The Zen of drinking alone?
September 18, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I prefer drinking alone, the problem is I tend to overdue it - what is the zen of drinking alone?

Just as the question says, I like drinking alone (better music, better TV, better conversation with my SO/my very close friends, no pesky DUI chance, video games, Netflix, card games, monopoly, camping, backpacking), the problem is I tend to overdue it and wake up the next morning struggling with the hangover. How do I learn the art of drinking alone?

Snowflake details: I'm a craft beer drinker, so a 6-pack or growler is my drink, very, very rarely drink hard liquor, wine or cheap beer. Work in IT, so hangovers aren't the end of the world but not where I want to be.
posted by lpcxa0 to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Put 3 of the six in the fridge and the other three somewhere else. Drink a glass of water for each beer (or a glass per ~12oz of the growler.)
posted by michaelh at 6:36 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't ever have more alcohol in the house than you want to drink in one sitting. That's pretty much it.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:38 PM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Get a six pack.

Drink two beers.

Then stop.

Zen achieved.
posted by Sara C. at 6:39 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Set a daily maximum. Mine is no more than two drinks. YMMV. Only refrigerate enough to cover the daily maximum.

Also, drink one 16 oz glass of water between drinks. That will slow you down, make you feel more sated, and counteract the dehydrating effects of the alcohol. If you feel even slightly dehydrated before you start drinking, start with the glass of water.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:41 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Drinking water helps. Putting beer in inaccessible places helps. if you can buy larger bottles (so, say, 3 22 oz. bottles rather than a six pack), that can help (do you really want to open that second or third bottle? That can be an easier than "Well, this fourth/fifth/at this point, sixth won't hurt.")

Not keeping things in the fridge helps (do you want to put ice in your beer? EW!). But it may just be a matter of mind over matter. If you have six beers, you might still drink all six regardless. If you have a partner, have her/him hide the others. If you don't, put them in an annoying place.

But the solution may just be to have less alcohol around, honestly.
posted by darksong at 6:47 PM on September 18, 2014

The Zen of drinking alone is feeling when you're starting to get a lil tipsy and then being okay with stopping there.
posted by bleep at 6:52 PM on September 18, 2014 [11 favorites]

It's practice, assuming the problem is that you're not realizing when you've had too much, not that you can't stop when you think you should.

After each drink, get up and walk around for a few minutes. You'll learn to tell the difference between "ok", "better slow down now", and "done."

Sitting still watching TV or playing internet makes it hard to tell until it's too late, hence the walk around part.
posted by ctmf at 6:53 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Drinking has a cumulative effect. Be mindful of this.

I am also a solitary drinker, or at least one who enjoys it most alone or in limited company with trusted companions. But the desired sweet spot of enjoying the moment versus going overboard to embarrassment or regret is something you have to learn. I like to pass an evening with a beverage and a book more often than not. What keeps me from going overboard is asking myself if I could just sit for a while. Sometimes the effect takes a while to catch up. This is a good time to drink water, and also step outside for fresh air or a glimpse of the sky.

The effect is less "party on," and "this is excellent."

My opinion only...hope it helps.
posted by Otter_Handler at 6:55 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have something planned to do once you've finished the drink.
posted by girlgenius at 6:58 PM on September 18, 2014

Having other flavorful, nonalcoholic things (sparkling water, juice) will help keep you from reaching for a beer just because you're feeling snacky. Beyond that, set a maximum number of drinks per week and stick to it. If you go overboard today, no more drinking this week.
posted by alycoop at 7:00 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work in a water in between beers (seltzer water actually because I like the fizzy). Or have some other drink available.

I also try to avoid high ABV beers on nights where I'm gonna spend 5 hours playing Civ5 and drinking beer, because, well...

But mostly, it is pay attention to what you are doing and making an active decision to do it instead of just kind of grabbing a fresh one out of habit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:11 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Craft beer is often stupidly alcoholic. Look for lower alcohol percentage beer. I try to buy 3-4% beer- there are good beers with low alcohol content or you can make your own. That way I find I can have a few drinks with friends and since I'm a slow drinker, not get more than mildly buzzed or have a hangover while people who drink the same volume of high alcohol beer do get drunk. Often unexpectedly so. I'm kind of a lightweight and this works well for me.

Also some craft beers from small breweries are sold green routinely and will give you a wicked hangover, out of all proportion to the amount of alcohol.
posted by fshgrl at 7:16 PM on September 18, 2014

Also some craft beers from small breweries are sold green routinely and will give you a wicked hangover, out of all proportion to the amount of alcohol.

What? Nonsense.
posted by goethean at 7:30 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Definitely not nonsense. Two of our local small breweries are notorious for it. Source: lived with brewer and certified beer judge for many years.
posted by fshgrl at 7:34 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stop after your pre-determined limit, and IMMEDIATELY go brush your teeth. Everything will taste weird and minty after you brush, and you'll be faced with having to brush your teeth again before bed if you choose to get another beer. A fresh mouth is an excellent deterrent to additional food or drink.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:08 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Drink crazy expensive spirits
posted by JPD at 8:12 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I find all the suggestions to drink a couple beer and call it quits odd and unrealistic. You enjoy your craft beers, yes? And the only impact it has on your life is a slight hangover the next day? Water and ibuprofen is your friend. Enjoy your beers.
posted by standardasparagus at 8:23 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also some craft beers from small breweries are sold green routinely and will give you a wicked hangover, out of all proportion to the amount of alcohol.

I recently had one of the worst hangovers of my life from two beers at a brewery. I don't know what green beer is other than that awful stuff in March, but whatever the cause this is definitely a thing.

All of the suggestions above that focus on mindfulness or adding extra steps to the process make sense to me. When you are reading or otherwise mentally engaged and the alcohol is literally at hand, it's so easy to just automatically keep taking sips until you stand up and realize that you way, way overdid it.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:23 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Zen of drinking alone really just boils down to mindfulness. It's actually that simple. Focus on each sip of each drink and I guarantee you it will taste better and last longer than twice the quantity.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:24 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: So. You want to drink a little more than your body and job will allow. Here are your options, from a true Midwesterner steeped in heavy drinking/binge drinking culture. I am certainly not saying these ideas are healthy or a good idea for your overall life. But in my experience these approaches are how my friends and acquaintances have figured out how to drink and keep a job.

1. Cut back like everyone here suggests. My suggestion is that you must live within walking distance to a bar. Go there each work night. Order two very expensive beers, alone, then go home. Your budget will probably keep your drinking in check.
2. Get a job that allows you to come in late, or hungover, and no one cares. These jobs are one in a thousand and they do exist in all industries, even IT, and some are even very well paid. I have friends with these kinds of deals. Your company will basically consider you an alcoholic but tolerate it if your work is excellent. You could get fired if you become irresponsible enough. This might only apply for small Midwestern companies.
3. Get serious and dedicated to drinking. If you drink 6 beers every night for 2-3 months you will no longer be hungover in the morning. Might need to bring some whisky into the mix.
4. What I call the Wisconsin plan. Cut way back on weeknights (except some Thursdays) and save all of your alcohol for weekends. Collect it through the week and obsess on it. Get excited about saving up your drinking for the weekend. Start drinking Saturday morning and don't quit until Sunday after the Pack loses.

Drinking a lot is not as shameful as our society tries to tell us it is. It's not good for your health, but not all of us are affected in our personal lives by alcohol in the same way. If you think alcohol is affecting your life in a negative way you need help, but if you just like drinking and getting drunk and no one is bothered by that and you accept the health risks, then welcome to Wisconsin, pal.
posted by littlewater at 8:50 PM on September 18, 2014 [22 favorites]

Thinking of my aunt here who's well into her 70s. Her secret to drinking without it causing too much harm is to always make sure it leads to a good meal. The food not only helps soak up various of the poisons. It also tends to lead quickly to drowsiness and sleep.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 PM on September 18, 2014

I am dying laughing at The Wisconsin plan. I work with tons of people from Wisconsin and Minnesota and The Wisconsin plan describes their 20s. I originally got the idea of sticking to very low alcohol beer from a Wisconsin friend. His philosophy was "Stick to PBR. You can drink PBR all day and not get drunk! It's like water!"

What cured them all of drinking all weekend was to get married and have kids. But that seems like a radical step.
posted by fshgrl at 9:03 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

My wheelhouse has finally arrived. Just drink two or three and while you are doing so eat something.
posted by vapidave at 9:03 PM on September 18, 2014

The secret is figuring out which drink is the one that starts pouring the next drink for you (GOTO 10) and stopping on the drink before that one. The price you pay for stopping on this drink is feeling like you're missing out on a slightly better and obviously not bad or harmful state of drunkenness that you could enjoy with just one more drink. Not drinking on an empty stomach and alternating alcohol with drinking for hydration do help attaining this sort of balance.
posted by nanojath at 9:17 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

People are being very cavalier in their answers here.

I too prefer to drink at home alone. I only feel like drinking once or twice a week (sometimes more or less, but that seems to be average), but once I start drinking, that warm, buzzy feeling makes me want moooorreee. For me it doesn't reach any kind of dangerous level - I get too tired before that! - but it sometimes leads to grumpiness or a mild hangover the next day, which I'm not into. I don't want to have fun at the cost of the next day. So anyway, to start, the thing about it being hard to stop once you start is real and hard to overcome if you're trying to drink moderately - I can relate.

I tried just deciding, "I will not have more than 2 drinks" and I was unsuccessful. I think what's made a difference is just drinking less overall (less often equals lower tolerance equals less drinking), drinking slowly, doing a lot more thinking about the role of substance use and how it impacts me in a bigger sense - emotionally, relationally, etc. Also, my partner moved in and we have most nights a week where we try to go to bed together and have some focused time before we fall asleep, which is more important to me than drinking. With those things in place, it's been easier for me to just stop after a couple drinks. I also don't have any hard liquor in the house - not the kinds I like - and haven't for a while. I probably will buy a bottle of bourbon again some time, but I don't keep it stocked.

Also, I'm drinking wine more lately, less beer and very rarely hard liquor. It feels easier on my body and I just can't get drunk very fast so the tired wins out sooner.
posted by latkes at 9:18 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

A close friend of mine always gives bottles to people with a card attached that says "To be drunk in joy or company."

I don't always follow that advice, but it seems like a good way to go.

Beyond that, poffin boffin has it: keep in the house only what you'd want to drink in one go. Means more trips to the store, yes, which should help bring to top of mind what you're doing and why you're doing it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:48 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is my secret #1 way to party hard as an adult: Start earlier. When I was a spring chicken, I thought nothing of meeting up at 9:30 or 10. Now my strong, strong preference is to start festivities at 6:30. That leaves plenty of time for fun and also for restorative, precious sleep.
posted by Charity Garfein at 10:03 PM on September 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

buying rare/expensive craft beers is also a good way of self-limiting consumption.
posted by modernnomad at 10:34 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoy craft beer, too. For me, I usually find myself unable to taste and enjoy the subtleties of the brew after my second or so beer. I keep drinking notes when I drink alone, which helps me identify when I'm too buzzed to really taste the nuances of the beer.

Keep drinking notes, and stop yourself when you find yourself no longer able to describe what you're drinking.
posted by Kevtaro at 4:38 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Start buying your craft beers in single bottles. Two or three. Drink those up, then you're too buzzed to drive to the store for more.

Also, sparkly water. Perrier or store-brand flavored (unsweetened) sparkling waters are a good replacement because they have that fizzy kicky and you can drink as many as you want. If you must still buy in growler size, buy a bunch of sparkly waters to drink in between glasses.
posted by mibo at 5:25 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bombers! Lots of delicious, expensive craft beers come in the 22 oz bombers, which for me is the perfect amount of high alcohol beer for a boozy but not stupid drunk evening. Something about the size of the bottle keeps me grounded and I know opening a second is a bad idea so I easily stick to one.

Another tip: I know well that compulsion once you start to get tipsy to keep the happy going. It's STRONG and I have a hard time fighting it myself. You don't want to lose your buzz. But when you reach that moment, before you open that next drink, drink an entire large glass of water. Don't chug it, drink it normally. I find that I often lose that compulsion to keep drinking after the water - and if I don't, at least I've rehydrated a bit.

Finally, maybe keep some cheapo low-alcohol beers or shandies/radlers on hand? That way towards the end of the night if you really really really still want beer you can switch to PBR or Stiegl Radler which are low enough alcohol to hopefully slow things down a bit.
posted by misskaz at 7:26 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what's made a difference is just drinking less overall (less often equals lower tolerance equals less drinking), drinking slowly, doing a lot more thinking about the role of substance use and how it impacts me in a bigger sense - emotionally, relationally,

Great advice from Lakes aboves. If Zen is about mindfulness, then that has to be applied to all aspects of drinking in one's life. The thing about drinking is that it provides a nice little escape from your mind, so it's hard to be "zen" at that moment.

For me, it was important to recognize when drinking was becoming a habit and less just a pleasurable indulgence. I recognized that I thought about drinking too much, and planned around it. And would get bored if I were home in the evening and didn't have a few beers.

The most practical thing is to just buy a couple of singles, as was noted above. The thing to pay attentiont to is; at the liquor store, do you have a bit of anxiety that you won't have as much as you want to drink later? For me, that was the beginning of realizing that the drink could potentially control me more than I control it. And that my choice was to either enjoy just a couple drinks or not to drink alone at all.

Personally, I will only continue to indulge in consumption of beer and whiskey if, on any given night, I'm ok with not having any at all. It has to be a pleasure and not a habit. Be ok with abstaining for a week or two, or a month. Observe yourself. It can even be a kind of fun experiment.
posted by beau jackson at 8:34 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Being present for every sip will help you know when you have had enough. After that, you will need to decide why you want continue. Will you give in to your desire for more or will you be satisfied with what you have already consumed?
posted by Tevin at 8:37 AM on September 19, 2014

I also enjoy drinking alone. What helps me is

a) knowing how terrible a hangover is.

b) have a plan for the evening. Watch this movie, have this one alcoholic beverage, have this single package of potato chips. If I pre-plan the whole thing, it turns out great. Just the pleasant effect of a single alcoholic beverage (or two if that was the plan). If I don't plan (this happens, but it's rare), it's binge eating, over-drinking and aimlessly reading crap on the internet and going to bed drunk and dissatisfied.

Have fun!
posted by hz37 at 2:06 PM on September 19, 2014

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