Useful tips on managing the booze

At this time of the year, many people are looking at their drinking again and trying to come up with new ways to managing the booze. So we thought putting together a list of our most popular blogs  would be useful.

I’m not sure if I if I have a problem?

As a society, so many of drink in way that harms us that it is actually difficult to know if we have a problem in managing the booze. So you might find these posts useful if you’re unsure.

Check out whether you have a problem here.

Compare your drinking to other people

 

Should I give up the booze altogether or just reduce?

Everyone is different, for some people giving up the booze altogether works for them (known as sobriety). For other people reducing what they drink works better. (Known as harm reduction) While the most common approach is sobriety, reducing drinking works for many people as well. These posts will be useful if you’re trying to make a decision.

What is the best approach for you?

Lisa’s story on how sobriety did not work for her.

 

I’ve decided I’m managing the booze, where do I start?

It’s really important to plan how you will manage the booze. Here’s a few things to consider.

One simple tip that really helps

Why you should set a target for your drinking

What to do if you get cravings

Will alcohol free drinks help?

Understand your pros and cons of drinking

 

What to do after a blow out

Most people will have set backs. They’re a normal part of trying to make any change. Think of the little toddler trying to learn to walk. Initially they just keep falling down. They may cry or hurt themselves but that does not stop them trying again. So these posts  help you manage setbacks.

Why failure is a step on the road to success

How to get back on the wagon

 

I need more help

If you’re finding it really difficult  managing the booze on your own, then help is available.

There is an online community originally set up in England where you can talk to other people. While the main approach is sobriety there’s lot of useful support from other women. Find out more here

Or if you think you need one to one  support  these posts will be useful.

Would a counsellor be useful?

Key questions to ask an alcohol counsellor

Do I need a residential rehab?

You can find a complete listing of all services that can help you manage the booze here.

Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in dry January

So perhaps at this stage you’ve failed to stop  drinking in dry January. So now you’re feeling very low and know you’re a failure. This is often called “stinking thinking” because it’s a way of thinking that means you think you’re a failure at everything.

 

You are not a failure

The very fact that you actually tried to stop  drinking in dry January means you’re on the right track. Unlike the vast majority of Irish people, (see picture below) you’re actually aware you need to manage your drinking. So give yourself brownie points for knowing this and actually trying to manage your drinking.

stop drinking in dry january

The road to success is paved with a thousand failures

Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb had 1,000 failures before he finally succeeded. His teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything. He kept going because he told himself every failure was a step on the way to success. No stinking thinking for him. So see this failure to stop  drinking in dry January as a step on the road to eventual success in managing your drinking.

 

What’s your next step?

So to avoid stinking thinking, your next step is to figure out what you can learn to help you manage your drinking. So think back to the time before you drank too much.

 

Were you thirsty or hungry?

If you were thirsty or hungry this can lead us into drinking too much. So make a plan to always have tasty drinks or snacks easily available.

 

What were you thinking?

What were your thoughts when you started drinking?  Were you thinking a drink would make you feel happier?  Or often if we’ve been drinking too much, when we stop, we start remembering past events. We may have done or said things we’re ashamed of, so in order to get away from these thoughts it’s easier to drink.  Remember though only bad people don’t feel guilty or ashamed of things they do. So that’s not us.

 

Take action to change things

Once you’ve identified what you were thinking, you can then take action. For example, you can put a post- it reminder in a place where you’ll see it saying

“You’ll feel happier when you lose 2 pounds this week”

It works better if it’s a positive reminder rather than a negative. So no to

You’re too fat, manage your drinking!

 

How were you feeling?

Ask yourself how were you feeling before you drank?  Very often we drink too much because of our feelings. We can even be so numb we can’t understand what we’re feeling. Here’s 10 handy tips if this is you.

 

Did you have a craving for drink?

When we give up alcohol we can often feel a craving or urge to drink. These are caused by triggers. Valerie has some great tips on managing triggers and cravings here.

 

Don’t despair if you’ve failed to stop drinking in  dry January

It takes a lot of time and energy and action to manage our drinking. We live in a society which says alcohol is essential to being happy and then blames anyone who feels they have a problem with drink. (Read more here )

So once you learn something from Dry January, you’re on the path to success. That’s what Tara found. You can read her story here.

Planning Christmas drinking prevents that sinking feeling

It’s that time of the year again when Christmas drinking takes off

All the Christmas ads are already appearing on TV.  The junk mail coming in the door with special offers on Christmas drinks. The invites to sessions and office Christmas parties. All of us trying to control our drinking can find the pressure to take part in Christmas drinking tough.

We’re much more likely to wake up with that sinking feeling of yet another hangover.

Fail to plan and prepare to fail

As Roy Keane famously said

“Fail to plan and prepare to fail”

So our Christmas job list should always include a task to plan how we’re going to manage our Christmas drinking.

What works for you?

A big problem is the perception there is only one right way to control our drinking that works for everybody. So not drinking at all seems to be the only option. That can work for some people.

For other people the pressure of not drinking means they actually end up giving in. Then they drink too much and end up with a hangover.

The only right way is the way that works for you personally

This is different for everybody so we need to understand what works for us.

Good questions to ask are

Should I cut out Christmas drinking totally or can I drink a little?

When am I most likely to drink too much?

Who am I with when I drink too much or am I drinking on my own?

How do I feel when I start drinking too much?

When I’ve controlled my drinking in the past what did I do?

You might find our course Janus useful if you’re finding it difficult to decide.

Decide what you’re going to do

Once you’ve decided whether you are going to drink or not, start planning exactly what you’re doing to do. For example

  • Practise saying no
  • Have one drink and then a glass of water
  • Have a drink that looks alcoholic but is n’t. e.g. alcohol free wines (check out with the venue in advance if they have these)
  • Stick to alcohol drinks with low levels of alcohol
  • Organise a supportive friend to ring you at the Christmas party at a set time saying your child/pet is sick so you have to go
  • Bring your car with you if you know you won’t drink and drive (plan your exit though if you don’t want to drive boozy pals home)
  • Only have alcohol free drinks in your house
  • Plan some enjoyable alcohol free activities with supportive pals

Focus on the positives

Because we’re brainwashed by advertising into thinking alcohol makes us happy. It can be a really difficult time with all that Christmas drinking.

So every day it’s really important to take five minutes every day to think about the positives of controlling your drinking.

Don’t think about it in a negative way as that does not work as well.

e.g. It’s better to think

“I’m going to really enjoy catching up on the soaps in peace and quiet tomorrow morning”

Rather then

“I don’t want to have a hangover in the morning”

Brainwash yourself into understanding you’re not the problem

As we’ve previously written we’re all brainwashed into thinking drinking is normal. So we need to hear opposite views.

I find short videos poking fun at our drink culture really help me to realise I’m not the only one who does not enjoy drinking.

Good videos included

The Irish intervention

Or

I don’t drink poison

Every time I watch these, they really make me laugh. They also make me realise just how mad our drinking culture is.

So plan your approach to Christmas drinking and avoid that stinking feeling.

For more tips on Christmas drinking click here

How Valerie got rid of her alcohol craving

When an alcohol craving happens it can be scary. When a trigger hit me either by a smell, sound or something or someone, I would see, the trigger would sometimes start an alcohol craving.

It’s always a weird sensation because I often could taste alcohol in the back of my throat and I can even recall having the sensation of having alcohol in my body, you know that “warm blood” feeling that happens after the first drink.

 

The body reacts and creates an alcohol craving

I realise now that they are just my body’s way of reacting to the thoughts and memories in my head.

Just the very same way it does if someone says “supermacs!” I’ve immediately got the smell of chipper food and the taste of garlic cheese fries in my mouth.

And when I’m losing weight I get bombarded with adverts of food that create triggers and then turn into cravings.

 

Is it a no win situation?

Seems like a no win situation doesn’t it?

Well let me tell you, I may be tackling the food right now but not that long ago I had to tackle the alcohol and then the cigarettes .

 

I can now be around alcohol

However, guess what? I can now be around alcohol without it triggering a major craving.

Now, if it ever does happen, I can “nip it in the bud” fairly fast and get on with my life.

The same applies to the cigarettes. I now can be around people who smoke. I have never once jumped across the bar to drink from the beer taps or grabbed cigarettes from a person’s mouth!

So cravings can go and you can live an alcohol craving free life!

 

There are lots of ways to handle alcohol craving

There are many ways to handle cravings for example

Just sitting with the craving, knowing it cannot harm you and will pass in time can be helpful.

Sounds funny but I found moving the sofa can help. Click here for more details

Lucy’s top tips are also very useful.  Click here for details.

 

Meditation can really help with cravings

Many people find meditation helpful. So we’ve created this free 8 minute  audio meditation to help with any alcohol craving you may have. So make your’re sitting comfortably,  your speaker is on and click here 

Enjoy!

 

Irish Drinks meter now available allowing you to compare your drinking to other people

Drinks meter is an online tool for finding out how risky your drinking is. It’s being used in a lot of countries and now the Western Region Drug & Alcohol Task Force have commissioned an Irish version of Drinks meter.

 

Online trackers

We’ve mentioned before a very useful tip of tracking your drinking which helps get your drinking under control. (Click here  for more details and how to get started)

There’s plenty of online apps and websites. We particularly like Drinkcoach as it’s very easy to use. The trouble with this though is it uses English drinking units. These are different from Irish measurements. Ireland uses standard drinks according to WHO organisations rules which are easier to understand.

This is why we’ve never recommended Drinks meter before, because it uses English units. But now there’s an Irish version, it is worth looking at.

 

Drinks meter

Drinks meter has been developed by a well-known addiction psychiatrist Dr Adam Winstock who is worth listening to. Although  based in England he does present at events in Ireland

Drink meter is pretty unique because it allows you to compare your drinking to other people.  Other nice features include

  • It looks at your body weight and height (this influences your risk)
  • It looks at other factors such as family history and ethnicity (these also influence your risk see here )
  • It looks at other medications you may be taking  (see our blog here for more details)
  • It allows you to calculate how much you can reduce your drinking risk by different actions e.g. one drink less each day or not drinking on one day.
  • You don’t have to give an email address to get your results
  • It gives great advice on how to reduce your risk based on your drinking pattern
  • You can save your data using a unique anonymous ID. (Though this feature did not work when I used it- I was using google chrome  on windows 10)

 

Allow 15 minutes to complete

You will need to have your weight and height handy to complete Drinks meter.  It’s also handy if you have the alcohol volume of your favourite tipple handy, though you can use the “average” estimate on Drinks meter.

 

Stick with it

The first screen is irritating as it looks for information to help Drinks meter rather than letting you get straight in. But I’s worth sticking with it as it does give you some valuable information which is personal to your situation.

 

Which one is better?

If you’d like to see how your drinking compares to other people than Drinks meter is better.

If you don’t mind using English drinking units and want an app on your phone then Drinkscoach is better The screens are easier to use and there’s some extra help such as meditation guides to help with cravings for alcohol.

if you’d like to find out more about reducing alcohol harm, you’ll find our free lesson here useful.

5 Key questions to ask when setting your drinking target

Asking yourself  these 5 key questions before setting a target for your drinking can be really  helpful. As we explained in our last  blog post it is  important  to choose an approach that will work for you as one size does not fit all.

Is it better to stop drinking altogether or simply to reduce your drinking?  These questions will help you decide what’s right for you.

 

5  key questions

  1.  If you find once you start drinking, you cannot stop drinking then maybe giving up drink altogether rather then reducing is easier.
  2. If you always go out to get drunk rather then socialise then maybe giving up drinking is easier.
  3. Pressure from friends can influence our drinking. If you go out with friends who drink heavily it may be easier to not drink. Or the opposite, if you go out with friends who drink a little, drinking a little  could be easier.
  4. If you have frequent blackouts, where you can’t remember parts of the night out then not drinking at all may be easier.
  5. Finally, not drinking at all can be easier to do as it needs less planning than  setting a drinking target. so if you hate planning and organising, not drinking at all might be better for you.

Once you’ve answered these questions you may be able to make your decison. If you’re still unsure, there’s other things you can do which can also  help you make the right decision for you.

 

Talk to a friend

Take a look at your advantages and disadvantages of drinking as this can also help you to decide what’s best for you. Find out more  on this here

Consulting a friend or family member who you trust and will listen to you and will not shame or judge you can be helpful. Be a little careful though, often if people have been hurt by our drinking, they can demand more than we can do at this stage.

 

Decide on your target for a week

It can be easier to set a target for a short time rather than saying I’m giving up drink for ever.

If you simply want to take a break from drinking, then setting a goal of not drinking this week at all might be helpful.

If you’ve been drinking every day for the last 10 years, setting a goal of not drinking one day this week might be good for you.

Don’t forget to check whether you have a physical dependence on alcohol before setting  your drinking target. You can find out more about this  here.

 

Believe in yourself

So there is a wide choice of targets and the choice  is yours. What’s really important is that you believe in your ability to reach your target as this will build your confidence in managing your drinking.

In many ways, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you believe you can achieve your target you will and if you believe your target  is not “do able” then you will be more likely to fail.

So if you want to give up drinking entirely, but don’t feel able for this, set a smaller target that you think you can achieve.

As the Chinese say

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

If you’d like to check the low risk drinking guidelines please click here.

Setting a drinking target can help control your drinking

Many people ask should they set a drinking target in order to manage their drinking. So they may not want to give up alcohol totally, but they want to drink less. But with so many people saying we have to give up drink altogether to live a happy life, it can be really confusing.

 

Setting a drinking target can help

If you want to reduce your drinking, setting a target can help. But safety first, before setting a drinking target ask yourself the following three important questions.

 

Physical dependence on alcohol needs medical help

  1. Have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you started?
  2. Have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
  3. Have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

If you‘ve answered “often” to the above 3 questions then you may have a physical dependence on alcohol and may need medical treatment. The medical treatment helps to reduce the side effects of reducing your drinking. These  can be really serious if you have a physical dependence on alcohol. If this applies to you we strongly suggest you  seek medical advice before setting any targets  for your drinking.You can find details of services here. Look for services providing “detox” You can find out more about physical dependence here.

So having made sure you don’t have a physical dependence on alcohol, there are two main approaches.

 

What will work best for you?

There are lots of myths around fixing  alcohol problems   But the key thing is to remember one size does not fit all.

Scientific evidence to determine which types of approaches work best are still being debated. There are two main approaches. The first approach is not drinking at all – often called  sobriety or abstinence. This approach is used in AA.

The second less well known approach is known as harm reduction. Sometimes this is  called moderation. This approach  aims to reduce the amount a person drinks, rather then giving up drinking for ever.

But remember  you are the expert in deciding what will work best for you.

So which approach  will work best for you? In our next blog post, we ‘ll go through some key questions to ask.

 

 

6 top tips to feel happy

We’ve been working with the nice folks in Mental Health Ireland and thought you might find their top tips  to  feel happy useful.

1.Connect

The research shows people with good social relationships tend to be happier. This is n’t about spending time on social media but actually meeting people face to face.

So try to make time every day to chat to people you know- even if it’s just a 15 minute chat with a work colleague away from your work desk.

If you’re finding it difficult to connect to people, because in Ireland it always seems to involve drinking you can find out about alcohol free events here.

 

2.Be Active

You’ don’t have to get all sweaty to be active. A daily walk to the shop instead of taking a car is great. Even better is a relaxing walk in nature- such as the beach or country side. It really does help me to feel happy and more grounded. Exercise is also great for filling the wine shaped bottle hole as Lucy explains here.

You can find lots of help on getting more active here.

 

3.Take notice

Life is so busy, it’s easy to just rush from one thing to another. Actually stopping for a moment and paying attention to our own thoughts, feelings and the world around us can make a big difference.

 

4. Keep Learning

Learning new ‘things’ can boost our self-confidence, self-esteem, build a sense of purpose and help us connect with others.  It does not have to be classroom type learning, even trying out a new cooking recipe helps.

 

5. Give

From small acts of kindness to volunteering, giving can give us a sense of purpose, community and connection to others. Giving can be a simple as saying thanks to the bus driver.

We would add a caution, on giving though.  Sometimes people who are drinking too much or in relationships where the other person is drinking too much can be “co-dependent”.

Co-dependent is a word used to describe people who give too much. So if this is you, giving more will not help you feel better. You can find out more about co-dependency here.

One final tip  from us.

 

6.Drink less

Stay within the low risk drinking limits shown below and you’ll start feeling better. It may take a while, but even moving towards one day a week without alcohol will make a difference.

feel happy

If you would like more information on safer drinking click here.

 

Interested in more stuff  which will help you feel happy?

If you liked these tips, Mental health Ireland run free “mind your mental health” courses nationwide which you might enjoy. Find out more here

 

One very simple action to help manage your drinking

Nearly all of can feel at times we’re stuck in a dark place with too much going on, drinking  a little too much but feeling too low to even think about manage your drinking. We know drinking alcohol helps us to relax but don’t realise too much alcohol, is actually stopping us getting out of that hole or dark place we’re stuck in.

We need to take some kind of action but there’s too much pressure at the moment to think about changing our lifestyles. That glass or two of wine at the end of a long stressful day helps us get through the day. Maybe we just don’t have the energy to take on and plan a major lifestyle change. Anyhow in our society, it’s just so difficult to get away from alcohol is n’t it? So it’s just too much effort to do anything to manage your drinking.

 

Don’t run away

But don’t give up.  There is one simple thing we can do which all the psychological research shows really does help us to take control of our drinking.

All we have to do is to actually record how much we’re actually drinking. So why not try tracking your drinking for just one single week?

 

Track your drinking for a week

Tracking our drinking really does improve our motivation to actually take action on reducing our drinking.  It really helps us to see just how much we are drinking on different days, helping us to see if we are drinking too much. The really nice benefit from this is many people find the very action of  recording their drinking helps them to actually reduce their drinking. They don’t have to do anything else! This can happen even when we don’t set specific targets for our drinking.

 

How to get started

First thing is  keep it really simple.  You can get into very complicated calculations but we recommend using a “standard drinks” approach. So you simply find out the standard drinks for your usual tipple of choice and use that.

To make it easy we‘ve shown the standard drinks for the most popular drinks below.

manage our drinking

 

If you have any trouble knowing your standard drink, you can use this official HSE online calculator here.

 

Start tracking

So now you know your standard drinks, every time you drink, complete  the form  below. Try and fill it out before you have each drink. This helps you to be more aware of what you’re drinking. It takes less than a minute. If you forget to complete it when you’re drinking try and complete the form the next morning.

Use this form below to start tracking your drinking. Each line should be for a separate drink.

manage your drinking

You can download a copy of this form to print here

We’ve completed a form below to show you how.  You can see this person is drinking more than the low risk drinking guidelines of 12 standard drinks for women. (explained here)

manage your drinking

 

You can add other helpful comments such as who you were with or what your mood was like, but to get started we recommend keeping it really simple and not too complicated.

 

You really can manage your drinking

Sometimes if feels like we’re on one of those hamster wheels & have to keep running. Constantly trying to stay on top of things. Finding a drink or two is helping to keep our feet running and not fall off the hamster wheels and get stuck in a really dark place.

So if you feel like this and are finding it really hard to motivate yourself to start managing your  drinking  to a safer level, try this tip.  It takes very little time and effort as you’re simply recording your drinking and not making any major life decisions.

More free  help to manage your drinking is just a click away here.