Do you drink too much alcohol? Do you regularly wake up feeling tired, anxious, guilty, frustrated, swearing never to drink again? I’ve had numerous conversations with friends over the past few weeks, friends from very different walks of life, professions, age groups about their drinking habits and desire for change. Following these conversations I wanted to share a few words of inspiration, motivation and tips on cutting down on the dreaded drink! Here are five ways to stop drinking too much, that have worked for me.
Image by Paula Hayes
My Story: As a shy teenager growing up in the North of England I drank alcohol as a recreational sport, to overcome shyness and because it was ‘the done thing’. Alcohol and partying consumed our weekends with binge drinking being the norm amongst peers. In my early twenties the struggle to juggle heavy weekends and a pretty full on work schedule began to take its toll. I had gained weight, felt bloated, depressed, sluggish and was losing my memory!
5 years ago I finally vowed to stop drinking. Not because I’m anti-alcohol as a whole, but because I knew it was all or nothing. A few friends had some serious health scares caused by years of binge drinking, symptoms you would not expect to see in young adults like bladder weakness, liver and organ failure, which for some people reading this will seem shocking. At 23yrs old we should be in the peak of health, right?
When choosing not to drink alcohol I was faced with various hurdles to overcome, hurdles that I’m constantly asked about by others, when I tell them I don’t drink alcohol. Hurdles/
FAQ: ‘Do you still go out?’ ‘don’t you get annoyed with other people drinking?’ ‘how do you go out and not drink?’ ‘aren’t you ever tempted to drink?’ ‘don’t you ever need a release?’ ‘don’t you get bored?’ Hopefully the following tips will help to answer some of these questions and offer a little nudge in the right direction if you feel as if you’ve been overindulging or gotten into some bad habits:
I go to bars and even the occasional nightclub, I laugh, I dance (badly), I enjoy meeting and talking to people, I enjoy being with my friends, even if they are drinking. There was a time where I would’ve felt uncomfortable being without a drink in my hand, making conversation with new people in a bar or saying “I don’t drink” when asked what I’m having. Self esteem and addiction/ abuse/ binge drinking in young people are linked. If you feel bad about yourself, alcohol gives an instant, temporary fix. Self esteem is something we need to learn. Know that it’s o.k not to drink , you are not boring. We are not born with self esteem and it’s definitely not taught in schools either. The ‘Fall in Love with yourself’ post may offer some practical tips for getting started in learning to love yourself and building self-confidence.
If you’re a ‘socially acceptable’ respectable bottle of wine in the evening drinker and regularly find yourself at the computer working, surfing the internet or facebooking with a glass of wine in hand, you may need to re-learn your habits. Switch the glass of wine for a glass of water or tasty alternative, something you actually enjoy drinking like milkshake, Sarsaparilla or Elderflower cordial. If you still fancy a glass of wine, alternate between glass of wine and non-alcoholic alternative. Keep the bottle of wine in the kitchen so you have to make the conscious decision to get up and pour yourself another glass.
You’ll find if you decide to stop drinking you are cash and time rich, with no hangover days and a bit more spare cash in your back pocket. If you fear ‘getting bored’ it helps to make plans, to keep busy and organise your schedule. Buy that book or film you’ve been meaning to read/ see. Book yourself in for an early Saturday morning massage, go walking, take a trip out of town, plan to meet friends for a breakfast treat. Planning fun things for first thing in the day at weekends will mean you are less likely to actually WANT to go out drinking until the early hours!
Start off with small steps into your new drinking habits. If you’re trying to cut down or eventually give up alcohol entirely it may help to cut down gradually introducing alcohol-free days into your schedule.
Try assigning a day when you might normally reach for a drink to being sober. Alcohol free days will mean you experience better clarity, better sleep, more energy the next day, more confidence, the feeling of liberation from being alcohol dependent. As with any challenge you must start small, if you’re to re-learn your life habits you must start somewhere! The secret to changing any habit of thought or action is rehearsal. Practicing over and over again in your mind about what it feels like to have an alcohol-free day, try a whole weekend if you’re feeling brave, you can do it!
Cut down together:
If you hang around with heavy drinkers or you drink at home with your loved one, why not try to cut down together? If your regular social outings are centred around drinking, try something new.
Find a night out that offers fun with a different focus, go out for dinner, go to the theatre, watch a band, go to the cinema, try a dance class.
Getting together for a laugh without being plastered will remind you all how much fun you can have without drinking too much in the process.