I want to control my drinking this summer, can you help me?
The issue of alcohol, and how much we tend to drink, comes up regularly twice a year: Christmas, when everybody’s thinking of the parties, and Summer, with holidays and hopefully sunny gatherings outside.
If you do a Google search of ways to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, you’ll get a list of tips, largely derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Many of these are what you might call glaringly obvious, or not all that useful, such as avoiding parties, keeping a drinks journal and not having any alcohol in the house.
As with most unhelpful human behaviours, we often know what we should or shouldn’t do, and how we should be thinking, yet frustratingly, this common sense doesn’t appear to be enough to stimulate change.
Alcoholism can be, and is, for many people, a very serious addiction. Underlying causes, including genetics, are multiple and often include significant mental health difficulties, and uncontrolled life problems. This blog is not intended to address this issue, but is for people who feel that they fundamentally would just like to drink less or who feel that they are slipping into bad habits.
Letting out the reigns too much at social gatherings can begin to parallel with having difficulty managing oneself in day-to-day life. Memories of social events can become blurred, and open wine bottles start appearing in the kitchen, with trips to the bottle bank become more frequent…..
So what can I do?
Relating to social events, people often drink more than they would like for two reasons.
First is to manage anxiety, generally and socially.
Second, paradoxically is, when there is no anxiety, but no ‘off’ button either, only the desire to max up the feeling of a good time.
Consequently, feeling too anxious or too ‘going for it’ can lead to the same result.
When I see people in the consulting room, we examine the issue through the lens of Cognitive Therapy, asking ‘what is it that we are actually thinking and how is that driving the way we are drinking?’
If you tell yourself that you can’t get through a gathering without drinking a bottle of wine in the first hour, then you very likely will do so. Dr Albert Ellis in his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) has a lot to say in this respect, with the constant theme that we must be prepared to give up short-term hedonism for medium to long-term gain. Here hedonism would include a sticking-plaster solution to social anxiety.
My add-in, and the one you can use for self-help is the Sound Therapy contained in my App Ed can Help…
Using the app, whether for anxiety and stress, or reducing urges actively reduces problem feelings and thereby gives a brain a much clearer run at maintaining new thinking patterns which feel genuine and substantive.
Download Ed can Help
Here’s what to do…
First of all decide whether there’s anxiety at work, driving your behaviour, or whether it’s more of an ‘urge’ regardless of the circumstances.
For the anxiety element do this:
Follow the general instruction in the app, which is, with your headphones on, work to evoke as vividly as you can the problem anxious feelings. To help this you may be thinking of past difficulties, or future worries. Like getting laundry in a washing machine, as the sound rolls along, it will reduce the intensity and ‘grip’ of these feelings. The more you do, the more de-sensitised they will become. After the first set of 20 minutes take a short break. Ask yourself what would be the most helpful words to help see you through a situation without excessive drinking? It might be ‘by drinking less I’ll be more in control’. Write this down. As you do on-going sessions, have the words handy, and refer to them often, as though you were inputting new helpful software, while the sound pulls out the old.
If you don’t recognise anxiety as such, but have a strong urge to drink, try this:
- Make yourself comfortable and imagine a glass of your favourite drink, looking as cool, delicious, and inviting as you can possibly think, ice twinkling in the glass. Imagine how good you’ll feel after the first mouthful, and subsequently after the first glass…
- In the back of your mind rate has strongly you feel the urge say from 0 to 10. Now put on your headphones and continue to think about that enjoyable drink for the first 20 minutes. Do your very best to think of how appealing it is and bit by bit, you will notice that the vividness of The image begins to blur.
The whole scenario becomes strangely less, immediate and less compelling. It’s this reduction in the strength of feeling that gives your brain, a fighting chance to get in there with reminding you. Of your healthy goals and intentions and giving you the impetus to stick to your alcohol-reducing guns. I recommend you do this daily and also as first-aid. If temptation feels like it could get the better of you by the time you have finished two sets of 20 minutes You will very likely be able to notice that the score you began with has dropped back considerably. This is very good for morale and helps a person begin to believe that whatever they might think about their own “willpower” they can make the changes they want
Can you help me to drink this alcohol this summer?
Do a little bit of soul-searching, and ask yourself firstly whether the idea of meeting up with friends, family or perhaps encounters with strangers brings up a certain degree of anxiety or stress within you. If it does, use our sound therapy and evoke that potential feeling as vividly as possible over several sets of 20 minutes and over time, you may find that your perception changes. As this happens, you can add in what are usually referred to as a “powerful coping statement” probably along the lines of “I can manage this fine, and learn to be comfortable in this situation”. Powerful coping statements need to be short truthful and useful so find one which works best for you continue with your sound treatment and frequently refer to your statement.
The second string to this, which may be more useful to people who aren’t feeling at all anxious, but are feeling a little too joyful, or even escapist. We need to be able to do something that actually reduces the urge to drink itself. This also may be more suitable for people who are finding everyday, drinking or drinking alone is more of a problem.
What to do:
Relating to social events, people often drink more than they would like for two reasons:
- To manage their anxiety in social situations
- To max up their feeling of a “good time”
Feeling too anxious, or feeling to joyful often end up in the same result. When I see people in the consulting room, we run through the conventional list of how to help yourself and then we also go on to look at the issue in a more cognitive therapy style asking ourselves “what are we thinking?” and how is that impacting on her way of behaving. Put simply, if we tell ourselves that we can’t get through a gathering without drinking a bottle of wine in the first hour, and we don’t challenge that thought we very likely will! The work of Dr Albert Ellis in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) has a lot to say in this respect, namely is that we must be prepared to give up, short-term hedonism for medium to long-term gain.
Similar to my approach to treating anxiety and stress. I use the sound therapy of my app to show people how they can actively reduce their problem feelings, the best possible chance of constructive change.
It’s this reduction in the strength of feeling that gives your brain, a fighting chance to get in there with reminding you of your healthy goals and intentions and giving you the impetus to stick to your alcohol reducing guns. I recommend you do this daily and also as first-aid. If temptation feels like it could get the better of you by the time you have finished two sets of 20 minutes, you will very likely be able to notice that the score you began with has dropped back considerably. This is very good for morale and helps a person begin to believe that whatever they might think about their own “willpower” they can make the changes they want