Can I moderate drinking ?

Sense of Shame

I’m incredibly passionate about living a clean existence – more so because I can still recall (with great clarity) the polar opposite: the hangovers, the awful sense of shame on particular mornings, and the secrecy, the double life I seemed to be leading sometimes. I especially remember the kernel of dread that I’d wake up with, a knot of fear in my stomach that I desperately wanted rid of but which routinely took days or even weeks to leave me.

Major blow out

I often read on Soberistas (frequently on Monday mornings) blogs that describe feelings of shame. The people who write them have typically picked up a drink over the weekend, truly believing that they will be able to stop after just a couple (haven’t we all done that?), but who have then gone on to have a major blowout. This, in turn, leads to a variety of catastrophic consequences – an angry argument, a regrettable sexual encounter, passing out in front of the kids – many of which aren’t unfamiliar to me.

One does hurt

Here’s the truth: if a person who cannot moderate comes to recognise the fact that if he or she has A drink it will inevitably lead to LOTS of drinks, then things become a whole lot easier. When that time arises, happy days – it becomes less of a struggle to stay away from booze, knowing that the stuff is likely to bring about the eruption of a sequence of disastrous events (as Robert Downey Junior once said, “I don’t drink these days. I am allergic to alcohol and narcotics. I break out in handcuffs”). The problem comes about before this epiphany occurs, when a little voice is perpetually whispering, ‘one won’t hurt’ and ‘everyone has a few too many at some point or another’.

Some people can’t moderate

A desire to drink in moderation is simply not enough for some people to actually be able to drink in moderation. And for those people, once the first drink goes down, all self-control is lost. At that stage, a person is stripped of the ability to exercise caution or good sense in whatever it is they are doing. It becomes a lottery situation, a Russian roulette of life – how bad things end up is just a matter of potluck. This is how it always was with me, never knowing where the drink would take me, almost crossing my fingers at the beginning of a night out as I prayed things wouldn’t descend too low.

Talk to others

A good starting point for reaching this point of acceptance is to talk to others who have also experienced difficulties when drinking. Whether this is at a real-life meeting or with an online group such as Soberistas, airing your thoughts and feelings about your drinking habits is a really helpful thing to do for contextualising, understanding and, finally, for beginning to resolve an alcohol dependency.

Editors Note

You might find our short audio or mini course helpful in making your decision whether to drink in moderation  or stop drinking.

I’ve had such a bad day! I need a big glass of wine to relax

 

Sound familiar? A few years ago, I would never have believed anyone who’d told me that I’d be consistently calmer and level headed if I stopped drinking alcohol for good. But, four years after my last drink and I never crave booze anymore in order to cope with a bad day. If you’ve recently quit drinking alcohol and are looking for a few pointers on reducing stress levels, read on. These might just help…

Be grateful

Try writing a list every night of all that you are grateful for in your life. We often get caught up with materialistic desires and forget about the true worth of what we already have: friends, family and our health, for example.

Avoid caffeine

caffeine is a stimulant that raises the level of stress hormones in the body. Opt for decaffeinated versions of tea or coffee, or stick to herbal teas and/or water.

Eat small and often

maintaining steady blood sugar levels can REALLY help to achieve a balanced mood. Try snacking on hummus or a handful of almonds.

Practise mindfulness

instead of giving into the chattering monkey mind that plagues so many of us, mindfulness allows us to live in the present. It won’t prevent negative situations from arising but it will allow you to respond in a calmer manner.

Learn to breathe

meditation is a great way to learn how to breathe correctly. Try a couple of beginner’s sessions at your local Buddhist centre to get started.

Talk it over

sharing concerns with a trusted friend or family member works wonders for beating stress. The listener may provide us with a sense of perspective, put forward potential solutions and/or offer help for whatever is causing the stress.

Get active

Exercise is a FANTASTIC way to beat stress. If you’ve never been particularly active before then try something gentle to begin with.

Learn to be kind (to yourself)

women are especially good at neglecting their own needs while rushing round seeing to everyone else’s. When we pile on the stress and refuse to take a break it’s guaranteed to increase stress levels. Make some time for ‘Me Time’.

Ask for help

Don’t be scared to ask for help – if stress continues to be a factor in your life then a professional counsellor could be the solution.

Editors Note

Some people may continue to experience cravings depending on their  drinking history. You might find our crave surfing, managing your alcohol cravings course helpful, if you have this problem.

Top tips for Managing Emotions (Booze Free)

I successfully managed to avoid feeling any emotions for the best part of twenty years. Every time I felt angry, sad, happy, bored or worried, I would have a drink. And not just one drink, but several. I saw a counsellor a few years prior to quitting drinking permanently and he told me he thought my emotional maturity was stuck somewhere around the age of fifteen – a petulant teenager. At the age of thirty…

When you first cut out alcohol from your existence, experiencing the full hit of emotions can be tough. Every feeling seems weird, and extreme emotions can feel really uncomfortable. Initially, sitting with these feelings can seriously increase cravings for alcohol because that’s how our bodies are accustomed to dealing with them – blotting them out.

The thought that kept me sober during the early alcohol-free months was that if I gave in and had a drink, I’d be right back at square one. I knew that I was becoming more adept at dealing with my emotions, and even though the biggies (anger, heartache) were plain horrible, I truly wanted to feel them. I wanted to grow as a person, to move on mentally from that fifteen-year-old girl who couldn’t cope with the more challenging aspects of life. Every time I found myself sitting with a difficult emotion, I tried to be mindful of it – to understand why I was feeling like that, and to treat myself kindly.

Here are my top survival tips for getting through the process of learning to feel emotions…

This too shall pass

OK, you may feel awful but it’s not going to last forever. Accept that the range of human emotions includes good and unpleasant, but all are fleeting. Go with the feeling, embrace it, and trust that you’ll come out the other side soon enough.

Get into exercise

I love running, and nothing helps me cope with unpleasant  emotions better than a jog through the woods. Endorphins, fresh air, escaping the demands of others…the benefits are many!

Feeling emotions is good

Feeling emotions properly means that you are growing as a person. You’re building emotional resilience. When the storm has died down, you’ll be a much tougher cookie than you were before it began.

Do  things you enjoy when you’re feeling down

Alcohol does not help you cope with problems or unpleasant  emotions – it just masks them. All you are doing by drinking on your troubles is avoiding the inevitable. Discover alternative ways to deal with tough times: a candlelit bath, a stroll in the countryside, coffee with friends, a shopping trip…there are plenty of things that don’t involve drinking that will help lift you out of a slump.”

Editor’s Note

Lucy gives some really good tips on managing emotions. It can be useful rather than labelling unpleasant  emotions as  “negative”” or “bad” to see them as motivation to take action, much like the physical  pain in our hand, warns us to take our hand out of the fire. Without that physical pain, we would leave our hand in the fire and get burnt.

I was one of life’s victims

For many years I perceived myself to be one of life’s victims. In my mid-teens, I rather warmed to the notion that men were drawn like magnets towards women who were a little emotionally fragile. I was physically weak as a teenager too, often allowing days on end to pass by with barely so much as an apple going down my neck in the name of sustenance (together with numerous pints of beer, of course). But, even once I’d resumed normal eating patterns the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, the victim mentality remained a constant in terms of my non-physical self.

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on

I never found the guts to confront my problems head on, but instead relied on the boyfriend I had at any given time to bail me out. Flat tyres, falling-over drunk, running out of money, encounters with violent and destructive men. Whichever disaster I happened to be caught up in, I could not seem to muster the courage to deal with it myself. Heavy drinking was a further manifestation of my deep-seated desire to be protected. Becoming so inebriated that I was no longer able to exercise self-care meant that those around me were routinely forced to pick up the pieces.

I started soul searching

This cycle of negativity continued throughout my adult life until the first year I spent as a non-drinker, a period in which I finally began to conduct some much required soul-searching in an effort to put things right.

Aged thirty-five, I was acutely aware of how little self-reliance I possessed. As the alcohol-free months turned into years, I steadily built up feelings of self-belief that had been so clearly lacking previously. When I re-examined my past romantic encounters and (with brutal honesty) assessed my own patterns of behaviour that had frequently wandered into ‘mentally fragile’ territory, I could see how unsettling and miserable those relationships had been.

I thought I was  a feminist

In my late teens and early twenties I was downing pints and playing pool in the pub on an almost daily basis in the misguided name of feminism. I truly believed that succumbing to such activities propelled me towards equal status with the men. And in some ways, maybe it did – but rather than elevating me to a positive position of parity with the opposite sex, my behaviour merely dragged me down to the low expectations and restricted lives of men who had become defined by their alcohol consumption. It was not feminism as I see it today.

I’m no longer frightened of my own  strength

Now I’m forty. I’ve come a long way from the insecure, unhappy and confused girl I was at sixteen. A striking difference in who I was then and who I’ve become is that I’m no longer frightened of my own strength; the strength it took to conquer a dependency upon alcohol; the strength it took to plough through the mire of divorce; the strength it took to be a single parent for many years; the strength it took to beat tenacious demons that undermined my self-confidence and frequently led to me hating myself; the strength it took to finally regain control of my life; the strength it took to truly like myself.

These days, I don’t overly rely on anyone. Yes, I have wonderfully supportive friends and family who I can count on, but at the end of the day, when the proverbial hits the fan, I am my own rock. It’s who I am now.

10 Reasons Why Life is Better without Booze

Here’s Lucy’s  top ten reasons for not drinking.

1. Cutting alcohol out of your life helps build your self-esteem; never doing or saying things that you will later regret is a brilliant way of feeling back in control of your life, thus boosting your self-confidence.

2. .When you drink every night, you lose vast swathes of time – if you have your first glass at 7pm and continue to sip away all night until 11pm, then over a week you’ll have waved goodbye to almost thirty hours of spare time, which could have been put to good use.

3. Alcohol is no friend to your looks – within days of quitting drinking you’ll have brighter eyes, healthier looking skin and will notice a reduction in facial puffiness.

4. One bottle of wine contains between 600 and 700 calories; that’s equivalent to three Cornetto ice creams, or an extra evening meal on top of the dinner you’ve already scoffed! Maintaining weight is much easier for those who don’t drink alcohol.

5. I stopped drinking four and a half years ago, and in that time I estimate that I’ve saved approximately £20,000 (the sum total of money I would have wasted on wine, fags, and taxis – the price of a decent car). Instead, I have been able to buy lots of lovely stuff that I can actually remember and appreciate for days, months or years after making the purchase!

6. Since I was a child I always wanted to be a writer but never managed to get more than a couple of chapters down in my drinking days. Within the first couple of years of being teetotal I had three books published (The Sober Revolution and Your 6 Week Plan, co-written with Sarah Turner, and Glass Half Full), and my fourth was published a year later. I can now demonstrate dedication and commitment, qualities that perennially escaped me as a boozer.

7. Categorically I am a MUCH better parent as a non-drinker – end of story.

8. Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are all a (horrible) distant memory – since eradicating booze from my life I generally feel optimistic and happy, and the mood swings have disappeared for good.

9. Drinking regularly and heavily prevented me from seeing how big the world is, and how much there is to explore within it – as a non-drinker I get to feel the magic of life untainted by booze, and my horizons have stretched massively.
10. Embarking on an alcohol-free life has opened up the door to self-discovery; I have found out more about the person I am in the four and a half years since I quit drinking than I did in any of the previous thirty five years of my life.

Alcohol can harm even when you don’t drink too much

 

Thirty odd years ago I went from active sports mad teenager to some body unable to walk across a room due to unbearable pain. Thankfully good health care, heavy duty drugs and private health insurance means I have a good quality of life.

 

My drinking is not checked regularly

So every few months, I get blood tests to make sure the drugs I take have not affected my liver. I even take other drugs to protect my liver, but only once in 30 years have I had a decent alcohol drinking check , where I actually had to confess what I drank! Given my serious liver risks, I would have thought my drinking would be checked regularly.

We all know alcohol affects the liver. Our good friend, addiction counsellor Rolande Anderson tells us , there used to be a GP screening programme for alcohol, but funding cut backs means it no longer exists.

 

Nobody ever tells us about the impact of alcohol

So we never really get informed about alcohol and the impact it has on our health until too late. We think we have to be a raving alcoholic before it can do harm to us. In Ireland the youngest woman diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver was just 18 years old.
Alcohol causes and worsens so many illnesses. Over 1,500 beds of our 11,000 hospital beds are occupied by people with an alcohol related illnesses, every single night. Most of these people are not alcoholics.

 

Did you know alcohol can cause high cholesterol ?

For example, did you know alcohol can cause high cholesterol which in turn causes other health problems?
Alcohol also does not work well with a common drug used to treat high cholesterol -atorvastatin
Alcohol can also cause many problem with a wide range of other drugs from warfarin, to antidepressants.

 

You don’t have to drink too much to have an alcohol health problem

So before you tell yourself, I’m ok, I don’t drink much,

  • check out the safety leaflet on any tablets, even over the counter tablets you may be using to see if alcohol should not taken
  • check out our short video highlighting the effects alcohol has and see whether you have any of these side effects. Remember once you start reducing your drinking, you reduce these side effects. Every little helps!