The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Why is it so hard to moderate?

Despite my best efforts I could not stop at one. Which is part of the reason why moderation can be so hard for some people like me. But it’s not a surprise that it is hard. Alcohol itself makes stopping after one drink harder. One thing useful to know – whether your goal is to cut down, stop for a bit or quit. The information you need to know and the tools and techniques are broadly the same.

From that very first sip of beer, wine or vodka, the alcohol travels to your stomach and into your bloodstream. It affects your brain, your mood and your muscles. The process starts within minutes of your first sip. This we know.

What I never knew was that the instant you drink alcohol, your body is treating it as a poison to get rid of. Your liver then works hard to break it down into a toxin called acetaldehyde (a major baddy for your hangover the next day) and then acetic acids and into fatty acids, carbon dioxide and water … this is how the body is supposed to work.

Side effects of being drunk

Being drunk is actually the side effect of your body (the liver) not being able to keep up with this detoxifying process, and it affects your brain in two ways that make it hard for you to resist another drink ….

  • it blocks your normal neurotransmitters, impairing your judgement and your memory, and slowing you down (so one more drink will be just fine…)
  • and boosts your dopamine levels (your reward centres) so you feel great and want another glass – whilst sneakily altering other brain chemicals making you feel more depressed, which is why you end the night crying into your pint.

We tell you this so that you have the information you need to understand what is going on.

How to moderate my drinking?

1. Know where you are starting from – we all lie to ourselves about how much we drink. Now is the time to get honest, do the maths in terms of units. Find out where you sit on our drinking test.

2. Write down when you drink and what your trigger points are. Is it a bottle when you are cooking, or only when you are out with mates? You can keep track of these in your personal Club Soda profile (log in and go to your profile page).

3. Devise a plan. Is it 3 days off (the Liver Trust suggest a 3 day break) or less every day. Then decide what you will do instead. Make sure you replace it with an activity you will enjoy or will make you feel good. The better planned you are the more likely you are to stick.

4. Consider taking a month off. You can try out lots of new strategies for avoiding temptation, and get a real feel for how your body reacts to taking alcohol out altogether. Recording those good feelings will help you when you consider starting again.

5. Want to stop after just a few on a night out? Then these are our top ideas:

  • Eat before you go – you will drink more if you are hungry (tired and angry)
  • …and drink lots of water before and throughout the night (as dehydration means you will drink more too!)
  • Record a message/video before you go out on your phone about why you are moderating – then go to the loos and watch it when you need a boost!
  • Have a plan for when you get home – so you will look forward to leaving early and doing it.
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