Leaning on alcohol….

This challenging and anxiety provoking time can lead to a lot of people developing some very self-destructive behaviour. It can become hard to focus on moderation when manging lockdown and all of the struggles that come with it. One of the things that many people are leaning on very heavily right now is alcohol.

But when is it really too much ??

If your reading this then its for a reason – ask yourself the following questions.

Do you find yourself thinking about alcohol a lot?
Do you crave having a drink?
Do you see alcohol as a reward when something has gone well?
Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed?
Do you use alcohol to suppress feelings?
Do you drink when you are upset?
Do you get very down or angry when you drink alcohol?
Do you find that you black out or cant remember things?
Do you spend a lot of your time hungover?
Do you find that your work is suffering due to your alcohol use?
Do you feel lethargic and tired a lot of the time?
Do you find that your day to day life is suffering?
Do you find that you forget things regularly?
Do you feel like things are slipping out of control?
Do you feel as though alcohol is taking over?
Do you find that you cant sleep?
Do you see alcohol as a way of coping with lockdown?
Do you find yourself withdrawing from friends and family?

If your answer is yes to some or most of these questions, then you currently have a negative relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol can become very addictive – and like any addiction, that cycle is very hard to break. Often when people feel low, stressed, overwhelmed etc – they use alcohol to self-medicate. Perhaps that’s what you are doing right now? Using alcohol to numb your feelings – to even block them out. Maybe you now feel dependent on it to survive. And the thought of a night off – well it becomes unmanageable.

I’m sure there is a lot of denial for you at the moment – no one ever wants to admit that something is becoming a problem for them. It is hard to be honest with yourself – or with anyone else. It is easier to try and pretend you have it all under control.

Perhaps you are having a few glasses alone. Perhaps half a bottle has turned into a bottle every night. And before you know it – your opening a second one. Maybe you are drinking at a much faster pace then you ever did before. And your need to keep going is getting stronger. You may be finding it hard to ever stop.

Sometimes alcohol can lead to black outs and forgetting part of the night. People can try to gloss over this. You become well equipped at laughing at yourself. And at justifying yourself. There are reasons – you haven’t slept well or you didn’t eat enough. The list goes on.

There is such dangerous side to this relationship with alcohol – not only can it lead to emotional outbursts – anger, upset, frustration etc. It can be very destructive for relationships. It can also pull you down into a dark place – depression creeps in. You can’t sleep. Your exhausted all the time and may fall asleep in front of the tv. But when you go to bed – you are awake all night. It’s hard to switch off. The alcohol might knock you out for a bit but before you know it your awake and your feeling horrendous.

On top of that it can have a huge impact on your health – your liver first and foremost. But how about your memory too, your cognition, your skin, your weight, your energy levels. You name it – your physical health suffers as much as your mental wellbeing. And before you know it your looking in a mirror seeing a pale version of yourself. A tired version of yourself. A bloated version of yourself. A depressed version of yourself. You feel low, you feel down and you realise you have been neglecting yourself for quite some time.

I often say to my clients – you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb back up again. And this really is true. One day you make wake up and be so upset and realise what have I been doing to myself? One day you may think what has happened to me? One day you may go so far and then realise how out of control things have got. And on that day you make a decision – you make a decision to sober up.

To take real actual care of yourself and to change things. That’s the hardest decision in the world – putting alcohol down. It means facing up to everything around you – it means dealing with all that stresses you out and addressing it. It means facing up to the things that are hard and it won’t be easy. But once you do it – it will be life changing.

Many people will say they will wait until lockdown is over before they make the changes. They will tell themselves that now is not the time to turn things around. They will convince themselves that isolation is too stressful.

However maybe lockdown is the ideal time to start taking real care of yourself. Perhaps it’s the time to really focus on what you need. Working towards a healthier lifestyle – physically and mentally. Emotionally getting on a better path – that’s not easy. Not easy at all. But remaining the same is destroying you – you become a shadow of who you once were.

Use this time – take the steps….

The following is a useful list of how to try and change things.

• Talk to the people closest to you about your feelings
• Ask them to help you as you work towards changes
• Find some useful and positive distraction techniques
• Make time for exercise – in moderation
• Work on a way of de stressing – breathing techniques, mindfulness practice, yoga etc
• Improve your self-care – make time for a walk, a bath, a book
• Keep a journal
• Get to bed at a decent time each night
• Try to wind down before going to bed
• Start seeing a therapist online
• Write a list of all the positives without overusing alcohol
• Set yourself realistic targets – certain nights off, certain amounts etc
• Put away the money you were spending on alcohol each day – for something positive
• Invest in things for you instead of alcohol
• Find other activities to do that don’t involve alcohol
• Do things with your friends / partner / family that don’t involve alcohol
• Realise you are worth so much more
• Learn to love and respect yourself
• Work on the relationship you have with yourself
• Slow down and focus on what’s in front of you