Struggling With Alcohol? This One’s For You…

Right, kick off your shoes,  wrap around a warm mug of your favorite beverage and get comfy. We’re really going to share our hearts today and face a problem that many of us experience.

From age 15-27 I was a heavy binge drinker. It started (like too many British children) with a bottle of White Lightning cider and a park bench.  It was my go-to for celebrations, stress and…just about any other excuse I could find.  If I wasn’t at work, I was drinking.  That’s quite sad really, to see in print.  Alcohol can whip your young adulthood from under your feet in one giant blur.

Anyway, since having children I’ve toned down significantly. Had to.  But I also think its a natural progression, a part of maturity that you happily exchange wild and regrettable drunken nights for sticky juvenile fingers and duvet movie nights instead.  That’s not to say that children never drive you to drink….!  I’ve also been on periods of abstinences, one last year (3 months) and one in 2013 (7 months).  Yet I know the pull of alcohol, and am suitably wary of it.  These days I usually drink around 1-2 bottles of wine a week, sometimes more, often less, dependent on what’s going on in our world.

Like me, you may have loved-ones around you echoing “You have NOT got a drink issue!” But sometimes that’s said to deflect their own unhealthy drinking habits, or because boozing- especially in the UK- is a full blown epidemic, and if you’re managing your appearance to the outside world then you’re assumed good- to- go.

Hot Mess: My Hen Night 2007

Bit of a mess: My hen night 2007

My late Dad (golly that’s the first time I’ve written late) was a drinker.  In his circles, it was very normal to drink everyday.  And so he did, his entire adult life.  In recent years, I  used to silently tsk at his drinking, especially when his health rapidly declined.  But now I see I misjudged it.  He was always a very civilized, highly functional drinker, he never missed a day off work, nor did I see him-ever-curled up in bed lamenting a hangover in the morning.  But most importantly, he derived immeasurable joy from his Chardonnay, and he seemingly had a high tolerance to its effects.  So who was I to determine his version of how to live?  It was his ” great pleasure,” as he used to say in his latter years.

Now I can see the wisdom. He was following his joy, just like we chatted about last week.  It’s not my take on the how-to-of- happiness, but it was a part of his.  I was trying to plant my expectations onto him, and that wasn’t fair.  His life had its own purpose, as does mine, and the ingredients that make up our particular lifestyles are thus going to be different.

(Sorry Daddy for not seeing this while you were here).

Health implications aside, it’s not the amount of alcohol you consume, its your feelings about your drinking that count.  For instance, you may be a bit of a lightweight like me now; three-ish glasses of wine and you’re chatting incessantly to your pal and giddily yet contentedly bumping from loo to wall to basin in the bathroom.  Yet you wake up feeling disappointed in yourself for not exerting more self control and bummed you now carry around this heavy, depressive mood for the rest of the next day.

You feel trapped and frustrated with your drinking patterns but perhaps reticent to share your feelings for fear of being either whisked off to AA or laughed at for being a hypochondriac.

Listen to You, to your inner wisdom. The life you feel called to may require a more frugal approach to drinking, or, it may have more space for moderate drinking. I think our feelings are our guiding source to ascertain where our individual lines are.

I’ve read numerous books on drinking, even documenting my highs and lows in my own book which I decided was not for publication, mostly because its not a finished story yet.   But I’d like to try and help you or someone you think may benefit, if I may, and offer you some of the best sources of help I’ve come across personally.

If you feel as if alcohol is a problem in your life…

1) First off, I want you to know what you are not:-

You are not weak-willed: It’s a powerful drug, don’t be blindsided by its legality.

” The government won’t stop the advertising either as its big business for them.   Our own government (UK) earns billions of pounds a year in revenue from a drug which is known to kill around 9,000 people every year and destroys thousands of lives at the same time.” (Page 199/200, Jason Vale ‘Kick the Drink Easily.’)

You are not a bad parent (even thinking this shows your level of consciousness).

You are not alone in this struggle.  According to the Washington Post, a third of Americans have drink problems at some point and-hold onto your hats-as the British newspaper, The Express reported:-

” MORE than half of British women and around two thirds of men have a drink problem, a study has revealed.”

Soberistas, created by Lucy Rocca, is a haven for you if you want to tone down or quit alcohol. And the personal stories there will really reinforce the said nots above.  Its a social forum for despondent drinkers who want to make a change, and it was my friend when I felt all the above to be true.

2) Find other non-drinking activities. Place you awareness on things that bring you joy-besides booze. If you’re susceptible to drinking on a Saturday evening, then arrange with a friend to walk your dogs on a Sunday morning, or attend yoga class together. Put something in place to aggravate a hangover’s plans.

3)  Be fully conscious while you drink: Pick a favorite glass, sit down and-with full awareness- drink your glass of alcohol.  Make is ritualistic, if you like.  As is the advice for those who binge eat, this practice invites presence into your consumption which in turn helps prevent over indulgence.

3) ‘I can resist everything but temptation.’ Don’t keep a shiny bottle of Pinot in the fridge. When I make a decision to clean bodily house and detox for a bit, I clunk every bottle out of sight.  I also glug down the sink any tid-bits of leftover booze.  All it takes is one tiresome day…

4) The company you keep is vital. A true friend won’t care if you drink or not.  A decision to abstain or moderate alcohol for a while or decline drink-centered events will really sift through who loves you for you.

5) Abstain from drinking for a month or more: Hello Sunday Morning is a great resource to lean on during your alcohol free time. Here you get to virtually journal and photograph your highs and lows and be inspired by a community largely celebrating their insights during their booze-break.  Alcohol freedom can be challenging, of course, but once you’re in the groove its thrilling too, and this website captures the essence of this jubilant mood perfectly.

Abstaining gives you so many gifts! We get a long period of clear-headedness without being interrupted by the life-stopping revolts of alcohol, the opportunity to embrace new people, new activities, improved health, confidence, vitality, inspiration…I could go on:-)  Looks wise I found my cellulite dissipating, my body slimming, plus my skin and eyes brightening.

Then, after your period of abstinence, you return to alcohol (if you even decide to) with a full life outside of the old go-to social drinking thing.  You’ll probably find too that your palette has altered; no more will you chug any alcohol- laced concoction in the name of getting piddled. Your taste will be more discerning, more sensitive.  Alcohol becomes a side part of your life, but beware; alcohol can sidle back in so regular alcohol free periods are mega helpful to reintroduce that balance.

6) Buzz Wiser: Rev up during abstinences or alcohol tone-down times other parts of life that you love; coffee with friends, favorite movies, massages, do a home-improvement project, get into cooking/baking,  find new loves and hobbies perhaps.  Make it like a retreat because in fact you are retreating-from alcohol.  This way you’ll associate booze free days with positivity and opportunity.

Buzzing with health and finding new healthy loves; during my 2013 abstinence

Buzzing with health and happiness and finding new passions during my 2015 abstinence

7) Inward time: Whenever I do an abstinence I amp up the reflective time. I do angel card readings,  pray,  meditate more, go to yoga class, exercise pretty much daily.  You’ll have more energy to find the time sans booze.  Connecting to your faith (if you have one) or simply fostering your own relationship with yourself can give you enormous strength and perseverance during times of craving especially.

Whether you choose to abstain or tone down, I heartily congratulate your bravery in taking a stand for you. Reading this article alone tells me you’re a standout soul in a world full of undeterred boozers.

I’m here if you want to offload anything.  You can do it privately or publically.  I’m not the authority by any measure on this subject, nor have I managed to abstain completely.  I still drink, and get piddled.  But I think I have a good balance now.  And that’s enough for me, at least for now.

And please, let me know what you think of this article. I’m kind of getting honest and raw here and it is not the easiest thing for me to do. I was raised to always put a bright and breezy face on, and this is nor my brightest or breeziest experience.  But my heart tells me I need to share my wounds with you, and if my wounds help you, I’d say its well worth it.  So please share with anyone you think it may resonate with; sharing’s caring:-)

Is Bright Side getting gritty- or grittier?! Perhaps.  You decide:-)

Namaste, Bright One!