How to drink mindfully

Following on from the past two days posts about Moderation Management and moderate drinking I finish up talking about mindful drinking.


Choosing to alter your relationship with alcohol and drink moderately can be achieved through mindfulness and deliberate behavior modifications.  Mindfulness allows you to become aware of your ongoing moment-to-moment experience.  It is the opposite of “checking out.”  When you choose to tune in to the present moment and tap into your ability to increase self-awareness, changes in problematic drinking habits can occur.

Mindfulness acts as a well-lit mirror turned upon the self.  It allows you to see yourself and reality exactly as they are.  If the idea of casting the bright light of mindfulness onto your drinking habits makes you uncomfortable, it is worth asking yourself exactly what it is that you are afraid to see.  Mindfulness does not create anything that isn’t already present.  It is a tool that enables you to see things exactly as they are. When being mindful, you make no attempts to judge or change reality – you simply accept it.  Once you see things clearly and accept them for what they are, you are in the position to assess what you would like to see change.

So for me the mindfulness only came out when I stopped drinking as I liked to get ‘mindlessly drunk’.  As lovely as the idea of mindful drinking sounds it is also an oxymoron as alcohol reduces inhibitions so works to pull you in completely the opposite direction.  Nice idea – never gonna work for me and quite frankly I’m mad enough as it is! 😉

voluntary madness



12 thoughts on “How to drink mindfully

  1. these posts have been interesting to read, thank you. overall I find the concept of harm reduction valuable – if that is the best possible outcome that can be achieved for that person.

    but the concept of moderation management reinforces the assumption that consuming alcohol is so valuable to us that it is worth any contortion, as much effort as possible, to keep it in our lives. which just ISN’T TRUE.

    the sites you’ve quoted do say, yes, stuff along the lines of ‘if you can’t do this, it probably isn’t for you.’ and as such trying these processes could be a confirmation that they aren’t for you, and that abstinence would suit some individuals much better. I know I had the thought, while attempting moderation, “If I can’t do this, I’ll HAVE to stop completely.” and I couldn’t. so I did, hurrah! and it’s so much better/easier/less painful than trying to moderate!

    to be honest reading these suggestions makes me feel tired, and sad for those still at that stage, which I was stuck in for too long. if you are reading this and trying continually and unsuccessfully to moderate – giving up on moderation was one of the very best decisions of my life. maybe it could be for you, too?!

    1. I agree with all that you write Prim. Urghh 🙁 I’m reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ who’s main character is an alcoholic and her drinking blackouts are part of the story. It is both, as you say, tiring and saddening to read and I am also delighted to be free from such morning horrors! That said it is a fantastic book and I would highly recommend 🙂 xx

  2. As you say, the problem (or rather, one of the problems) with alcohol is that it takes you in the exact opposite direction to mindfulness. I might have misunderstood this, but I think it is main reason that Buddhists avoid alcohol – because it makes it impossible to maintain a mindful awareness when intoxicated. So mindful drinking really does feel like an oxymoron to me. Basically, I agree with what Prim says. But I did want to say, too, that I have just read Girl on a Train and could not put it down! Good read 🙂

    1. I’m sure you’re right MTM about Buddhism and alcohol – it makes complete sense! I’m loving the book – stayed up late and woke up early this morning to read it!! Infact I’m fighting the urge to read it now 😉

  3. I think there are probably people who can drink “mindfully.” In fact, I know many of them. The people who stop short of finishing their glass – if they have a glass at all – because they have work to do, or they have to drive home, etc. It’s like they fit drinking into their life, rather than focussing their life around their drinking. The question you are raising, however, is whether people who are drinking less than mindfully can incorporate mindfulness in a way that will allow them to keep drinking. Maybe. But I guess I’m with you that if it’s such a huge effort, as it seems to be for the latter group, what is the point? Is it so worth it? Here I think people, who’ve realized they need to cut back, have a misunderstanding of AA and other abstinence-based programs. They think everyone in the program is engaged in some kind of battle against alcohol (as they are too, in their efforts to moderate). What they don’t realize is that with abstinence, the obsession goes away. The desire to drink goes away. So it’s not like we’re sitting there having only one glass when we want to have three, or not drinking on nights we’d rather be drinking, a la moderation management. We lose the desire to drink. Not that we don’t have memories – of a glass of cabernet, a cold beer – that tempt us, but they’re really and truly fleeting. That’s the gift of abstinence. The capacity for a kind of mindfulness that thinking about alcohol and how much we’re consuming, etc., precludes. One last thing: I am really not sure 30 days off alcohol is enough time to reach any level of honesty about one’s drinking. It was not until I was nearly a year sober that I even was able to admit to myself that I had ZERO desire to drink in moderation. A glass of wine at a wedding now and then has ZERO appeal to me. Social drinking doesn’t appeal much either. What I want to do is to drink every night. Alone. So there’s really no fooling myself now and that makes it super easy to go to gallery openings, dinner parties, etc. and skip the wine, because I’m just not about moderation.

    1. Hey Elizabeth and thank you! I agree with everything that you wrote and am in the same thought train as you – it’s just easier not to. No brain twisting shall I shan’t I debates and to only have one glass – what’s the point? It’s taken me until 18 months to really know that this is the right path for me and yes 30 days isn’t long enough but it’s a good jump off point 🙂

  4. Loved that book! 😉 I’ve enjoyed your series of posts about moderation (the dreaded “M” word) although it’s not for me I’m sure there are many who will benefit from the information. I agree totally with the others here, and I’m reminded of the saying “if you think or worry you have a problem, you probably do” xx

    1. Thanks Lori 🙂 I always feel some trepidation when I post about moderation it has to be said! Galloping through the book and should have finished it by tonight!! xx

  5. I think mindfulness and intoxication are opposites.
    Once ones mind is influenced by drugs or alcohol they can no longer act mindfully.
    It sounds like above idea, but drinking becomes a focused and obsessive act pretty quickly.

    A truly mindful person would see that dulling the mind with alcohol is a step away from insight.

  6. Dear Lucy,
    I have to be careful reading about Moderation.
    It gets me thinking the wrong way.
    I just can’t let myself think that way at all.
    I am much happier thinking I just don’t want to drink today.
    I keep waiting for the magic day I am 100 percent happy I quit forever.
    Not there yet!
    But I am on day 262, feeling pretty okay.
    I’ll take okay!

    1. I know what you mean Wendy and I’m sorry to send your thoughts in the wrong direction. This is meant for people who are new to the sober journey and can’t imagine their life without booze. For us longer journeyers we know better 🙂 xx

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