Many people decide to do a detox in January and often they plan to cut out alcohol to give their liver a break. They make great plans when February hits to drink less, however once back in the routine of drinking the old habits of drinking more than you plan to can creep in.
But is the niggling worry in the back of your mind that you’re drinking too much getting ever-more insistent?
Alternatively, perhaps you have a general concern that your tolerance to alcohol may creep up even further after the Christmas period because your tolerance to alcohol has increased, so planning to cut back or cut out alcohol for a period of time can be challenging.
“There’s definitely more pressure on people to drink at Christmas time, so it is no surprise that they want to be healthier in the New Year,” says Georgia Foster, world renowned specialist in alcohol control, who has just created an online 21-Day Programme, to help people reduce their alcohol consumption.
“Generally, January is a peak time for people coming to me concerned because for some people they just can’t seem to cut back on their drinking.
“They’re normally aged between 30 plus and 60 plus, come from all walks of life, have perfectly normal, successful lives life, and certainly aren’t alcoholics and don’t want to abstain. What they have in common is that they feel they need more boundaries for their drinking.
“Many will be drinking daily and their doctors may have told them ‘just cut back a little bit’, but for most people that’s a bit meaningless because if it was that easy they would have done it.”
Recognise why you drink
Georgia believes, however, that instead of focusing on units and drinking, it’s our thinking that needs to change, and that it’s essential to recognise why and when we drink, so that our patterns can be changed.
“A typical client will say to me: ‘I wake up in the morning with a bit of a hangover knowing the day ahead of me is going to be challenging.”’
Then, I get angry with myself for not having more self control. I promise myself that I won’t drink that night and yet by 6pm I am already on my second glass of wine and I know I will finish the bottle and maybe another glass after that’”
Drinking can be an emotional habit
She believes that for many people drinking is an emotional habit, the reasons for which vary with each individual but generally alcohol can variously be viewed as a ‘reward’ at the end of a day, a fast way to de-stress, an antidote to inhibition and low social confidence, or even, wrongly, used as a ‘nightcap’ to aid sleep.
While Foster recognizes the necessity for guidelines the units measurements that is suggested by the government can cause more stress in particular if you feel the units measurement seems a difficult task! Foster believes that when people breach the units limit – much more likely at holiday times – their feeling of failure further undermines their efforts to curb their drinking levels.
“Those unit figures aren’t based on medical fact but are a calculated guessing game,” she claims.
“Doctors are aware that when people are asked how many units they drink, on average many probably drink up to three times more than they admit.
“And the unit average recommended can seem low to people at times like Christmas, New Year and special celebrations – two bottles of wine a week for a woman and three for a man if you drink more than that may seem a mountain too big to climb.” she says.
Instead, she believes people need to key into the part of the brain that helps maintain harmony, balance, and a positive approach to life so they are more able to be responsible drinkers. “The 21 day Drink Less Mind programme trains the individual to learn new coping strategies so they can drink to enjoy rather than gulping the first glass down for emotional purposes,” says Foster.
Reduce your alcohol intake by 50% over 21 days
”The aim of my new online programme is for people to reduce their alcohol intake by around 50% over the course of the 21 days, and then as they feel more confident and more in control of their drinking they can then start to focus on further reduction, based on the unit intake guidelines,” she says.
“Awareness and persistence can result in alcohol being relegated to its proper place – enjoyed as a pleasurable experience, at quantities which don’t exceed healthy levels, and consumed when we are in control, rather than at risk of losing it.” Check out your drinking type – some people may have a combination of characteristics – and Foster’s tips to make your drinking more mindful.
THE INNER CRITIC: “The first and most powerful personality is the inner critic,” says Foster
“This inner voice says things like ‘everybody else drinks less than you – what is your problem? You have no self control. You always say you’re going to cut back and yet you never do. You’re a failure!’”
The Inner Critic judges you on everything and can literally drive you to drink, she explains.
“This type of drinker will use alcohol to drown out down this negative voice. They will justify the amount they drink because they believe alcohol allows them to relax, have fun and feel better about life.
“Drinking, for them, can be the easiest way to escape their inner insecurity.”
WHAT CAN I DO?: Negative thinking is a state of mind, not the truth. Every time you hear the ‘inner critic’ breathe out and then repeat to yourself ‘It is safe to drink less alcohol, irrespective of my past.’
Try to disregard your imagined premonitions of bad outcomes, and remind yourself there’s no evidence for them and they’re only triggered by your anxiety and fears, heightened by alcohol, and they may prove groundless. A lot of people drink alcohol when they are actually thirsty. Before you start drinking, drink one large glass of water to quench your thirst and try to alternate a glass of water with a glass of alcohol.
THE PERFECTIONIST: If you are this type you’ll probably have no problem having alcohol free days, says Foster.
“These personalities are good at being healthy, watching their weight and keeping fit. However, when Perfectionists drink, they can drink to excess,” she points out. “They have the ‘all or nothing’ syndrome. They get incredibly frustrated and angry at themselves because they just can’t have a few drinks and leave it at that. It’s as though the alarm bell doesn’t ring when they’ve had enough. They are classified as the typical binge drinker.”
WHAT CAN I DO?: Ask yourself whether you need to be perfect, especially as a state of perfection in all things is almost always unattainable. Try to encourage yourself to feel more relaxed about life, and await outcomes rather than trying to drive everything to a result. Find relaxing activities that you can enjoy without alcohol. Each time you have a glass of alcohol in your hand put the glass down between sips. If you are standing, swap hands so you are holding the glass in the less comfortable hand.
THE PLEASER PERSONALITY: “This type is a people pleaser and they have an inability to say the word ‘no’,” says Foster. “They feel guilty and run around looking after everybody else, and hate letting people down, which stems from a secret fear of rejection and a driving need to be liked and needed. “Unfortunately, that can extend to being unable to say ‘no’ when it comes to drinking during socialising, and even though they usually know they are exceeding their limit they will continue to drink to fit in with other people’s drinking levels often to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. “Pleasers drink pretty much every day and have difficulty having any alcohol-free days. They can be classified as the classic regular heavy drinker.”
WHAT CAN I DO?: Practice in your mind saying ‘no’ to people in certain situations. Remind yourself that others refuse and are still accepted so why shouldn’t you be. Decide before you go out how much you are going to drink so that you can have an idea how to pace yourself. Avoid heavy drinking friends who try to coerce you into drinking, or be ready with suitable excuses such as illness, taking antibiotics so you can justify less intake. Be aware they may be making themselves feel more comfortable about their own excessive drinking by forcing others join them. Bear in mind that drinking on an empty stomach will make you drunk faster, try to eat something before you drink to soak up the alcohol.
THE INNER CHILD: “This type often feels misunderstood, and drinks to have fun, to play, to be spontaneous, sexual or sensual,” says Foster “They believe the inner creative side of them cannot be expressed unless alcohol is involved, and they have a desire to live in the now and push aside deep-seated worries about the past and the future. “Drinking for them can sometimes unleash unbridled emotions of tears, tantrums and their underlying feeling that the world has treated them unfairly.” If we feel unsafe and vulnerable emotionally our body produces stress chemicals, and the mind will look for ways to calm down. “If this type regularly uses alcohol to subdue those feelings then over time the mind will start to automatically turn to thoughts of alcohol at any time of stress,” she says.
WHAT CAN I DO?: Start to find ways to have fun without alcohol. Look for spontaneous ways to show affection, investigate ways to improve communication skills, and boosting your self-esteem and confidence. Try to talk through your issues with someone independent like a GP or counselor if they are severe.
WHAT SORT OF A DRINKER ARE YOU? To find out what sort of drinker you are, visit http://www.drinklessmind.com – sign up for the Free Day 1 and complete the complimentary online survey Georgia Fosters 21 day online self help course costs £129 and is available at http://www.drinklessmind.com