How to Go Sober for October and get your drinking under control
If you are worried about your alcohol intake, the GQ Therapist (that's me) has some tips to help you cut down and why you will definitely feel better for it...
Dear GQ Therapist,
I think my drinking is getting out of hand. How can I get it in check?
As a life coach, one of the most common questions I receive is: "How can I control my drinking?"
In other words, most people do not want to give up drinking entirely, they just want to find some "moderation" with their intake. It is usually because they feel slowly over time that their drinking has gotten "out of control". Or perhaps they feel "depressed" (alcohol has a depressing effect – the alcohol you drink today can make you feel depressed days and weeks later). Or they are realising they are depending on it more than they’d like to be.
Unfortunately, we only start to think about moderation with alcohol once we realise it is getting out of hand. And if you are at that place, then now is the time to start looking a little further at "why" this is happening and then "what" you can do to help yourself.
1. Cut back in a way which works for you.
Consider lowering your limit and/or decreasing the quantity, frequency, duration and intensity of the alcohol you consume. Decide, for example, to choose not to drink on a weeknight or only have a maximum of two drinks when you go out. Or try and only have one really great bottle of wine once a week. Find a realistic, limited amount that works for you and your lifestyle.
2. Only reduce your intake for a limited time frame at first.
Anything in terms of forever is pretty scary, so try saying to yourself you will limit your alcohol intake for one or two weeks only while you are working out the limits you are happy with. That way you have a goal to work towards and something to keep you from falling off the wagon. Also, every day say to yourself "Just for today" – anyone can do anything, just for today. It takes the pressure off and helps immensely.
3. Pay close attention to what thoughts and feelings emerge throughout this period.
Let’s be honest, we all know that alcohol serves to mediate feelings by dulling, numbing, or blocking them out completely. So when you reduce your alcohol consumption, your feelings will come back. This is really important to be aware of so don’t think you are going mad if you feel a little down before you feel start to feel amazing.
4. Don't feel pressured to drink.
If you have to go out for work drinks or celebrations where you know there will be alcohol and you don’t want to drink that night, one of my favourite tricks is to hold a fizzy water with some lime and it always manages to deter others from asking the question: "Why aren’t you drinking?" It is also less likely they will offer you another drink. Remember, you are more aware that you have reduced your consumption but, everyone else isn’t so don’t stress!
5. HALT is one of my favourite expressions.
It stands for "Hungry", "Angry", "Lonely", and "Tired". It helps you keep yourself in check as you reduce your alcohol intake. HALT helps you stop and reset by paying close attention to what you really need. As your feelings will be coming back it is also important to note that if you start to feel sad, anxious, lonely, fearful or stressed out, this is the time you should figure out healthier ways of coping without using alcohol.
6. Think of alcohol like fine food.
A small amount feels amazing, you can get a real buzz from it and not get into any serious trouble. But continuing to drink past that buzz means you are pretty much heading for trouble as you are "assuming" more alcohol equates to more buzz. However, inside you really know, it doesn't. It actually makes you head the other way – not so buzzy just completely fuzzy. And fuzzy never leads to good.
Try these tips out for yourself and see how you go. If you find this really difficult or keep failing at the first hurdle then you may be wondering whether you have a bigger drinking problem than you first thought. If you want to you can always ask for help. And help is at hand. There are many places to go for 1-to-1 or group support and you can always come and chat to me where we can develop a plan together for you that over time will help you fully understand the role that alcohol plays in your life and make decisions together about what changes you can be ready to make. Help is always at hand. Good luck!
If you are struggling with alcohol or any other issues, you can contact me for a 1:1 session in my office, on the phone or via Skype. Alternatively, if you want to feel better but do your self-development online, you can head on over to my school The Life Class and take the Foundation Course.