Almost Alcoholic to Social Drinker

I loved reading the book ‘Almost Alcoholic’ by Robert Doyle and Joseph Nowinski but I was left with this nagging question that I can’t shrug off and which wolfie is quietly nurturing.

So many of their case studies who were in the ‘almost alcoholic’ zone seemed to be able to go back to normal social drinking after some self-help work or psychological therapeutic input.  Now don’t get me wrong they are clear that there are some who cannot go back to this type of drinking however hard they try.  They talk about drinking developing to the point of dependence or a person having co-occurring conditions, such as mental health problems.

In the UK substance abuse or misuse is seen and treated as part of the mental health service within the wider children and young people’s services if you are under the age of 17.  Both mental health, drugs and alcohol carry the same type of stigma for young people and adults despite huge campaigns to change it (for example the time to change campaign).  Which is why I struggle to accept where I am and am still looking for a way round.  As you know I’ve been having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specifically to look at my drinking and having done a series of posts on drinking thinking.   In the near future I will start to look at my thoughts and the formulations that we are working on to share them with you here.  I posted before about a friend of mine who had CBT and turned their drinking around completely.  This both fascinates, excites and scares me.  Could I do the same, would I want to and what if I can’t?  I’m still trying to figure that out.

89 days to go

27 thoughts on “Almost Alcoholic to Social Drinker

  1. This really is interesting Lucy. Generally I am content being AF but there are odd thoughts that question the finality of my decision. I do wonder if I could have a couple at some point in the future. My feeling after my own experiences is no. I will always end up drinking destructively. I have changed ny thinking about alcohol so I now see it as a drug, poisoning my body and mind. Maybe for some but not me 🙂

    1. Morning Kim I know it fascinates me too. What is the difference between those who can go back to drinking moderately and those who can’t? Is there a line that you cross that means what was once possible is no longer? My friend astounds me as they were drinking alcoholically in the years that I lived with them and this turn around is almost miracle like! 🙂

  2. I wonder if your friend is still drinking just one glass. Does she really enjoy it, free from internal conflict and bargaining, and never want more?
    It seems to me that Wolfie is at work here, sneaking around and trying to worm his way into your affections again by telling you that he’s changed, he’ll be less demanding in future, blah blah blah. Maybe he’s wheedling away at you because you’re busy or stressed, and could do with treating yourself to a walk in the park, an evening reading a good book, some fresh flowers?

    1. Hi Roisin Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂 They said that they could have one glass of wine and put the bottle back into the fridge no problem (however I don’t know how big their glasses are!) I haven’t quizzed them more about it as I haven’t seen them recently – but we do need to catch up! 😉 I think the nurse in me wonders that if you caught people before they were too far down the road if we could help a whole load of people not end up as alcoholics. It’s too late once the disease progression is done but could we halt before it got that far? We do very little preventative work in this country so we don’t know the answer to that question.

  3. I can totally see the logic in thinking that ‘we abused alcohol because our thinking patterns were misaligned. so if we straighten out the snarl of how we think then we will be able to take or leave alcohol.’

    but what this leaves out of the equation is the fact that alcohol is an addictive drug. it’s not like indulging in, say, a trashy novel. which leaves you feeling slightly grubby afterwards, but otherwise unharmed.

    alcohol has its own agenda. and I am convinced that for me that agenda is a further spiral downwards into DUIs, wrecking my career, losing me my friendships, my children, my marriage, and ultimately shortening or even dramatically ending my life.

    think I put as a comment on a post of Belle’s about moderation:

    ‘alcohol doesn’t just want me back. alcohol wants me dead.’

    I don’t know whether there is a line that you cross, that you can’t go back from. those alcohol dependence questionnaires would seem to indicate so.

    but the ultimate thing is that the reasons for going back are so minor compared to the risks. the buzz of a glass of prosecco? nice idea. worth my job, children, marriage, life? nope.

    lots of love to you. I so admire your desire to really think these things through and examine all your options so you know you are making the right decision for you. it is always an inspiring process to watch! xxx

    1. Hey Prim 🙂 You are right in that the kink is that alcohol is addictive and following that logic a smoker who’s given up for a year doesn’t go back for one cigarette do they for the same reason! I just feel the disease process needs to be better understood but that requires us in this country to acknowledge that we have a problem at all, which still feels a long way away. If there was as much research into alcohol dependency as there is other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, there would be no room for doubt. Where there’s doubt there’s room to question and my mind will always wonder xx

      1. Just a thought – that this sober online community is a step in the right direction of catching people before they progress into the later stages of alcohol dependence. And completely agree there is no acknowledgement of this as a social problem ATM in our country, but every person saying quietly but firmly, “Actually, I don’t drink” is like being one of the first female medical students. We are engines of change, whether we do it as publicly and splendidly as Mrs D, or ‘just’ to our own children! Xx

      2. Too true Prim! I’m just bloody impatient and want the Govt to support the NHS to do more than we currently are. I need to take the ‘baby steps’ attitude to changing the world like I do to giving up drinking! 😉 xx

  4. Primrose – I think that’s a really valid point about the online sober community catching people before they fall much lower. I think I would have continued looking round me at my friends etc and validating my drinking because it seemed similar to theirs (without of course knowing what’s in their heads) When doubt crept into my mind I looked at my online “go to” resource for most things, which is Mumsnet. Which then lead me to the sober blogs. Which lead me to find many women whose drinking was JUST like mine. And was a big problem. But they’d turned it around and found that sobriety was totally worth having.

    Lucy – really thought provoking topic. I’m in very very early recovery, but I know that for me, moderation will never be an option. No matter how much therapy I have. In fact the thought of attempting it makes me feel exhausted. And also, I’d only know that I couldn’t do it, by giving up my sobriety, if you see what I mean. One of the things I “like” about this path, as opposed to say deciding to lose weight/eat healthily is that it can be all or nothing. We HAVE to eat, but we don’t have to drink alcohol. And in some ways, although incredibly incredibly tough it seems “easier”.

    1. Hey Haggis! 🙂 I agree with both you and Prim, but it needs to be more publicly advertised here in the UK. What Mrs D has done is exactly that and although we all use the online as a fabulous resource people need to be offered it as part of our public health function rather than needing to seek it out ourselves. The weight/healthy eating analogy is a good one – shame the UK think that a glass of red/white is one of their 5 a day! 😉

  5. Hi Lou, interesting topic, have loved reading the comments, too! I’m with Primrose in many ways – thinking that, is that one glass of prosecco really worth it? Is it so lovely that it’s worth the risk? And like Haggismcbaggis above, the just idea of that mental internal struggle that goes with moderation makes me feel exhausted. In less than six months, I seem to have moved from a position of only ever considering moderation to seeing it as a very unlikely option. I don’t want to lose the freedom that sobriety has to offer. Already, it means so much to me. Stealing others ideas and words again, I like Lucy Rocca’s analogy with sobriety taking the part of Mr Right. I don’t believe in romantic Mr Rights, I’m quite a logical unromantic soul, and when I married, I didn’t think, is he *the one*, will this last forever? I saw it as a choice and as a commitment. This is the person I chose to be with and I am committed to making it work. As I was completely happy with that idea, I harboured no worries or doubts. Could I moderate? Maybe. There’s only one way to find out. Do I chose it? Or do I chose something else? I think I need to chose and commit. Sorry if that sounds preachy, it’s really really *not* meant to. These thoughts go round my head – sometimes loads, sometimes not for days or weeks – but they are there. And this is what I tell myself. Haven’t quite got the confidence I had on my wedding day though 😉
    Interesting, also, that at the beginning of your post, you talk about people being able to “go back to being a normal social drinker”. I’m not sure I have that to go back to. I don’t think I ever I had that.

    1. Hey MTM Fabulous comments I agree – the moderation question always seems to kick the hornet’s nest doesn’t it? It’s so amazing how everyone is so strong in their resolve to protect their sobriety now. Hard fought and not giving it up lightly grit and determination present in bucket loads 🙂 xx

  6. I wonder long term how those participants will hold up and if they’ll stick to moderate drinking. My slide was long and slow. I feel like I got all my attempts at moderate drinking out of my system. I never saw the point in it and ultimately found relief and an unexpectedly better way of life in abstinence.

    1. Good question Kristen. Be interesting to see some long term study results on this subject, maybe one day? And yes you are right it is so much easier and better than the battle to control our drinking.

  7. I second what BBB said. How long did they follow the people who started to drink again? I just feel that after all this work getting sober why would we jeopardize this sobriety just to “see” if we can handle one drink occasionally and why would anyone encourage that. Why is alcohol so f…ing important still? It’s an addictive poison, toxic and unhealthy. Experimenting makes no sense to me. Sorry for the rant but I just don’t get it.

    1. Hey Sharon 🙂 Definitely not encouraging it here just wondering out loud really. I agree that we need to question the importance of alcohol in our lives and no it doesn’t make any sense but we are still a small minority in that view!!

  8. I think Belle said that she knows of one person out of the 1000 that she corresponds with who is happily moderating. That’s a pretty small figure! I agree that therapy can help untwist our drinking thinking, but I personally believe that my thinking would twist back up if I were to return to drinking. It starts small, with little rationalizations and minimizations, and ends up getting bigger and bigger. I think of the moderation management lady who ended up with a DUI and serious trouble. I dunno- I too think that the slide can be long and slow and is simply not worth the risk. Hugs, Lucy!

    1. Hi Jen and that’s a good way to look at it – re-twisting our thinking having painstakingly untwisted it. Maybe my friend is the equivalent of Belle’s 1 in 1000. Not great odds is it? I don’t know about the moderation management lady who ended up with a DUI & trouble – do you have a link as that would be interesting to read xx

      1. Thank you Jen! 🙂 Will have a read after a long soak in a bubble bath mulling over every bodies fabulous comments xx

  9. I wonder where genetics fit into the idea of moderation. My family has a history of alcoholism (grandfather, father, 2 out of 3 brothers). I thought I was different, but here I am. I found this on the NIH website:

    “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will become an alcoholic. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.

    Multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing alcoholism. There are genes that increase a person’s risk, as well as those that may decrease that risk, directly or indirectly. For instance, some people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that alters their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, and rapid heartbeat when they drink. Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing alcoholism.”

    Genetics aside, I don’t think I will ever be able to moderate because I drank to get that “Ahhh!” feeling and, as Prim pointed out, alcohol is addictive. At first I could get that lovely, warm rush from the first sip of wine, then one glass, then two, etc. until I got to a point where I never felt it. By the end, I was drinking to relieve agitation and feel normal. I relate to More to Me in that I don’t think I was ever a social drinker. I LOVE the idea of moderation and I still romance the drink & fantasize about a chilled glass of white wine on a sunny day. But I’m afraid of slipping back into old patterns and I agree with Jen, Sharon, & BBB that risking my sobriety on a moderation experiment is not worth it for me. xoxo

    1. Hi Julie – genes are an influencer here as my Dad is recovered 17 years and me and my siblings all like a drink! I agree that the moderation game is a risk too far, bit like Russian Roulette really xx

  10. I tried really hard to use CBT to get my drinking under control.
    I think it is a valuable tool to understand personal behaviour.
    It could not overcome the compulsive want to drink for me.
    But it gave me ammunition to help start myself on the sober road and I think it is a great asset.

    1. Thank you for sharing Anne as now our small sample has 1 person where CBT helped them get their drinking under control and 1 where it didn’t. I suspect that if I were to start again I would be with you in that it wouldn’t overcome the compulsion to drink. Not that I am planning on starting anytime soon!!

  11. Hi Lucy, great post, sure got me thinking. And it would be interesting to see the long term study results. I read some stuff about this too, the statistics noted were about as low as getting sober, about 3-5%. There was also talk about a pill that would not make you drunk. Hmm. My though was- what’s the point then!?lol!

    I find it interesting that there are studies to cure(?) alcoholism, where the alcoholic returns to drinking. I often look at my disease as an allergy, like an allergy to peanuts. I don’t see any studies conducted to help people allergic to peanuts, safely eat peanuts again! Lol!

    Anyway, I have to say that for me, 6 years into sobriety, I like my life alcohol free. I don’t think i would be willing to give it up at a chance to be able to maybe moderate. And I think the mental game that I do believe would return would be just enough for me to definitely not try it. And for every one person that has an issue with me not drinking, there are probably like 100 people that don’t give a damn.

    Great post! Thanks!

    1. Hey Maggie. The pill that would not make you drunk is naltrexone and this is called the Sinclair method ( It’s an opiate antagonist and works on the principle of pharmacological extinction, so that taking naltrexone changes some addicting behaviors into non-addicting behaviors. When an alcoholic consumes alcohol, the desire for alcohol increases. When naltrexone is used during consumption of alcohol, the desire to drink is decreased because of naltrexone’s interference with the brain’s reward system.
      Also interestingly peanut allergies can be reversed and much work has been done here at the University of Cambridge about this (
      I agree though that if life is better without why bother? 🙂

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