When was the last time you went for social drinks planning to get wasted? My guess is never, or if you did, it was a special occasion or maybe a time back in college. The consequences of drinking too much – skipped workouts, brain fog at work, or not being your best for your kids – never justify the fun the night before.
Now think of the last time you woke up after a casual night out looking for a hangover cure and ready to swear off alcohol for good. My guess is if you are reading this, this scene reoccurs more often than you would like, and you are wondering how to stop drinking so much alcohol and embrace moderation.
Since misery loves company, you’ll be glad to know that you are not alone. American’s have been steadily increasing their alcohol consumption since the early 2000s. Currently, 1 in 6 adults binge drink 4 times per month. For whatever reasons, American drinking culture pushes us to over do-it more than we would like. How do we revert to moderation without giving up alcohol entirely?
Sure, willpower and discipline are solutions to quitting or cutting back on alcohol, but for most, consciously trying to consume fewer drinks or quitting alcohol altogether is a recipe for failure. Some might even argue that abstinence cuts against basic human instinct. Thankfully, there is a better way to moderate or drink less alcohol in social settings. There are certain psychological forces that cause us to have one-too-many. By understanding these forces, we can understand behaviors that are too hard to change and look for opportunities to make minor adjustments that make a big difference.
You’ll be shocked by how simple the best way to stop drinking as much alcohol is.
First and foremost, though, alcohol use and its associated problems exist on a spectrum. Even if you do tend to overdo it occasionally, the good news is you likely do not meet mild alcohol use disorder criteria. However, only a doctor can say for sure. If you can associate drinking with a complete loss of control, I recommend you seek the advice of a medical professional.
Of course, there are dozens of factors that affect why you may drink more sometimes than others, including the mood you are in, who you are with, or the style of gathering you are at, to name a few. In general, though, the key to figuring out how you can drink less is understanding the psychological factors that lead to excessive drinking in social settings in the first place. Here are four patterns that give us some guardrails that we must work within to find a solution.
Social drinking is an ancient human tradition. For millennia, humans all over the world have been finding ways to get intoxicated, even at great expense. There is evidence of alcohol-fueled parties that occurred some 12,000 years ago. Stone-aged men and women would drink deeply from giant troughs of fermented liquid at central-Asian festival sites, drinking themselves in oblivion.
We can explain our strong desire to want to drink with evolutionary reasoning. Drinking provides a legitimate social and psychological service to humans. While there are countless activities that help us develop bonds and relationships, alcohol is a shortcut. In his book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced & Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, Edward Singerland argues that social drinking is an adaptive trait that humans developed to win the evolutionary hunger games.
Fast forward to today, and the idea that you wouldn’t have a drink in a social setting is simply out of the question for many of us. This is an extremely natural feeling shared by most people. Yes, the reasons to quit drinking alcohol are clear from a health perspective, and I would never discourage you from giving up booze if that is what you want. However, catching an alcohol buzz with friends is fun, and we do not want to give that up. Guardrail #1: Not drinking is not an option.
So you finish one drink. Now what? Someone offers you another, or you immediately help yourself to one more. Taking a round-off is problematic because it’s both boring for you and met with social pressure to continue drinking from your friends. Guardrail #2: Taking a round-off is not going to work.
Next time you’re at a bar or dinner party conversing with friends, notice the rate at which you consume your drinks. Then, try to slow yourself down. You’ll find that slowing your consumption rate is complex and unnatural. Also, the longer it takes to finish your drink, the more watered-down or warm it becomes. Guardrail #3: Slowing down to drink less is much easier said than done.
Being the first to say goodbye at a party or happy hour, especially if you don’t necessarily have to leave because of another commitment, can be awkward. If you’re around friends or family you enjoy, your instinct is to stay as long as you can. That means, however, that the longer you hang out, the more likely you are to have ‘one-too-many.’ Guardrail #4: Leaving the party early is no fun.
We have the four guardrails that we must work within to find a solution. Trying to resist these psychological forces will inevitably lead to failure. What if we could make one or two of our rounds a non-alcoholic cocktail or beverage? It sounds simple, but it would have a drastic impact on how much you drink. For instance, if you usually drink four cocktails at a dinner party, leaving the alcohol out of one would amount to a whopping 25% reduction in alcohol consumption. Additionally, the non-alcoholic round will help slow down your pacing – a huge factor helping you have a better morning.
Does this recommendation, making one or two rounds a non-alcoholic drink, fit within our four guardrails? Yes:
There are thousands of non-alcoholic beverage choices available to substitute, some more fun than others. Water between rounds is the age-old bartenders’ trick for a hangover cure. The problem with water is that it is relatively dull, and we may not treat it as an actual round, meaning you may have just as many drinks as you would otherwise.
One new brand, BTWEENER, engineered a delicious alcohol-free cocktail for this exact purpose. What's great about between is it helps you keep your buzz while you stay hydrated. BTWEENER is a 25-30 calorie canned non-alcoholic hydration seltzer meant to be enjoyed between or alongside alcohol rounds. BTWEENER is made with premium fruit juices and organic botanicals to create fun and crave-able combinations like yuzu lemongrass and grapefruit guava. Their functional blend includes L-Theanine for calm, electrolytes for hydration, B vitamins for alcohol metabolism and vitamin C as an antioxidant. The result is a great way to stay balanced as you party. As a brand, BTWEENER celebrates social drinking in moderation and aims to help partiers have more control on how their nights go. By the way, BTWEENER works great as a mixer too!
At the end of the day, hangovers work on a sliding scale. The more alcohol you have, the worse your hangover will be.
Understand the situation you will be in, and the amount of drinking you’re likely to do is critical to implementing our new strategy. For instance, if you are at a happy hour with co-workers and know it will be short, I would not worry about overdoing it. Just have a couple of drinks and call it a night.
However, if you’re going to your best friend’s house for a bar-b-que that’s likely to turn into a party after the sun sets, I would come armed with a safety net drink, like a case of b’tweenerTM, that you feel comfortable switching in to break up your rounds. With just a little bit of anticipation and an alcohol-free drink you like to switch to briefly, you’ll be much more likely to drink in moderation and avoid those soul-sucking hangovers that ruin your following day.