How much is too much?

I had a problem with alcohol for many, many years. In high school and college I used alcohol (and other drugs) to numb my emotional pain and ease my anxiety. When I was drunk I felt like I could be myself, except without all the sadness–parties and other social events were so much more enjoyable with a few (or more) drinks in me. Alcohol was a crutch, I couldn’t have fun without it.

Unfortunately, alcohol didn’t just amplify the happy feelings, sometimes it emboldened the bad. Many drunken nights ended with me in a rage, yelling at those around me for no reason that anyone could understand. If I wasn’t mad I was sad or despondent, sure that nobody really cared for me, that the love people showed me was just a ruse.

Mostly though I drank too much and passed out. Hopefully I made it home before I became a dead weight. Many times I didn’t. For as long as I can remember I struggled with knowing when to stop. Some nights I could drink a bottle of vodka and party till the sun came up. Other night three drinks had me vomiting before I passed out. Later I learned my depression meds probably had something to do with my inability to gauge how drunk I was. My fluctuating weight probably didn’t help either.

In the end though, it doesn’t matter what fueled my issues with alcohol. All that mattered was that I couldn’t drink it responsibly. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was able to really see and accept this fact. It was then that I stopped drinking except during very special occasions. When we started trying to get pregnant it wasn’t that hard for me to abstain from alcohol completely; by that time I only drank it a couple of times a year.

When we were finally done with TTC, pregnancy and breastfeeding, it had been almost three years since I’d had a drink. I was a lightweight and no matter how little I drank I felt horrible the next morning. Any parent can tell you that the only thing worse than a hangover is parenting with a hangover. I quickly realized that no buzz was worth a morning spent managing my spirited child while feeling like shit. For years I just didn’t drink.

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In the past year my husband has developed a love for mixing cocktails and my tolerance has strengthened enough that now I can enjoy two very strong cocktails and feel fine the next morning. At first I thought this was wonderful–a couple of drinks took the edge off the long days–and I felt like myself the next morning. If I didn’t have to suffer for it, why not indulge a little?

Eventually I realized I was drinking more nights than I wasn’t and I started to wonder if that was too much. Sure now I could drink without feeling shitty the next day, but did that mean I wanted to?

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At my annual well woman’s visit I fill out a two sided questionnaire. One of the sections is about general health, and there are items about how much alcohol I consume. It felt good when I wrote zero on the line asking how many drinks I have in a week. I’m not sure how I feel about writing 2-4 now. I got my pap smear this past week and after our staycation weekend I had to check Yes on the one about having “more than 4 drinks at one time.”

I also had to see that I’ve gained some weight and I’m now almost seven pounds heavier than I ideally want to be. After all the effort I put into losing weight last summer, I’m disappointed that I’m back at this weight. I noticed my clothes felt a little tighter and didn’t fit as well, but I didn’t realize I had gained so much.

I can’t pretend that some of that weight isn’t a direct result of downing these cocktails. They may be small but they pack a strong alcoholic punch, which means they also pack a strong caloric punch. I can’t keep drinking a cocktail or two even a few nights a week and not pay for it around my waistline.

Oh, and around my wallet too!

So now I’m back to asking myself, How much is too much? I’m grateful that I’m no longer trying to figure out how to stop drinking before I black out (or fall into a drunken rage), but I recognize it’s just as serious a question when it’s about how many nights a week I indulge in one or two cocktails. I’ve decided that for the time being, Friday night will be the one night a week when I have two cocktails. I might allow myself one on a Saturday, but I won’t be drinking them during the work week. The truth is, I don’t need a drink every night. I am just as happy writing a blog post or reading a book without a little buzz going on. And abstaining for most of the week makes those two drinks on Friday something to look forward to. The rest of the week I can use exercise (or just sweet silence of an hour without my kids around) to make me feel good.

How frequently do you drink? How did you determine how much is too much (or just enough)?

32 Comments

  1. I was just talking with my mom about this earlier this week. I dated an alcoholic after college and he literally taught me to drink. I had never had more than a few sips of wine until I met him. For the next 5 years, I was getting drunk at least once a month. Which was far less than he was drinking…so I thought I was doing okay. I realize, in retrospect, that it was too much. I was a happy drunk and enjoyed doing something that I thought other adults engaged in.

    Then our relationship fell apart. I stopped drinking entirely and never looked back. Since then I’ve only been drunk once. These days I don’t drink. I will occasionally have a sip of a friend’s newest wine creation (I have several vintners as friends) or taste a beer I’m using in a recipe. But, that’s really it. McRuger will have a few drinks when he’s out with co-workers or buddies, but that’s it. We got a bottle of very expensive wine as a gift for our wedding..and it’s still intact….that’s how much alcohol we drink…lol.

    I don’t miss it at all. I have far too many alcoholics in my family line to pretend it’s not a road I could have gone down.

    1. I’m not making any broad declarations for the population in general, just what feels right for me. My husband drinks at least a beer or one cocktail EVERY SINGLE NIGHT and I have never thought he had a problem. Many of my colleagues seem to drink a glass of wine every night. I think that is very normal.

      I forgot to add that one reason I want to drink less is that I take anti-depressants, and I probably will all or most of my life. I know those do a number on my liver, so I’d rather not subject it to even more damage when I don’t need to.

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that I felt judged by your post (I don’t), you just hit on something I’ve been struggling with too, and apparently at a different level than you.

        1. My issue (because now I feel I have to clarify…) is that my one glass of wine/night has crept up to 2/night (or the occasional two cocktails on a weekend) and I don’t like that trajectory…

          1. I think that is another reason I’m putting the kibosh on weekday drinking–a one cocktail-a-night habit can easily turn into a two-cocktail-a-night habit and it probably would. Whereas if I’m not drinking at all, that won’t happen. I’m actually trying not to consumer anything after I put the kids to bed (which is essentially after dinner) for weight control purposes, so not drinking will help with that too.

            1. I’ll join you. No weekday drinking starting today. I actually kept that up for a while this winter, but slipped up this spring and never went back, oops.

              1. Let’s do it! I’m also not eating after dinner. That has been WAY harder for me.

  2. It’s really admirable you realized alcohol was a destructive force and your life and successfully stopped drinking in your mid-20s. Amazing self-awareness and dedicating. It sounds like you know your limits.

    I’m not much of a drinker. I just fall asleep. Or throw up and then fall asleep.

    1. Haha. I used to always fall asleep when I was drunk. I have some sad, sad stories of being carried out of places in college. So, so sad.

  3. I’ve never been drunk. Never had a hangover. I’ll drink when I’m with friends. We had a rare weekend where we went out for dinner with friends and then had them back for dessert, since there was no driving for me I had 3 glasses of wine. That’s the high end for me. I definitely drink at least once a month because there is bunco, but it’s not something I do on a daily or weekly basis. And yet I love how much more relaxed I am, more social more who I’d like to be all the time-that’s who I am when I’ve had a drink or two. OTOH, I vividly remember when it hit me in high school that my dad had an alcohol problem. That was 20+ years ago and he still does so I go a little too far the other way

    1. So you can have 3 glasses of wine and not be drunk? Do you feel buzzed? You must have a really high tolerance! At this point three glasses of wine has me at what I would call “drunk.” I’m not stumbling around or slurring my speech, but I am definitely not sober.

  4. I never really drank hardly at all, then decided at 23 I wouldn’t drink. Not bc I had a problem but bc one side of my family is filled with alcoholics. My understanding is that if you are an alcoholic, drug addict, etc, any drink is too much. I have had relatives who went to rehab. I would be careful.

    1. I definitely feel fine about my drinking as far as whether or not it’s under control. I was never drinking 1-2 cocktails a night because I NEEDED to, I did it because my husband asked if I wanted one and made one for me (while he made his own). I would NEVER make myself a drink or open myself a beer, I just don’t think to do it. So I’m pretty sure I’m okay.

  5. We don’t have alcohol in our house and if we want it, we have to go out and buy it…which typically turns into us not going out and getting it. But I know when I do buy it how much I’ll allow myself to drink. It seems that you know what you’re doing and thinking about it heavily.

    1. Was it a conscious decision not to have alcohol in the house, so you wouldn’t drink it? My husband ALWAYS has beer in the house and now we have a bar stocked well enough to host a Quincenera. Luckily it’s not something I crave much, but when my husband is always asking me if I want one, and making one for himself, it’s harder to say no.

  6. I’ve been worried about my alcohol intake recently as well. I’ve slipped into a cocktail every night routine and I don’t think it’s good for my health (or my waistline). My parents don’t drink at all and for a long time I could take it or leave it, but the thought of abstaining sounds really hard to me now, and that scares me. I think I need to cut back to only drinking on the weekend, and see how that goes. It has definitely become my way to relax when the kids go to bed, which isn’t a good habit.

    1. Yeah, I think once the idea of stopping something (that you think isn’t ultimately good for you) becomes scary or upsetting, it’s time to think seriously about why you’re doing it and if you need to change things up. That is part of why I’m so drastically changing the way I spend (or trying to) because the idea was terrifying to me, or it just felt impossible. I’m sure you can get to where you want to be with your drinking, just make sure you can answer the question, “Why do I want to drink less?” If you have a good answer for that, you’ll get there.

      1. I’m the exact same way as Krista. We are a beer/wine family and it really picked up during the adoption waiting days as a coping mechanism. It’s hard to stop any habit after having it for so long. Overall though I’m not worried about (or try not to be) because it isn’t out of control and we are responsible and while I drink more than recommended for a woman, it’s still less than what’s recommended for a man. I know there’s a bunch of health implications, but dammit, I don’t have any other vices!

  7. I am BOOZE-Y. I’m not worried about the cost because I’m a cheap drinker, at $13 for a plastic jug-o-vodka I’m not breaking the bank. The calories, well, I sip vodka only, so while it is a lot in itself, I somewhat compensate with exercise and eating pretty bomb if I do say so myself. Would I feel better/look better/be healthier? Yes. And I drink too often. But. It’s where I am right now and I’m accepting of it. I would give it up for cigarettes though. Lawd I still miss them.

    1. As long as you know what works for you and are accepting of it, you’re good to go (in my book). Sip that $13/a jug vodka lady!

  8. Hmm I definitely swing on the side of too many on a week day. I’ve been sick lately and had no interest in drinking, felt weird and abnormal. I haven’t had an issue with alcohol though so if you’re worried about slipping then maybe cut back / in saying that it is summer (for you still fkn winter here) and you’re not hurting anyone. But in summer I could easily drink 1-2 glasses a night. I also find it weird when people say they’ve never been drunk. Not going to lie some of my best nights have been on the drink 😂😂

    1. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone say they’ve never been drunk (before that comment on my blog). I can’t quite imagine that. I have spent many a wonderful, and many a terrible, night drunk out of my mind. 😉

  9. I definitely have a couple of beers most nights of the week (especially in the summer), and on a Saturday night it will often be more than a couple with my husband and our friends. I’ve never worried about it in the past, though lately I’ve been thinking about it more and more. I don’t know… the right level seems to be different for everyone. Good luck figuring out what feels right for you.

    1. The right level is different for everyone. You gotta figure out what works for you. It sounds like you have, which is great!

  10. This post was interesting to me, and I definitely think what feels right is different for everyone. I am more of drinker than my husband, but my max is generally two-three beers or two glasses of wine. I probably have one beer every other night during the week and two on the weekend. If we’re talking cocktails, maybe one-two. I use it as sort of my relax moment while making dinner after a long day. The calorie intake though may be something i need to focus on. :-/

    1. Yeah, the calories are a bitch. I wish there was diet alcohol!

      I do think everyone has their own “sweet spot” when it comes to drinking. Just like everything else in life!

  11. I rarely drink, and not for any reason other than I’m a lightweight now and it’s a waste of calories. Brian will open wine and we each have a glass, then cork it for a night or two and repeat. His pours are very small, so a glass in our house is like half in others. Ha! I avoid beer because of calories and it fills me up to discomfort. Wine is good for me…

    My dad is an alcoholic as is his sister and his uncle (and some believe his mom, my grandma). We always knew about the alcoholism so grew up very self-aware and self-moderating. None of us over-drink. I never drink when I’m down, only when I’m in a good mood. Everyone thinks the gene skipped us kids, but you never know. So… I don’t play with fire. The hangover is NEVER worth it either ( and 2 drinks = hangover in my world)

  12. We are wine drinkers, and always have wine in the house. We have a small wine cellar (ok … cupboard!), and enjoy good (not expensive) wine. Before we tried to conceive we were probably drinking wine most nights. These days, we probably have a minimum of three or four days alcohol free, and only usually with dinner or predinner, and usually only a glass or two. It helps that I cook a lot of Thai food, and wine really doesn’t go with it. I don’t want to waste good wine so would rather go without. I’ll drink (slightly) to excess with good friends or on a special occasion, but very rarely have any after effects. There’s alcoholism in my extended family, so I’m wary of treating it as a crutch, or as a habit. It could be a slippery slope!

  13. Like many people, I abused my share of alcohol in my younger/college years. 😉 I haven’t had a hangover in years, though, and I’d like to keep it that way. 😉 These days, dh & I rarely drink. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine when we’re out for a nice dinner or at a wedding, but we don’t keep much alcohol in the house or drink at home very often. For one thing, it’s expensive (much more expensive here in Canada than in the States); for another, it’s extra calories, as you’ve noted. 😉 And I find that it doesn’t take much to make feel fuzzy around the edges. I mostly gave up drinking when I went out for lunch when I was working, because I would feel useless for the rest of the afternoon when we got back. We sometimes used to have after-work events, but I never stayed very late, and I would generally alternate a glass of wine with a glass of pop.

    Dh has actually expressed a desire to start drinking wine with meals like his dad does. I’m a bit wary of that. As Mali says above, I don’t want alcohol to become a habit or a crutch. There is a bit of alcoholism/addiction in my family background. I figure why tempt fate? Also, I’m on blood pressure meds & need to be careful about mixing them with alcohol.

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