Does my body need the booze?
February 1, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

You could call me an alcoholic in that I have drunk nearly every day for ten years. I am 34 years old. I am thin and healthy looking. Because I’m asking in part for medical advice I want to be very specific about the amount I drink.

Generally I drink 500ml cans of beer. I do drink other things, but if you were to only count my consumption of these other things I would have drunk much less than the average person.

I started in 1998 drinking four 500ml cans of beer at 5% vol = 100ml of alcohol daily.

By around 2003 I was having eight 500ml cans of beer at 5% vol = 200ml of alcohol.

Nowadays I’ve cut down a little bit and drink weaker beer. Six to seven 500ml cans of beer at 4% vol = 120-140ml of alcohol daily.

I only really act like an alcoholic when I’m on my own, in my own home. When I go out, sure I might drink, when others around me are too, but I can have two-three drinks and stop. Sometimes I’ll have no drinks. To be honest, if I go to a party, have two or three drinks, and then come back to my own home, alone, then I will probably have another two or three drinks before bed. Still, if I’m at someone else’s place, if I am not alone, then there’s a good chance I won’t have anything to drink.

I drink because I get bored on my own and I worry about not being able to sleep. It’s kind of ridiculous. I don’t really feel so dependent on alchol or anything, more like someone who just sat around watching TV for a while – I just fell into a bad habit. Nobody knows I do it. I’m never late for work or hungover or anything. I don’t actually get drunk on this amount. By the end of the night I can walk in a straight line, and chat to people on the phone without them realising I was drunk. I have a girlfriend and she doesn’t know about it. I see her three or four times a week: a third of the time we don’t drink; a third of the time we’ll have one or two drinks; the remaining third we’ll share a bottle of wine, maybe more. So I do get a day off drinking quite often. Or, rather, I did, because I haven’t been seeing my girlfriend so often in the last couple of months, which has led to my drinking being truly daily, which is why I’m writing this and wanting to change.

Anyway, my plan was to just stop drinking at home, alone EVER. And carry on drinking like a normal person when I’m in company. I know some people will think this is not possible, but I think it’s the best thing for me to try right now, and I’d be smart enough to realise it wasn’t working if it wasn’t working. Then I might get a new plan.

So I didn’t bother drinking last night and I wasn’t going to bother drinking tonight. Then I read this post:, in which suddenly stopping drinking is made out to be quite dangerous.

But the guy in that question seemed to be drinking at least double what I am. And, as I say, I’ve gone whole days without drinking quite frequently in the last year or so, including yesterday. I’m not sure if I’ve gone two days in a row, but certainly I’ll have done a day without, then a day with only one or two drinks before going back to normal.

Anyway, I hope that’s enough background info for this anonymous question. Now onto the actual questions. I am ideally looking for people who have some knowledge of alcohol abuse & how it is perfectly possible to live a relatively normal life in conjunction with it.

1. I drink a lot, I know, and have done for a long time. But do I drink a lot compared to people who drink a lot? I’m thinking not – I feel closer to the bottle-of-wine-a-day guy than the bottle-of-whisky. I’m sort of a lightweight, yeah, for a booze-fiend? But how fucked are my health in general and liver likely to be right now and in the long term?

2. How safe is it for me to stop drinking? In the other thread, the poster was warned:

The first 2 days should see you through the worst of it. Expect to be on edge, nervous, agitated, sweating, maybe headaches or visual disturbances (double vision and the like), perhaps sneezing and skin crawling/itching/disturbed sensation. Perhaps the more intrusive symptoms will be your thinking -- difficult in concentration, short tempered, a depressed and/or swinging mood and self doubts. [I hope you're seeing why having someone around will likely make all of this just a tad easier, if only to take your mind off yourself].

As I say, I’ve gone nearly two days without booze plenty of times. I’m on around 30 hours now. I don’t get any of these symptoms ever. I feel totally normal without the drink. Can’t I just go ahead and stop without telling anyone? Because I’m really not going to tell anyone, and if I can’t just stop on my own I’ll just have to cut down gradually, which would actually be much harder.

I might actually just start drinking two drinks a day until this question appears. I have a doctor’s appointment next week too, so don’t worry about me relying solely on the internet for advice. (The appointment is because I want to start doing some sports. I gave up smoking two weeks ago, now I’m gonna give up the booze, and I just wanna make sure I won’t have a heart attack or something.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
From my point of view, giving up smoking was the hardest thing i've done, and i did that cold turkey. If you've given up the smokes, and you are feeling fine, keep going.

Of course, IANAD... Good luck with it tho...
posted by chromatist at 8:03 AM on February 1, 2008

1. But do I drink a lot compared to people who drink a lot? That's really a red herring question. What other people do doesn't matter. You are at the lower end of alcoholism, sure, but only for now. Addiction is generally thought of as progressive. It rarely plateaus for good. You said: I drink a lot, I know, and have done for a long time. That's more important. As for your health, it doesn't help it at the level you're at. And as you've seen over the last few months, your drinking can sort of just start increasing organically.

2. I am not a doctor. You are likely to feel the affects of PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome). I doubt you are putting yourself at physical danger stopping at the level you are at. But again, I am not a doctor.

I know this section is unsolicited, but please let me impart some of the little knowledge I have on this subject. You mentioned drinking regularly with other people and just to stop drinking alone. This may work. It is highly unlikely. Try it. Give it your go. But ask yourself, what is your motivation for trying this instead of just stopping? What are you trying to hold onto? The part of you that is making these sorts of deals is the alcoholic part. It's convincing you that you can hold onto part of the addiction.

I highly, but humbly, suggest that as you get accustomed to not drinking alone, you cut out drinking socially too, say, for 6 months. It will help you see more clearly. Frankly, someone that drinks as much as you do never sobers up. It feels like you are sober the day you don't drink, but you're really not. The alcohol, the addiction, etc, is still affecting your thinking so much on those days. If you quit drinking for a year or two, you will see what I mean.

Good luck. I hope you find a treatment sequence, whether complete abstinence or controlled social drinking, that can help you stop alcohol from being a destructive element in your life.
posted by milarepa at 8:13 AM on February 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

You're only 34 which is an advantage, the longer this pattern of consumption continues the worse the fallout will be should you stop. You're not drinking a huge amount, and the real benchmark of "am I an alcoholic" will be how easily you kick it and stay off it. It sounds to me that you have fallen into a rut of convenience and you just need to find something else to do.

You will almost certainly experience some symptoms, even if it is only mild things like mood changes, headaches and skin crawling sensations. IANAD, and you should speak to a doctor, but you should be fine stopping completely without major complications. Psychologically you may find it helpful to reduce your intake gradually, but stopping all intake immediately is probably easier.
posted by fire&wings at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2008

Anyway, my plan was to just stop drinking at home, alone EVER.

I think this is a good plan. Get rid of the beer in the fridge, find something fun to do at home (a new hands-on hobby would be good -- build models? paint? write short stories? fold origami?), and the rest will probably follow.

As for suddenly stopping drinking, I'm no doctor, but I think that 6-7 cans of beer a day is not so much that you need to worry about serious physical symptoms when you quit. You might feel a little grumpy or under the weather for a week or so, and you might find yourself craving a beer, but I think it's unrealistic for you to expect much more than that.

Give it a try, and if it doesn't work, get help.
posted by vorfeed at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2008

I drink because I get bored on my own and I worry about not being able to sleep. It’s kind of ridiculous.

I was/am in exactly the same boat. I'd drink a bottle of wine a night (at home and on my own) mainly because it tasted nice, and it was open and...there. I also used to drink 4-5 bottles or cans of beer a night (as an alternative not in addition).

My habit of drinking came about when I used to travel a lot - I'd always be eating in pubs or bars, and so would have a beer, then one while I ordered. A third when the food arrived, and another (or two) after eating. Drinking 4-5 pints regularly was getting daft - money wise and calorie wise. But I'd be perfectly fine and relatively immune to the alcohol content (And I always drink strong beer or wine).

I didn't, and don't, think I /have/had a drinking problem. To prove this to myself, I didn't buy any alcohol for a few weeks, and because it wasn't sat there in the cupboard/fridge, I didn't need it, nor overly want it. But when it's there, it tastes nice and I always open one without really thinking.

When I moved to Canada, I found I did much the same - I also used the 'it helps me get to sleep' argument (which it actually did, as I have periods of troubled sleep). One of the other things that bugged me about it was "If I stop, and I go out with my (heavy drinking) mates, I'll get really drunk". I, like you, don't get (noticeably) drunk on that much, and don't drink to get drunk. I just love the taste of wine and beer, and also felt a strange, underlying urge t o not want to lose my resistance to it.

But it got to the point where it started to irritate me - not just from the financial level but also from the 'I'm getting fat' level. My girlfriend being teetotal made me realise that when I was with her and eating at her house, I wasn't all that fussed about drinking - like you it was because I was bored. The idea that it was a habit irritated me more than anything else.

Stopping suddenly is unlikely to harm you, as I really don't think you drink all that much, based on my experience. Just try not having it in the house and resist buying it or moderate/budget with it. Make a note of how much you spend on beer, and think what that money could be better used for. That's what worked for me. When I buy alcohol now, I only buy a couple of bottles of wine and/or a few cans of beer, and I only buy once a week. Having to carry it makes me not want to buy loads, and it kind of self regulates like that. I buy no more than enough for three evenings and I make an extra effort to cook something nice to have with it - the extra effort that I place on needing a 'proper' meal means I have separated the habit of drinking every night. It's just breaking a habit, I very much doubt it is any sort of addiction at this stage, based on how easily you can go without drinking.


1: No, I don't think you drink a lot. Just more than average. If you're not getting fat, then your body seems to be able to cope with it (although it's probably not in any way 'good' for you.

2: I think you'll be fine to just stop, but try putting a different habit to it first, as breaking the habit is the hard bit, not the 'not drinking' based on my personal parity with the way you have explained it. If you're lying/factoring in your OP, then you're lying to yourself and you have a bigger, different, issue.
posted by Brockles at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2008

My brother drank at a level very similar to what you're describing off and on for 20 years. He died of complete liver failure this year at 45. It was a complete shock to me - he told me he'd stopped drinking completely. I don't want to be too dramatic, but I think you're in trouble if you continue this behavior another 10 years. So you might not drink a lot "compared to others", but you drink at a level that's perfectly lethal for some folks.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2008

Frankly, someone that drinks as much as you do never sobers up. It feels like you are sober the day you don't drink, but you're really not. The alcohol, the addiction, etc, is still affecting your thinking so much on those days.

I strongly disagree with this. I travel a lot with my work, and when I am away, I hardly drink at all as I work very long hours. I notice zero discernible difference. It is possible to drink a comparable amount as this and not feel in the slightest bit drunk. And it is also perfectly possible for your body to process and remove the alcohol from that much drinking in 8 hours of sleep. You certainly don't need to "quit drinking for a year or two" to be able to establish if you are recovering from the effects of the drink by the next day.

I think you are overstating the case based on some other personal experience.
posted by Brockles at 8:33 AM on February 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

And I guess what concerns me the most (and obviously I have a personal stake) is that you're passively hiding your drinking from your girlfriend (and probably others).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thats about how much I drink daily, sometimes more sometimes less. I am an alcoholic because I have been told I'm an alcoholic, and court ordered to seek treatment at one point.

That being said the alcohol abuse industry in the U.S. is really geared towards profit, so anyone who falls in their clutches is an alcoholic, they're the experts ya know...

Your liver is scarred, picture foie gras, thats how one doctor described it to me.

But livers heal, if you stop. Alcohol has all kinds of negative effects on the body, quit for a couple of months and you'll feel a difference.

The worst thing it costs you is time, it takes time to get that buzz, and if your like me, thats all you are doing, working on a buzz, instead of a million other things you could be doing.

Its only dangerous to go cold turkey when you are an acute alcoholic, which is a lifetime achievement for most people, thats the quart of vodka a day crowd. The anxiety caused by not getting your fix can lead to heart problems... sounds like you have a ways to go for that.

You don't have to "announce" that your quitting, easing up, or increasing your drinking to anyone, thats your business, unless you're beating your wife and she'd be happy to hear it.
posted by Max Power at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2008

Don't get your "I'm quitting booze" medical information from the internet -- talk to a doctor, preferrably your doctor. Reading something that tells you that going cold turkey might be dangerous is a form of an excuse. The booze is a crutch. It's probably also an addiction, or at least that's what it sounds like to me. Stop drinking, see what happens.
posted by incessant at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2008

Brockles, anon said he has been drinking everyday for nearly 10 years. The effects of that are not clear to a user by just not drinking one day or two days. I don't mean he's "drunk." I mean the effects of drinking a lot over extended periods of time on his thinking, coupled with a relatively stubborn desire to keep drinking, do not disappear magically on the day you don't drink. The way you think, what you're motivated to do, etc, is all influenced by the habit. Everyone I know who drank or abused drugs and then quit has said the same thing. Anecdotal from the dozens of people I know? Surely...but so is "I totally don't drink on business trips and I'm fine."
posted by milarepa at 8:50 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

By the end of the night I can walk in a straight line, and chat to people on the phone without them realising I was drunk. I have a girlfriend and she doesn’t know about it.

Having been the girlfriend in this situation, she will probably be PISSED OFF when she finds out that she hasn't been talking to you but to your alcohol. Whether or not you're an alcoholic, you've got a bad habit with a mind-altering substance, and once you sober up, you're going to be a different person, if only in subtle ways. Other people may or may not like this person. They are almost certainly going to notice that "something's different about you" and you may end up having to explain the situation anyway.
posted by desjardins at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was with ya until this: "I might actually just start drinking two drinks a day until this question appears."

You want to stop drinking so much. You've resolved to stop drinking alone. You've explained that you have gone a day or two without alcohol withdrawal symptoms on a regular basis. But you're going to drink a couple drinks (presumably alone) a day just in case? That's some rationalizing, there.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

On the face of it this sounds like habitual rather than problem drinking. Although if you are drinking 8*500ml of Stella each and every night you are going to face some sort of issues sooner or later. What you need to do is set yourself some achievable goal (like never drinking alone at home) and keep a score of how you do. Set yourself a reminder to review this in a month and if you have failed to do it or fudged things by doubling the amount you go out etc see someone professional because you have a problem that is beyond your immediate willpower to fix.
posted by zemblamatic at 8:53 AM on February 1, 2008

I think it's great that you want to stop drinking!

But how fucked are my health in general and liver likely to be right now and in the long term?

That is the crux of the matter. It's good that you're seeing a doctor because s/he is the only one who can answer that. You need some bloodwork and a physical, especially since you were a smoker too. Everyone's body is different and some people can sustain a lot more abuse than others.

Comparing yourself in quantity to others isn't useful. There are cultures where alcohol consumption as described by you is the norm so what constitutes a problem is subjective. I'm the same age as you and what you are drinking daily would probably send me to emergency. What is important is that you want to take care of your health!
posted by red_lotus at 8:53 AM on February 1, 2008

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes it's a penis. You have to decide for yourself what the drinking is doing for you.

Your statement about drinking out of boredom is somewhat discomforting. Out of all the risky and/or mildly damaging activities in which you could partake out of "boredom," why this one? It could indicate an addiction, or not. The person who eats a donut a night out of boredom could be addicted to sugar. Is that damaging? Sure, mildly so. You're eating crap. (Do it long enough and, like Max Power indicated, you could be in for a lot of trouble.)

So, what is the real reason behind drinking out of boredom? I'd say if you're drinking to feel better, then you have a better risk of having "a problem," than if you liked the taste of beer.
posted by tcv at 9:01 AM on February 1, 2008

You should get to a doctor and get some tests. Seemingly good health deteriorates awfully fast when it hits a breaking point.

That said, you're not an alcoholic, you're in a rut. You really are no different than someone who watches too much TV or gets hooked on an MMO. What you need to do is taper off the drinking (as advised by you doctor), and find other things to do, especially on the weeknights. You're not even drinking to get drunk, you're drinking out of habit and boredom.

Ask people for good books to read, good shows or movies to watch (in moderation), pick up a hobby, take an adult education course. Spend time with your girlfriend, or meet up with friends during the week, but not for drinks.

Beer isn't by necessity expensive, but it isn't cheap. Commit yourself to drinking quality instead of quantity, and find other beverages to fill in the difference. Remind yourself how refreshing plain water is, discover exotic juices like pomegranate or mango. Pick up some coffee or tea (decaf if you're worried about sleeping).

What you need to do is decide that you're tired of being in a rut, and do something to break out of it. You don't need to quit beer cold turkey, but you do need to quit the rut. If alcohol was causing you problems, I'd advise otherwise, but it seems like you're more just a victim of bad habits like too much fast food, junk food, TV, etc. Treat it like that.
posted by explosion at 9:26 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Did I write this question when I was drunk? You're drinking habits are probably the same as mine. I REALLY like booze and nowadays it's my one and only vice. I don't smoke tobacco or weed, I no longer use Class A drugs. But I like alcohol. A lot.


I rarely drink socially, I go out most weekends and have two or three Rums at the very most and that does me fine. Sometimes not even that. The rest of the bars and clubs seem to filled with folk guzzling pints and shooters and heading for oblivion. I drink alone or with my SO, usually with food I've cooked. On an average friday night we'll drink 2 bottles of wine together over the course of the night. Most evenings I'll have one or two drinks of a hard liquor or a glass or two of wine. I'd say I'd have a drink free evening 3 nights out of 7. I don't have a drink until after 7pm usually and never drink during the day. I don't get legless, do things I regret, pass out, sing football songs, argue with my partner, get into fist fights or throw up. I remember everything the next day.

I drink a lot of wine. I drank a whole heap last year while I was learning about it. However I wouldn't and didn't drink cheap wine, I drank good stuff. If I had a couple of bottles of poor quality wine in the house (given as gifts etc) then they'd be left untouched. Even if I fancied a drink and there was nothing else. Wasn't interested in drinking it. I've worked n the bar trade and mix a mean cocktail. I love Daquiris, Mojitos and Martini's. If I go to make a drink and I don't have the right ingredients, I just won't have a drink. And I don't really drink beer at all.

I can justify my drinking in all these ways but judging by the standard definition I'm probably an alcoholic.

But I LOVE the stuff. I'm fascinated by it and it's effects on me. I have books on the history of various drinks, I go through phases of "getting into" the various cultures that surround it. Last year was rum and wine, year before that it was tequila, 2008 has been the year of Vodka and the Martini.

If I have any troubling issue, a small libation greases my mental wheels and I'll quickly come to a resolution that evening. Therapy in a glass. Most of my best writing work had been under the influence, in fact I find it hard to write well sober. Like now.

A few times a year I'll go tee total for 6 weeks just to give my liver a rest and to prove to myself I'm not a total lush. The first couple of days see me itching for a drink but day three onwards is a breeze and after the sabbatical is up my intake will be greatly reduced for the following few weeks also.

I get really bad hangovers if I don't eat prior to drinking. In fact it doesn't take much to give me a hangover anymore. This is probably the main reason I don't drink more. That and any more than a couple of glasses of a night messes with my sleep.


To answer your questions, if you're drinking habits concern you then you should probably be concerned. It's a very good thing you are being this self-aware. You're body will tell you pretty quickly if it's going to give you a serious dose of withdrawal symptoms. I'd guess you'll just get some heavy cravings for a few days like I do. Heavier dependancy will give you the shakes as you come off. If you were a serious drinker then you'd get the DTs which sounds pretty scary. If you're worried then keep drinking up until you see the Doctor and take their advice then. But if you're feeling physically good after a couple of days then don't give in to the cravings stay on the wagon. It gets much easier after day 3 I find. Get your butt out for a run to take your mind of the boredom etc.

Finally, I wish you the best of good luck if you do decide to give up the sauce. But I wouldn't envy you in the slightest. A life of total sobriety sounds like the most depressing thing in the universe.

Think I need a drink now.
posted by brautigan at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm inclined to suggest that you're not an alcoholic (yet, and possibly never) but that you may be self-medicating for depression, which for some people, can be relatively mild and manifest as boredom or being stuck in a rut. I would specifically suggest that you ask your doctor about that as a possibility to discuss, if only to rule it out. Good luck!
posted by kimota at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Giving up completely has got be a hell of lot harder than, say, cutting down (gradually) to a can a night on your own and two or three pints when out with friends. If you want to drink less, set realistic goals and keep note of how you do.

I say this despite the fact that someone I know has just drunk himself to death.
posted by denishowe at 10:01 AM on February 1, 2008

First of all, there's a bit of back and forth going on here as to whether or not you're an alcoholic. Basically the answer depends on where you draw the line. Some people draw it one place, some another place. But if you think of it as more of a continuum, with definitely not an alcoholic at one end, and definitely an alcoholic at the other, I think you're probably more toward the alcoholic end then the opposite end.

Anyhow, you seem to want to quit, and know it's a problem at some level, and I think most of us agree. So on to how to do it. I'm with those who say you're making some excuses here. Once again, IANAD, but you should be fine if you just quit right now. Stop drinking now. Make an appointment with your doctor as early as possible too. It'd be a good, hopefully achievable, goal to say you're just not going to drink at all until then. If you feel physical symptoms of withdrawal, and they really get in the way, then it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with the first doctor available, to see if they have suggestions on how to deal with those, so that you can stand a chance of quitting as early as possible. I am also with those, though, who think that quitting cold turkey is not the best way for everybody. So by the time your appointment with your doctor comes up, you'll have a bit of experience. It will give you something to go on to discuss a plan with your doctor. Additionally, as many others have mentioned, besides going to your doctor, it's important that you fill the time you normally spend drinking with other activities. Try to find something out of the house, and away from alcohol, you can do without having to have a friend tag along, as they won't be available to hang out every night. Maybe reading at a cafe, going to a movie (perfectly normal to do by yourself by the way, and there are past questions dealing just with how to feel normal going to the movies, or other activities, by yourself), going to lectures, volunteering, getting a second part-time job, or any number of other things. There's plenty out there to do if you look. Anyhow, good luck.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:01 AM on February 1, 2008

yeah, my bet is that you're self-medicating for depression, too, or insomnia. get checked out, if for no other reason than those empty calories aren't good for you.

if you were truly addicted, you wouldn't be able to stop when you go out, so i think it's just boredom/distraction. who knows? maybe you just need to get out more or take up a hobby. have you considered getting a dog or a cat?
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:04 AM on February 1, 2008

I have a lot of friends who aren't alcoholics. They don't drink six-packs every day. They don't spend $200 month on alcohol. They don't hide their drinking from the people closest to them. I'm not suggesting that you are or are not like them—I'm just sharing that info for a little flipside perspective.
You are essentially asking how close you are to crossing the line into "serious consequences" territory so that you can get away with abusing yourself as much as possible with as few of the drawbacks. You're looking for a bargain, or a guarantee...some facts or information that support the plan: continue drinking out, but not at home*, don't tell anybody, suffer minimal negative effects.

A couple things on this:

You are not an average. Neither is every abusive drunk, nor recovered alcoholic. The three of you (and others) are just the means by which to illustrate a spectrum, ever shifting. This means that you can't effectively gauge how you will fare as compared to others, because you are an individual, as is each of them. You might be the data point on that spectrum that drinks 5 beers daily and no one is the wiser. You might be the data point on that spectrum that drinks 1 beer and kills somebody with their car. Or kills yourself, slowly and painfully, of liver failure. You might be the guy who raises awareness to others about the various sneaky ways we tell ourselves its not addiction. You might be the guy that helps others reading this question to justify and rationalize their drinking ("well, if anonymous is ok drinking half as much as a blackout drunk and seems to have a high-functioning life, and I drink less than anonymous, then I have nothing to worry about").

You could be anybody.

You might decide to generalize the answers in this thread to an overall consensus. And what happens to you in 10 years might very well match the middle ground to what all of us think. OR, one of us may be absolutely right about your future; one of us may be dead wrong. The consensus would still be accurate. You'd just be that guy.

So take what a bunch of strangers on the internet say with a grain of salt. But use what they say to help you look inward and figure out where YOU stand, right now, today, regardless of who is standing next to you and how drunk they are and how healthy they seem.

*Have you thought about how much time at home the new plan includes?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Cut the booze out. See about diagnosis/treatment for anxiety. The perscription Mede are generally more effective and have a lot fewer side effects compared to beer, wine, and liquor.
posted by Good Brain at 10:35 AM on February 1, 2008

But do I drink a lot compared to people who drink a lot?

Binge drinkers and more compulsive alcoholics drink a lot more than you, but your consumption is pretty typical of a certain type of drinker who will get called an alcoholic in a lot of contexts. You're well beyond both average drinking volume and what is recommended for health.

But how fucked are my health in general and liver likely to be right now and in the long term?

It's really hard to say. Someone above mentioned a relative who died at 45: I have one who drank like you pretty much every day of his life, and lived to be elderly (though by family history he probably could have lived 10-20 more years if he'd lived healthy). Lots of health problems, though, and it sure didn't improve his quality of life from my perspective. You're probably not in immediate danger and you probably face significant health risks if you keep it up. Only a doctor is going to give you better answers.

How safe is it for me to stop drinking?

Probably pretty safe. You might want to look at table two at this link. It can take a few days for the dangerous symptoms of withdrawal to show up, but chances are if you are generally asymptomatic you are not going to experience problems. I'd have to agree with the assessment that if you keep finding excuses like this to put it off, you might want to take a harder look at what you're doing.

If I can’t just stop on my own I’ll just have to cut down gradually

That's not really your full range of available options. If you can't stop the heavy solo drinking on your own then you probably have a drinking problem (rather than just a habit) and the gradual method - particularly given your habit of concealment - is probably just going to prolong the problem until you're ready to accept it and really deal with it, meaning you will have to talk about it. I don't think you're doomed to require intervention or that a transition to moderate, normal drinking is impossible, but the only way to find out is to do it and find out if you're up to it.
posted by nanojath at 11:02 AM on February 1, 2008

Here are the UK government's (NHS's) recommendations on alcohol intake. It is recommended that men drink no more than 3-4 units per day, or 21 units per week. One can of 4% beer is 1.8 units. If you drink six cans a day, that's 10.8 units daily. Without drawing any conclusions wrt alcoholism, I think that health-wise you're probably overdoing it.

Here's more.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:11 AM on February 1, 2008

I drank at comparable levels to you, but not as long, and I had absolutely none of the symptoms you describe when I stopped drinking, cold turkey. I did have mood changes a little further down the road, starting maybe a couple weeks later, but that is unsurprising as (in retrospect) inability to control my moods is what fueled my drinking in the first place.

If you are having trouble commiting to quitting, why don't you try quitting for a month, including social occasions. People take breaks from drinking all the time, and most (in my experience) will take a month-long break as a good reason for why you are not drinking when you are out with them.

In my case, the good feeling I got from accomplishing a month free from drinking was enough to enable me to easily commit to another month, and another after that, and so on until now. I now drink once every six months or so and am happier and more able to focus on the future than earlier. A number of other circumstances that did not follow from my quitting have come together to enable this, but I probably would not have been able to take advantage of them in my former state.

All the best.
posted by pamccf at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of the danger signs of addiction is when you are keeping the behavior secret. I can't tell from your post if or how much you are hiding your drinking. If you want to make this change in your life work, seems like your girlfriend and anyone else in your circle of close friends should know about it. If sharing is a problem, then you may be addicted.

I have to say, stopping cigarettes and alcohol at the same time seems like an especially difficult process, making the odds of failure high. Is there any kind of counselling or professional help you have access to? Even acupuncturists have treatments to assist kicking a substance habit.

I'm a big believer in rewards. Give yourself some payoff for each day you don't drink - something you like to do such as a hobby or whatever you do for fun. That can help with your internal struggle.
posted by conrad53 at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2008

To answer your question - i would see a doctor about how to taper off alcohol, stopping drinking suddenly can give you a seizure - which at worst will kill you, at best will make you feel as though your head is being squeezed in a vice until you pass out.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2008

anonymous: I started in 1998 drinking four 500ml cans of beer at 5% vol = 100ml of alcohol daily.

By around 2003 I was having eight 500ml cans of beer at 5% vol = 200ml of alcohol.

Nowadays I’ve cut down a little bit and drink weaker beer. Six to seven 500ml cans of beer at 4% vol = 120-140ml of alcohol daily.

This might be nitpicking but your math is way, way off. That's 1000ml (1 litre), 2000ml (2 litres), and 1200-1400ml (1.2-1.4 litres) respectively.
posted by loiseau at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2008

Ha ha. Now it's my math that's way off. I see what you were doing with the percentages.
posted by loiseau at 1:03 PM on February 1, 2008

Don't cold turkey yourself. You're way past the point of daily intake at which withdrawal can be dangerous. (The symptoms usually appear between 72 and 96 hours out and you may not initially be aware of them.)

Cut down gradually over a period of many weeks, and for Christ's sake, consult a doctor before you do.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:23 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

You drink 6-7 beers a day every day? Have you had a checkup with your doctor? I imagine that can't be good for your liver at all. If you like having a drink before you sleep, go from 7 to 1. Or as others have said taper off over the next month or so.
posted by chunking express at 8:58 AM on February 2, 2008

I'd listen to ikkyu2. My additional two cents:

1. alcohol converts to sugars, so your blood sugar is going to be low, so be prepared to crave it, or at least sweet things, and do things that help kick sugar cravings (for me, it's exercise and peppermint tea, but I'm sure an internet search would give you more ideas). I once quit sugars cold-turkey (sweets, fruits, breads, and pasta) and I've never before or never since found myself sobbing daily on a bed about how there was no reason to continue living. So don't underestimate the emotional impact of sugar imbalances.

2. when you say "I drink because I get bored on my own and I worry about not being able to sleep," I think "hmm, could signal deeper emotional issues that might not clear up without therapy." Might or might not. But I'd consider enlisting a therapist as your coach and support to get through all the withdrawal you're going to go through.

3. no one in this thread has mentioned alcoholics anonymous. All the meetings will keep you from getting bored. ;)
posted by salvia at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2008

kinda late here but i did exactly what you said you were planning to do -- just don't drink at home, ever (barring the very occasional dinner party i host). It worked quite well for me, and I had a pretty high level of consumption beforehand. Of course, now I'm back to drinking at home a bit but it's nothing like it was -- i probably hung onto that rule for about 6-8 months and slowly backed off. Now, recognizing I have the ability to drink more than I initially intended, I'm pretty careful to only bring home exactly the amount that i intend to drink, so if that's 24 oz beer, then that's what i bring. they sell lots of alcohol in small small quantities, so if i wnt to have two vodka cranberries, then i bring home two nips of vodka, and that's it. i rarely buy anything in bulk. Hope you see this. Good luck to you! i think you'll be okay.
posted by Soulbee at 5:31 AM on February 5, 2008

I've wrestled and continue to wrestle with the same scenario as the original poster here. I find that saying to myself "This feeling will pass" helps to put off drinking during those moments of boredom when a few cans of beer would take me somewhere else for awhile. The feeling really does pass although you have to be patient for a few minutes.
posted by fantasticninety at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2008

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