Questioning My Answers: Reflections on Drinking Quizzes

Raise your hand if you’ve taken an online drinking assessment.

Raise your other hand if you took the same assessment more than once, trying different variations of answers in order to get a better result.  (Jazz hands if you switched to a different country’s website to see if they had looser guidelines.)

Nod your head if you then took those results and tried to work them backwards, in order to figure out how much you should cut back in order to drop into a lower risk category.


Rub your belly and pat your head if you then tried to moderate to those levels, failed, took the test again, and got an even higher score.

Yah, me too. You are not alone.

The one phrase that really stuck in my mind was, “No more than 10 drinks per week, no more than 2 drinks most days, and no more than 3 drinks on any single occasion.” (Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines) The gears in my head began to whir as I read those numbers, trying to comprehend what living within those guidelines might entail. My mental computations resulted in one-word: IMPOSSIBLE.

Impossible is exactly what moderating proved to be for me – I was well past the point of drinking within the guidelines. Living alcohol-free has not always been easy but it is certainly simpler than that hellish cycle of calculations, bargains, failure and regret.

What’s worse, the guidelines are based on a 5 oz serving of wine, something I considered to be a half-glass. I expect my average was an 8 oz pour, meaning what I called 3 drinks was closer to 5.

When I take that assessment now with complete honesty, my end habits were in the “Severe Risk” category – and no one even knew I had a problem!

I am grateful for these guidelines and assessments because they were an important wake-up call for me. There is a lot of rhetoric and nonsense out there that implies no one can tell if someone else needs to quit drinking. I feel that’s a misinterpretation of that fact that the will to change must come from within. But the numbers don’t lie and high-risk drinking is self-evident based on patterns and numbers alone.

So if you’re struggling with alcohol, pay attention to those assessments and guidelines. Share them. Talk about them.

Remember that many of us seemed to be functioning just fine but still fell into the “High Risk” and “Severe Risk” zones. Forget the stereotype of what we all think addiction looks like and trust the evidence.




About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on November 22, 2015, in Early Recovery, Getting Sober, How I Did It, Insights and Lessons, Reflections on Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this fantastic blog!

    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will share
    this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All I can say right now is thank you. I am trying to take the first steps of quitting alcohol, but feel instead like I need a big shove. Your blog is part of my plan. I just need to stop saying “tomorrow” and do it today. Does anyone have advice on how to do that?


  3. I also took quizzes and being the conscientious type always tried to moderate, it would work for a short while, but not that long. Some days I just want to shout to friends and family members, it is easier not drinking. No more games, no more stressing over the non drinking days or feeling guilty about failing. It is a great way to live.
    I also agree that the quizzes helped me realize that if I want to live a healthy life, a life without alcohol works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think I did any of those online quizzes. I knew what the weekly unit guideline figure for women is here in the UK – it’s 14 units per week – and I knew damn well that I was way over it. that’s not much more than one bottle of high proof wine, and I knew I could NEVER stick to that per week. I find it hugely sad now that even when I was trying so hard to moderate, and really trying to record what I was drinking, even then I was only trying to ‘get down to’ 21 units a week. who was I kidding? only myself.

    the UK’s chief medical officer is currently reconsidering what the national guideline figure should be. in some ways I question how it helps having one – what is needed in my opinion is a really clear, well publicised, and WELL FUNDED pathway of what to do if you are drinking more that that. there are various studies around the world which all come up with a figure of 20 -25% of the population exceeding those levels. and this is a progressive condition! it is not going to get better on its own.


  5. yep – in the late 80s they started talking “safe number of units” in the UK. A concerned person talked to me, in a pub of course. They said “Aren’t you worried?” I asked what the number was – they said “about 20″… I said straight out “Oh 20. I’m no where near 20”. “A unit is half a pint.” They pointedly looked at my ever present PINTglass in my hand. “Oh… well then that’s different. Hmm… maybe I’m a bit close now and then”. They sighed and said “A week. Not a day”. “A f***ing WEEK!” I screamed. I mean that was just a stupid notion. I finally stopped drinking in 2004 – go figure the damage I did in the intervening time.


  6. I wonder why I never took those quizzes…I guess I was too scared of the answer. It wasn’t until I talked to a well-being coach (accessed through my insurance) that I realized the extent of my drinking. That is, I had it spelled out for me. The coach essentially ran through a verbal quiz with me (after taking online quizzes, during sobriety, I recognized her question). The result was that I had a severe problem with alcohol. Again, I knew that, but it hit me hard hearing this nice woman I didn’t know tell me the result with concern in her voice. Ugh. I still take the quizzes sometimes and breathe a sigh or relief…and a prayer for those still trapped.


    • Oh yes. The quizzes. Love this article and the format of the quiz. The visual aid is a new one on me. My doctor went from 9 glasses a week to 7 as a guideline. I took these quizzes a lot and ignored the results. Now it is much easier to see reality as a sober person.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In my personal opinion these types of statistics are not reliable because the nature of heavy drinkers is to lie and hide the amount they are drinking due to the shame involved. I know too many people who drink beyond these guidelines, and that’s just the people I know.


    • Don’t get too hung up on the percentages – the category one falls into is the same regardless of how many others are there as well. Problematic drinking is dangerous whether the chart is a triangle, a rectangle or a trapezoid!



      • Yes I agree. I’m not trying to imply that the levels are not indicative of a serious problem. I just think more people are in the severe and high risk areas than is shown in the model.


      • Yes I agree. I’m not trying to imply that the levels are not indicative of a serious problem. I just think more people are in the severe and high risk areas than is shown in the model. A

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember going to the doctor, where they ask you how many drinks you had per week. I went through two bottles of wine per night at a minimum, plus extra at social events. So I’d figure in my head — I guess that’s 10 drinks 7 days a week, plus another 10-15 at happy hours, etc.? I probably shouldn’t put down 85, right? Maybe I’ll just write down 10…


  9. I never believed these guidelines for the reasons Anne mentions: a) in what universe is 5 oz a serving? 🙂 and b) I think people WAY under-report how much they drink — even if they think they are telling the truth (or close to the truth). Not saying it’s a good thing that a LOT of people drink a whole lot more than they are admitting, but I just think the company heavy drinkers keep is much more populous than the pyramid would suggest. 🙂

    And I too am happy to not be counting drinks anymore!


  10. Your point of the 5oz glass is significant. No one drinks 5 oz. well, no real drinker.
    I think the statistics about the percentages of people drinking at each level are way under estimated. Drinking a half bottle or more of wine an evening is absolutely nothing uncommon for many people. Definitely more that 18% of the population.

    The small shown for risky drinking are misleading and part the reason people can fool themselves into believing they are not like “those problem drinkers”.

    I am really glad I don’t have to think or worry or obsess or beat myself up about moderation any more. Sobriety is freedom.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. The US guidelines were 14 drinks per week for women.
    But I would drink 4 drinks at one time, but only 3 or 4 times a week.
    Big glasses!
    I too, tried to moderate and try the numbers game.
    In the end, it was just too painful to keep drinking.
    I did have to listen to my voice, in order to stop.
    So glad I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. And even if you’re within the guidelines, trust your own experience. For me, even drinking within the (U.S.) guidelines means headaches and lost creativity and lost self and sneaking around. Trust your still small voice even over the guidelines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a good point, Adrian. Sometimes I get too narrow in my thinking as a (former) daily drinker – I forget that some people can go long periods without drinking but when they do, LOOK OUT. Or as you say, then there’s that pattern slow drain of life and joy. If you know, you know. It’s when the answers before us are things we don’t wish to see, that’s when guidelines can speak louder than our addictions.


      • It’s that slow drain on life that make every single reminder (like yours here) of the danger and damage of “high functioning” alcohol abusers so valuable. One’s reference point for comparison is so important, and it can’t be the worst-case scenario.


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