Tuesday, 13 February 2018

5 Signs That You're Drinking Too Much

In the final months of my long and turbulent love affair with wine, I would often end up asking Google or Siri if I had a drink problem.

Usually, one of those online questionnaires would pop up asking questions like do you drink first thing in the morning? Have you lost a job because of your drinking? Do you drink alone?

I'd answer 'yes' to some (of course I drink alone sometimes. Doesn't everyone? Anyhow, I'm not really on my own - the dog is here, and the kids are asleep upstairs...), but there were an awful lot I could answer 'no' to, which would convince me that I didn't really have a problem. 

Yay! Crack open the vino to celebrate!

However, alcohol addiction is not black and white. It's far more nuanced and complex than that. Like any addiction, it's progressive, it's fifty shades of grey (but not in a kinky way).

Alcohol can have a hugely negative impact on your life way before you get to the vodka-on-the-cornflakes stage. And the sooner you realise that it is a problem, the easier it is to address before you really do reach rock bottom.

So, based on my experience, and on the hundreds of e-mails I've had from readers over the years, here are the five signs that I wish I'd been told to look out for:

1. Is Alcohol Affecting Your Mental and Physical Health?

Alcohol has a huge impact on our mental and physical health, particularly as we get older.

It's not just the obvious things, like the hangovers, it's far more insidious than that.

If you have a problem with anxiety, you may well think that the booze helps you to relax. Well actually, it's the booze that's causing the anxiety. 

Alcohol affects our dopamine levels. When you have a drink you get a boost of dopamine which, admittedly, helps you to chill out, but the next day you'll get a corresponding domaine crash, which makes you feel hugely anxious.

And, over time, the brain reduces the levels of dopamine it produces to compensate for the alcohol you're drinking, making you feel generally depressed.

Sound familiar?

You may also find that you're getting worse and worse at sleeping. You get to sleep okay, but then wake up at around 3am tossing and turning for ages. That's the booze.

Muffin top? Nope, it's a wine belly. A bottle of wine contains around 650 calories.

Those are just some of the obvious ways in which booze is impacting on your health, but there are longer term and more dangerous ones too, like the fact that alcohol hugely increases your chance of getting seven different types of cancer.

2. You Keep Making (and Breaking) Rules

I did this for years before I finally quit drinking.

I did Dry January (but started a few days late and finished a week early).

I did 'not drinking during the week', but then decided that the weekend started on Thursday and ended on Monday. I did 'not drinking at home' and started going out an awful lot.

I tried alternating alcoholic drinks with water, which worked okay until I got slightly drunk, then I totally forgot about that rule. I tried only drinking weak beer, but after several of those I'd lose all willpower and order a vodka.

The constantly making and breaking of rules is exhausting and hugely damaging to your self esteem, and it's a really good sign that booze is no longer your friend.

3. You Keep Thinking About Alcohol

I know that there was a time, back in my dim and distant past, when I didn't think about alcohol at all, except when I was actually drinking it. But it started taking up more and more space in my head.

If you find yourself constantly thinking about if you're going to drink, when you're going to drink and how much you're going to drink, then it's starting to be an issue.

You might find that you've started to think really weird stuff (if so, don't worry, you are really not alone!)

Many of us, for example, started to worry about whether the supermarket cashiers were judging us and would rotate the shops we bought booze from. Or we'd worry about our neighbours checking out our bulging recycling bags.

You might also find that you've started to Google 'am I an alcoholic?' and that you're avidly reading articles titled things like 'Signs that you're drinking too much.' Just saying...

4. Your Memory is Playing Up

Alcohol is really toxic to our brains and our memories.

You might joke with your friends about how you can't remember the details of the party the night before, but actually, those memory blackouts are a really bad sign. You've overloaded your brain with so many toxins that it's stopped being able to make memories.

Maybe you've never experienced a full scale memory blackout (some people are more prone to them than others), but you may well have found that although you spent five hours at a party you can only really recall enough of it to fit into about an hour. And it takes you a while in the morning to remember how you got home and where you put your handbag and your phone.

That's called a 'brown out'. It's the precursor to a blackout, where your memory sort of flicks on and off like a malfunctioning lightbulb.

If any of this sounds familiar then you're drinking too much,

5. You're an All-or-Nothing Person

One thing I've learned is that some people are just more prone to addiction than others, and if you're one of these people then you really need to be careful around any form of drug (or even sugar, gambling and internet shopping!)

I call this tribe the 'all-or-nothing' people, and we are brilliant. We throw ourselves into everything - love, friendship, hobbies, you name it. We are hopeless at moderating all of that good stuff. But, sadly, we're also hopeless at moderating booze.

If you were totally unable to be a 'social smoker' and ended up with a packet a day habit, if you can't eat one crisp in a bowl and leave the others, if you've never seen the point in having only one small glass of wine, then it's likely that you and booze are not a good mix.

If you've read all of that and are now thinking OMG I HAVE A DRINK PROBLEM! WHAT DO I DO? then do not panic.

You might find that you're easily able to cut down, but if not (see point 2 above) then do ditch the drink! Go alcohol free! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

That anxiety, sleeplessness, wine belly, increased cancer risk - gone. The lack of self esteem as you keep making and breaking rules - no longer. All that time wasted thinking about drinking - no more. You'll have more energy, more money and a better life, and you'll be able to remember all of it!

If you're still not convinced then read the diary of the ups and down of my first year sober. Here's a link to my Amazon page. You can read the first few chapters for free using the 'Look Inside' feature.

Love to you all!

SM x


  1. It’s funny how alcohol is the one area of my life where attempting moderation never worked.
    It is a nothing. All was just too hard.

    The rest of the time I try to find the middle ground, it’s so hard! I am a go hard or go home type. Lol
    learning to relax is my path now. Lol. That’s where the joy is.


    1. I am exactly the same Anne! If I exercise or has to be everyday, if I eat chocolate I eat the lot!!!!!! But I suppose it’s who we are, and hey at least it makes us passionate about things, who wants to be wishy washy!!!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰xxxxx

  2. Once again you're got you have hit the nail on the head.
    I can identify with most of these signs, in particular the one about " brownouts" as opposed to the blackouts. I can remember waking up after a night out and pretending to remember everything when in actual fact I had little recollection of what had really happened. Oh, the shame the guilt the tears and the broken promises to my extremely tolerant husband.
    I have been alcohol free for 36 days now and I love the freedom of it.
    Still nervous though....
    Has anyone tried the " beer" Krombacher alcohol free. It's exactly like the real thing, but better. It's getting me through all my social outings so far.

  3. Before I'd have said yes to all of your "5 signs that you're drinking too much". My sleep, weight and energy levels are now all on track but thanks to my all or nothing personality my alcohol addiction has been replaced with a sugar addiction. I am working on ditching it too - its very hard.

    1. Oh god yes!!! Im fighting sugar addiction too!

    2. I also hit the chocolate ... So the weight loss did not occur, also I found curling up with a book more comforting and easy to do than a brisk walk ... However, nearly 18 months alcohol free now ... I am exercising more and eating less chocolate ... So hips are slowly smoothing out :-) The freedom, happiness, shiney hair (even white hair can shine!!) thinner face, energy just keep improving. Keep going .. Whatever works for you to beat the wine witch is the best road to travel xx. Happy Valentines Day lovely free people xx

  4. All of the five signs above I did over and over again. It's was so true for me. I'm now 44 days in. Still sticking with it and strong. I miss drinking a lot but I know I have to keep going. There is no going back this time. My hair has come back to life and looks amazing. I get comments all the time on how great I'm looking and the weight I've lost. I don't actually feel like I've lost any but I must have as lots of people have commented. I'm still quite anxious but this comes and goes as opposed to constant. All in all I'm proud that I've found the courage to stop and that's what keeps me going the most. All the best of luck to everyone. Jacqueline x

  5. Yes to all of those, quit 27 months ago and its the best thing I have ever done in my life! Great book btw, I enjoyed reading it x

  6. Hi all, I'm 31 days af and feel so good about my decision.
    I particularly identify with SMs comments about anxiety. The day after id been drinking I always felt anxious and slightly paranoid? I would find it hard to meet peoples eyes and I would struggle to have conversations!
    I'm not sure I realised the link at the time.
    All that has disappeared now ��
    I truly feel more confident every day oh and my stomach is flatter!
    Praise be !!!
    Lets all keep going forever !!!

    Love to all

    Sarah b

  7. Hi all can I join in ๐Ÿ™ 4 days in 4 me got to 20 last week and didn’t handle a situation right , learning, I’m happy healthier than I’ve been in a long time , I’m on the other sober mummy site for newbies ,think I need to see people writing it just helps me see all the strong women xx happy valentines lovelies, ๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’™

    1. Hey what is the newbie sober mummy site? I've joined Soberistas and been writing a blog - http://poppinsgoessober.blogspot.co.uk I'm reading everything I can find and it is definitely helping!

  8. Yes I ticked all of those boxes!!! I think when you spend so much time thinking about drinking, once you stop it just immediately frees up so much head space! I was constantly planning my weekends round a hangover, thinking up drinking rules, trying to remember what I have said/ done, trying to remember what I drank, and basically from the minute you stop all that disappears and leaves you with a lot more headspace. I now spend all that extra time thinking and planning positive things and creating a live I love with no feelings of regret and most importantly remembering all of it!! Sending lots of love to you all this valentines!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️Xxxx

  9. Lovely ๐Ÿ˜Š hello❤️ Ang75 day 5 morning ๐Ÿ’š๐ŸŒˆ ✅

    1. Hi loobylou, day 5 is amazing!!!!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ˜Šxxxx

  10. Lovely to hear such positive stories! Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and remembered to love yourself!!! ❤️❤️❤️

  11. Checking in day 6 ❤️๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿ™✅

  12. Day 16 and the wine witch is particularly feisty (and it's only 10.30 am). Drinking a 0% beer already and considering watching tv instead of going chores to take my mind off it. Whatever works, right?

    1. Yes, whatever works! I suggest downloading an audio book, sticking your headphones on and going out for a walk! You’re doing great! ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜

    2. May I recommend the Sober Diaries audio book! Of course brilliantly written but also perfectly read. And I got it free on an audible trial!

  13. I'm on day 25, and experienced so much of what you've written in this post. Stumbled on your book on my day 7 and it is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your experiences!!

  14. Totally relate! I've spent years making deals with myself. I spoke properly to OH last night about it and saying out loud some of these things, like how I think about alcohol all the time and even plan whether I'll watch another episode (because there needs to be enough wine to last), scared myself a bit. I'm wholly committed to a booze free life and you're a pretty big contributor in getting me to jump so thank you clare.

    1. Yep I second that Kate, 51years of age this year and day 6 today got to day 20 last week and let a situation get the better if me, what did I achieve after 2 bottles nothing at all except a hangover the next day and not being able to enjoy myself like the feelings I had for the last 20 days of sober so yep gone for good you witch ๐Ÿคž myself and my bestie (alcohol free for 6 years) have just enjoyed a glass of no alcohol free wine , very nice and also great losing those super pounds from the booze as well , good luck Vinomore you are strong ๐Ÿ’ช night night from New Zealand ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ sending love ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’š

  15. Hello! I’ve never done anything like this before (joined any online conversations or blogs) but I read your book Clare and it was like I was reading about myself! I’m 45, married with children and have joyfully partaken in many stimulants over the years from youth but settled rather comfortably for regular alcohol use as it’s legal and socially acceptable and indeed positively encouraged amongst my social surroundings. I have worried for a few years now that my relationship with alcohol was not in my control even though I didn’t drink on ‘school nights’ (mostly) but come the weekend I would easily get through 3-4 bottles of wine plus the odd G&T and lager here and there then spend the first half of the week tired, miserable, guilty and resentful whilst troughing my way through endless carbs! I did Dry January this year and that’s when I read the book. You’ve made me see that it is possible to live a life without booze even when I know I’m going to be surrounded by it (my husband loves a drink or 3 and so do most of my friends) and I know it’s going to be tough at times but I feel if I can have the support of other like minded ladies, I think I may just be able to do it! So have been ‘dry’ since 2nd January but then had a ‘blip’ on valentines night after a bottle of wine AND bubbles, woke up yesterday full of hangover and disappointment in myself and ended up cancelling a lunch date with an old friend which added to my guilt and self loathing and that’s when I looked up this blog and made the decision to join as your comments are so lovely, supportive and encouraging. Many apologies for my wittering on so, obviously needed to pour it all out! Having to start from day 1 all over again but never mind - I guess the trick is to not stop trying and take each day as it comes. Good luck to all out there on the same journey ��

    1. Hello, heh your so right if I could count all the endless cancellation dates from me (lies if if little white ones) though being tired hungover,yep guilt, so heh ⭐️ Day 1 and day 6 awesomeness hear from you soon ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

  16. I am 17 months sober - and have saved so much wine money that I am walking the Portuguese Camino in April. 22 days to contemplate how fabulous being wine free has been - although I will be on major guard from all the porto and wine flowing over there. :) L

  17. Hello SM-- I am 6 days sober and am so grateful to have found your blog. Just bought the audio version of the book and am so enjoying it! Thank god for my random google search resulting in finding you and this greater community of sober blogging. I love your positive perspective, humor and desire to embrace a new life without booze! The thought of joining AA, aside from the major focus religion...filled me with dread. Reading your blog inspires me to look at the whole thing differently. Thank you so much! Meg

  18. I read your book in two days. I am not a mommy but I hope to be in the near future, being that I am almost 37! My entire life has revolved around alcohol. Holidays, birthdays, sporting events, graduations, baptisms, funerals...ALL involved alcohol. Most memories of good times involve alcohol, well, what I can remember because I have blacked out many times. It is time for a change and I am so scared that I won't fit in anymore and be able to be as strong as you in not drinking at events. My willpower is slim to none. But your book gives me hope. Tonight I am drinking some tea but reallllly feeling that wine witch. I have a half a bottle of Pinot Noir that I need to dump out but it's calling out to me not to let it go to waste. Just finish it and then start over. Damn you wine witch! I will not succumb to your temptation. Thank you SM for being an inspiration to me and helping me through this. I am on day 8 and plan to keep pushing forward. :)

  19. Brilliant list, Clare! #3 about the amount of headspace it starts gradually taking is a huge one, IMO. I would add to your wise words that other warning signs are that you always make sure you have a supply of your poison of choice read in case of a snowstorm or a “very bad day.” Also that when you are with people and drinking you attempt to hide how much you have had by quickly drinking it down and then refilling and hiding empty containers. But headspace is the big one. When? How much? Where? etc... It’s amazing how free and happy we can be once we let it all go! Nearly 3 years and still awake with joy!

  20. Yep I did lots of hiding refilling putting in a mug , i feel happy yipee day 7 ✅

  21. Day 10 sober and the wine witch is nagging. Have tried Becks Blue and it seems to be helping with my cravings. Family and friends have mixed opinions about me drinking this- some are supportive whereas others say I am tricking my brain and it won't help long-term. Any thoughts, comments or advice would be really appreciated.

  22. I’ve had my last drink just now - fingers crossed ���� I can stay on the path

  23. Good luck Winebelly you can do it! I start my odyssey tomorrow xx

    1. Thanks Elaine & best of luck to you x

  24. Hi Clare, I just wanted to say thank you so much for your book! I started reading it yesterday, I haven't even finished it yet but I know it's going to help me make changes. I completely identify with feeling like a 'normal' drinker, even though I'm fully aware that it's not good for me. My last glass of wine is tonight, and I've started my own blog to document my progress. Thank you for the inspiration, it's the first time I've read about drinking to excess and thought 'this is me!' xx