How I Tamed My Alcohol Addiction

I am a booze hound.

Ever since university I’ve struggled with alcohol.

Not starting the day with a swig of gin.

But definitely drinking every day.

And drinking more than I’d like.

Oh and the hangovers.

We don’t need to go into them.

Having a 5 year career detour as a wine maker didn’t help.

But there’s a happy end to this story!

And even better it doesn’t involve me cutting out drinking completely.

I’ve tried that. It didn’t work for the long term.

I’ve actually found a way to enjoy a glass of wine with a meal and leave it at that.

To feel completely satisfied. In control.

And completely hangover-free!

I know. I can hardly believe I’m writing this.

How I Tamed My Biggest Vice

1. Planning Alcohol in Advance

The first strategy I adopted after listening to Brooke Castillo’s podcast on how to Stop Over-Drinking.

It’s a simple yet incredibly powerful tool.

The idea is to decide exactly what and how much you’re going to drink before you start drinking.

When you’re cool and calm and remember the concept of things like hangovers.

It made a massive, massive difference.

2. Adopting ‘Personal Rules’

Personal rules are a concept I’ve used to make and keep positive changes in my life.

They’ve helped my coaching clients too.

Basically it’s creating ‘guidelines’ for yourself so you don’t need to make decisions in the moment.

Here are the rules I use for alcohol:
1. ‘I don’t start drinking until I’m sitting at the table with a meal’
2. ‘I plan my alcohol in advance’.
3. ‘I only have one glass’.

And I haven’t looked back.

3. Managing My Self Talk

Sure there are times I’ve thought ‘I’d like another glass’.

But then I remind myself that ‘the second one never tastes as good’.

And ‘I always feel better when I stick to one’.

Then it’s easy to stop and have a cup of tea, kombucha or sparkling water instead.

I can say with joy in my heart, I’m NOT a booze hound any more.

I AM someone who enjoys drinking wine with a meal once a week or less.

Without over-doing it.

What about you?

Is alcohol something you struggle with? Is there anything here you think might be helpful for your situation?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below :)

Have fun at the dining table (with just 1 glass of wine)!

BIG love,
Jules x

PS. If you’d like my personal help becoming someone like me who has a healthy, sustainable relationship with food and wine.

If you want to eat well automatically.

And feel good in your clothes.

Then join me in the Stop Overeating Club.

For more details CLICK HERE.

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  • You cannot “TAME” Substance Use Disorder. This person never had a problem in the first place. His “Coaching” clients (Is this guy like 27?) are not alcoholics.

    • Charles, your comment is rude and not at all helpful. As a professional psychologist, I know that one of the key diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders is that it causes a problem for the person or interferes with their life in some way. And Jules (a woman, btw) acknowledged very clearly that it was a problem for her (e.g., having frequent hangovers interferes with normal life). I like her suggestions and have used a similar approach myself. I drink alcohol every day, and had an alcoholic father, so I’m very mindful around my relationship with alcohol. One of my rules is that I never drink during the day (except on very special occasions, like Christmas). I don’t start drinking until I’m preparing dinner, and then pour myself about 1/3 of a glass at a time, so it limits my overall consumption.

      • exactly, Catherine! having any sort of an issue with alcohol isn’t necessarily black and white! for a lot of people I think it is about bad habits rather than a serious addiction – which can still cause a problem in day to day life. I think these tips are great for anyone like that, as sometimes you just need a little kick out of the bad habits you have got into. It doesn’t always have to be all or nothing.

        • I too would never have described myself as an “alcoholic” though any social occasion had me drinking way too much! First I stopped drinking at home, and a glass of wine at dinner wouldn’t suit me, I need to abstain unless it’s an occasion I’m “allowing” myself 2 or 3 drinks. Now I’m finding I feel so unwell after 3 drinks I don’t feel like drinking at all! A part of me misses “sessions” but know I can no longer “party” with alçohol without consequences. Well done Jules for sharing your solutions, we are all different?. Oh yeah, and kombucha is a great alternative, fizz but not sweet, & herb teas.

      • Thanks for sharing what works for you Catherine!

        Drinking while preparing dinner used to be one of my downfalls. For me it’s much easier to wait until I’m sitting down at the table.

    • This is a subject that impacts and is painful for so many people but if you go to her site, she specifically says that her coaching is not for people who are dealing with addiction. Her brother died of an overdose so she is aware of how serious and how different that issue is from the one she is addressing.

      • In rereading the comments, I realized that my own comment could be taken as referring to Jules. The website I am referring to is Brooke Castillo’s.

    • Hi Charles

      Compared with some people I guess you could say I didn’t have a problem.

      But for me it wasn’t a part of myself I was happy with. And I have been able to solve that problem for myself so was just sharing what had worked for my situation in the hope that it might be helpful for others.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      Jules (female)

      ps. you’ve made my day (I’m 46 not 27!)

  • Thanks Jules, this was really helpful. As someone who has no trouble abstaining, but tends to drink too much when I do, I can relate. I’ve used personal rules in other areas of my life. For example “I don’t eat wheat” means that I can ignore all the free baked goods at my office.

  • This was so helpful to me, in many ways.
    First, there was a time when I was quite slim –and I have an enormous sweet tooth. I remember saying, “I will next eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day” or something like that, so I could look forward to it and, as you say, plan for it.
    I’m too heavy now and I’m going to go back to a plan. Your simple plan can help many people who have tried the extremes (“no more chocolate/alcohol/cigarettes EVER”) and failed.
    Thank you for this revealing post, and for all you’re teaching me!
    –Wendy in Washington

  • * correction:
    The sentence should have been: “I will not eat chocolate UNTIL Valentine’s Day” and then, “I’ll next eat sweets on St. Patrick’s Day” or whatever.
    Additional plan: I will not post without proofreading first.

  • Please do you look up any new definition of the world “alcoholism”. An alcoholic, or someone suffering from alcoholism, is a person who drinks every day. Three glasses of wine a day, every day, is clearly the textbook definition of an alcoholic. You’re only fooling yourself.
    But the really frightening thing is, you’re telling people this is OK. Please, make yourself more educated before you spout off that you can drink responsibly. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who clearly needs to drink three glasses of wine every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, is an alcoholic. Do not encourage your readers, or your clients, to follow your advice. Because, guess what? You’re encouraging them to be alcoholics, or any other addict, as well.

    • Where did you read that Jules needs 3 glasses of wine a day???
      I think that was very brave to share your use of alcohol story. Clearly many will read into it whatever they choose.
      I have no problem with alcohol, about 3 drinks a year but I do have a problem with sugar. Sugar is probably much more detrimental to my health than a glass of wine per day. Anyway I will definitely try the suggestions, especially saving chocolate and sweets for the special days of the year.

    • Mia, I think you have misunderstood the article perhaps; for one thing, I don’t think Jules is saying that every day, she has a glass of wine with lunch and two with dinner – simply that if she DOES have a glass with lunch it is only one, and if she DOES drink with dinner it’s no more than two. Anyone who feels they drink a little more than they perhaps should, could try these tips; if they don’t work at all then yes perhaps there is a bigger problem, but if they do then great – you’re an over-indulger, not an addict! don’t think she is encouraging anyone to be an alcoholic!! :))

    • Hi Mia

      Sorry to be misleading I can see why you made that assumption.

      I don’t drink 3 glasses every day. And am not recommending it.

      I usually have a glass at lunch on Wednesday with my Dad. And 2 glasses on Saturday night with my Irishman. And most weeks that’s it.

      Occasionally there will be another night where I have 2 glasses at dinner but that is rare these days.

      So it’s actually 3 glasses a week. Which surely isn’t in the alcoholic range?

        • Thanks for letting me know Kate!
          You know there was a time when I would have thought that 3 glasses a day was very modest. I’m very glad those days are over (and so is my liver!)

  • Firstly I think you’re very brave to face up to your problem and post about it. Judging from the comments so far, you’ll get quite a bit of blow-back on this. It is a very emotive subject.
    Here is an old (I believe Irish) saying:
    “You take a drink, the drink takes a drink then the drink takes you.”
    So having your personal rules and sticking to them makes a lot of sense. Good luck Jules.

  • I agree that it helps to plan your alcohol consumption in advance, however, my husband doesn’t drink so it can be difficult when I open a bottle of wine and the burden is solely on me to finish it ;) I may plan to drink 2 glasses in one evening but often find myself saying, “oh a little bit more won’t hurt!” until only a quarter of the bottle is left. I always regret when I drink more than I plan to (though I will say its been a really long time since I had a hangover), and what I find interesting is that I enjoy it a lot more the second day when there may only be a glass or so worth left in the bottle… I’ll pour myself just a half glass at a time and really savor it since I know there’s not much left. So I think for us solo drinkers, its better to have either smaller individual sized bottles on hand, or individual cans (yes, they actually sell wine in cans in some places!). I’m not as much into beer, but there is also a sparkling cider I like that comes in a can, and it has a lower alcohol content then wine. It’s much easier to limit myself to one or 2 cans or small bottles of alcohol then to limit the amount I drink from a full bottle since, of course, the size of one glass is subjective… and an opened bottle just beckons you to drink more!

    • Hi Cindy!

      I have an easy answer for this one…

      I have some 250mL screw cap bottles which is 1/3 of a bottle and a little under 2 standard glasses. So when I open a bottle I immediately decant into 2 of the small bottles. Drink my share for that night. Then leave the other bottles until the next time I want to have some wine.

      When you decant in this way and completely refill a smaller bottle, there is hardly any oxidation / loss of quality and the wine will be fine for weeks if not months.

      The other option is to get a 1/2 bottle (375mL).

      Makes it so much easier to know when to stop.

    • Excellent question Zoe!

      Because I’m not just saying ‘I’m going to drink in moderation’

      I’m being very specific about the amount.

      The problem I have with moderation is when you don’t define what it means. Because then it’s very difficult to action.

      But with a specific plan like this it’s very easy to know when I’ve stuck to my plan or not.

      So glad you asked as I can see why it may seem contradictory :)

  • Thanks Jules for your helpful suggestions. As with many things in life, one can be “mindful” about alcohol, enjoying every sip and sticking to personal limits. My rules are keeping 4 days a week alcohol free, then 2 (or max 3) drinks on the other evenings. Herb teas or kombucha are great alternatives on alcohol free days.

  • Thanks Jules.

    If AA or some such abstinence lifestyle works for folks, then fine for them. However, in my experience both professionally and personally, people who are addicted to AA and NA are perpetually engaged in identifying the individual with their disordering behaviors and/or addictions. I and many others around the world and throughout time reject this form of “wormness”-worldview. I refuse to be defined by my negative attributes, and do not recommend it to any human being.

    Example: if a person eats too much by compulsion or choice, the solution is not to stop eating. And this is an actual condition for a select few folks btw. Just because I have a problem with something does not mean I addicted to it; and I’m not being in denial either.

    There are too many folks with no self-control claiming they personally are not accountable for their conspicuous consumption and lack of will power. “The Devil made me do it” excuse was a joke that Flip Wilson made famous decades ago. Alcohol and drugs do not make a person obnoxious, violent, hateful, selfish or anything else. People are obnoxious, violent, hateful, selfish and everything else.

    Alcohol does not make a person an alcoholic, either one’s body and chemistry is the problem, or not. I’ve only met a couple of folks whose body could not handle alcohol.

    This applies to politics, relationships, consumption of edibles, religion, education, philosophy, &c.

  • Hi Jules, I think your ‘problem drinking ‘ describes a lot of Australian women’s normal day. I come from a family where alcohol and beautiful food is how we connect. My parents are 89 and only drink champagne on the weekends before dinner, wine the rest of the week. There is a ritual around pouring that first glass, the stopping, looking others in the eyes and wishing Good Health. The third glass around the table surrounded by the remains of dinner with the conversation going on and no one leaving the table. We have adult children and love having that habit with them. It’s very hard to walk into the kitchen to cook dinner and enjoy a glass of mineral water with lemon. Abstinence was easier when pregnant or with young children. Alcohol free days – a conscious decision- never seem to include a delicious dinner, more a that will do meal. I try to be aware more and question whether I ‘need’ the wine at that evening’s moment.

  • Gosh I’m glad you posted this. The main reason is because I’ve actually realized that by planning ahead and doing exactly what you’ve said here, I’ve managed to avoid drinking more than I’d like in the moment. It isn’t as “carefree” as it is to just overindulge, but that’s exactly the point (and what makes my 40’s different than my 20’s). I just love that you wrote this and it’s so validating to hear that someone else has restructured their relationship with alcohol successfully by being more mindful—it is empowering!! Awesome post!!!

  • Jules, I have no particular comment about alcohol, as it’s not my downfall (sugar is!). I know there is a range of criteria for what constitutes substance use disorders (I haven’t found a good definition for sugar-abuse disorder!).

    But I wanted to comment on the quality of the comments on this blog! Jules, you courageously described your own challenge, how it’s affected you, and what you’ve done to overcome it. You started an important discussion in a public place. And I think using some of your strategies will help me with sugar.

    I’m so impressed by the tone of the majority of the responses! Most commenters are supportive, some bravely share their own difficulties and strategies with alcohol, and those few writers who are either harsh or have misrepresented the original blog, or both, are responded to in a reasonable, gentle way by your readers. What’s more, people are even funny and self-responsible about their own typos and mis-reads.

    All this to say that I see how you have a tremendous following of thoughtful readers! I’ll check in to this blog again, thanks to this post. It’s a nice change from many blogs out there where the tone of the comments is much less civil. Bravo, Jules and followers!

    Nancy Vancouver, Canada

    • oh Nancy!

      Thanks you so much for your lovely comment. I was thinking the same thing as I’ve been reading and responding. I am very lucky to have such wonderful readers.

      And these principles can totally be applied to sugar as well (although it’s my understanding that sugar is a lot more addictive than alcohol or even cocaine). Would love to hear how you get on with them :)

  • To drink in moderation was my goal for a long period until I realized that my relationship with alcohol was different from the average person. Once I got there, my solution has been to stay away from all alcohol and I am happier for it.

  • I found your post very interesting. I come from a family who have been in the winemaking business for over 350 years and reflecting on your remarks I realise that, although I really love wine, it is not a central part of my life. I love a good wine when I entertain or go out for dinner but with our busy working lives these events can be months apart without an alcoholic drink whether wine or beer (I don’t drink spirits) and surprisingly I don’t even think about alcohol which may seem odd. I wonder if this is due to being introduced to our own excellent wine when quite young and thus it was never something forbidden and thus tempting! My husband is of the same mind and surprisingly my three sons and daughter can also take or leave alcohol. Maybe it is something that has been bred into our genes?! Thanks for your great post

    • Wow Merle…

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That truly is amazing to me.

      I wonder if it is a genetics thing? Or something else.

  • I hope that you have genuinely regained control of your alcohol consumption Jules, and continue with your method of control.

    I grew up in an Italian family where both parents did not drink alcohol, which is contradictory when you consider that wine is such a massive part of Italy’s economy, and Italians overwhelmingly love wine, as well as spirit drinks, like most of the rest of the world.

    I think that they both wanted to save as much money as possible as a young family, pay off their mortgage, and hopefully increase the wealth of the family slowly over time.

    • Hi John

      So far so good with me and this approach. It’s been over 18 months since I started and definitely no plans to go back to my old ways.

      You parents were very wise. I hate to think how much money I have spent on wine over the years!

  • Thanks for sharing this!

    I have been on a similar journey recently. My husband and I used to have a couple of drinks every evening (he’s Irish too!). Over the years, it just became a habit and a way of winding down in the evening. As I’ve gotten older (just hit 50), it made it harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep and it didn’t make me feel great in the mornings either.

    The thing is, that like you, It wasn’t something that I wanted to give up completely. I love hanging out in the kitchen with my husband while I make dinner and chatting about our day over a glass of wine or two, it was how we reconnected. We’ve attempted to stop a few times, like you vowing to take a month off. But these attempts always felt like a punishment and every evening was a new struggle.

    We’ve now cut ourselves down to only having a drink three days a week and find we can still enjoy chatting over a cup of tea. Like you, we’ve each set our own rules and this time we’ve stuck with it. I limit myself to 2 glasses on our drinking days and my new trick is trying to see how long I can make each glass last so we can extend our evening as long as possible. Over time, we hope to cut down even more.
    Best thing about it is the great night’s sleep!

    • I hear you about the sleep Elissa!

      Love your gradual approach.

      It’s funny with these things how if you make the space for new habits to form, you can discover things you wouldn’t have thought possible – like the joys of a good chat over a nice cup of tea :)

  • I have had a HUGE drinking problem, I was and am an alcoholic, there was no taming the dragon, I would wake up drunk and go to bed drunk nothing in between.
    I tried rehab so many times the door was practically a revolving door.
    It never worked for me, I quit cold turkey on my own, one of the hardest things in my life I ever did.
    It has been more than 25 years since I touched the stuff and I don’t regret it at all, oh yes there are days when I would love a drink and I try to tell my self just one drink and all will be fine again, but I know that is not true so I distract myself with either a movie, a good book, and sometimes just getting out and about is what is needed.

    • Hi Dante

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      That’s amazing you were able to quit cold turkey on your own and maintain it for 25 years.

      I like your strategy of distraction. I’m going to try it out on myself :)

  • Hi Jules,

    Thanks so much for sharing this! My father is an alcoholic (closet drinking for 10 years, but only admitted to it last year) and it has been causing me to do a lot of introspection since I share many personality traits with him. I realized that I have a tendency to drink more in the evenings when I am lonely or bored. My drinking increased from 3 nights a week (1-2 glasses) or a “shot volume” of wine 5 times per week with dinner … to almost every night over the last 2 months. at least 2 glasses. It worries me because I don’t like the trend.

    Thank you for your suggestions – I am going to implement them! I think they will help me to make sure the “over-indulgence” doesn’t become a full-blown addiction. Also great comments around using the same technique for desserts.

  • “They’ve helped my coaching clients too”. I think your blog is great but you should leave giving advice on nutrition to Nutritionists. Sure, you have a background in food science but that does not compare to a degree in nutrition. Be careful with what you get yourself into! Love, Claire

    • Thanks for your comment Clarie!

      I’m just sharing what works for me.

      And certainly not meaning to imply I have a degree in nutrition :)

      Appreciate your caution.

  • Addiction is a powerful & loaded (pun acknowledged) word to use. I’m not sure that is what you really mean. It’s disheartening for me to read this and think that people with alcohol addiction might read this and think they’re not trying hard enough or that moderation could work for them. In my experience, for a real alcoholic – someone addicted to alcohol – moderation or setting rules will not work. Please reconsider your language.

    • Hi I’d Rather Not Say :)

      Thanks for calling me out on using the word addiction. I did consider saying ‘vice’ instead. But decided to go with the more ‘loaded’ option.

      Thanks for pointing out that this method won’t work for everyone.

      I’m sure there are lots of people where abstinence is the best approach.

      I’m just sharing what worked for me.

  • You know who doesn’t want to hear this? The rehab industry – and it is an industry. A huge growing industry. Yes, they can help but they will admit that their statistics are not anywhere near good. An expensive stint in rehab doesn’t begin to guarantee recovery. What’s the magic answer? Everyone’s different. No magic answer.

  • Hi Jules – I just Re listened to the Joyful Eating podcast #3 “Boozehound” and appreciate your candor around your journey with alcohol. I’m also very curious about your home brewed Kombucha and my quick search of the website didn’t result in any more info. Would you be so kind as to point me toward kombucha brewing resources or create some content on this lovely beverage I so enjoy and would like to be better equipped to make for myself? Gratefully, Jen

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