Being grateful can make you happier and help manage your drinking

Being grateful can really help when we’re trying to manage our drinking. It can be very easy to get totally negative about trying to reduce our drinking.

“Everybody else can drink normally, why can’t I?

“Why do my friends make it so difficult to not to drink?”

“I have no social life, now that I’m not drinking”

“Why am I finding it so difficult to control my drinking”?

So how to stop getting into the cycle of negativity? Here’s a few tips.


Being grateful that you’re trying to reduce your drinking

I know this sounds crazy, after all in our alcohol obsessed society, this is pretty challenging. But if you’re trying to reduce your drinking, you actually have more awareness of alcohol harm than most Irish people. You’re ahead of the crowd.  The majority of Irish people who drink, are harming themselves according to the Health Research Board.

So be grateful, that you have more awareness of the harm that alcohol does than many Irish people.


Saying thanks

Many people have commentated on the Irish habit of saying thanks when we get off the bus. I always feel more positive when I say thanks to the bus driver with all the other passengers as I get off. Showing appreciation to the bus driver makes me value the fact that the bus got me to my destination. I enjoy this lovely nice Irish habit and it makes me feel happy. So saying thanks and appreciating what you have can make you feel happier.

Focus on what we have

The writer David Steindl-Rast argues in daily life, gratefulness makes us happy. Susan Jeffers states if we focus on what we have, we feel better. If we focus on what we lack our life feels lacking. So if we focus on drinking less as a negative we’re more likely to feel bad. If we concentrate on the fact that we’re great for trying to drink less, we‘re more likely to feel happy.


But I can’t pay my mortgage, there’s no wine and the kids are hungry

It’s really hard to be grateful if you’re in this situation as many Irish families are. I know one family in this situation. They had a really tough time and even lost the ownership of their house. But they kept focusing on the positives – their children were healthy, they had friends they could borrow from. It was tough and stressful. But they remained happy, because they were grateful for what they have.


Try to be grateful for alcohol cravings

Alcohol cravings can be really tough. It’s a major reason why many people don’t control their drinking. So why would you be grateful for them?  Well, try reframing it. See the alcohol cravings as a concrete sign you’re taking really positive action to control your drinking. Then alcohol cravings become a badge of progress. (Note, this assumes you don’t have a physical dependence on alcohol, which needs medical attention. You can find out more here)

You can find more tips on managing cravings  here.


Getting started on being grateful

A useful tip for getting started is before you go to sleep, think of ten things that happened on the day that you are grateful for.  These can be big or little things. Initially you might find it difficult but start really small. Last night my 10 things were

  1. I had a nice chat with my sister
  2. I saw the most  beautiful pink cherry blossom tree in full bloom  as I was stuck in traffic
  3. The building work for a downstairs disability bathroom for my elderly parents is going well
  4. I saw a little child laughing happily with her  Dad on the way to school
  5. I managed to get in a full hour of hydrotherapy
  6. I managed to get enough of the paid work I needed to do, done
  7. My daughter had a good day in work
  8. I met my new neighbour for the first time
  9. The garden bed I’ve not gotten to weed is now actually blooming with lovely yellow flowers!
  10. I managed to stay patient with my Dad when his hearing aids just kept making that horrible high pitched squealing sounds in the car (think nails on a black board )

So why not try thinking of your ten happy things before you go to sleep? It can help you sleep better and really make a difference to daily life.

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 



Is emotional neglect making you drink more?

The term childhood emotional neglect is becoming better known and understood. It refers to a failure by parents to respond to a child’s feelings on a regular basis.


Ciara  is emotionally neglected

Ciara’s  friends gang up on her on in the playground.  She comes home from school feeling sad. Ciara’s parent’s don’t notice her sadness. Neither says,

“Ciara are you OK?” or

“Did something happen at school today?”

They help Ciara with her homework and then bring her to Irish dancing.  They tell her she is a smart kid and great at the dancing. No one seems to notice that anything is wrong. Ciara says nothing about feeling sad.


Emotional neglect is not a once off event

Now if it’s just one time, that Ciara’s parents don’t notice her sadness, it won’t do any damage to her development. But if it keeps happening then Ciara learns that her feelings are not important. She learns not to acknowledge or accept her feelings.


Emotional neglect can be invisible

It’s much easier to see if there is physical neglect or if a child is not getting enough to eat. It’s much harder to see emotional neglect. It’s a failure by parents to do something, so it is much more invisible.

Think about something that happened yesterday. Now try and think of something that did not happen yesterday. It’s a lot harder to do this.


But my childhood was very happy

Angela often finds that clients tell her their childhood was very happy. They had loving parents, who were always there for them, with a nice home and plenty of support. It’s only later on in the counselling process they begin to realise their parents did not help them to deal with their feelings. The support was always for practical things like dinners, homework help and driving. Feelings however were rarely  discussed.

If feelings are rarely discussed, then we believe feelings are not important. Yet all the research shows that being aware and accepting our feelings is a really important part of mental health and happiness.


Parents can only give what they have

This is not to blame parents. If our parents  were not brought up to deal with their feelings then it’s unlikely they can help us  deal with our feelings. So without outside help or self-development the cycle of emotional neglect continues.


We’re more likely to drink too much if we have emotional neglect

The research suggests that women who fail to learn how to handle feelings like anxiety and depression are much more likely to drink too much.  They are also much more likely to get pregnant earlier

In his  Irish Paradox book, Sean Moncrieff thinks the reason we all drink too much is so we can share our feelings and not have them reported back to us the next day. We Irish are funny. we don’t do feelings.


Drinking too much?

If you’re drinking too much and finding it difficult to control your drinking, childhood emotional neglect may be a cause.

A really important point is not too berate yourself for failing to control your drinking. People with childhood emotional neglect tend to be very self-critical. Instead tell yourself you’re trying and that’s a big start.  Every time you drink too much, try and learn from what happened, rather than criticising yourself. As you can see from the wheel of change picture  below, failing is an important part of changing behaviour.

emotional neglect


How do I know if I have childhood emotional neglect?

People with childhood emotional neglect often ask themselves

“I have it all, why don’t I feel happier?”

“I have this empty feeling which only drink takes away”

“I feel like I’m an outsider.”

“What is wrong with me?”

“Why do I struggle so much with controlling my drinking?”


There are 7 key signs of childhood emotional neglect and these are described here.

Dr Jonice Webb has a really good questionnaire on identifying childhood emotional neglect.  Click here for the questionnaire

Does that time of month send you running for wine?

Does that time of month send you running for ….wine?

Ok ladies, that time of month, it’s a touchy subject, but one I feel needs to be addressed. I also promise not to include anything about women on skateboards, playing water polo, climbing mountains with confidence, or mention anything with wings during this blog!

We have enough challenges in life, enough marketing from food, drink, beauty and healthcare products that are thrown at us. But we women also have hormonal changes going on that can weaken our defences and leave us needing a drink now more than ever!


Ovulation will catch you out if you’re not aware

Personally, I always felt that around the time of ovulation was another “hot spot” for me to drink. Many other women also share this complaint with me.  When you look into the biology it’s no wonder. Almost every fortnight we are hit by hormones that change the way we feel. I have women telling me that their periods even alter the strength of their smelling ability. They develop a more sensitive nose to perfumes, cigarettes, traffic fumes and of course…drum role…Alcohol!

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as most of our senses are heightened both  during ovulation and our monthly periods. During ovulation, our skin becomes softer, and apparently we become more attractive to men due to our natural instinct to reproduce.


I was always starving and thought it was for burgers and wine!

But another thing many of us find during ovulation is we are often famished with hunger and thirst.  Scientists believe this is our body looking for nutrients and fluid to have a healthy place to carry our baby.

However in the modern world the fantastic guys in the junk food industry have found this out.  They are more than happy to provide us with the three most essential ingredients that women crave during ovulation… Sugar, fat and salt…mix them together and you can have what I refer to as “magic!”


“I need a burger, doughnuts and a bottle of wine now..!

The problems start when we mistake our body’s natural cycles and time of month and think we are craving junk food. We then start with the usual emotional beating up of ourselves.

“Oh, I can never control my hunger”

“I’m such a pig”

and my personal favourite

“It’s his fault I’m fat.”

So after we binge on just about anything that isn’t nailed down we feel terrible, negative and want to numb out those feelings of guilt and shame with alcohol. Merry-go-round anyone!

Of course, we are only halfway through the month yet and about 14 days after ovulation the alcohol cravings can come hard and fast due to the fact we have or are about to start our period. We may be feeling uncomfortable, often in pain (and sure a small drink for medicinal purposes never hurt anyone!)


More women drink during their period

I have spoken to many many women over the years about this.  I even wrote about it while in rehab, but none of the counsellors came back to me about it.

So when I noticed that I was prone to drinking during my period, I got to wondering if this happens to any other women. The funny thing about the answers I got though were that most women never really thought about it until I asked the question

Where does this leave us, the women who are trying to turn away from all the marketing and advertising so we can eat less junk and drink less alcohol?


So here’s the secret and it works for me every time

I plan what I’m going to do during ovulation. I have the coil fitted now so I haven’t had periods for a few years. Ya, I miss them….like a hole in the head!

But, I still have the symptoms that go with a typical female menstrual cycle. So I PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. I know what’s going to occur during ovulation. So I try to make sure I juice for at least a few days straight beforehand to get the vitamins, minerals and fluids into my body that it’s starting to crave.

Then I just try not to binge too much on junk food if I can. But if I do go crazy I know that it will pass, and it’s just my body and mind playing tricks on me.


Think about what you need

Also just because I choose not to drink it doesn’t mean that occasionally I wouldn’t be partial to having a few vodkas to numb out the low mood that can come around period time. Again I try to ensure I have a good supply of healthy snack foods handy.  I also might take a Sunday in bed just watching movies or reading. Usually around this time I also crave comfort foods so having stews, broths and warm bread handy help a lot.

So think ahead about what you need during your monthly cycle highs and lows and plan how you are going to manage these days.


Editor’s note

If you find your alcohol  cravings are very strong, you might find our course “crave surf” very helpful.

Staying sober by moving the couch


Staying sober by moving the couch ?

Sounds strange I know, I mean come on what’s your couch or any other furniture in your house got to do with staying sober or  drinking too much alcohol?

But I found moving furniture and changing around my home one of the best little secrets to staying sober. Many people say things like

“get a new hobby,

go back to school or

start playing an instrument”

now all these things are fantastic ideas and should definitely be looked into.

The reality is though that if looking after children or caring for an elderly parent we spend a lot of time in our homes.


You do the same thing every day

Where ever you spend a lot of time, you tend to develop regular habits and a routine.

Every morning after you wake up you probably do the same thing every day for at least the first hour. For me the, alarm goes off, I have a flick through Facebook, loo, medication, shower, dressed, teeth, breakfast, coffee, get my son off to school. As I start working from home I hope my husband (who’s a farmer) doesn’t keep coming in and out and annoying me!

Now almost all of this is done, by my subconscious. I just do it out of habit and routine, it probably wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t properly awake, I would still follow the same pattern.


What if you tried backways?

Certain routines are done in the same way.  Even cleaning the house….just take a look at your own routines…say cleaning your kitchen. Do you clear the table, wipe the counters, load the dishwasher then sweep the floor? What do you think would happen if you tried to do it backways? It would probably drive you crazy and you would have to use a lot of energy to keep focused on doing it backways.


Use your knife and fork in opposite hands

I often suggest to people to  try using their knife and fork in the opposite hands for one month to see how hard it is to break a habit  I get lots of texts a few days after they start doing this saying things like

“I keep forgetting to do it!” and

“OMG this is harder than it sounded!”

These types of patterns are also true when it comes to drinking. Very often drinking too much is a habit, so staying sober or reducing your drinking means creating new habits


I always drank at home

I always drank at home.  My routine included my fix of alcohol to get me through the day.  I didn’t drink every day but when I drank….I drank to get drunk. So when it came to getting off the drink I was in trouble.

I began attending a mental health group with trained facilitators.  So I started to learn coping skills from other people and the facilitators about how to alter your thought patterns and change habits. It was suggested I take my drinking problem and “put it away” for a while, it was also recommended that I stop calling myself an alcoholic as I was a person, not a symptom.


I had to relearn habits

So I had to relearn habits, I had developed over the 10 years of my alcohol rehab treatments.   I realised getting up in the morning and getting on my knees to pray did not work for me, despite what I had been told. The Mental Health group suggested that I get up and take control of my own day. To start the day in a positive empowering way by repeating

“today is my day and I’m going to make it a great one”.

This was really hard to believe at first but as time went on it got better and more believable.

They also suggested that I move things around in my home so I would be “forced” to look at things in a different way.


Out went sitting at the table

So out went sitting at the table, looking out  the window with a drink.  I sat on a different soft chair, at the coffee table and a pile of books near the window.   I made sure I was comfortable and had something to read.

I also rearranged my countertops, microwave, kettle and other appliances putting them into different places. So when I went into “subconscious mode” I had no choice but to “reboot my thinking” and to do things differently. This in turn reminded me that I was changing my patterns and developing new habits.



I never got a compulsion to drink while sitting there

I never sat on the soft chair with a book when I was drinking.  So I never got a compulsion to drink while sitting there.  I started to realise that if I did things in a different way it blocked old habits and then dampened compulsions to drink.

I didn’t have to do anything drastic like build an extension on the house, it was very subtle changes. Things like moving our bed around, painting the room and adding nice things.  This changed the “mood” in the room as previously I was often drunk or hungover in the bedroom.

So you know when we say things like

“if I didn’t live here I would be able to stop drinking”.

Don’t move home, try changing your environment first!

If you’d like more help on staying sober, you might find this helpful

Does alcohol free mean low self esteem?

Low self esteem is a chicken and egg issue

Low self-esteem is something of a chicken and egg issue when it comes to drinking. Do we start drinking in order to disguise low self-esteem, or does poor self-esteem gradually emerge over the years that we spend abusing our bodies and minds with alcohol? Most likely, and for most people, the answer lies in a combination of both.

An extraordinarily difficult element of becoming alcohol free for me was the fact that when I embarked on my new sober life, I had a very low self-opinion. I’d never been particularly kind to myself.


I did n’t believe I deserved to be kind to myself

Therefore, when I finally quit drinking, I had zero reserves in confidence and feelings of self-worth. This was problematic, in that I didn’t truly believe I deserved to be this kind to myself. I realised fairly quickly that for me, alcohol had regularly been consumed as a means of self-harming – it was far more than merely a social prop or a method of accelerated mental unwinding.


I believed I was rotten to the core, a bad egg

Sober living was diametrically opposed to this tenacious habit I had developed of hurting myself. Becoming alcohol free equated to self-compassion, prioritising my health, believing that I was worth more than living as a drunken bum who made bad decisions and thought increasingly dark thoughts. But I didn’t immediately buy into the idea that I was worth fighting for, so accustomed was I in believing that I was rotten to the core, a bad egg.


My body was alcohol free and screaming at me

On every occasion when I felt the urge to drink in those first eighteen months, I felt as though my body was screaming at me to fill it with alcohol. Drinking was such a go-to solution to all my problems – and something I felt compelled to do in response to every emotion, good or bad. But, very slowly, it became normal to treat my mind and body with kindness, and I learnt that to do so was a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that the more I demonstrated self-compassion, the better my self-esteem; the better my self-esteem, the more I felt obliged to treat myself with dignity and love.


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase

Martin Luther King once said,

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.

This is so true of the early phase of alcohol free living, when your self-esteem remains on the floor and so to continue the old merry-go-round of self-destruction is the innate response to life – good and bad. To engineer an alternative outcome demands reacting to situations in a new way. It will feel inordinately uncomfortable to feel emotions at first, to just sit with them, fidgety and desperate to escape one’s own skin.


Fake  the self love until you feel it

But, with perseverance and a commitment to not drinking, the metaphorical staircase will appear, and with increased self-esteem it will become easier to turn to different coping strategies when the going gets tough. If at first you don’t feel the (self) love, fake it – remember that things will change over time, and eventually, you will be bursting at the seams with Soberista self-belief.”

Lucy’s four emotional stages of sobriety

I stopped drinking in April 2011, embarking on a journey that began in the early hours of one spring morning and which has taken me on a convoluted and turbulent ride, finally allowing me to climb off into a place that resembles contentment and mental stability. For anyone who has recently ditched alcohol, the following outlines the four emotional stages of sobriety that I went through.


 Stage 1 – the joys of the natural high

As an alcohol-dependent person who had felt terribly out of control of her own life for many years, the first few weeks of living as a non-drinker were a breath of fresh air. The joy of waking up each day and not immediately running through a mental checklist of who I had insulted/let down/hurt the night before was beyond compare.


Stage 2 – boredom and why me?

OK, nothing lasts forever. After a couple of months, I became beset by a black mood and the doubts began to creep in. The little devil on my shoulder grew in his boldness, and whereas the angel had definitely ruled the roost in the early weeks, the voice of addiction became louder and more assertive in this second phase.


Stage 3 – resolute but bitter

Gradually, the devil fell away from my shoulder, but nothing replaced him for a long time. There followed months of falling in a vacuum; I accepted my lot as a non-drinker but I wasn’t happy about it. I badly missed alcohol. This was a very difficult stage.


Stage 4 – understanding me, as a non-drinker

The final stage was worth the wait. Over the last few years I’ve worked through many emotions. After about eighteen months, the negativity grew less; as my self-esteem increased and my appreciation of the world was heightened due to the clarity that comes from not regularly poisoning your body with alcohol, it was as though the bad thoughts were mopped up one by one by my new found positivity and optimistic take on life.

At the end of the first two years of not drinking I felt rejuvenated, strong, and very happy to be a . I hope you will find that place too.


 Editor’s Note

We’re not suggesting that you have to go through each of these stages  or that it will take 2 years before you’ll feel happy. Every body’s journey to managing their drinking and being happy  is unique  and depends on many different factors.