5 tips for reducing alcohol addiction
We can create addictive patterns around many things. For some people it can be easy to feel out of control around food, sex, or work. I can admit that I too have felt out of control at times, in particular around food. Often if I feel anxious or a bit depressed, I use food to numb or ignore those feelings. As a teenager, I also found it hard to socialise without drinking. At that time it was a feeling of freedom of being out at the weekend. I grew up in a home where things like food or alcohol were very measured and controlled, so drinking with friends had a rebellious edge to it as well.
I’m sure you’ll agree that some addictions feel less acceptable than others. Drinking wine or a beer with friends is very socially acceptable. However, it can be a different matter when you start to feel it is taking over your life. Today, drugs - in particular cannabis - may be in fact more socially acceptable for some people, than smoking, whilst 20 years ago, things were the opposite way round.
Though socially acceptable to drink alcohol, it might not feel okay acceptable to admit to friends or family that alcohol feels like a problem for you. It can be hard to admit even to ourselves at first that we have a problem. However, if you feel that something is negatively impacting on your life, that may be the sign that a change is needed.
It is my personal hunch that we go for different substances or experiences for different reasons. For example, as I mentioned about my own experience, a cause of emotional eating or food addiction is often anxiety. When it comes to smoking, though superficially perhaps about dealing with stress, smoking can be also be rooted in feeling lower self-esteem or not feeling confident.
Let’s turn our attention to alcohol...
- What do you really, truly want?
- Would you love to slightly reduce your alcohol consumption or in fact completely stop drinking altogether?
- What is holding you back?
- What is the role it plays in your life?
I always recommend creating goals around what you wish to achieve. Let’s get you moving in a positive direction. I would like to present to you five tips to help reduce alcohol addiction:
1. Create some goals around what you would truly love to achieve.
Can you describe how you would like your relationship with alcohol to be? Is your plan to cut out drinking 100%? Is that realistic? Start by identifying how you would like to feel. Maybe you would say that you would like to feel ‘free’ or ‘in control’.
When, in the future, you do feel ‘in control’ around alcohol, how much or when or where would you be drinking alcohol ideally? Don’t skip this stage and don’t ignore the thoughts and feelings that come up when you start to consider this. Often these thoughts holding you back will surface already at this stage.
Write down everything that pops up right now. Write down your realistic goals and ask yourself if you are motivated to reach them.
2. Identify why you misuse alcohol.
What are your reasons for drinking alcohol? To answer this question, perhaps reverse it. Ask yourself, ‘what is the benefit I get from drinking?’. A common response is that it helps to numb the world or gives you some confidence in social situations. Now, again, reverse those reasons. In other words, for those examples, the reasons for drinking are their opposites. If you drink to ‘numb the world’, then the reason is actually to ‘not feel your emotions’. If you want alcohol to give you more confidence, then actually you are drinking in order 'to feel more confident’, and the reason is feelings of low confidence. See what reasons you come up with.
3. Train yourself to separate drinking alcohol from its consequences.
Beating yourself up, berating yourself the next day and feeling shame or self-loathing is a trap that you must try to avoid. It solves nothing and if anything will bring you further down. Forgive yourself and think about why you drank. View this episode of drinking as something to learn from, not something to beat yourself with.
4. Consider lifestyle changes to support your recovery and well-being.
Identify times you drink and consider practical ways which may change your lifestyle or choices so you can live differently and therefore avoid those times alcohol can be a problem. For example, if driving to a party will discourage you to drink, then drive there. If you tend to drink when on your own, consider some activities that you can do, even a couple of nights a week. You will feel happier and avoid being home alone. Try saying ‘no’ to that friend who always wants to go out and get drunk. Discuss with them other ways to socialise and have fun.
5. Look at other areas of your life and well-being.
Are they going well? Is your drinking related to other areas of your life, such as career, family, health or relationships? Alcohol addiction can result from not taking charge of other aspects of life which are in need of some TLC. If you identify some changes, create a plan to change those areas and alcohol may then be used less to self-medicate or avoid feeling low.
Here is a bonus tip...
6. Seek support.
This may be from a therapist, such as a hypnotherapist. However you may also gain from group support too. When you reach out for help, you are not admitting failure, quite the opposite, you are saying you are frustrated and can’t do everything alone. When you were younger you didn’t know how to drive, or when very young to even read or write. Everyone needs a teacher to gain new skills. Gaining support also helps you to realise that you are a normal person and that in fact you will overcome this challenge too.
Alcohol, unlike smoking, is still very much a socially accepted part of life. In fact, doctors still debate as to whether a glass of red wine at night in fact has health benefits. However, sometimes you may feel that that you are drinking more than you wish to. As well as the long term health problems alcohol consumption can create, alcohol can lead to an unproductive next day, with a hangover scuppering your morning plans. Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and decrease judgement, leading to saying or behaving in ways your ordinarily self might not.
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About Jason Demant
Jason Demant is a London Clinical Hypnotherapist specialising in addictions. Jason helps clients gain skills to overcome why alcohol has become a problem, and a create a plan for long lasting success. If you would like a different relationship with alcohol or any addictive pattern get in touch today.