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  • Keeping Track

    Self-monitoring is a key element of evidence-based moderation protocols.

  • #2
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    Mike on ETOH content of beers, nominated by Bee
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    In 2013, I resolved to try one thousand distinct or different beers (great New Year's resolution, huh?). I not only met but exceeded my goal. In the process, I learned quite a lot about beer. One of those things is worth sharing.

    The ABV ( alcohol by volume) of beer varies dramatically. You can find beers that have no alcohol (although almost all "alcohol free" beers have a trace), and you can find beers that literally have an ABV equal to that of liquor. In my last year of drinking beer dangerously, I had beers with ABVs as low as 2.5% and as high as 19%. So, be knowledgable if you're measuring the number of beers you're drinking. The standard beer that MM and others talk about is 5% ABV. Don't fool yourself. One Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA (18%) equals over SIX Miller Genuine Draft Light 64 (although why you'd drink six of the latter I have no idea).

    So, bottom line - Know your beer's ABV and do the math if you really want an accurate count. If you can't find your beers ABV on the label, it's info that is available online. Take your beers ABV and divide by 5. This gives you the number of beers that you're actually drinking.

    Yesterday I spent a good amount of time thinking of drinking. I didn't drink, but it was tough to get my mind off of booze. Some of it was just dealing with urges, and some of it was more involved than that. I suppose that's "normal", at least for an individual who has spent so many years drinking daily and often to real excess.

    Part of what I thought about is whether at my age with my history, is lifelong moderate drinking something I can realistically achieve? When I complete my thirty, should I abstain longer? Should I immediately "experiment" with moderate drinking? If I do overdrink, then what do I do?

    But more than anything, I wondered whether the essence of moderate drinking comes slowly to those who carefully practice moderate drinking. If I follow sensible guidelines about moderate drinking, and from all outward appearances behave like a moderate drinker should behave, will my mind and heart evolve so that "an occasional drink [becomes] a small, but enjoyable, part of life"? If I habitually drink moderately (talk about an oxymoron), will alcohol naturally become less of an issue for me than it is now? Will the right behavior change my heart and mind.

    So answer me this if any of you with some real experience will. Are there people reading this who can sincerely say they feel as if they have achieved the essence of moderate drinking? Can someone tell me that alcohol used to be a big part of life and now they actually FEEL that it's s small part. I'm not talking about white knuckling it; I'm talking about a real change of heart. If so, please tell me about it. How long did if take? Months or years? When did you know that you really had changed, and how did you do it? What can the voices of experience tell the inexperienced about really changing not just actions, but thoughts and feelings. (A gestalt shift, if you will.) I'm sure I'm not the only newbie curious about this.

    Still believing that anything is possible, but wondering about the probable and realistic,

    Mike D.

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    • #3
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      Alex on "Some truths that I learned the hard way"
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      Hello all,

      Last week there was a long thread about commitments and how important keeping them is (or isn't) to moderation.

      I didn't say anything at the time, even though in some ways I wanted to. It took me a day or two to figure out why...
      The answer is that for me the question of keeping commitments is only a part of something bigger and deeper, and I needed some time to think.

      Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a message (the one I just re-posted) about self-deception, and some lies I told myself when I was letting alcohol run my life. What I want to talk about now is the flip side of that topic: self-honesty, and the truths (some hard, some not) that I had to accept to make moderation work for me.
      Fair warning: I wanted to keep this brief and snappy, but I found I couldn't. If you're interested and have a few minutes, read on...
      If not, then skip to the next message! There will be no hard feelings on my part....

      *1. Moderation can't play second fiddle.*

      There was a period of about eight months just before I joined MM when, under pressure from my DW, I tried to moderate on my own.
      I "tried" to count my drinks, and I "tried" to follow BTB limits. But my heart wasn't in it. I was rebellious. I figured I could be "better" and still get drunk, which frankly I enjoyed quite a bit.

      And, of course, I failed. I wasn't being serious; and I wasn't ready to admit to myself what moderation would really require from me, that moderation had to take precedence over* everything* else, until I got things under control. I wasn't ready to make moderation my absolute top personal priority.

      Eventually, after a particularly bad WTF, a day came when I admitted to myself that I had to either make moderation job one, or stop drinking altogether.
      That was the day I joined MM. And the real reason I've been so successful here (believe me, I'm no saint) is that I had made that crucial decision before I showed up.

      *2. Moderation means making hard choices.*

      Pre-MM I would on rare occasions be honest enough with myself to admit that just *maybe* I had a drinking problem. But even then I would tell myself
      that I could be in control my drinking and still do "X", where "X" was (a) something I really liked and (b) often led to me being drunk off my ass.

      But really, the truth is that a lot of those "X"s of mine just weren't compatible with moderation. In the end, being moderate meant consistently choosing moderation over "X" most or even all of the time.

      Here are some of my "X"s:

      *A. Drinking mixed drinks.*

      I just don't drink these any more. Why? Because being moderate means knowing exactly how much alcohol I've consumed; and there's often no way to
      tell that with a mixed drink. (*Note: drinking a mixed drink I made myself would be OK, but frankly, I never bother.*)

      *B. Drinking shots of tequila.*

      I really loved these: salt and lime in the left, shot in the right. Lick the salt, slam the tequila, suck the lime. Repeat. Sigh... Now, I don't do these at all, not even one...If ever an activity was designed to get you drunk, this is it, and I just don't play that game any more.

      *C. Being someone's drinking buddy.*

      Well, I've had my share of drinking buddies, more in the past than in the present, thankfully. Even so, since joining MM I've had to pass on more than a few opportunities to go out and have a few. Or when others have been slamming them back, I've had only one or two, or even nothing. I've gotten a look or two, and some comments. But my drinking is now on my terms and no one else's; and I will offer no apologies for that.

      I clearly remember that whiney, cajoling voice in my head. "'X' is fun, you can do 'X' just this once, 'X' isn't a problem," it would always say. I usually listened, and usually regretted it. Sadly, for a long, long time I didn't wise up, and listened the next time around too.

      Well, not any more. I still hear that voice sometimes, but I know better now. That voice is not my friend, and it is not telling me the truth.


      *3. Moderation is based on commitment; commitment is based on honesty to self.*

      In the eight months before I joined MM, I committed to myself, and to my DW, that I would improve my drinking. I said I would try to stick to four drinks or less per night. I would try to have fourteen or fewer drinks per week. I was essentially trying to go BTB without knowing that's what I was doing. At the time, about 90% of me meant it.

      I have a saved a little notebook from those days in which I "kept track" of my drinks. Half the time, the entries were flat-out lies.
      I regularly "forgot" to record some (maybe even most) of my drinks. I can tell which nights led to a fight with my DW by the way I violently crossed out my lies for the day.

      At the end, just before MM, I was wondering what was wrong with me. I couldn't seem to control myself; I would promise myself that I'd do better, but would always fail. I was always in pain. I'd never have admitted it at the time, but every broken commitment, every lie first to myself and then to my DW, had hurt, each a little more than the last.

      Finally on May 26, 2010, I'd had enough of the pain and the lies. That last 10% of me finally admitted that I had a problem, and the problem had to be fixed. I joined MM, and since that day my words have meant something again. I do not break commitments any more. No more head games, no more negotiations: the decisions have been made.

      Now, over a year later, the hurt I caused myself and others by not meaning what I said has mostly healed.

      *4. Not being able to moderate is not failure.*

      Most of the truths I had to learn were tough to face; this is the only one that was a relief. So I think it's a good way to end.
      I think that anyone who joins MM has enough of a drinking problem to at least have thought about going permanent abs. Also, none of us really want to; otherwise we wouldn't be here.

      When I started with MM, I knew that if moderation didn't work for me, I'd have to quit drinking if I wanted to save my marriage. The prospect scared me silly. I thought of having to give up drinking as a failure of will, an inability to control myself. I thought it would somehow be shameful.

      After reading, and thinking, and writing here at MM, I realize I was wrong.
      A decision that moderation doesn't work, and that abstinence is better, is a recognition of a truth about oneself. It is personal growth. It makes a person better, not worse.

      A decision to abs, either for good or "just for now," is an option I reserve for myself if someday moderation is just too much.
      Right now, moderation works well for me; but life is long and maybe that day will come. If it does, I'll walk away from alcohol without regret or a backward glance.

      In the meantime, though, I will exercise the privilege of moderation---it is not a right---and enjoy a glass of red wine with my lamb.

      Best. Alex
      Last edited by gemdropper; 05-05-2014, 01:33 AM.

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      • #4
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        Big John on The MM Toolbox
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        We all understand (I hope) that the "toolbox" is a metaphor - a way to visualize - a bunch of tips and techniques that over the years many MM'ers have used to help meet their moderation or absing goals by having real actions we can take to help deal with real life situations. Just like real tools in a real toolbox, some of them might mostly just sit there unneeded most of the time while others become our personal favorites that we might use often. Once we've logged a suggestion into our heads (put it in our toolbox) then it's there to pull out and use whenever we want.
        Just like everything else in MM, what tools we put in our toolbox, and if or when or how we use them, is totally up to each one of us. There is no right or wrong about any of these tips and techniques. They are only a resource that is given freely and shared with anyone who might find any of these things useful as we each journey forward.
        I've gone over the emails for the last several months and gleaned the following partial list. In some cases I've needed to paraphrase in order to be short and succinct. These tips and techniques are in no particular order, and sorry but I've made no attempt to give credit to who or where any of these originated, although frankly every one of you who have contributed in any way deserve big kudos from all the rest of us.

        - Don't drink alcohol when you're thirsty. Drink water first.
        - Alternate. Have some non-alcoholic (N/A) beverage of your choice between each drink.
        - When you pour a drink, pour two drinks. The other one is your N/A drink.
        - Cranberry and POM juice are a couple of N/A favorites. So are tea, coffee, and water.
        - Drink slowly... no more than one drink per hour.
        - Park your drink. Set your glass down between sips and let go of it.
        - Delay. Start drinking later - an hour later or even a few minutes later - than you're used to.
        - Measure every drink, count every drink, and keep an honest track of that count.
        - Eat. Don't drink on an empty stomach. Eat SOMETHING before - and while - drinking.
        - Remember... your toolbox only helps if you keep it with you and remember to open it.
        - Use Abstar - whether a public row or private - for tracking your drinking.
        - Have a plan, including a maximum number of drinks, BEFORE having that first drink.
        - When you've reached your limit for the day... STOP! Switch to something else.
        - Challenge yourself to practice keeping your finger on, and using, your STOP button.
        - Keep water, juice, or whatever you like handy for when you DO stop.
        - Have a plan - or at least some specific options - for things to do AFTER drinking is done.
        - Use the list... ask for help. (Remember, there is no judgment here.)
        - If you have any spiritual inclinations, it's OK to ask God for help. He already knows anyway.
        - Use the list... post about your goals and progress and desires.
        - Join any of the special "rosters" and any of the short-term mutual encouragement groups.
        - Keep your goals realistic. "Baby steps". Any progress is better than no progress.
        - Be patient with yourself.
        - Stay positive. There's no such thing as CAN'T... only HAVEN'T YET.
        - Forget about what you SHOULD do, focus on what you WILL do.
        - If you slip and fall, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get going again.
        - Don't try to be like someone else... find out who YOU are, and try to be like that.
        - Attend any of the live MM meetings if possible.
        - If you have kids, remember the example you want to set for them.
        - If you plan abs days this week, get them in early.
        - Get busy at night, and don't associate watching TV with drinking.
        - Change the routine. Find something, ANYTHING, else to do during your normal drinking times.
        - Some good alternatives to drinking are call a friend, work out, take a walk, clean, post, play.
        - Find foods and activities that will lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.
        - Read. Read Responsible Drinking, Changing For Good, read the list, or read anything that helps.
        - If you make only one rule for yourself, make it this one: No drinking and driving... period.
        - If you've decided to abs for a while, but now you've changed your mind, then OK... drink TOMORROW.
        - If you need to drink to be in some social situation, then maybe you're in the wrong social situation.
        - If your friends only like to be around you when there's drinking, they're not really your friends.
        - Don't keep more booze in the house than you're ready to drink today.
        - Use the MM chat room. We're all here for the same basic reason.
        - Surf the urge to drink. Ride it out - don't give in to it. If you wait, it WILL pass.
        - If the urge to drink is strong but you don't really want to, sit down and have some tea.
        - Leave written reminders around the house why you don't want to keep drinking so much.
        - Ask yourself; is drinking too much today worth the hangover tomorrow?
        - Visualize your drinking triggers... then visualize yourself not drinking.
        - When you're tired, you don't need a drink... you need to rest.
        - Pay attention to how much other drinkers actually drink. It may not be as much as you thought.
        - If others ARE drinking to excess, ask yourself; do *I* want to look like that?
        - Sneaky little tricks can be more effective than grandiose battles.
        - Remember that moderating or absing is NOT a punishment - it's a REWARD.
        - Stay VERY aware of any drugs you take and their interaction with alcohol.
        - Drinking or not is *YOUR* decision, not the decision of anyone around you.
        - It is your RIGHT to drink. It is also your right NOT to.
        - You'll never be sorry tomorrow for not drinking more today.
        - In a social situation, order "fake" drinks to not feel out of place.
        - Refill your drink glass with water or pop or something. Few others will notice.
        - It won't be much fun tonight if you can't remember all of it clearly tomorrow.
        - When drinking don't plan to stay up later... plan to stop drinking earlier.
        - Drink or don't drink, but don't turn a bad day into an excuse.
        - Picture yourself as a moderate drinker, not a drinker TRYING to moderate.
        - You don't have to share or explain what you're doing in MM to anyone. This is YOUR journey.
        - When you first have that feeling that maybe it's time to quit drinking... it's time.
        - Practice relaxing before having the first sip.
        - Enjoy everything else going on around you while drinking. Don't just enjoy the drink.
        - Avoid places, times, and drinks which are mentally associated with overdrinking.
        - Cue exposure: leave bottle on counter. Practice admiring it while not pouring a drink.
        - No open ended drinking sessions. Decide WHEN drinking time will be over, then when it's time, it's over.
        - To help not drink more today, remember that you can always drink more tomorrow.
        - When drinking triggers come up out of nowhere, recognize it and open your toolbox.
        - Drinking too much is bad form. It's not you.
        - If you cheat, you're cheating no one but yourself.
        - Every day, think of something positive about yourself. Nothing is too small.
        - Remember how much you enjoyed it last time you had an abs day.

        Remember please, especially if you're new to MM, that NONE of this is required. These are NOT the things you must do, or even SHOULD do, to be a part of MM. Every one of these things is a suggestion - something that someone in MM has shared that has helped them. Each one of us CHOSE to over drink, now each one of us is CHOOSING to try to
        do better. Where you want to go, and how you want to get there, is up to you.
        I hope this helps.
        Big John

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