Put simply, the ‘easy’ answer to the title question might be – that’s your choice -in most cases!
Within our increasingly ‘Sober-Curious‘ society many people are now considering taking a temporary or longer break from the booze.
An increasingly popular consideration for many is; perhaps I should actually look towards giving alcohol a miss all together. But desires often result in short-term change, rather than long-term abstinence, because some people aren’t always as successful as perhaps they set out to be.
If you want to change your drinking habits one of the first things you really need to try and understand is; Why do I drink and if I want to stop, why am I making that choice and what can I do instead?
Why do I drink?
If you have read this far, it would be reasonable to assume that you are thinking about making some changes to your current drinking habits. With luck, you haven’t yet descended into that harmful place of misusing alcohol or alcohol dependency, and unless you are the ‘auto-pilot’ type of drinker, you will usually have a reason why you drink. That said, the ‘validity’ of your reason is mostly subjective but also, is often a sub-consciously made choice which you accept as OK, whatever the end results might be… And that is, Your Choice!
But are the choices you are making healthy ones, for you and/or those around you? Are you always happy with the choice you made?
We live in a society that has alcohol consumption ingrained within its framework, alcohol is everywhere you go. It has a connection to almost everything we do.
If you’ve had a good day, you might cap it off with a nice ‘rewarding’ drink. It might have been a ‘bad’ day? You might ‘need’ a beer to get over it. Perhaps you’ve just won that massive contract for your business; you’ve got to have a couple to celebrate with your team (or alone), haven’t you? It’s what everybody does…isn’t it? Birthday? Have a drink. Work social? Time for a team-bonding party. Evening in? Night out? Bored? Awkward? Tired? Need to relax? Need to escape reality? It’s highly likely that drink is going to feature somewhere amongst this lot.
Honest facts about alcohol can help you make better choices about your drinking. We work with our independent panel of medical experts to bring you reliable information and advice about alcohol. (Read more at Drinkaware)
But if your drinking is not as a ‘rewarding’ treat, why do you drink? As Alcohol Change cover in one of their blog posts – Why do I drink? – “We all have our reasons but most of us don’t take the time to actually work out what role alcohol plays in our life.” Have a look at this list of optional ‘reasons’ and see which ones might apply to you:
- To relax
- To give me confidence
- Because I like the taste
- To celebrate
- Because I’m angry
- Because my partner is drinking
- It’s just habit
- To relieve boredom
- For company
- To feel better
- To help me sleep
- To relieve stress
- It’s expected of me
- To block out worries
- Because I’m upset
- It makes me feel sociable
- Because I have a craving
- Any other reason you can think of…
Once you’ve arrived at your own list of options/reasons; is there anything else you could do, instead of drinking alcohol, to get similar effects/outcomes that you have given as the ‘reason’ for your drinking?
Now, perhaps more than ever before, there are countless sources of available self-help and professional interventions, or treatments (were applicable), to support those facing ill-health, financial problems or the impacts of a run-in with the criminal justice system, thanks to their problematic alcohol misuse issues. However, considering what may count as ‘problematic’ (for you) and whether or not you have a problem is a difficult conundrum to examine (honestly) for many… Are You Drinking Too Much?
I don’t personally agree with the following assumption however; Alcoholics Anonymous say; “once a person has crossed the invisible line from heavy drinking to compulsive ‘alcoholic’ (their term, not mine) drinking, they will always remain alcoholic” (read more here).
AA go on to suggest that ‘moderate’ drinking is impossible (something I believe to be incorrect) and that it’s also impossible to return to “normal” social drinking – “Once an alcoholic – always an alcoholic” – something that may be true but only for some (IMO). But is that a “simple fact” you must “live with” for the rest of your life? I’ve seen many individuals who would evidence an opposite assumption. This is not necessarily always so.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to resign yourself to that stigma inducing proclamation “I’m an alcoholic” and rush off to find your nearest AA meeting (unless you want to). Whatever stage you find yourself in the spectrum of alcohol use disorders (AUD), there are many other methods that support the changes you want to make (e.g. SMART) and arguably, appear to be far more effective, for many people.
Try Dry is an inspirational guide to cutting back on alcohol for anybody wanting to discover the financial, health and lifestyle benefits of trying dry for a month. The book will take you through from planning for your month, to the day to day, to the physical effects, to what comes next. If you’ve got a question about trying dry, this book will have the answer.
Have you ever decided to quit alcohol for a month and then found yourself bang at it again, before the end of your first week off the booze? Do you think that unlike previously, you’re just going to give-up on this annual New Year’s Resolution tosh… you always fail anyway? Welcome to the clan of millions of people, the 64% of Brits want to drink less but, for many reasons, always fail.
In The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, Catherine Gray shines a light on how society’s drink-pushing core has so much impact, for so many. Gray looks at the neuroscience and talks to psychologists about why we drink.
By delving into the science behind what it does to our brains and bodies, Gray sheds some light on why so many of us are “stuck in a hellish whirligig of drink” making horrible decisions, hangover after hangover and then repeat. She had her fair share of ‘drunk tank’ jail cells and topless-in-a-hot-tub misadventures.
The book looks beyond the binges and blackouts to deep-dive into uncharted territory: What happens after you quit drinking? The Amazon UK review says; “This gripping, heart-breaking and witty book takes us down the rabbit-hole of an alternative reality. A life with zero hangovers, through sober weddings, sex, Christmases and breakups.”
Disclaimer & Conflicts of interest
As ever, if you have any concerns about your health (or believe you might have a medical issue connected to excessive drinking); please seek the appropriate advice from your GP, the NHS, or a clinical professional within your local addictions service. Details of these services can usually be found in the website of your local authority, or via the NHS Service Search facility.
Note: I have no business connection to any of the resources provided above, with the exception of UK SMART Recovery Ltd, my employer. I work as a National Coordinator for SMART Recovery in the United Kingdom and sit on the Global Training Committee of Smart Recovery International.