Book review: Mindful Drinking

We found “Mindful Drinking” by Rosamund Dean a practical and clear guide to moderate drinking.

The thinking and approach were very familiar after reading The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction and This Naked Mind; the core of the book is suggesting that becoming more aware of why you drink and monitoring your intake carefully are the keys to moderate drinking.

Here’s what we really loved:

  1. To start, we agree with the premise that mindless drinking is extremely common in our alcohol-fueled society. It’s the drinking out of habit, out of ceremony, without any thought at all, that can be stopped just by training yourself to become more aware of each thought and action.

  2. We also completely agree that mindful drinking requires constant awareness of your behavior and the drivers of it. The author outlines an excellent strategy based on understanding why you drink, tracking your drinking, and avoiding (or developing alternative strategies to deal with) problematic emotional triggers. We love the strategy and we hope to enable this kind of mindfulness with our app, Drinker’s Helper. The author also does an excellent job outlining the difficulty of moderating your drinking, acknowledging that sobriety requires one massive decision where moderation requires thousands of little day by day, hour by hour ones.

  3. We also very much support the idea of taking a short break from drinking at the start (she recommends 28 days), regardless of whether the change you intend to make is moderation or sobriety. The re-set allows you to really know what not drinking is like. It also forces you to break the personal habits that might have led you into mindless drinking.

Here’s what we didn’t like as much:

  1. It didn’t help us understand why the author (or anyone, for that matter) would want to drink at all anymore, given all of the downsides of drinking and benefits of sobriety outlined in the book. We don’t mean this in a judgmental way - we support people who decide to moderate their drinking and think it’s a fabulous path for many people. We just didn’t understand it given the rest of the book; this author goes through the whole journey of understanding how drinking doesn’t really do anything good for you and how annoying and complicated it is to monitor your drinking so carefully as is required for successful moderation, and then leaves it there. What is the reason to drink at all? That’s what we felt was missing, reading this.

  2. It didn’t explore as much the idea of addressing other gaps in your life. It offered short-term strategies to deal with anxiety or depression (meditate! start gardening!), but what about actually changing whatever it is about your life that’s fundamentally making you unhappy? We found that the surface-level coping mechanisms were very important, but even more important was understanding what we didn’t like about our lives and changing that. That made lasting change easier. Are you spending time on the wrong things? Are you spending time with the wrong people? Are you working in a job you hate? Change that, and you won’t need as many coping strategies.

All in all, we loved the book and found it a clear and practical guide to changing your drinking. Our app, Drinker’s Helper, could actually help to implement some of the strategies from the book, in terms of tracking your drinking and how it really makes you feel. Give it a try today!

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