Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol4 September 2018
Bad habits can be hard to stamp out, even when it feels like you’ve extinguished the habitual flame forever, a sudden spark can cause it to spread and before you know it, you feel as though you’re engulfed.
Keeping on top of harmful habits like consuming too much alcohol is never easy, especially when it becomes increasingly problematic for you and the people around you.
But there are ways of maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol, by digging into the reasons why you drink, even if you don’t always necessarily drink to excess…
Take a moment to reflect
If you think about it for a moment, you’ll soon realise that alcohol is practically omnipresent in modern society. From an office fridge stocked for an early friday finish, to a cheeky few glasses of wine mid-week, alcohol has woven its way into the social fabric for many of us.
Social events will normally include a beer or two, new business plans can often get mapped out on the back of a cocktail napkin. It’s also true that many of use like to relax with a little tasty tipple of alcohol after a stressful day, and when it comes to drinks like red wine, there are even some possible health benefits.
But it’s important to stop, think, and remember that alcohol consumption can, for many people, turn into a slippery slope. Excessive drinking can seriously effect our health, relationships, and our working life. It’s easy to see how pervasive alcohol can be, so it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on your personal relationship with it.
Ask yourself – How often do I drink? How much do I drink? What’s causing me to drink? Is it work? Is it nights out? Do I need to start changing things?
How often do you crave a drink?
Many people can often say no to a drink and simply enjoy one on occasion. However, if you spend considerable time wondering when your next drink is coming, this is a sign of bigger problems.
It’s normal to feel your mood improve with regulated and paced drinking with friends etc, but when these good feelings frequently turn into being sick in the street or in the back of a taxi, or you start turning up late to work meetings because of hangovers, it’s time to take a step back.
Tending to a well managed flame can keep it looking more like a decorative candle, something to enjoy, instead of spreading into something that feels more like a devastating forest fire. Sorry to get a bit dramatic, but refusing to change a bad relationship with alcohol can soon get out of control.
Many alcohol-related health risks don’t appear until later in life. Drinking less will reduce your risk of developing serious health issues such as cancer, liver or heart disease and could contribute to lowering your blood pressure. You may not be able to see the effects but you can rest assured that you are making a difference to your long-term health.
Start making changes
If you decide that you need to change your relationship with alcohol, then there are a few options available to you. You can start by enlisting the help of family and friends, attend support groups, or can talk to a therapist or counselor. However, if you think you have a more serious issue with drinking, like an addiction, then it’s always essential to seek professional medical advice.
You may not think that you have a dependency on alcohol but you still wish to start drinking less, if this is the case then start by setting goals for yourself. Remember you’re not alone, the majority of people will decide for themselves that they need to cut down on their alcohol consumption, they same way they decide they need to go on a weight loss diet, or start eating better with a meal prep plan.
It’s always advisable to practice going without a drink for set periods of time, so that you get used to not having a drink every week. You don’t have to quit alcohol forever, consider going without a drink for 30 days. Use this time to re-evaluate when and why you drink, and also to really test if you have a problem giving it up. By doing this you can prove to yourself that you can control your drinking, and you may not want to drink as much afterwards.
Changing habits takes time
Remember, changing unwanted habits like drinking to excess, isn’t a one-step and your done solution. With this kind of thinking, you’ll stave off drinks for a week then open up a bottle of wine to celebrate. Before you know it, your head is thumping and I feel exhausted again, as somehow all that effort and the promises you made to yourself have disappeared with the bottle.
Once you start realising how good you feel when you wake up hangover-free on a Saturday morning, even when you still went out and had a fun night with friends, you’ll start to change those harmful habits.
Be aware of complacency
It’s essential that you don’t get complacent, because this can lead to you dropping your guard and letting the old ways back in. The temptation to be instantly pleased with yourself for achieving something, like not drinking for a month and then rewarding yourself with the exact opposite, is all too inviting.
Eroding bad habits and behaviours isn’t just surface level, you need to change what you’ve been doing over and over again to make it stick.
Can drinking less help with weight loss?
Alcohol has a high calorie content, and if you regularly drink to excess than this can cause you to gain weight. Also, it dehydrates the body resulting in your skin looking dull and deflated. Many people who are looking for great ways to lose weight, such as meal prep and exercise, chose to
moderate their alcohol intake, as this can certainly speed up the process of weight loss.
Starting a healthier relationship with alcohol for weight loss and to improve your appearance, doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking completely. You can still enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol, by trying out lower calorie drink choices, such as wine or beer, or cocktails that are low-sugar. You can drink and achieve weight loss, just keep it within moderate levels.
What are the other benefits of drinking less?
As well as helping with weight loss and improving your overall appearance, moderating your alcohol consumption can give you a boost to your energy levels. If we drink a lot, especially in the evenings, our sleeping patterns can be affected. We end up with more restless nights and frequently feel exhausted during the day. Reducing our alcohol intake will avoid this, and you’ll soon see a positive effect on your energy levels.
Also, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much money we’re spending on alcohol. Try totalling up how much you spend on drinks in an average week, times this by 52, and you’ll realise how much money you could save over time by reducing your alcohol consumption – it may surprise you.
Cutting out alcohol, or cutting back on the amount you drink, will help you to reverse the negative effects alcohol has on your body. It’s never too late to start healing.
Is your problem drinking an addiction?
Cutting back and drinking in moderation can work for most people, however if you meet the diagnostic criteria for problematic drinking, then simply drinking less is easier said than done. Returning to moderate drinking rarely works for true alcoholics, and constant alcohol consumption can damage brain function, making it much more difficult to stop once they’ve started.
For those with an addiction, then of course abstinence from alcohol is the absolute top priority. Luckily there are highly effective treatments programmes available to help, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which is free and endorsed by many former drinkers.
It’s important to improve and maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol in a way that works for you. Whatever form that needs to take, be it drinking moderately, quitting completely, or drinking in a way that’s safer for you and those around you.
Remember, no matter the strategy you want to use, start acting now instead of putting things off and continuing down a problem path. Don’t wait until things get really out of control before you act, you can begin making changes today.
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