- Mental Health»
Can A Drinking Contract Help You to Control Your Drinking? Can You Turn Alcohol Abuse Into Responsible Consumption?
The concept of a drinking contract was developed by the author of this book, Michael S. Levy, Harvard University. It's well worth reading.
Can writing yourself a drinking contract keep you under control? Is moderation management a feasible option for people with alcohol abuse problems? Can you really learn to control your drinking?
Well maybe - or at least, some people seem able to do it.
What's a drinking contract?
The general philosophy behind a self produced drinking contract, is that for some problem drinkers, who have shown they are unable to control their intake, either in quantity or in frequency, following the rules of a drinking contract keeps them under control, and still allows them the pleasures of a glass or wine or two at dinner (Sometimes).
It is a literal written and signed contract that you write to yourself. And in this contract you decide how much, when, and under what circumstances you allow yourself to drink.
The contract must be followed to the letter if it is to work. Any deviation from the terms of the contract renders the contract, and the idea behind it, pretty much useless. If your contract says you can only drink 3 times a week – that's all you get!
Of course, this is only a contract between you and yourself, and so, ultimately, you can do what you want. But people don’t tend to start thinking about ways to control their drinking until that drinking has become a problem. For most people, the only workable alternative to problem drinking is complete abstinence. A drinking contract offers a glimmer of hope to those people who don’t wish to give up alcohol completely, but who recognize that their current consumption is problematic.
What do you put in a drinking contract?
Your drinking contract should dictate pretty clearly the times when you are allowed to drink alcohol, and how much you are allowed to drink during those times.
One important note though, the drinking contract won’t work to manage binge drinking sessions. The contract is only effective as a document for moderate and controlled drinking. Once you are intoxicated, the likelihood that you will follow any dictates of your contract is so low as to render the contract a joke.
Quantity, Frequency and Place
So, limit the number of drinks you will allow yourself in a session to about 2 for a woman and 3 for a man – max.
And limit the frequencies when you will allow yourself a drink to 3 a week, at first.
And limit drinking in any situations where you think binge drinking is likely. For example – if you always drink to excess on nights out with the girls – don't allow yourself any drinks on those nights!
So, an example drinking contract might look like:
I, Recovering Addict, will not drink in excess of 9 drinks per week. I will not drink more often than 3 times per week. I will drink only wine with dinner, and will only drink at home, and not out with friends, or at bars. I promise to follow the terms of this contract exactly.
Any deviation from the terms of this contract effectively breaks this contract. If I cannot drink moderately under the terms of this contract, then I probably need to take more serious steps to deal with the problems alcohol causes me in my life.
Witness (Wife/husband, etc.)
It's a great idea, and it's illustrated much more fully in the book. Take Control of Your Drinking and You Might Not Need to Quit". This book is very highly recommended.
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