June 12th, 2023
Have you ever woken up after a hangover and affirmed, “I’m never drinking again?”. Well, you are not alone. We have all been there at some point. Perhaps you’ve felt like your brain is full of fog, so you can’t think clearly, your muscles felt so weak you couldn’t get up, or the scent of alcohol on your clothes made your stomach churn. The physical aspects of a hangover are painful enough, but the emotional and psychological consequences are just as uncomfortable and arguably much worse. Research has shown that 12% of people experience anxiety after drinking; in some cases, anxiety can be severe. Alcohol affects the brain by providing a surge of endorphins, but the hangover sees a dramatic depletion of endorphins; combined with dehydration and a lack of nutrients, the mind naturally feels exhausted. So, if you’re feeling low or anxious after drinking, you may be unable to pick yourself up the way you would if you were sober, thereby feeling susceptible to depressive thoughts and feelings. If you want to reduce or stop drinking, this page will shed some light on what drives us to drink, the obstacles we may face when trying to quit, and how to overcome them.
What makes us want to stop drinking?
Reducing alcohol intake or not drinking entirely can be a challenge in our society. For some of us, we may justify the hangover as the price we pay for a good time. But, what about the times when we regret having extra drinks when we realise we spent far too much money, broke our health kick, or drank when we weren’t feeling emotionally secure and woke up with embarrassment or regret. These occasions give us the impetus to want to harness control over our drinking habits, whether it be to stop drinking entirely or drink in moderation.
Why is it hard to stop drinking?
There is a multitude of reasons why people feel compelled to drink, let’s have a look at some of the most common incentives for drinking and why these can sometimes be difficult to avoid. A recent survey shows that British people are more likely to get drunk than any other culture in the world. Arguably, drinking is a significant aspect of our society; we enjoy pub culture, and many celebrations such as weddings, football games, and birthdays are centred on drinking. Therefore, many of us, from a young age, associate drinking with having fun. But is this the case? Although drinking may help us to relax and release our inhibitions, on the flip side, drinking can hinder our physical and emotional well-being, drain our bank accounts, and distract us from other forms of enjoyment.
Every adult understands the symptoms of stress, whether it be from our personal or professional lives. Stress can make us irritable, emotional, physically sick, and exhausted. But unfortunately, many of us haven’t learned healthy and practical coping mechanisms for handling life’s stressors. One thing is clear, though, people associate drinking with stress relief.
Perhaps you or someone close to you only feels social when they have a drink. This may be due to insecurity in their physical appearance or their perceived lack of inner self-worth. As a result, they may feel like they’re not interesting without a drink or need a drink to calm their nerves when socialising.
The concept of peer pressure isn’t just limited to teenagers, and social conformity is part of human nature; we want to feel part of the crowd. However, if you’re being pressured to drink or drink more than you feel like, this can rob you of your power, thus resulting in you being intoxicated and possibly, unhappy. You know yourself better than anyone; it’s important to check in with your emotional and mental state before drinking, and if you feel like you would be happier meeting friends and having a non-alcoholic beverage then stay resolute in your power.
As adults, we tend to associate “fun” with drinking. If we work five days a week, the idea of having fun tends to mean alcohol intake. When the weekend comes, you may not know what to do with yourself, and drinking may seem like the only option.
Regulating unpleasant emotions
We all experience negative emotions now and then, and perhaps we may have been through a troubling time. Many of us are conditioned to think of alcohol as a pain reliever, and when we feel drunk, we may feel less upset or bothered about things than if we are sober. However, this isn’t always the case; sometimes, alcohol can exacerbate our current mood, so if we’re feeling irritable, we may be prone to pick arguments with others.
If we start to rely on alcohol to regulate our emotions and numb any feelings, we may get caught up in a vicious cycle where our body builds a tolerance to alcohol, and thus, we become dependent on it to live. This is how addiction starts, and often many alcoholics are in denial about their dependency. Alcohol addiction usually has underlying mental health triggers, so if you think you are addicted to drinking, it is a good idea to seek out alcoholism treatment.
Solutions to stop drinking
We’ve established the common catalysts for drinking, and perhaps you relate to some of them. Now let’s look at alternative means of handling each problem. Look at the table below and see if you can pinpoint the motivation behind your drinking and what other means of coping mechanisms you can deploy.
|Problems that cause drinking
||Try doing some light exercise, listen to a mindfulness audio, get a massage, spend time in nature, participate in a hobby that makes you feel calm such as fishing or drawing.
||Take care to eat well and sleep well. Write down your strengths, your goals, learn a new skill to build confidence. Seek out come counselling therapy to help you understand why you may be feeling low in confidence and how to practice positive self-talk- to improve your self-esteem.
||Fun is whatever you want it to be, as long as it makes you feel good, it could be watching a comedy with a friend, playing a video game, listening to music, enjoying coffee in good company etc. If you don’t feel like drinking, you don’t need to. You are still having fun (and are more likely to have more fun than if you were pressured into drinking when you’re not feeling up to it).
||Write a list of things that interest you or things you want to try. For example, you may want to learn how to play a new sport, or learn a new skill such as a musical instrument or do some DIY- it’s ok to start something new. Set yourself a goal and welcome a beginner’s mind- you don’t know where it could lead!
||Consider reaching out to a loved one and get some therapy. When we keep emotions inside us, they only come out in more destructive ways over time. Practice releasing feelings in order to heal.
We understand that this is a generalisation, and there is never a simple cure. However, we recommend trying it once and seeing what happens. For example, you may decide to try something different this weekend or do something entirely out of your comfort zone that doesn’t involve drinking. Notice the effect it has on your mind and body, observe what you have learned, and take it from there. It may not mean you stop drinking for good, but it can inspire you to cut down on drinking and maybe spend some weekends of a month not drinking. This will have many benefits for your physical and mental health.
Benefits of stopping drinking
Better mental health
Reduced cancer risk
Stronger memory & clarity of thinking
Better sex drive
Save more money
Stay connected to your “why”
Many conventional benefits come with drinking less such as better health, increased focus, enhanced physical appearance, spending less money, and using the time to nurture other hobbies and passions. But we all have unique reasons why we feel it’s best to stop or reduce our alcohol intake; sometimes, the intentions can be very private. We recommend compiling a list of reasons why you want to reduce or stop drinking for good. Of course, this will look different for everyone, but reaffirming our purposes for ceasing drinking can help us to stay on track with our goals. For example, you may want to improve your cardiovascular health, lose weight or create a sharper mental focus at work, or perhaps you want to work on your relationships. Whatever the reason, understanding and staying connected to your personal motivations can help keep you on track.
Furthermore, we advise you to reward yourself with your progress. Perhaps each week without alcohol can be celebrated by treating yourself to something you enjoy.
The most important thing to remember is how reducing or quitting alcohol can serve your life for the better once you have found your “why”, you can use it to propel you onto the track to an all-around healthier way of life.
What should I do if I cannot stop drinking?
If you have tried to stop drinking on your own and found this task near impossible, you are not alone. There are over 600,000 dependent drinkers in the UK, with 82% of these individuals not accessing the treatment they need to address it. While, for some, quitting drinking can be as simple as taking some time away from bars or engaging in sober activities, for others, this can prove far more challenging.
Alcohol addiction is an affliction that any of us can fall victim to, and one of the bravest things those suffering can do is admit they need professional support to confront it. By first undergoing alcohol detox, followed by an intensive treatment programme at an alcohol rehab centre, you will be given all the tools you need to start a new life, free from alcohol.