a chance of living my
life again.

I can't drink normally and as HH has said I can't do 3 drinks then stop.. once I've started I can't stop or
if I can then I'm constantly obsessing until I can drink again. That isn't control and it isnt enjoyment, it's perpetuating torture, for me at least. For people who can and have achieved this balance, fantastic my hat is off to you.

Tricia xxx

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by patty »

Hi all,

Great post HH, I also know that as much as I would like to be a social drinker it would never be. yes on odd occassions I can manage it but know Im standing at the top of the hill just waiting to tumble down it, and its that thought that keeps me going. I hate being tangled up in the weeds of drinking, they strangle and suffocate me and its only when I stop that I feel I can breathe again and enjoy life. So why do I slip? well Im working on that one!!!

Love patty xx <:)>

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by henryporter »

Great posts, great subject which is at the heart of the issue for me.

At day 12 of abstinence I feel the strong gravitational pull of the cutting down argument. But i've been here before and know the cycle well. Plus ça change.......

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by queenie »

jos

i totally agree with what you say about demonising alcohol being a necessary tactic for some people. it was something that julie said to me when i first joined - i hadn't realised that this was behind some of what people were saying and understanding it made a lot more sense to me. reading that people were calling wine ethanol and then drinking diet coke made no sense to me at all until i understood this.

i have been into fresh food rather than processed food since working in food factories before i went to college and seeing quite how ghastly food production is. i have become very familiar with looking at the chemicals in what we ingest because of my son - monosodium glutamate and a lot of other additives have him on the ceiling (although less so as he gets older) and i have become even more of a food fascist since having him. reading around the subject of additives made me more messianic than ever about knowing what we are eating.

i am a great one for organic wine and fair trade and stuff and the world wide coca cola empire for me is far more nasty, as is the stuff itself - i could never bring myself to drink it, so in a way i have demonised coca cola! i can see that demonising alcohol is something that people need to do in order to keep away from the stuff. it just isn't a helpful way of looking at it for those of us who are cutting down, since part of what we are aiming for is to treat alcohol as less of a central factor in our lives rather than something huge.

i guess that what i am saying is what i am always saying on here - there are many ways of living life, and of dealing with our drinking, and we need to respect and support each other's choices in how we do that.
how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change...

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Anna »

Hi Jos,

I've invited people over tonight . I try and do something sociable every weekend, really for M's sake as much as anything though I enjoy company and cooking too.
The thing is, if I was on a full scale abstenance run, I would be thinking about ways of not drinking, worrying about people leaving drink in the house, feeling a bit flat at the thought of not really being part of the thing. Its fine, I can do it and i suppose we could discuss til the cows come home whether my discomfort in this kind of situation is proof positive that I have to abstain.
What I feel though, is that I 'm not vexing about it at all. I can drink if I want to but I'm quite happy to slosh back loads of water.
At least I know if I overdo it I'll feel terrible FOR DAYS!!!
So its up to me. :shock:

<:)>'s
Anna.xx

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by hamster »

This is a really good thread. I have learned so much just reading through.

Queenie you are right that some of us abstieners have had to 'demonise' alchol to help with the resolve. Indeed its a technique that some professionls use on clients who need to stop. To demonise it makes it a lot easier to not want it. Not all abstieners do it. But many find it helpful.

I do think of alcohol as a drug and I often think 'well i dont want to do drugs anymore' . I put it in the same group as heroin and any other mind altering drug.

However - I do that for me and if I see someone drinking wine I dont think ' they are on drugs'. I think its about how alcohol is being used. For me - well I was most certainly 'using' alcohol specifically for the mind altering effects - only for that and so I enforced the point of alcohol drinking as drug misuse for me.

When you need to stop - stop and stay stopped - you knowit. You feel it and its not nice but it is a turning point to recovery.

I also think its hard for some abstieners to see people cutting down rather than stopping because deep down . deep deep down they want to be that person cutting down. They want to be able to drink. They cant and every time some abstieners see cutting down peeps talking of thier drinking I think it brings up resentment and anger monsters from within. They see every person with an alcohol problem as themselves and sometimes fail to remember that each person and circumstance is unique. They feel the need to attack the idea of cutting down because this helps their own resolve that to stop is the only way - because it has to be the only way for them and no matter how well they are doing they dont like it (this is only some abstieners I have to emphasise).

I also see two types of cutting down peeps. Those who are sucessfully cutting down and can (I do firmly believe cutting down is possible and sustainable). But there are also those who are using cutting down to explore their relationship with alcohol - trying to cut down will bring success or the realisation that they actually cannot achieve it and need to stop after all. clearly then being able to try cutting down is a really important and useful part of the process of getting a grip on alcohol. It is much more useful to try to cut down for an awful lot of people than to tell them they need to stop altogether which is a much scarier prospect.

Learning from personal experience is universally accepted at the most effective learning.

I had plenty of time to try cutting down - lots of attempts and all of them failed unfortunately. I realised , eventually, that alcohol was no longer an option for me. when I was stopping I demonised it. It really did mmake it an awful lot easier for me to come to terms with not being able to have it.

I firmly support anyone cutting down because I know it is possible for some and will be a learning curve for others.

Hammy
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Anna »

Hi Hammy..You've got a lovely new avatar at last!

I suppose I'm drawing on a pattern of drinking which I had in the past.
I was brought up around pubs. Bought drinks from the age of 15/16 but I didn't like the sort of warm rush under my brain after more than a half of bitter. I always paced myself with orange juice if it was a long evening and though I drank a lot sometimes( actually probably only on Christmas and new Year's Eve ), it was always pretty well controlled and I never ended up floored.
I drank more at college...often way too much, and then loads when I worked in TV. but one thing I didn't do was drink on my own. It just didn't occur to me. I never felt I 'needed' a drink, I was really just running with the herd.
It all went 'tits' ( as my sister would say) about 10 years ago. Constant stresses, strains, struggles, legal battles, losing money, illness, isolation and I got myself into a very tight loop...a tail-spin really which is why I'm here.
So I'm trying to get back to something I used to be and stop the sad old lush* from winning!!!
<:)> <:)> <:)>
Anna.xx

* Not you ,Susie! lush as in 'pissed person'.

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by hamster »

Hello Anna <:)>

My drinking went tits up ten years ago also. well thats when I started to use it medicinally, for the effect :roll: .

HH - <:)> I dont have a problem with the occasional hangover. I honestly believe (and it may well be a misguided one) that most people who drink (normally) will have the occasionall over the top moment and nurse a hangover the following day. When I was drinking 'normally (what ever that is really) I would go OTT a couple of times a year and end up with a hangover the next day. That isnt my day wasted cos im throwing up all day - thats just waking up feeling 'Gawd I had to much last night" then feel better the next day and probably not have a drink for another month (just because I wouldnt be going out).


- I dont know anybody who has tried to stop drinking without suffering a hangover in the process. I certainly had my fair share of hangovers on the road to abstinence.The government Ideal that gets harped on about a lot on here is 14 units a week for women. Many people would not have 14 units a week purely because they dont go out that week. Many people wont have units for weeks on end but find that at christmas they end up having 30 units in one week. someone may well not drink much over the year but have a stonker of a hangover on new year. I think realism needs to be taken into consideeration . Normal drinking people dont count units because they dont need to - they dont need to worry about it. Thats what I mean by individuality. A past next door neightbour of mine loved her wine and enjoyed her week-ends with wine - often nursing a hang over on the Sunday. Why not. She was a professional and it caused her no problem nor her family. We could preach to her about the evils of alcohol and importance of sticking to units but she could equally preach about the evils of eating junk food, obesity (there is currently a growing epidemic of obesity induced fatty liver disease) or smoking etc.

The General Household Survey of 2001 found that 39 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women were likely to have exceeded the recommended daily maximum (4 units for men and 3 for women) in the week preceding interview. The amount of alcohol that can cause liver damage seems to vary widely between individuals.there is a genetically inherited susceptibility to the harmful effects of alcohol.daily drinking, and drinking outside meal times is more harmful than only drinking at weekends. About 20 percent of alcoholics and heavy drinkers develop fatty liver - 80% dont. Im not trying to say drinking to much over going over the top is OK. Im just trying to say lets get things into persepective here. Cutting down peeps may well have the odd hangover - why not- but lets get real. Cutting down peeps are not drinking a bottle of wine a night or drinking during the day for the most part. What are we expecting cutting downpeeps to get to? 2 units a night? why? why cant they do as Darcy does so brilliantly - not bother for a couple of weeks and then enjoy a bottle of wine - good for her. Thats more normal to me than counting units every night.


About 10 percent to 15 percent of people with alcoholism develop cirrhosis (that means 90 - 85% dont), but many survive it. The 5-year survival rate for people with cirrhosis who stop drinking is about 90 percent.

Fear over health is not why people stop drinking or decide to cut down. The reason we want to change is because of the impact of the 'drinking behaviour' on our lives which includes relationships and our own feelings of self worth and value. the health risks of alcholism are great indeed but how much does an alcoholic drink? What are we talking about when we say 'alcoholic' in terms on consumption??? When I went to AA some people had been drinking all day every day for years:shock: or some would have abottle of vodka each night (full one).(huge amounts). I never reached those dizzy heights of consumption and i think most on this forum didnt either - so that also needs to be taken into perspective. I stopped because of the 'behaviour' I displayed with alcohol and because I was doing that every night.

My sister drank every night a bottle of wine and normally more at week-ends . She went on a diet and stopped drinking because she wasnt allowed alcohol on the diet. She had no problem stopping and lost five stone in weight. She now has the occasional blast out with food and wine and thoroughly enjoys it. She may well have a hangover and will phone me and say ' oh I overdid it'. So what!! I had a great time". Then off she goes back on heer diet. I know her weight issue was much more dangerous to her healththan her drinking.

those cutting down are doing the most brilliant job of further reducing health risks, a brilliant job of moving nearer to the 'normal ' drinker mark (not the two glasses a night nonsense that no one would bother with anyway if we are honest).

Hammy
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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Lush »

Hammy you've made some really great points there, and Anna's take on it was something I'd never even considered before. But it's called 'the demon drink' for a reason, and to many of us demonising it is the only way we can control it. As is well documented on this forum and no doubt elsewhere, many of us drink to self-medicate, to suppress our demons. It suppressed mine so much that now I've not drank (apart from three nights) for the best part of 2 months that the demons have all come flying right to the surface in the form of bipolar disorder.
hamster wrote: those cutting down are doing the most brilliant job of further reducing health risks, a brilliant job of moving nearer to the 'normal ' drinker mark (not the two glasses a night nonsense that no one would bother with anyway if we are honest).
Hammy
x
This is a particularly interesting point in that the Department of Health considers 2 units per day to be safe for women. 'Safe' and 'normal' are not the same though. A 'normal' Friday/Saturday night out for the average 20something (just an example mind you!) is to go out and get bladdered. If you don't do that then you're not 'normal' in the eyes of most of your peers. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception, and most of these kids' parents seem to accept it without much question. I've sort of gone off the point a bit here (not like me, I know :lol: ) but I think the real point is that there are millions of people who could bother with, and enjoy, 2 units a night because they don't have a problem with alcohol. We on here do, and that's why many of us believe that 2 units is abnormal, unrealistic and not worth bothering with. I think I'm going off on a tangent again so I'll shush now.

Susie
xx

P.S. Anna, the reason I chose then name Lush is cos I was that sad old lush sat drinking herself silly on her own every night, and I constantly need to remind myself of that!
"I love the English language, it has a certain je ne sais qoi".

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Re: alcohol - cutting down or cutting out?

Post by Sally Cinnamon »

Well I can only speak for myself, but over the past few months I've gradually realised that controlling it by cutting down is not for me. I simply cannot do it effectively.

When I abstain totally I feel much better.

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