I wanted to stop drinking because I seemed to have lost the ability to moderate. And spending most of your time hung over is no way to live your life.
I thought not-drinking would be just that, my life the same but without booze. And possibly more dull, because – well, the clue is in the word, surely? Sober.
What I didn’t expect was my life would suddenly open up into full colour. Drinking regularly had sneakily shrunk my life into a dull colourless box, bit by bit, when I wasn’t looking.
That was awesome. As was the relief of having my energy back again, my joi de vivre, my skin improving, being there for my family, not spending a small fortune at Dan Murphy's, not worrying about having enough wine in the house, mornings without a headache and a furry mouth and not drinking a million excess calories every night.
But what I didn’t expect were the little things, which are actually quite big...
I badly wanted to turn back the clock. Not for because I wanted to look younger, or be able to “do over” some of my more memorable stuff-ups, but because I wanted to get back my “take it or leave it” attitude to wine.
I just wanted to drink like I did in my 20s. Back then, I didn’t even think about it, I didn’t count units, I didn’t care if I drank or not … why couldn’t it be like that again?
It seemed so unfair that back then I didn’t care if I moderated or not. Now I was a wife and mother and responsible adult and I wanted to rein in my drinking … I just couldn’t.
We’ve all heard of habituation and tolerance, but I didn’t realise until I really started looking into it that drinking regularly actually physically changes your brain. Physically. Like, that lumpy grey stuff in...
There’s some fascinating research from the late 90s, called The Radish Experiment (I know, great name!), that posits that willpower is a finite resource. And the more decisions we have to make during the day, the less willpower we have left at the end.
Basically, if you REALLY want chocolate biccies and are surrounded by chocolate biccies, but have been told that you can only have radishes, there's a good chance you'll get fed up and chuck the towel in. It is argued that this is why, at the end of a long day, we turn to Netflix and pizza, instead of eating some steamed fish and getting our butts to the gym.
We now know that willpower isn't about strength of character or moral choices: when we’re tired and have been wrestling with hard decisions all day, it’s a lot easier to make good choices if we’ve done some forward planning.
Especially when we’re changing our...
Back when I was drinking too much, I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to change my relationship with alcohol.
I had my “Why” sorted: I wanted to be there for my family and I wanted to look after my health (ie no more hangovers and exhaustion!)
I had the “Where I wanted to go” sorted: I knew that I really wanted to stop, that moderation wasn’t working for me.
I had the “Who” sorted: there was only one person who had to wrestle back control of this pesky habit – me, myself and I.
I had the “When” sorted: soon as freaking possible! I was so tired of thinking about drinking.
I had the “What” sorted: what I wanted to be free of those impulses.
But dammit, I could NOT get a handle on this stopping thing. I kept getting a day or two under my belt of not drinking. Then by about Day Three my resolve would snap, I’d be overwhelmed by I JUST...
I was chatting to a woman recently on one of my free discovery calls. She’s a business coach with years of experience, and a lot of her work is done intuitively. She was interested in joining the January Reset, because she had found she was reaching for wine in the afternoon as a quick “go to” when she was feeling stressed. She said that it was starting to take a lot of energy to manage her drinking, and she was feeling very stuck.
However, she was feeling resistance to joining the course. As we talked, it became clear that her biggest feeling was fear. Fear of being judged by those around her. Fear of missing out on fun stuff with friends. And the biggest of all – fear of failure. She was in accustomed to nailing it. Getting things done. Kicking goals. What if she couldn’t “do” the Reset? What if she tried and had a drink before the end of the 21 days?
I used to have this love/hate thing going with Christmas. I really looked forward to it – but I also dreaded it because I knew that it would involve alcohol everywhere I turned. And I knew I’d be hungover and exhausted a lot of the time. To be honest, I sometimes found myself turning down invitations to go out, because I’d rather stay home and “avoid the craziness” ie have a bottle of wine to myself at home, where I could drink as much as I liked.
This is my fifth sober Christmas and I’m relaxed and full of happy anticipation about the next month. I’m not one of those “I miss drinking so much” people, because I’ve changed my beliefs about alcohol. I think I’m super lucky to not have to deal with hangovers and exhaustion any more. If you’d like to try an alcohol-free Christmas, here are my top 3 tips.
You choose: a night, a...
Have you tried to cut back on your drinking and found it hard?
Do you look at others and wonder how they do it?
I did too. I’d see other people decide they weren’t going to drink during the week, or were only going to drink with others, and think to myself, How are they doing that?
Now I know.
It’s because I kept repeating Day 1. I didn’t realise that I simply had to get some distance between me and the last drink.
When we’re Grey Area Drinkers, it’s hard to admit that drinking has become a habit. When it’s a habit, we’re regularly drinking an addictive substance. Regularly drinking an addictive substance will mean we’re somewhere on the spectrum of addiction. Maybe only lightly on the spectrum, but if drinking is part of our lives, we’re constantly in withdrawal.
So the first few days of not drinking...
I get asked this quite a lot.
When I was drinking too much, I spent ages dithering between "I think I need to do something about my drinking" and "I’m over-reacting, everyone drinks, I'm fine".
Our culture tells us that drinking is a normal part of life (it’s not), it’s harmless (it’s not) and that there’s a specific line that you cross from “normal drinker” into “alcoholic” (not true).
Only you know if your drinking is ok or not.
For me, it was when I found myself hiding my empties from Matt – I just didn’t want to put them in the recycling! It looked too bad! I thought maybe I’d take them next time I went out and put them in a bin somewhere else … and I caught myself thinking that, and thought WHAT?
One of the tools we can use to escape from the alcohol trap is dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that most people think make us feel happy, but is actually associated with reward and motivation.
There are three ways that we can not only outsmart dopamine as it tries to encourage us to drink, but we can harness it to our advantage.
Start noticing when dopamine receptors are trying to make you push you towards believing something will make you feel good, but that will actually make you feel guilty, unhappy and just craving more.
So when you find yourself craving a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else, remind yourself what’s actually happening in your brain, and that dopamine just wants you to feel cravings, not satisfaction (that sneaky lizard brain).
And if you do give in and have that drink, and feel sick and furious after the first rush has...
Our caveman brains are driving us towards them all. Amazingly, our ancient brains push us towards them as part of our survival mechanism, thanks to a little thing called Dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter — a chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells and communicates information throughout the body, and it plays HUGE role in our cravings.
When we have an alcoholic drink, dopamine is released and we get a little “high”.
Lots of people think that because of this high, dopamine is connected to happiness – but it’s not. Dopamine is actually connected to motivation and learning.
Dopamine is designed to keep you alive. This is the chemical that’s also involved in movement, motivation and reinforcement. It’s part of the survival mechanism – it drives us to crave high energy foods (hello, Cadbury’s Family Size Bar), finding a mate and social connection...