Alcohol is a big part of society - we drink to celebrate successes, to wish congratulations and even commiserations. While in moderation, drinking isn’t considered a serious issue, when it becomes excessive, concerns arise. If an individual is turning to drink as a coping mechanism - as a way to deal with life’s stressors - then it is considered a problem.
Alcohol dependency (also known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction) is the uncontrollable desire for alcohol. Like any other addiction, alcohol dependence is incredibly hard to break. It can harm the mind, body and social life of the individual. It can affect the people around them too, as they watch their loved one fade away.
Problem drinking isn’t always so easy to identify. The individuals themselves may not know when alcohol went from being one part of their social life to controlling their whole life.
But support is available. Through the support of loved ones and professionals, and treatment options such as counselling and hypnotherapy, you can overcome the addiction.
What is alcohol addiction?
Being alcohol dependent means you feel you’re unable to relax or enjoy yourself without a drink, you may feel like you are unable to function at all without drinking; that it has become an important, or the most important, factor in your life. And alcohol dependency doesn’t necessarily equate to extreme drinking all the time. If you are drinking regularly - as a way to unwind, or cope with particularly stressful situations - you are likely to have at least a degree of alcohol dependency.
According to the NHS 2017 Statistics on Alcohol Report, 25.3 million (57%) UK adults reported drinking alcohol in the previous week in 2016. Of the estimated 1.1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2015/16, just under two-thirds were male.
What causes alcohol dependency?
There are a number of factors thought to contribute to an individual developing an alcohol dependency. Alcohol dependence can stem from using drink as a way to cope with stressful events, such as bereavement or redundancy. It may seem like nothing - a normal part of your life - and you may not think it’s a problem at first, but over time, relying on alcohol as a way of emotional support will become second-nature to you. When you immediately turn to drink instead of dealing with the situation, it is a cause for concern.
It may also come down to your environment and past experiences. For example, if your family’s attitude to alcohol is one that is drinking as a coping mechanism, yours may be the same.
Signs of a drinking problem
Like many other drugs, alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive. If you’re worried about your own drinking habits, or someone else’s, there are some signs to look out for.
- Worrying about when your next drink will be and planning social, family and work events around alcohol.
- You no longer feel you have the ability to stop drinking, even if you want to.
- Drinking early in the day, or feeling the need to drink in the morning.
- Feeling the need to drink when under pressure or during stressful situations.
- When you don’t drink, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking and nausea, and these stop when you do drink.
If you recognise any of the above signs in yourself or are worried about a friend, know that there is help available. If you’re worried about your own drinking, but don’t feel comfortable speaking to friends, you can talk to your GP or a professional - like a counsellor. There are also support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where you can seek support from those who know what you’re going through.
If you’re worried about a friend, approaching the subject may be difficult, but letting them know you are concerned and are there if they need you, can help. It’s important you speak to them calmly and without judgement. Express your concern without being accusatory and support them through the journey.
If they’re not ready to talk right now, that’s OK, don’t push them. Addiction can take over a person’s life, and they may feel like they have no control, so support them as much as you can while they work things out.
Hypnotherapy for alcohol addiction
Hypnotherapy is an approach that many people find to be incredibly effective, especially when combined with other forms of treatment.
The thing with addiction is that, often, there are a number of underlying issues that have led to the problem. Whether it be a traumatic event, a past experience or a number of stressors, if you have turned to alcohol or another substance as a way of self-medicating, the issue hasn’t been dealt with. Somewhere deep down, the effects are still there, quietly fuelling your addiction.
Hypnotherapy looks to change the way you think and behave in certain situations. Hypnosis for drinking aims to access your unconscious (the part of your mind that runs without you knowing), and using suggestion techniques, help you change the negative thoughts and behaviours associated with the addiction.
How does hypnotherapy work?
The hypnotherapist will encourage you to enter a state of deep relaxation. It is in this trance-like state that it’s believed that your unconscious is more open to suggestion. Using suggestion techniques, the hypnotherapist will look to change the way you react to certain things. In hypnotherapy for alcohol addiction, for example, the suggestions would be tailored to your triggers, changing the way you react and help you not crave alcohol. Suggestions may include not needing to drink anymore, or associating alcohol with an unpleasant taste or smell.
Some hypnotherapists may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques, to help you continue your work and cope with any potential triggers, long after sessions are over.
Managing your drinking problem
Reducing your alcohol intake has many benefits, not only is it good for you mentally and physically, it can save you money too. Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially if you are in some way alcohol dependent.
While counselling and hypnotherapy can help you understand and overcome any underlying issues, there are some steps you can practise to help yourself.
- Try and reduce the amount you drink in the week, like alcohol-free days or weekend only-drinking.
- Limit your exposure to alcohol. It’s OK to say no to social events if you’re not ready.
- Try alternatives. Consider mocktails or alcohol-free occasions with friends.
- Ask your partner to join you in cutting down. Having support makes it much easier.
- Instead of drinking as a stress relief, go walking or do something you previously enjoyed.
- Talk about how you feel. Instead of keeping your concerns to yourself and drinking as a way of a solution, talk about your worries. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
- Track your progress. Drinkaware has a great online portal where you can track your progress, find support and celebrate achievements.
Addiction can be incredibly isolating. You may feel like you’re stuck with no control, but know that support is available and you can get better.
If you’re not ready to speak to a professional, there are a number of charities and support groups across the UK that may be helpful, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Drinkline, a free confidential helpline (0300 123 1110).
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