Memories of drinking can make you miserable

Memories of drinking may be making you miserable. At this time of the month, when the credit card bills hit, and it seems ages to the next pay day, it’s very easy to get down.  Thinking about those wonderful times when we were drinking freely seems very attractive and tempting.

Euphoric recall

It’s very tempting to start back into old habits as we remember being happier then. Padraig O Morain describes this as “euphoric recall”. It means we recall drinking as really fun and pleasurable, with the world in full colour and happy laughter everywhere. Life was a carnival.

Dying for a drink

These memories then kick off cravings for a drink. We literally feel we are dying for a drink. The trick is to remember, these memories are only one part of our drinking. The other part of our drinking is the reason, why we took action to start controlling drinking. The memories of hangovers, arguments, lost time, too much money spent, or unwanted sexual contact. If you have n’t written down  the reasons why you want to manage your drinking, it’s a good time to do it now. You’ll find help here.

Cravings

Cravings can feel like the end of the world, but they don’t last and are usually gone within 20 minutes. Knowing it’s normal to have cravings and having an action plan to deal with them really helps. You’ll find more help on this here.

Change your beliefs around alcohol

If we think people have more fun with alcohol, then we’ll feel totally miserable if we’re not drinking. Our Irish culture encourages us to believe that people who drink always have more fun and enjoy themselves more.

We’ve often written about this. We admire the people who can hold their drink and are the life and soul of the party. We rarely hear about the downsides of drinking.

So make sure your internal beliefs about alcohol reflect the reality of drinking and are not euphoric recall.

Photo by Siri from Pexels

There’s no such thing as happy new year

So after the free for all of Christmas eating and drinking, we’re into the ritual of telling each other happy new year and the annual ongoing civil war with ourselves. This year it seemed to be worse as it was the end of a decade.

A civil war with ourselves?

That’s how Marian Keyes describes the New Year in her latest video

I was really surprised to hear her talk about hating herself. That she’s achieved nothing, she’s a failure and she hates looking back. It’s why she hates the New Year’s Eve.  All those expectations to have the perfect night and to actually be perfect.

Hearing this from a very successful, much loved author, who is  kind, does lots of volunteering in unpopular causes and   who has been happily married for 24 years is incredible. It shows how often we just don’t see the good parts of ourselves and focus only on the bad parts.

Hating ourselves

 I find myself nodding in agreement as she talks about the pressure to be perfect. To lose weight, get fit, improve ourselves and for many people to drink less or not drink at all.

We start off with great intentions, with all these New Year resolutions, but end up in a cycle of lapsing, denial and hating ourselves.

There’s no such thing as Happy New Year

Marian says there’s no such thing as Happy New Year. Everyone has some pain in their life, some stone in their shoe. So it’s impossible to be happy all the time. So she never says Happy New Year, she just says happy day. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Go easy on yourself

So go easy on yourself, don’t be over ambitious or try to be perfect. Pick one small thing, that means something to you and focus on that.

If you want to reduce your drinking, start with something that you have confidence you can achieve.

If you’ve been drinking every day for the last ten years, try not drinking one day a week. You can find more advice on setting targets here.

Build in positive rewards

Make sure you have some positive rewards built into your New Year resolution. So you could put the money saved from drinking less, into a jar each week and then treat yourself to something you like at the end of each month.

So wishing us all success this year, in learning and understanding and being at peace with ourselves.

It’s well worthwhile watching the full Marian video here.

PS

Here’s Marian’s really funny takedown of those people who boast about their achievements of the last decade

MY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE LAST DECADE

I CLIMBED on a chair and found the place where Himself hides the chocolate

I LOST my temper when he moved it to another spot

 I FOUND the new one

I GAINED some heft

I GREW as a person (size-wise)

I UNDERSTOOD that chocolate is great

What are your drinking Cons?

Last week we talked about the pros of drinking, so this week we’re talking about drinking cons or disadvantages of drinking. Looking at your drinking cons can help increase your motivation to control your drinking, in this our annual peak drinking season.

Drinking Cons

  • I throw up when I drink
  • Drinking gives me a hang over
  • I am on medication which means I have to stop/reduce my drinking
  • Drinking brings back bad memories/old hurts for me
  • My Drinking is causing me to take too much sick leave
  • I cannot remember everything the next morning
  • Drinking costs a lot of money
  • My drinking is giving me a weight problem
  • My drinking leads to unwanted sexual contact
  • Drinking is bad for my health
  • I seem to get myself into trouble when drinking
  • My drinking causes problems with others
  • I have broken the law e.g. drink driving
  • I’m not drinking while I am pregnant
  • I have physical health problems as a result of my drinking
  • I’d like to get pregnant
  • I am losing the trust and respect of my co-workers because of my drinking
  • Having to lie to others about my drinking bothers me
  • I am losing the trust of people I love because of my drinking
  • Some people close to me are disappointed in me because of my drinking
  • My Drinking interferes with how I work
  • I regret texts, I send when drunk
  • I have less energy
  • I find my drinking makes me too emotional
  • I am worried I am getting too dependent on alcohol
  • Drinking interferes with my life at home
  • Some people try to avoid me when I drink
  • Drinking is affecting how I look e.g. my face is red & bloated
  • It is hard to get going in the morning
  • I get into arguments more often
  • I find I am less fit as a result of my drinking
  • I could accidentally hurt someone because of my drinking
  • Drinking makes me feel very low
  • I lose my stuff- for example- my mobile   phone when drunk
  • I wake up with injuries e.g. bruises, I do not remember happening
  • I’m worried I could have health problems in the future. E.g. too much alcohol can cause dementia
  •  I am setting a bad example for others with my drinking e.g. My children
  • Drinking interferes with my ability to parent e.g. I’m snapping at my children
  • My drinking is giving me money problems

Ring a bell with you?

So how many of these cons ring a bell with you? Maybe you have other reasons for taking more control of your drinking. Some people find it useful to make a list of their own reasons for drinking less and they put it somewhere they see it regularly. On their bathroom mirror or keeping the list in their wallet or handbag.

Use your mobile phone

Some people search for an image on the internet which helps remind them why they are not drinking. They then set this image as their mobile phone screen saver. So any time they feel tempted they can simply look at their phone. It can really help increase motivation not to drink too much.

Why do people drink too much alcohol?

As we head into peak drinking season, looking again at the reasons why people drink too much can help us stay in control as it increases our motivation to drink less.

We’ve listed some of the reasons why people drink too much below

  • I can sleep better
  • I feel less physical pain
  • It gives me a reason to go out with my friends
  •  I feel less anxious
  •  Drinking helps me to have fun and socialise
  •  Drinking helps me deal with problems
  •  I am less bored
  • Drinking makes me more of a fun person
  •  I feel less emotional pain
  •  My drinking helps give me energy and keeps me going
  •  I am more sure of myself when I am drinking
  • People seem to like me better when I am drinking
  •  I feel calmer
  •  It is very easy to buy
  •  I feel less sad
  • Drinking helps me to loosen up and express myself
  • I like myself better when I am drinking
  •  I can relax more easily
  • Without alcohol my life would be dull and boring
  • I am less troubled by shaking or feeling sick
  •  It gives me a nice warm feeling
  •  Not drinking at a social gathering would make me feel too different
  •  It is very cheap to buy in supermarkets
  •  I am more creative


Don’t worry if you’ve ticked all the reasons

Don’t worry if you feel you’re ticking all the reasons. Valerie ticked  yes to nearly every box in the list and she still managed to get her drinking under control.

There may also be other reasons not listed above why people drink too much so list these reasons as well.

Take action

Looking at your pros, think about how you can get these benefits of drinking in a less harmful way.

For example, if you think life is boring without alcohol, could you take up a new activity that interests and excites you? Skydiving maybe!  

If drinking helps you sleep, there are other ways to get a good night’s sleep without the downsides of alcohol.

If dealing with feelings make you drink more, you might find talking to someone useful and we’ve some suggestions here.

People drinking too much can help themselves

Understanding the reasons you drink too much, is a big step forward in reducing your drinking to low risk levels. So try listing your reasons for drinking as this will help you to take action to manage your drinking. In our next post we’ll look at the cons of drinking too much.

Swapping alcohol for a running high

Swapping alcohol for a running high sounds a little extreme. But this week people are talking about it as the film Brittany runs a marathon is released.

Based on a true story

Brittany is 28 years old, a heavy drinker who is overweight and does not feel good about herself. She visits her doctor hoping to get some Adderall tablets, but he tells she is unhealthy and needs to lose 55 pounds.

Self-sabotage is so common

Brittany tried to join a gym, but it’s far too expensive. She finds a pal with the same unhealthy lifestyle and they start running or is it walking! In one scene, a crowd of toddlers pass them by. Eventually they decide to run the marathon but Brittany keeps doing stuff that stops her reaching her goals. It’s called self-sabotage. This is very common amongst people who drink too much and often have low self-esteem.

A death in the family

It becomes clear that Brittany is still grieving the death of her Father. She has never come to terms with it. So it’s a major reason why she’s living such an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s often struck me that our modern fast paced lifestyle does not allow much time for grieving. We expect people to get on with it far too quickly. So people often numb grief with alcohol.

Catriona spent 10 years grieving

Jenny Valentishe describes how Caitrona Menzies-Pike saw herself as a “gin addled bookworm” who used to eye runners with suspicion as she nursed a latte and hangover. Then it struck her that she spent the 10 years grieving after the sudden death of her parents focused on distance (running away) and endurance (drinking lots). So perhaps the actual answer was running which requires the same qualities.

Swapping alcohol for running

The running helped her process her parent’s death and she started to sleep better and drink less. If there is only one thing you can do to manage your drinking, physical exercise is the one to choose. There are just so many benefits to do it as we mentioned here.

Park Runs are all round the county

You don’t have to be super fit to be a runner, or even look like a runner in all the figure hugging gear. If you go to Park Runs  available in 93 locations around the country you’ll find people of all levels of fitness and body sizes. There’s a very friendly atmosphere and park runs are free. Many people even walk the route. So why not visit a park run to see for yourself whether swapping alcohol for running works for you?

Or to get yourself in the mood, why not go see the film? The reviews are good. You can see a trailer below.

We can’t avoid stress but can we reduce its impact on us?

We all know modern life is full of stress.  Long commutes, pressurised jobs, financial pressures, keeping children safe, looking after sick parents. The list goes on. Is it any wonder so many people have mental health problems and drink too much?

Is modern life toxic?

Modern life is toxic -especially for young people.  So many people can’t hope to own their own home. They rent homes at very high prices with little security about how long they can stay there. They have zero hour contracts or unpaid internships.

Stress is constant

For people brought up in high stress households, stress can be a lifelong problem. Studies have shown high stress levels in pregnant women can make their children more easily stressed after birth. It also takes these children longer to calm down. So it’s useful to accept that we may have an inbuilt tendency towards stress. (Click here for more details)

Stress can be managed

It’s easy to solve this constant stress by drinking too much. It provides temporary relief.  But it is also possible to reduce stress without the hangover.

Some studies suggest up to half our stress is caused by external factors outside our control, stuff like work demands, job insecurity, financial pressures etc. So that means up to half our stress can be controlled by us.

Too stressed to help yourself?

This gives us hope that the situation can change. Even though, it’s difficult to break the cycle of being stressed, drinking, and then being hungover. But some simple tips can help.

Recognise the stress

So the first step in changing this pattern, is to develop awareness of actually feeling stressed. Sometimes we’re not even aware of how stressed we are because we’re so busy trying to keep all the balls in the air.  So simply taking a moment to recognise

“Yes, I’m feeling stressed,

Can help us hit the pause button on stress.

The 5 minute trick

Using the 5 minute trick can also help.

This is a very useful tip given to me. Put your mobile phone on airplane mode, and set the timer to 5 minutes. Find somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Then sit down comfortably with your hands by your side. Put your tongue gently to the roof of your mouth and become aware of your breathing.

Now the next 5 minutes is all yours without interruptions. Imagine any thoughts coming in at the top of your head and travelling down through your body out your feet. You’re just observing these thoughts, not deciding, not taking action, not forcing, not rushing. Imagine the thoughts literally floating peacefully through you. You don’t have to do anything in this 5 minutes but sit and observe. You know the timer will go off, so you won’t fall asleep.

Sitting on the toilet

The great thing about this tip is you can do it anywhere and at any time. At home, in the office, travelling. Even in our busy life, time for going to the toilet is still allowed. All you have to do is find a toilet, pull the seat cover down, put some toilet paper sheets on the toilet cover and you have a clean seat to relax on for 5 minutes.

If you’re going through a really stressful time, doing this a few times a day, can really make a difference. If you’re feeling pressure to drink, simply relaxing in this way for 5 minutes can help reduce this pressure.

So if you’re constantly feeling very stressed, or in a very stressful environment where you’re likely to drink too much, why not try this trick?

For more tips on managing stress, click here.

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

Baby steps help find your way back home

Recognising all our baby steps towards managing our drinking is essential. We focus on the blow out we had, rather than on all the baby steps of progress we’ve made. What if I say you are a wonderful person? Would you believe me? There is so much going on in our lives that we usually underestimate how well we are doing.

It’s easy to blame ourselves

When it comes to alcohol misuse, it is easy to be harsh on ourselves. We live in a culture where excessive alcohol consumption is often related to celebration and fun, which disguises the real danger of it.

(Editor’s Note, Just see Grandmother takes her first brandy for a good example of media bias towards alcohol).

A quick fix habit

The same toxic culture where alcohol is often used to cope as well. Then, it turns into a ‘quick fix’ habit.

The bad news is that with time, the essence of who you are, becomes diluted in it and it gets harder to find yourself again.

The road back can feel scary

The road back to yourself can feel scary. New skills are required. Keeping ourselves with what feels ‘familiar’ might give us the illusion of safe predictability. However, when we choose to turn back to ourselves again, we give ourselves another chance to reconnect with our thoughts and feelings. Accepting, learning and healing them is huge. It is an act of self-love.

We all struggle

We all struggle, and misstep quite a lot. But we also do great things. Each one of us has our unique learning journey and we all do the best we can. Rediscovering yourself is key. After all, when we try to numb or block painful thoughts and feelings, they keep coming back.

Alcohol blocks all feelings

We need to learn their lesson. Also, alcohol does not come with a ‘sense of discrimination’, so when you block painful feelings you also block all joy.

Yes, pain is real and so is joy. But, when you allow your experiences to flow without any blockages, whatever they might be, you start to find out the real you. By taking baby steps, being gentle to yourself with self-compassion, you will find your way back home.

Editors Note

For more tips on managing feelings or just feeling numb, click here

Is perfectionism robbing you of pleasure?

An interesting article by Padraig O Morain on perfectionism recently. He states perfectionism robs us of pleasure in our own successes. We’ll always find the extra thing we could have done, so we focus on that, rather than what we’ve achieved. It also stops us starting or finishing things because we can’t guarantee it will be a success.

Perfectionism starts early

Padraig uses the example of the child coming home with 90% in their assignment and the parents joking- asking

“What happened the other 10% per cent?”

If this is constant the child learns they need to be perfect to receive love.

Social media does not help

The constant feedback from social media of people with perfect lives and perfect bodies does not help. People socialising, who can drink as much or as little as they want without hangovers or making a fool of themselves.

Perfectionism is the enemy of managing our drinking

Nowhere is the enemy of perfectionism more obvious than in our approach to alcohol. Most approaches focus on not drinking at all. For some people, this is exactly the right approach, (for example Mc D– though he does not blame or criticise himself when he drinks) but for others it’s totally wrong, for example Lisa, found it did not work for her and even made her drinking worse.

I’ve had one so might as well go the whole hog

One drink is seen as failure. So once one drink is taken, sure might as well go on a binge.  So instead of praising ourselves for reducing or not drinking over the last while, we give out to ourselves for drinking. Unlike Mc D we don’t see it as an opportunity to learn.

Padraig quotes the psychologist Aaron Beck who states

“All or nothing thinking is an unhelpful habit- this is the attitude that if one thing is wrong, everything is wrong”

Demanding perfection makes us miserable

We’re never going to be perfect. We’re human not machines. So demanding perfection is just going to make us miserable.

Perfectionists find it difficult to relax

Perfectionists also makes us less enjoyable company. It’s much easier being around people who accept their own imperfections and don’t try to be perfect all the time.

I always remember returning to Dublin after a work trip and the boss suggesting a cup of tea in her house. When we went in, the house was untidy, there was a clothes dryer with underwear in full view. But she just moved it out of the way, laughing and we had a relaxing and enjoyable chat over a cup of tea.

 The perfectionist in me would have been embarrassed and apologising for the house not being tidy.  I would have been unable to relax. So the chat would not have been as enjoyable. So I learnt a lesson. It’s ok when your house is untidy to have visitors. I do not have to be perfect.

So praise yourself, you’re making an effort

So if you’ve read this far, accept you’re making an effort. You might never have the perfect life. But that’s ok.

As Padraig quotes

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have and looking for it where they will never find it”

So in managing your drinking, strive for progress not perfection.

You can read Padraig’s full article here.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

An Alcohol free hen party can be great fun

Your friend is getting married soon and she’s wondering if an alcohol free hen party is a good idea. She’s  struggling with alcohol and trying to stay off the booze  until after the wedding. She’s dreading the hen party as she’s worried she will drink and make a fool of herself.  You know that a hen party free from alcohol  would avoid potential problems.


Alcohol free may be essential

The bride to be may be very stressed out, so have a discussion with her to agree if  an alcohol free hen  party is a good idea. Let her know, you will keep her informed, discussing all suggestions and ideas with her. 

Plan, Plan, Plan

A person close to the bride  to be, should meet with her privately to find out the triggers that are likely to cause her to drink. Triggers are things such as smells, activities, people that might cause a problem. Find out more about triggers here.

Know the triggers

Once you know what the bride’s triggers are you can plan to avoid them. Certain people may cause a lot of anxiety and stress to the bride so it might be worthwhile chatting to these people to avoid problems or even leave them off the list entirely.

Avoid stress and anxiety

Planning the hen party well in advance can help reduce  stress and anxiety.  Stress and anxiety are  common triggers for drinking too much, so plan activities that encourage relaxation. Understanding what activities the bride and friends are will  enjoy is important.

Decide  what you’re telling  the guests

Agreeing what the bride will say  about her drinking is important. Is she confident enough to simply state this is an alcohol free hen party as she’s not drinking?

Or is a cover story easier? Perhaps  the bride is taking metronidazoleA+ for bacterial vaginosis which means she can’t drink. This cover story can also be great for a laugh!

Or perhaps it’s a hen party where as well as having fun, all monies saved by not drinking will go to a charity of the Bride’s choice.

The key is to let all the guests know what to expect  in advance of the party and making sure they’re ok with the format.

Or maybe a hen party with a difference ?

You can even take it a step further, by combining the hen party with doing something rewarding and helping people.

For example Access Earth is a free online platform offering mobility information for anyone who needs it. e.g which restaurants have wheelchair access. The hen party guests  can help feed into the data this platform provides. Guests are  broken into teams and set loose to try to win the top spot on the leader-board, by mapping as many places as possible.

Or you can help clean up the coast, paint in a hospital or take part in a dragon board race. More details of lots of  different activities   here.

Make sure hen party attendees are  on board

Some people may complain so this is why being clear on the agreed message is vital.

If the Bride has given permission, explain the Bride is trying to stay off alcohol.  She will find it much more difficult not to drink if other people are drinking.

If  the friends still keep complaining  make it clear  that if people can’t drink for one event, to support their friend, then it is sending a message they do not value the friendship. Perhaps it would be better if they did not attend?

After all if a friendship is only good in alcohol is it a real friendship?  Lucy found many of her friendships were based on alcohol and were toxic.

Alcohol free drinks?

If  money is available and it does not bother the bride you may be able to have a selection of alcohol free drinks available, including mocktails. You can find out more about alcohol free drinks here.

Even more party ideas

  • An old-fashioned sleepover, complete with facials, manicures, pedicures, films , and popcorn. Make sure the bride gets a good night’s sleep as sleep deprivation can be a trigger, especially in the early days.
  • Throw a dinner party at someone’s home. Make it as fancy or simple as you want.
  • If the bride enjoys board games, you could have everyone bring their favourite game to play, complete with popcorn and fizzy drinks. You could also do this with movies.
  • Set up a treasure hunt (like geocaching ).
  • If the weather is likely to be dry, go to a free event. For example, an event  in the National Gallery then picnic in the park.
  • Drive somewhere with a great walking trail and plan a hike together. Pack a special picnic and break the treats out after the hike.
  • There are places where you can make a craft, do-it-yourself style for a relatively small fee. Going home with a piece of pottery or jewellery would be a fun way to remember the night.
  • Escape room type games might be a good bonding experience.
  • Funky Seomra run alcohol free dance events.

Is a fun alcohol free hen party possible?

Is a fun alcohol free hen party possible? Absolutely! It just takes  planning, organising and a little bit of creativity.