Drifting in and out of consciousness (oxfordhacker) wrote,
Drifting in and out of consciousness

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While I'm pleased that NaBloPoMo is so far successful in encouraging me to write posts, I'm less happy that doing so is causing me to stay up late. Indeed, most of this month's posts have been finished after midnight which isn't really in the spirit of the thing and, more importantly, is eating into my sleeping and hugging time. Recommendation posts take a deceptively long time to write, because they normally involve me digging into site archives and my bookmarks to select the perfect examples. Instead, tonight I'm going to write about another stricture which I have imposed on myself in the name of self-improvement.

The problem with working in medical statistics is that you become all too well aware of any flaws in your habits. I see colleague after colleague presenting results from all around the world that show incidence of various diseases increasing with tobacco intake, for example, but that's not too bad because I don't smoke or hang out with (regular) smokers. More unsettling are the ones for alcohol consumption. I had gotten into the habit of having a largish glass of wine with dinner every night, and that would often lead to another one afterwards. I'd rarely end up drunk, but would very rarely have a night off and was certainly exceeding the recommended limits, leaving me at the high end of a number of graphs of unpleasant conditions. I'd tried various ways to cut down: giving up entirely (which I found possible, but unsatisfactory), not drinking at home (which was a shame when tinyjo cooked something special), stopping at one drink (tricky), and so forth. None of them had been very successful, or rather, none had felt very sustainable. However, I've been using my current technique for about six months now and it seems to be working remarkably well, so I thought it might be of interest.

It was, I think, inspired by an article I read somewhere about gamification. I decided to try coming up with a system which was easy to administer yet flexible, and would cut down on my casual drinking while leaving me free to enjoy social drinks. I call the result 'Teepartial', and it works for me. The goal is to only to drink every other night (on average), and the rules are:

  • My score started at 0
  • It goes down by one on a day when I drink
  • It goes up by one on a day when I don't drink
  • It mustn't go below -3
Recently added modification:
  • It stays the same on a day when I drink exactly one drink (which I'm defining loosely as a pint or a largish glass of wine. Less than 2.5 units, say.)
This seems to work for me, in that it makes me think about whether I really want a drink rather than having one by default., while rarely (it transpires) actually leaving me feeling deprived. I can plan ahead and save up for busy weekends, or work one off afterwards with a week of soft drinks. It could clearly be modified to allow more or fewer drinking nights by adding or subtracting an additional number at the start of every week, but I'm leaving it as is for me for now. I realise that I have no idea whether people will think that this scheme leaves me admirably ascetic or still hopelessly alcoholic; but a recent press release from the Royal College of Physicians endorsed very similar-looking behaviour.
Tags: booze
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