“I’m not sure if my drinking is bad enough for me to have to quit.’’
This is something I hear a lot, and it’s a debate I had with myself for a long time. Did I really need to stop, or was I overreacting? It didn’t help that I grew up believing there were just two types of drinkers: Raging Alcoholics and Everyone Else. I definitely wasn’t in the first category, so I was ok… right?
It took me a long time to realise that I was approaching this from the wrong angle. By focusing on whether my drinking was ‘bad enough yet’ I was concentrating on completely the wrong thing. What I should’ve asked is this:
“Is this good enough for me to stay as I am?”
If you’re mulling over the same question right now, here are some points to consider.
Are you happy right now?
How much time do you spend beating yourself up about your drinking, regretting how much you had the night before, or struggling through the day with a hangover? How does that impact on your quality of life?
If, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really bother you, then great – no big deal. But if you are waking up at 4am, wracked with guilt and wondering what you did the night before, now’s the time to get real about that.
What benefits are you getting from drinking and staying stuck in your current situation? Examine this closely. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
If you had some kind of illness that occasionally made you feel hungover and depressed, would you just accept it as ‘one of those things’, or would you be banging at your doctor’s door, demanding some kind of cure?
Compare your standards in other areas
Maybe you’re passionate about healthy eating, buying organic and avoiding highly processed foods. Perhaps you’re partial to the odd green smoothie, and you know your chia seeds from your goji berries. Maybe you’re a big runner or a yogi, or you obsess about getting your 10,000 daily steps in.
My question for you is: given your high standards during the day, does it make sense to take a dangerous drug like alcohol in the evening?
Alcohol is said to be a direct cause of 7 types of cancer. The NHS says there is no safe drinking level. Of course, the health risks associated with alcohol may be risks you’re willing to take. If that’s the case, that’s fine – but it’s worth making sure you know all the facts first. Wine is not just innocent, happy grape juice.
If this was a romantic relationship, what kind of relationship would it be?
The chances are, alcohol seemed like Mr Wonderful at first – fun, exciting and a little bit dangerous … but what’s it like now? For me, alcohol felt a bit like a doomed love affair. There were lots of great promises to begin with, lots of fun in the early days, but it dwindled into a stale, repetitive, negative relationship.
So what’s your relationship with alcohol like?
Is it a loving, enjoyable and stable one, or has it drifted into a slightly abusive relationship? Think about how that makes you feel. Are you willing to put up with that, or is it time to part ways?
Don’t let the fear of being labelled interfere with your decision
I don’t go around calling myself an alcoholic, because I’m not. To me, the term alcoholic implies that it is abnormal to become addicted to alcohol. And that’s really weird, because with all other mind-altering, dangerous drugs we seem to expect users to become addicted and we don’t judge them for it.
We don’t condemn smokers for becoming nicotineoholics, do we? We don’t berate them for losing control and getting addicted to an addictive substance. Booze is no different.
If alcohol isn’t working in your life, it’s really no big deal.
It’s not a sign that you’re broken, or weak or different. It’s just a sign that you’re consuming a toxic drug and you don’t like the side effects. That’s it. Don’t let the fear of being labelled hold you back from a lifestyle change that could be the beginning of a very exciting, happy new chapter for you.
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