By Corinne Yeadon, Being Better
It is generally assumed that people who access Being Better for alcohol-related issues are physically dependent on alcohol. In reality, 99% of people seen are concerned that their drinking is creeping up and they are unhappy about it, not that they are drinking 24/7.
Changes to working life during the pandemic such as home working, furlough or redundancy have impacted on patterns and frequency/amounts of drinking. Habits can be formed rapidly but equally more helpful habits can be formed if in the right mindset.
An increase in drinking can often be an indicator of something else. Drinking can be a symptom of underlying issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, low self-worth or a dip in confidence. The misguided belief is often that alcohol makes someone feel better, which it may do initially, however, any pre-existing problems tend to be compounded and added to. Lack of sleep can often prompt drinking, believing that it helps, however, any sleep gained following drinking is not a restful sleep and is purely about recovering from the drinking episode. In fact, sleep can often be more fragmented after drinking. Similarly, feelings of low mood and anxiety can be worsened when drinking regularly.
Alcohol use is a socially accepted method of relaxing and unwinding, sending the message that it is a treat or reward. Without realising, situations can be orchestrated that justify alcohol use in the conviction that it is ‘deserved.’
Booze loves a gap or void and an unmet need or a loss / change can lend itself to drinking. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can trigger drinking.
The question is, “What am I hoping to gain or avoid when drinking?” Whatever the desired effect, tolerance to alcohol is built quickly, therefore, amounts will inevitably increase in order to effectively scratch that itch.
Before any purposeful reflection can be done to address the root cause of drinking, the key is to stabilise alcohol use. Alcohol reduction is often easier to achieve by having a break from drinking, even for a short time. There’s no purpose in white-knuckling it and being miserable. The idea is to feel better by implementing positive behaviours to replace drinking. In the early stages, it is about doing things differently.
- Use the money that would be spent on alcohol in a week to treat yourself.
- Join a class or group either online or in person.
- Download apps for mindfulness or meditation.
- Express what you are feeling either by talking or journaling.
- Physical activity, exercise, run, walk, cleaning, gardening or dancing.
- Social contact, keep in touch with supportive people, in person, message, call or social media.
- Occupy your mind by reading, games or puzzles.
- Create something, arts, crafts, cooking or baking.
Feelings of guilt or shame often accompany drinking. Being mindful of what you want as well as what you don’t want can support motivation. Often, any underlying issue prompting drinking is easier to understand and manage when thinking clearer. Alcohol use tends to keep people stuck in challenging emotional states. It is far easier to process difficulties and arrive at solutions when drinking is out of the equation.
Small positive changes to daily routines can make a big difference to emotional wellbeing, view of self and allow for new coping strategies to be formed.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up will work against you, only serving to perpetuate unhealthy or unhelpful behaviours. A desire and readiness to take action for positive change is in itself a powerful boost to self-worth. Focusing on daily achievements will keep that momentum going.