As a result, I came up with what I call “The Unifying Theory of Alcohol.” It’s very simple, though it required a shift in perspective that changed my behavior. This theory has led to me being able to drink in moderation out of choice, rather than as an act of self-denial.
Until the Unifying Theory, I used to feel I either had to be drinking or not drinking. There was nothing in between. And apart from the few times I have stopped completely, the tendency has always been toward drinking—a lot. I couldn’t just have one or two drinks. There was no moderation. It was all or nothing.
Now, I’ve reset my perspective. I work from the position that I don’t drink regularly, but occasionally. If I go into a pub and they have my favorite beer on tap, I have a few pints. If they don’t, I don’t drink. It’s that simple.
In my experience, you can tell it’s “just a beer” if you can easily take it or leave it.
This shift in perspective came about when I finally recognized why I drink alcohol. For me, alcohol was anchored in a behavioral pattern of reward or consolation; that’s the role booze has always played in my life. Casually drinking alcohol can be great fun, but for me, I’ve realized it’s completely useless as a weight-bearing exercise. By that I mean it can’t cope with carrying any kind of burden. If you’re drinking as a compensation or as a reward, it collapses under the weight of this expectation and can make you feel awful. You either behave badly and feel shame and regret in the morning, or you wake up with the feeling of gloom you were trying to drown out amplified instead.
If I want a drink because I’ve had a hard day and deserve a drink, or if something bad has happened and I want a drink to escape from it, then I don’t drink. Ever. That is my rule. I can only have a beer that is just a beer—because it tastes nice. I don’t tie anything else to it.
In my experience, you can tell it’s “just a beer” if you can easily take it or leave it. If you’re not bothered either way, then have it. If you know you’re tying more to it than just that, then don’t have it. This approach is why I rarely drink anymore. I start to think about one beer becoming three and how I will feel in the morning, and I quickly decide it’s not worth it. It’s a path that has led me to be able to drink in moderation. Either no drinks or no more than two drinks has now become my norm.
Of course, those around me still have to come to terms with my decision not to drink. For some, it seems that my choice draws attention to their own relationship with alcohol. But, if they ask, I explain that how booze fits in my life now is no judgment of them. It’s just my choice. After all, if I’m out drinking orange juice in a pub with you then I must really want to be there, spending time and talking with you. Because you know I’m not there for the booze.