If you want to know how to get your drinking under control, the first step is figuring out how severe it is. Alcoholism doesn't magically become a severe problem. It's progressive and happens on a continuum. People tend to think, "I'm an alcoholic" or "I'm not an alcoholic." For people who think, "I'm not an alcoholic" in their mind, it justifies their behavior. Sometimes people will use terms like problem drinker or functional alcoholic.
The reason people use those terms instead of the term "alcoholic" is that there's a stigma attached to the word. Another big reason why people resist the term is that in your mind if you think "I'm an alcoholic", then there's another thought that comes quickly after that...
"I have to stop drinking completely".
It's important to note that the terms alcoholic and addict aren't official clinical terms. We don't diagnose somebody as an alcoholic, but it is a pretty commonly used term that we all have some basic idea around. The official term is Alcohol Use Disorder, essentially that's a fancy way, or nicer way, of saying alcoholism. If you have problems with drinking then you are probably somewhere on the scale of Alcohol Use Disorder.
Back to the big question...
"How do I cut my drinking back?"
There's good news and there's bad news...if you are low on the alcohol use disorder scale then you possibly need to cut back on drinking. You probably inherently know that there's a point in your drinking that you know how many beers it is or how many drinks it is when you lose control. You've got to set your limit with that in mind because once you reach whatever point that is for you, you've really deactivated the filter part of your brain. The front part of your brain is the part of your brain that would allow you to keep your drinking under control.
If you're in the moderate to severe end of the continuum of the alcohol use disorder scale then you are probably going to have to stop drinking completely if you really want to get your drinking under control.
I know what you may be might be thinking "I've cut it back before!", "I went for periods of time and got sober before."
I'm not telling you that you can't cut it back periodically, you may stop for 30 days, or you may stop for 60 days, you may even keep your drinking at somewhat of a stable level for short periods of time. But the problem is...it's like Russian Roulette, eventually the dam inevitably breaks and bad stuff happens. Those are those moments when we think to ourselves "oh my gosh never again. I hate this I'm never gonna do this again." But then we trick ourselves back into the thought of "okay well, how can I control my drinking?"
That is something that so many people struggle with. When someone comes to my office and I say, "Hey what's your goal? Do you want to stop drinking or do you want to cut it back?" People always say "I want to cut it back."
I'm going to tell you a little inside information here that I don't even tell my clients... when they sit in my office and tell me that, it's in fact very likely not going to work. Like I said it may work temporarily, but it probably will not work long term. As you go through the process of figuring that out the trial and error way, you're probably going to find that alcohol causes more and more damage to yourself, to your relationships, and to basically every other aspect of your life. A really important thing for you to remember is that alcohol use disorder tends to be a progressive illness. So whatever stage you're in right now the issue is going to get deeper and deeper. Kind of like when you drink more and your tolerance gets higher and higher and the problems get bigger and bigger.
I know this may sound horrible but honestly, once people come to terms with this, usually after a lot of trial and error, they actually feel so much better when they quit drinking completely.
I try to tell my clients "I promise you that if you stop drinking completely, it's much easier than trying to manage your drinking". But I know it's that thought in the back of our head that says I just want to be able to drink socially, and I want to be able to drink at events, and can I just have a couple as everyone else has. The thing about it is if you have Alcohol Use Disorder your tolerance is probably pretty high, so having one or two glasses of wine or beers or whatever probably isn't going to do anything for you, except make you crave more. When you're in that stage of trying to manage alcoholism it's like this constant battle and fight that you have with yourself. It's this constant vigilance that you have to have on all the time.
Once you decide to let go of alcohol, you don't have to be focused on managing it all the time and eventually you start to feel a lot better physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. You'll feel so much better, in fact, most people I see don't even realize how bad they feel until they get out of that storm.