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Ask HN: How's your drinking problem?
57 points by onedev on July 24, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments
This is inspired by the recent "How's your eyesight?" post where a commenter posted sarcastically that a better question would have been "How's your drinking problem?".

Now while the title may have been a little hyperbolic, I do think it's important for us to discuss the drinking culture we're always around.

How does drinking fit into your life? How has your body or your mind responded to increases or decreases in the frequency of drinking? Have you tried being aware of any of these things and if so what did you learn?

Anecdotal story ahead: I was at a conference where the keynote speaker was Yukihiro Matsumoto (aka Matz, the creator of the Ruby Programming Language). At the end of the day there was a open bar and a sort of sit and hack type event. Nothing particularly structured. Just a "hey I am working on this thing, come and pair with me if you would like." Matz was working on MRuby at the time and came in. Of course, being relatively well known in the community everyone wanted to pair with him. A lot of people noticed he did not have an alcoholic drink by him while he was hacking away and continually offered or brought him one trying to get him to join in.

Matz, on top of being a well known coder, is also a relatively well known Mormon, meaning he doesn't drink. He would just politely decline. But the people in the room were getting more and more insistent and later rude. Matz finally excused himself to go back to his hotel room. After he left the room filled with discussion around how Matz was judgemental, or how Matz was loosing touch with the Ruby culture. It was sad and disheartening. A lot of us lost a great opportunity to code with a brilliant person because he wouldn't bend to social pressures.

I don't drink but I have been in many environments where drinking is acceptable, encouraged, or even required. It's unfortunate. For me, the evidence shows that drinking copious amounts of alcohol is unhealthy, dangerous, and has very little practical value. Additionally, it can separate us as a community. I hope one day the drinking culture of the tech community will exit.

It annoys me to no end that alcohol is the primary psychoactive substance in use by the population. I don't think there's anything inherently immoral about consuming a drug to feel a certain way - to relax after work, or help cope with negative feelings. Drugs to achieve these ends are routinely prescribed.

Unfortunately it's often much easier to access alcohol than any of the many other psychoactive substances, either prescribed or currently illegal. In comparison, alcohol is both physically and psychologically far less effective and more dangerous. I do drink myself, but there are many other drugs out there that I would much prefer that don't have the same accessibility or culture as drinking does.

I've been substituting kratom for drinking in when the opportunity arises and I've found it to be terrific improvement - much more relaxing/pleasant with less cognitive impairment, addictiveness and physical side effects.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I drink, and I think it sucks, but only because in comparison alternative substances are so much better (ex marijuana for many people). Of course this assumes moderation, safety etc. etc.

> alcohol is the primary psychoactive substance in use by the population.

No, it's caffeine. In coffee, in soda, and tea.

I used to really binge it in the weekends; woke up in strange place on Sunday mornings etc. My "startup" (more a traditional company actually) was doing 'ok', but I couldn't get it to go to 'awesome'.

2 years ago, I stopped drinking for a week because of some prescription drug. That week turned into a month, turned into 2 years this month.

I haven't had a single drop of alcohol and I have never felt better. Looking back at the last 2 years, it seems as if I have gained 2 days of productivity per week, I've become a little bit (not a lot) better at everything... sharper, smarter, pro-active etc. Just enough to give the company that extra boost, it seems. We have recently achieved "awesome" and we're not stopping.

I drink regularly, but usually in small amounts -- less so since I recently had my first child. My wife and I often have a glass of wine with dinner (probably 75% of all nights), and on social occasions -- now rarer -- I'll drink considerably more and have four to maybe six drinks.

Getting drunk is fun. I'm in my late 30's, and I only very rarely get super super drunk like I did in my 20's (and I get hit with worse hangovers now if I do go all-out). But when the situation arises, getting past buzzed is enjoyable.

There's a trick to drinking properly.

Unfortunately, the USA has a culture of binge drinking, which is the absolute WRONG way to drink. I actually think it's better to be introduced to alcohol as a child (as I was), in normal social situations rather than "let's get wasted!" throw-off-all-restraint parties (which are pretty stupid in general).

Anyway, the trick is multipart:

1. Eat before you drink. Drinking on an empty stomach causes the alcohol to enter your bloodstream MUCH quicker, which makes it harder to gauge your level of inebriation as you drink (it throws off the lag time).

2. Ride the wave. This takes a few tries to get right, but your level of mental alertness has a bit of a cliff at a certain blood-alcohol level (the fuzzy feeling). The trick is to learn to recognize when this effect is coming on and then back off on drinking until your alertness level returns, keeping in mind that there's a lag time from when you drink to when it actually enters the blood. This is also a good reason to be careful about what kinds of drinks you are drinking, and how fast. Nothing sucks more than slamming something back and then a few minutes later realizing that you can't even stand up. With practice, you can remain perched on the crest of this wave and be the happy drunk all night.

3. Drink lots of water. Drinking it interspersed with your alcohol consumption is best, but be absolutely SURE to consume a LARGE amount of water before going to bed, depending on how much you've drunk that night. If I've consumed more than 3 stiff drinks, I try to consume 1.5L to 2L of water before going to bed. Even better is coconut water since it replenishes lost electrolytes. I've only ever had one hangover in my life (the one time I DIDN'T do this), and it was enough to fix my discipline in this area. Yes, you wake up a lot to go to the bathroom, but that's better than feeling like shit the next day.

> the USA has a culture of binge drinking, which is the absolute WRONG way to drink

The implication here is that the rest of the world is different. My experience disagrees with this. I spent 6 months studying in Germany and did not see a significant difference vs how people drink in the US. Germans, Italians, Poles, etc. all binge drank, with the primary difference being what they consumed most of the time. When I was in London, I saw plenty of Brits binge drinking as well.

It's commonly claimed that US drinking culture is different from European drinking culture. I've heard a number of people, mostly Americans complaining about our drinking culture, make claims like "Germans drink, but they don't get drunk". We're really not that different in general. Some people drink very moderately. Some people binge drink. Some people binge drink to the point of serious danger. Some people are alcoholics.

The biggest difference I see is that American culture is different with regards to youth drinking. We've made it generally illegal to drink before the age of 21, so we have a culture of expected abstention until that age. This means that youth drinking becomes largely binge drinking, because if you're going to violate the law to consume alcohol, you're probably going to do it to excess. Contrarily, even if you were interested in moderation, you aren't going to be moderately drinking often, because it's not worth the risk. So binge drinking ends up over-represented.

One factor is the amount consumed, and yes people sometimes drink more than they should (everywhere in the world)

The other is HOW it is consumed - and here there are significant differences around the world (not surprisingly).

It is not unusual for many younger people in northern countries (the Nordics, but also partially in the US/UK), the goal is to get drunk and pass out as quickly as possible, with minimal social interaction. While in the south it is more about socializing, dancing, etc.

That said, it is really hard to generalize - there are always exceptions.

> Unfortunately, the USA has a culture of binge drinking, which is the absolute WRONG way to drink.

Binge drinking does carry risks - mostly from impaired judgement and increased vulnerability to attack.

But long term drinking everyday drinking is probably more harmful, eapecially if people aren't keeping a close eye on quantities. Most people have no idea how much alcohol is in the portion they serve themselves.

> I actually think it's better to be introduced to alcohol as a child (as I was), in normal social situations

We don't have much research around this but what we do have suggests that giving alcohol to children, even dilute wine, is probably a bad idea. Allowing them to see adults using alcohol sensibly in social situations is probably okay.

Gone. I quit drinking 10 years ago and everything has gotten 10x better. Sober enough to meet a great women and get married, in better shape, sleep is better, eating is better, work is better and my finances are better. I am at a point with not drinking that when I interview with a company, I ask about team outings and how much alcohol is involved and if it is too much, I pass on the job. My sobriety is so important to me that I won't work on a team that has a drinking culture.

Those of you who are on the fence about not drinking, quit drinking and see how much better you life can get.

I have probably 3-5 drinks per day throughout the day. We have a keg in the office and I enjoy having a beer with lunch, and maybe another in the afternoon. At night I tend to have 2 or 3 drinks. Some evenings more.

Every time I recount this, I feel like it reads like an alcoholic, but I hate getting drunk, and I don't particularly enjoy getting buzzed, and hangovers are basically not something I'm willing to deal with so I avoid them at all costs.

For me, I drink because beer and wine are lovely beverages. I've searched for other beverages that have the depth of variety and nuance of these, and I just can't find them. I find tea to be weakly flavored, kambucha is ok but not THAT interesting... soda is disgusting and bad for you.

I gave it up about 5 years ago. I say that, not to say that "I never drink" but I don't get drunk. Last night I had maybe 4oz of some wine after dinner, after not having drank any alcohol for about two months. It's not a regular part of my life anymore, it's very rare, and I don't drink to get drunk. So I don't have a problem with it.

What I dislike are the ads for alcohol. Nearly all of them start with the premise that you can't be cool unless you drink alcohol, or that because you drink you'll have lots of hot women nearby. Aside from the ads, its 'oh we have a lawyer show, lets make sure we have scene of them drinking scotch after a rough case' or a family show 'oh the dad came home lets show him going to his fridge and grabbing a beer' or a cop show 'he just shot someone, lets do a bar scene where he gets smashed'.

Quit altogether for 2 months as a diet experiment, with 2 expectations: 1) it would be socially frictive 2) I would lose some weight. Both were wrong.

1) Quitting had basically no social consequences. The friction of ordering a non-alcoholic drink at a bar is gone by the third time. Only one person gave me shit about it, and they were a friend-of-a-friend and easy to disregard.

2) It had almost no weight-loss effect, in the absence of other diet and exercise improvements. Premise was "does this one thing have a strong effect on my weight?". Given that my previous intake was moderate (< 8 units/week), removing alcohol and leaving the rest of my diet intact resulted in < 3 lbs lost early on, but no ongoing results.

Replacing alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks shouldn't be expected to result in weight loss, unless you switched to water of course. The net amount of calories consumed probably didn't change that much.

And it's possible that the non-alcoholic drinks -- soda and juices -- actually have more calories.

FWIW sugar-free sodas paradoxically do not promote weight loss. I recall reading that they are beginning to understand why this is but I don't recall the details now.

Have you stopped drinking altogether? Did you consider yourself someone with a 'problem' when you did your experiment? Did your findings change the ferocity with which you drink? Given that it was one of your original expectations of the experiment, do you think that social friction plays a major role when it comes to the frequency with which you drink?

I find the idea of that type of experiment fascinating, perhaps you documented it in more detail....?

I did for the 2 months, recently had a few and broke the streak. No kind of problem at all, although that's where everyone's mind goes when you say you quit cold turkey.

Findings didn't change that much, but the break itself changed the way I drink, I think. Previously it was somewhat of a social default to just go out with some friends over a beer in the absence of other events. Being conditioned not to do that, and instead stay in and have a quiet night at home has given some perspective. I felt like I got a slight time gain on the evenings, but nothing serious.

Friction previously played a role. Especially in my early valley days when I was an intern, or in college, or as a contractor (negotiation/business things are hugely greased by alcohol), but now that I'm full time at more quiet company where drinking isn't embedded in the culture, the social friction aspect is basically gone. It's a per-social-circle thing for sure.

Unfortunately I did no detailed documentation. The stuff I'd want to measure would require months of prep/control gathering (eg: how do I use my post-work time before and during experiment)

Most interesting part of the whole thing was how uninteresting it was. There's the idea that drinking is socially necessary and horrible for your health. The idea that it's so meaningless is a little weird.

I am 34. I never had a serious "drinking problem", but reducing the amount I was drinking every week has been a very positive experience.

- I gave up drinking everything except wine (1 or 2 glasses) or an occasional beer.

- Drink very slowly. My girlfriend drinks about 2-3x faster than I do.

- Focus on the food, if you're dining out.

- Substitute some socializing sessions with late night sports or reading.

- Learnt to say "No, thanks".

I don't think I wanna completely stop; but I think I've found my optimum level of merry.

Posting on a throwaway because I like lurking but this topic hits close to home.

Recently I decided to stop drinking in solidarity with a family member who has been struggling with alcohol dependency along with mental health issues. Alcohol withdrawal is particularly brutal due to tremors which can result in death alongside a plethora of other issue. It's been a very difficult time because he has refused to seek help and has lashed out against us. I worry that he is going to end up isolating himself and end up on the streets.

If you or a family member has difficulty with drugs or alcohol remember that there are many ways to get help and there is more to life than the bottom of the bottle.

If I'm not wrong, Phil Katz it's the most notorious case of programming + alcoholism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Katz#Alcoholism_and_death

Bonus: https://xkcd.com/323


I'm sorry you feel that you have to assert your status over a dead man with performative masculinity.

He was a fag anyways.

One immediate question is when and what constitutes a drinking problem? When is it too much. There are some medical classifications stating that one glass of wine per day constitutes alcoholism. Is that true, or does it make any sense?

I believe it constitutes a problem when your drinking affects your social, economic, or work life negatively.

Long story short my mother has an incredibly rare condition that causes her neural stem to be constantly telling her brain her face is in pain, all the time, every day, even though it's fine. She has been prescribed every kind of painkiller, including some of the strongest opiates one can acquire legally in America, and yet they don't affect the rare and hard to reach nerves, and are useless.

However, she does drink a few glasses of wine a day and having tried everything else, she is adamant that alcohol is the only acceptable painkiller for her to take for the rest of her life.

I mention this because I have roughly 1-3 drinks per night -what the doctor told my mother as "average for a Frenchman" - yet when I drink even a beer I lose all motivation to go to the gym that night or to cook a healthy and properly proportioned meal. So I think the way to define a drinking problem isn't in quantity, but by the opportunity cost of drinking or drinking too much on any given occasion.

There are no classifications saying one glass a day is alcoholism.

There is low risk drinking, increased risk drinking, and high risk drinking. Alongside that you have dependant and non-dependant drinking (an addiction to alcohol).

To get a medically supervised withdrawal from alcohol in England a person meeds to be drinking 40 units per day. That's a litre of vodka at 40% ABV every day.

Low risk drinking is one or two drinks a day, with some days drink free.

There is a guideline that is used when identifying most addictions [1] since most patterns of behavior tend to be similar regardless of substance or activity that the person is addicted to.

>Another way of describing addiction is the presence of the 4 C's:


>Loss of Control of amount or frequency of use

>Compulsion to use

>Use despite Consequences.

[1]: https://www.porticonetwork.ca/web/fundamentals-addiction-too...

I'm still convinced that alcohol just increases the intensity of emotions that are already there. If I'm in a good mood before drinking, I just laugh at everything. If I'm depressed before drinking, then I get really depressed after, so I don't do that. I've never gotten violent whilst drunk, and I'm convinced that only the people who do are those who are violent when sober (though maybe with a longer fuse).

Work-wise? We have Beer Friday. Not that many people actually go. Some people have a bottle of whisky at their desk, but they don't spend all day nursing it.

Never saw anyone with a drinking problem except my mother, honestly. She would get blind drunk and scream every afternoon.

You do realize one drink a day is supposed to be healthy, right? Even coworkers who went to the bar ever night rarely did more than a couple, which had no bad effects and helped form networks.

Maybe your problem is not drinking enough?

> You do realize one drink a day is supposed to be healthy,

That's a widely promoted myth heavily pushed after some shitty research was published.

I don't drink, primarily due to religious reasons, and it's affected a lot of my work relationships, especially when working at smaller companies. Earlier in my career, Friday afternoons were more about retrospecting, process improvement, and everyone would start with a few beers.

My drinking affected the social vibe of it, and when I didn't drink, majority of people in the room would call it out. It took a lot of self-control not to cave to peer-pressure, but after a while, people respected the decision.

But it was awkward, knowing that people are a little buzzed around the close of the day, and I'm the only sober one. I feel like I've kind of had to stay away from social events because I don't drink, which is a shame because I'd love to hang out and discuss software with people, but can't really fit in socially.

I think the most important thing I'd say to drinkers is that if there's someone who doesn't drink, don't ostracize them or judge them. There's a lot of reasons why people won't drink, religious, personal, etc. And for those non-drinkers, don't go around complaining about the drinking culture, or make others feel uncomfortable. I learned that when I wasn't drinking, others thought I was silently judging them which wasn't the case at all. In the end, it boils down to the principle of not judging others and just having tolerance for one another.

Holy shit. I was going to make a post about this. When do you realise you're an alcoholic ? For me, it just hit me last week. I'm 25, in the valley, active social life which invariably includes alcohol. But, for the past year and half, I've been averaging 25-30 drinks a week. {I try to stay away from beer after I heard hops can give you manboobs. broscience :)}

But, I also realised, it wasn't affecting my life (denial huh?). It isn't getting getting in the way of work. If I'm too hungover to work, I just call in sick. It hasn't changed me as a person. I consciously try not to break any laws while I'm drunk. (I was surprised how many people have a drink at the bar and hop in to their car and drive away; logic being, "I've just had one drink".) It hasn't affected my health... yet. I'm active, weight train three/four times a week and average 10K steps a day.

I also know I can't do this for long. But, some of the best moments in the past year have been, sitting on my couch, listening to Sinatra/ Cole Porter, relishing a cocktail that I made and just reflecting on life. Just observing the thoughts. There is just something beautiful about that, and I've never been evoke those emotions/feelings when sober.

Would that be a coffee-drinking culture? I think it is a horrible culture and only serves to prop up large corporations that solely exist to evade tax and get money by providing you your daily fix of caffeine, fat, and sugar.

It's funny how tolerant and even encouraging I've found people to be around outright addiction to a substance. If it was anything other then caffeine than people would be shocked.

I do love my espresso though :)

It is a little strange but then people's shock is usually related to how harmful the substance can be.

My comment was mostly in jest because at the time of posting I don't think there was one mention of the word alcohol. Plus I thought programmers were more known for their coffee use rather than alcohol.

I will also add that I have no problem with caffeine, just coffee. Drink tea. Strong, black tea, with milk.

I stopped drinking at the beginning of the year. I wouldn't say I had a drinking problem in the way it's usually used but it was a problem because I couldn't drink any amount anymore without feeling like shit in the morning which meant I spent half the next day doing nothing because of how awful I felt.

I felt drinking was a problem for two reasons. First being that I wanted to lose some weight and drinking calories was interfering with this goal, and two it was slowing down my progress and productivity. Now that I don't drink at all I have both more free time and I'm more productive because I don't have hangovers.

This all sounds awfully preachy, it's just refreshing for me to talk about it because it's something I've never done before. I've never gone this long without any alcohol since I started drinking as a teenager.

I would say there's definitely some other contributing factors to my abstinence from alcohol, but this isn't really the time or place to get into all of that.

I too stopped drinking a couple months ago, coupled with consistent exercise, and healthy eating.

I have literally never felt better than I do right now. It took a month or two before I saw the effects, but damn were they dramatic. Literally every facet of my life improved. All depression, anxiety, and ADHD disappeared. I get way more done and I'm just way happier.

I don't intend on going back to my old lifestyle. I don't regret my old lifestyle either. Good times were had. But the bad effects certainly outweighed the good.

I run a tech meetup. We try to be hospitable, and that means providing food, drinks, and snacks. We provide beer, but I make a conscious effort to make other options as attractive (we probably go through more coconut water than beer). I think it's important to be able to have a social event in tech without alcohol as a centerpiece.

Ha, that was me that asked the snarky "Drinking Problem" question.

Honestly, I feel great if I don't drink. I sleep better, wake up early, exercise and feel energized and focused in the morning and throughout the day.

If I have a couple drinks at night (couple glasses of wine or 2-3 gin-and-tonics), I sleep with more restlessness, sometimes sleep late, and feel a slight difference in the morning (less focus and energy).

If I go bonkers and drink a bottle of red wine or 5+ cocktails...then I usually wake up later, usually sleep shitty, wake up with a foggy mind and sensitive stomach. Writing and debugging code in this state is a bitch.

I wear a fitbit that monitors my heart rate and measures restlessness during the night. I definitely notice increased restlessness AND about 10-15 beats per minute higher heart rate during the night after even just a few drinks.

So then after a day or two and at night, I think "hmmm a drink sounds nice"...

My personal philosophy on drinking boils down to the following.

* I enjoy the taste of certain alcoholic drinks.

* I do not enjoy messing too much with my brain chemistry.

Therefore I drink to experience interesting flavors and as a social lubricant. I do not drink enough to get buzzed nor do I wish to. So far it's working.

A drinking problem is one where drinking contributes to you not fulfilling your responsibilities. For instance, if your job performance decreases, you get into some kind of legal trouble, or you don't pay your bills.

I've used this measure to check my drinking habits.

There's such a thing as a "high-functioning alcoholic", you know: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-functioning_alcoholic

What does it mean to be an alcoholic in this case? That Wikipedia page doesn't give a definition, nor does the linked NIH press release.

The college alcohol study from Harvard lists criteria, but they are all generally things that have clear negative impact. i.e. alcohol-related school problems, legal, interersonal problems. These are things that fit the traditional definition of alcoholism, i.e., "your drinking is screwing up your life". The college alcohol study also makes no mention of "high-functioning alcoholism" in either the press release or abstract, so I don't see how it's relevant to the article at all except that someone thought it lended credence to the claims.

The "high-functioning alcoholic" categorization seems really fishy to me. Somehow a person is overachieving, has no negative effects from alcohol consumption, and yet is an alcoholic? On what grounds is that claim made? Because they drink more than someone else thinks they should?

I drink, but I think it's no problem.

I make sure to avoid drinking in any negative context, like after a hard day of work, to drown out feelings, to be able to relax etc. That just asks to become an addiction eventually.

I do not see much risk if you drink in a social context, as long as the social part is not just there to hide some other reasons.

Also, I personally do not think we should single out drinking or other drugs as a problematic behaviour. I think its always the reasons behind that behaviour that make it a problem or just a fun activity. Playing video games or watching TV for hours and hours could either be something you do for fun and truly enjoy, or as well something you use to avoid having to deal with your problems.

Lifetime non-drinker here which I guess makes me even more aware of it at times. Many things are discussed "over drinks" and after a lifetime of ordering a "Diet Coke on the Rocks" I still get odd looks.

You might get a lot less in the way of odd looks by just ordering "Diet Coke"

I once ordered a virgin rum & coke. Got a laugh from the bartender :)

Great! Have to remember that one :)

My new favorite is soda water with a splash of bitters. Gives you an effectively-nonalcoholic drink that's more interesting looking than pretty much anyone else's at the table.

It's also a great drink to have when you're out drinking, if you need to pace or hydrate yourself.

As a gradstudent my program provides absurdly large amounts of alcohol. My first year we were provided with essentially unlimited access to free beer/wine once a week. Fortunately they seem to have gotten things back under control. My old lab also had 2 cases of beer in the fridge at all times (European PI) so that didn't help. In my experience if you want to reduce the amount of drinking you have to reduce the amount of alcohol that is easily available. Self medication in high and even medium stress environments is almost going to be a given.

As a supertaster, I never liked the taste of alcohol, but I can tolerate it in heavily sweetened cocktails. I do drink under very rare circumstances, either when I'm looking for the intoxicating effect, or when the situation strongly call for some amount of conformism (being asked to share a drink with someone who lost a relative, to share a toast at a wedding, etc). I average about two or three drinks a year.

Overall, I have a strong disdain for drinking culture. There is some sort of pride associated with heavy drinking, especially among younger folks, even though there is nothing to be particularly proud of. I think most heavy social drinking is done by weak willed conformists who are looking to fit-in rather than cultivate their own individuality through self-actualization.

As far as the effects go, ethanol is a dumb drug. It can be useful in some circumstances against social anxiety - something I wish I had known earlier in my life - but the level of intoxication conducive to perfect social fluidity is a small peak that is hard to shoot for (no, not Balmer's peak).

I stopped drinking for about a month in order to diet. I was doing Paleo. I was doing it pretty hardcore, so I avoided drinking all together. I did feel better, but going out on the weekends was a bit of a bummer since everyone else was drinking. It's like the old saying goes: It's annoying being the only drunk person at a party or being the only sober person at a party.

I'm off the diet now, though I've been thinking of starting it up again next month, and recently started drinking a bit more on the weekend. It helps me unwind and have a good time time. My girlfriend and I usually bring a flask of rum to the bars, that way we don't spend a ton of money on drinks (it really adds up). So we usually try to keep it to 1 drink at the bar per night on the weekend and then use the rum to keep the buzz going.

Drinking serves two purposes for me. 1) It is a social lubricant and 2) it helps me unwind faster. However, both benefits come with costs and risks like sleep problems and being too verbose. I try to consider these things before drinking, but the more I drink at a time the less I care about said costs and risks. Same as everyone else.

I don't consider drinking a problem any more than I consider eating a problem. If I eat too much or eat poorly, I feel bad and gain weight which further complicates things. If I drink too much the same things happen, plus I sleep worse and can get in trouble if I say or do the wrong things. Is it food that's the problem or me? Is it drinking that's the problem or me?

I try to not be my own problem.

It's only a problem when I get completely schway every few week and do something out of control like burn my friends lake house chairs that have been in the family for over 100 years.

I want to stop, problem is it's just so much damn fun.

The problem with drinking is the guilt about drinking problems. People are more addicted to shaming themselves for enjoying something, than they are to the thing they wish they wouldn't enjoy.

I put all that down to a hangover ( ... ) from our Western culture's Christian legacy programming. In a climate of pervasive fabricated guilt, people will fabricate the greater guilt of the Other to make themselves feel that little bit better. Hence the obsession with amateurs diagnosing the drinking problems of their peers, to assuage their own unresolved guilt!

Let's drink to that!

People drink to unwind. I'm not (usually) wound up.

People drink to lower their inhibitions. My inhibitions aren't what they should be. (You know how you say stuff you maybe shouldn't after two or three drinks? That's how I am when sober.)

So I really don't see much need to drink. My "drinking habit" is a Pepsi in the morning - but only one. Two and I feel shaky (my hands don't actually shake, but I feel like they are).

I just can't let this one go by without mention of the "Ballmer Peak" http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Ballmer+Peak and the requisite xkcd https://xkcd.com/323/

I personally prefer a nice espresso myself :)

I had two beers Wednesday. A glass of wine Monday night. The week prior was a bit like the same. Some weeks it's "none", some weeks it's "more than seven times in seven days." I don't think that constitutes a problem. I've missed more dates because I was writing code and forgot the clock (twice in my lifetime) than I have due to intoxication (zero so far).

When did you stop beating your wife? Teetotaller here.

Do not drink at all. Literally never tried alcohol at all and never wanted to.

PS. I hope there are more people like me over there :)

Same thing here. Never had a drink primarily due to my religion but even if it wasn't religious, the idea of losing control over what I might say or do scares me to no end. This is the reason why I don't drink/get high.

Same here. To me, alcohol tastes like a detergent. Maybe you could get used to over time, but never had the desire to. So I am nearly 40 and have never been drunk.

I don't drink at all, and some people see that as a drinking problem. I try to keep the caffeine consumption to a minimum too. Pretty much the only substance I allow to change my mental state is sugar, and even that I am trying to cut back on.

My problem is that I drink too little, sometimes, I guess I could have "optimized", by taking an evening/night off, and relaxed with a drink. Some "itchiness" in the morning, can be a good thing too, as I remember from school.

I drank a fair bit when younger (socially/rarely, but > 1/3 of the time when I did drink it was 5+ drinks).

Now, in my 40s, if I drink more than 1 maybe 2 beers, the next day I feel like a train hit me, and don't find nearly the same appeal as before.

You mean my GF? She's cruising right along, hasn't realized it's a problem just yet. I hopefully won't be there when she hits bottom and realizes that what killed both of her grandmas and poisoned her mom could possibly hurt her.

Have you tried talking to her about it?

Absolutely. The problem is I have no leverage nor has it been "bad enough" as in causing property damage, puking in a taxi, getting fired, stealing money from friends, etc...

I say "It's me or the booze."

She says "Ok, don't let the door hit you on the way out."

That actually sounds like a horrible relationship. If she really said "Ok, don't let the door hit you on the way out", I see no reason to be with someone like that. Life's way way too short for bullshit like that tbh.

No, that's not what she said. It's a bit of hyperbole on my part. And like I said it's not an overt problem with attendant issues, no binging or black outs. And it doesn't come up that often.

Ah ok that makes sense, I knew I was probably missing some context :)

Gave it up five years ago - feel much better and my sleep is markedly improved.

I used to drink socially every weekend or so, and never to the point where I'd reach a drunken state. Nowadays, I rarely drink, and on those occasions it tends to be limited to 1 drink.

I don't have one, but thank you very much for asking.

It's ok, you are among friends. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step towards recovery... :P


Beware of the long post ahead:

Mine is a very common and uninteresting story. It is not even a cautionary tale, but I'll write it anyway to remind myself of the choices that I made and why I made them, because I think it will help me and because maybe it will help somebody else.

I used to drink when I partied with my friends, mostly on weekends and vacations. I kept it like this for almost 12 years.

5 years ago I started living with my girlfriend and drinking frequently with her and when we met our relatives; then I started to drink alone from time to time when my girlfriend was not around; then I started to get drunk every night because it helped me unwind, numb myself, forget about all my problems, release stress and fall asleep after 11-12 straight hours in front of the screen trying to meet deadlines. I had perfectly adjusted the amount of alcohol that wouldn't get me hung over or impact my performance the next day at work so I wouldn't get in trouble, and wouldn't drink a drop less nor a drop more. I even managed to stuck to that amount most weekends in order to avoid building up tolerance, and because I hated wasting my free time suffering from hang overs. I went like this for more than a year. Then I broke up with my 5-year girlfriend after a few months of maintaining a long distance relationship and realizing our life goals were not compatible any more.

I decided to stop drinking because I knew without her I'd soon find myself overdoing it (even more). I thought it wasn't going to be an easy choice to maintain, feeling depressed most of the time and still feeling at the lowest point of my life so far with not much hope of it getting much better; but, surprisingly, feeling bad about myself has been very helpful: I got drunk with about half a bottle of wine 5 times in the last 3 months (I am a little guy), only 3 of those alone, and that was all the drinking I have done since.

I do not believe in a higher power, self labeling yourself an alcoholic and get a chronic disease diagnose from anything other than a doctor, a specialized one, with enough data to produce an informed diagnostic. I don't think I can talk or think myself out of alcoholism; only action and persistence can help. I find motivation in all the things I love to do and in all the people I love and I love spending my time with. I even find motivation in my dull work because I have plenty of room and opportunity to improve and get better conditions.

I respect the 12 step program and its effectiveness as a generic solution for a significant number of people dealing with addiction. It is probably the best there is right now, but it doesn't work for everyone, not even the majority of people. I think I have a basic understanding on how addiction works and how it works differently on different kinds of people. I knew that I was in a very dangerous track of self destruction and I decided not to let the situation escalate any more when I was still in control. It took no effort at all, just the proper motivation and realizing I was only going to find misery and self hatred at the end of that road. I know I may find myself in the same situation again, and that I might not be able to get out so easily next time, if there is one. I do enjoy drinking, and I enjoy drinking alone to take the edge off; but right now I feel pretty confident about my self-discipline, and there are enough safe ways to find the comfort and relaxation I need that work for me. Healthy and non dangerous ways that make me feel better about myself instead of the opposite. I do believe in moderation and a reasonable amount of self control, and I am committed to drink even less than what I am drinking now. Like I wrote, mine is a very common story that I hope will have a common ending too, but a good one: "And he kept the drinking social and moderated, and never again used it as a crouch". Or, perhaps: "And he stopped drinking, and nobody batted an eye".

TL;DR: The drinking is not the problem, is the addiction you need to avoid. Even if you are not an addict or are in the first stages towards heavy addiction, drinking is easily replaceable with many things that can improve your life and how you feel about yourself. Do not procrastinate that decision. It is not tomorrow. It is not after the next drink, or this one. It is now. Keeping the drinking social and with moderation or not doing it at all, combined with a slight effort to find healthier enjoyable activities to occupy yourself with is a very good thing to do for yourself and to give as a present to your future self for enduring the consequences of all the mistakes you are going to keep making.

And that's my story, at least up to this point. I haven't talked to anybody about it, I know it is a drag to read or hear people talking about boring stuff like this. But still, it feels good to let it out in the open.

I started drinking in a student-life context, around the age of 23 (bit late, I guess). Everyone drank. I joined in, and it was a lot of fun.

Post-college, many of the people I knew just sort of grew out of it. Stopped getting drunk every weekend, and only drank a beer or two with a meal, or only with special meals/moments. But because I became an expat/freelancer/traveler, I kind of maintained a bar-centered, beer-centered life, and naturally ended up with friends who were the same.

It never occurred to me that this might not be 'normal' for everyone. The dynamics behind this are fascinating, but not so relevant at this point. Suffice it to say that most drinkers overestimate how much 'most people' drink.

All this was not a problem until it suddenly was. At some point I'd started drinking to relieve stress, or deal with depressive episodes, and one day I 'woke up' and realized that I'd been drinking to the point of 'being drunk' almost every single day. This was particularly shocking to me because I studied psychology and always had a fascination with addiction. So I knew about the dynamics. I was high-functioning, and doing pretty well all in all, but I didn't feel comfortable knowing that I had a 'dependency'.

It took me a full two years to actually properly get things under control again. There were four things that I believe were crucial:

1. I realized that simply thinking I might have a problematic relationship with alcohol was enough reason to treat it as one, and at the very least 'test' whether I had one. I now believe that if you're not entirely happy with your drinking habits, then that should be enough reason to try and remove that habit for a while, since there are no real downsides to sobriety, and there are definite downsides to drinking regularly. 2. I started frequenting /r/stopdrinking subreddit and #stopdrinking chat room. 3. I found for my 'down-time' drinking periods and drinking social circles: I started meditating and diving into zen buddhism, I started reading and actively doing things again that I knew made me happy in the past (without pulling significant energy and willpower, like programming does[1]), and I took time off from my drinking friends. Meditation was perhaps one of the most important things, all in all. 4. I actively looked into sources of unhappiness and stress, and did my utmost to cut them out or minimize the negative effects.

[1]: interestingly, while my 'craving' for getting drunk is almost entirely gone these days, one of the few times that I feel the pull is when get caught up in a programming project. After spending hours doing that, sometimes forgetting to eat or take a break, it's like my mind is exhausted beyond a healthy point. I'm starting to think my active coding life played a big role in my alcohol dependency issues.

Every day at work I just try and endure the suffering, and every night at home I just try and endure the alcohol.

Wow I'm so sorry man, I really hope you pull through. Let me know if I can help in any way.

At the time of writing this comment, there is just one comment on this thread complaining about the amount of alcohol in company outings. That comment has been downvoted and is now marked [dead].

The question isn't about each individual's drinking problem. The question is about tech culture's drinking problem. And there's the answer: denial.

Last job interview I went to in SF, I was offered whiskey and felt extremely pressured to drink it, mostly because I wanted the job. I've only worked at one place (out of over a dozen or more) in SV/SF that didn't have alcohol on hand and didn't drink in the office. I don't care if people drink, but when you're pushing it onto your employees and former employees, it's a huge problem, and most companies in SV/SF are borderline in the pushy area. Simply offering a drink in a situation where the employer has exceptional power over an employee or potential employee (at work or in an interview for example) makes the employee feel like they need to drink to fit in and not get penalized by the company or the bosses.

I think most companies and employers don't think like that because they simply assume everyone likes to drink which is incredibly closed minded. I've known other people, other than myself, who do not drink or cannot drink (because of unrelated health reasons) feel pressured to drink at work. I'm sure someone will say that one can refuse. That is true. One can indeed refuse, but not without negative consequences. One cannot refuse and still keep one's status and place. The refusal will be questioned, as if the refusal is the unnatural position, not the offer. I'm sure it's even more hellish for addicts who have to work at these places, but at least, they're quite used to unfair social stigma.

Same with being vegetarian/vegan. The amount of jokes ("ah,rabbit food" pointing to the salad) gets old and annoying fast. I never understood why people can't just concentrate on their own food/drinks instead of others.

I find that people always want to know why you're a vegetarian. Honestly, for me, there are a ton of reasons and many of them are not quite dinner table conversations, especially when meat-eaters are involved as it grosses them out.

Once with a good friend, when she said "rabbit food", I said "dead body" pointing to her chicken. That was childish of me and she obviously didn't like it. So it is possible to make fun and even annoy meat eaters, but it would only end up straining the friendship (or whatever relationship) and nothing will come out of it. The best thing to do is to just smile and keep eating.

If you're talking about jbob2000, it's not that he was downvoted; it's that he's been hellbanned for the past 2 months.

Ah, thanks for pointing out my error. My point still stands, though with a little less rhetorical flourish.

> My point still stands, though

Seems to me this thread doesn't show denial at all. Most conclusions that people draw from particular threads are confirmation bias. That's especially true about the largely random initial state of a thread. Typically they soon fill up with comments contradicting the initial impression.

The topic of alcohol has appeared on HN many times, always generates active discussion, and never lacks for critical comments. If anything, anti-alcohol comments tend to dominate slightly.

> The question is about tech culture's drinking problem.

Since when does tech even have a drinking culture, let alone a drinking problem? All the tech companies I've worked for have had a weekly happy hour where most people have a beer or two, and that's the extent of it. It's nothing like the sports world, where you have guys regularly downing 10 or 15 drinks on the bus or airplane. Or like the entertainment industry, where some of the top people in the field show up to work so shitfaced they can barely even stand up. Or like the mining industry in Siberia, where the nightly entertainment is/was sitting around with a bottle of vodka and some potatoes.

What is "tech culture"? I work at a startup and I drink, like, one beer every two weeks - actually, I almost exclusively drink tap water and skim milk.

I don't really do "company outings" or hang around though. I'd rather see my girlfriend (who doesn't drink). Maybe the problem is having your friend base being based around "work" instead of around a healthy shared interest, like cycling, a rock climbing gym, soccer, etc.?


Personally, I don't drink that much. I've had maybe 4 beers in the last month.

And where exactly is the proof that there is some drinking problem in tech? Just people who refuse to drink anything at all and complaining when one a day is healthy? I think it's likely more of a religious problem, or anti-social problem, honestly. If you are too lazy to go drink one with your peers, then you will suffer less social success and poorer network, but I think you are being intentionally lazy, so you reap what you sow.

I have no issue with drinking, but the idea that I need to "go out" with my work peers is annoying. I already spend too much time at work for my liking. I don't want to add on top of it schmoozing time I'm not getting paid for. I recognize the reality of social promotion and I know I'm paying some networking fee for not attending such events, but I still don't want to go.

I resist the idea that not going is "lazy", however. "Lazy" is spending the work day reading Randall Munroe's "What if?" instead of working on the outstanding task list (I'll accept guilt on this one). Lazy should not be considered not attending extracurricular work activities.

Wow. I am generally pro-alcohol, even occasionally at work in moderation. You are proof that some people have an unhealthy expectation around drinking, though.

> If you are too lazy to go drink one with your peers, then you will suffer less social success and poorer network, but I think you are being intentionally lazy, so you reap what you sow.

You think that someone is lazy because they don't want to drink? This is nuts. Is someone who doesn't share donuts in the morning also lazy? How about someone who doesn't eat pork? Are they lazy?

If this is really your attitude, if you really expect that people should feel obligated to drink, then you have a drinking culture problem.

Some people can't drink because of health reasons. By your logic, they should "suffer less social success and poorer network" and are probably "being intentionally lazy." That's not only illogical, it's downright cruel. Not to mention closed minded.

I dislike how my company involves alcohol in a lot of our outings. I drink very rarely and it's annoying to have to continuously justify myself to my colleagues.

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