Do I need to stop?
It’s a question many of us have wrestled with. You know what it’s like; alcohol is making you feel crap, you’re pretty sure you’re drinking too much and yet, stopping forever seems just… well, impossible.
In fact, stopping anything forever is pretty intimidating. But stopping for six weeks? Or two months? Or 100 days? It’s definitely more doable.
The trick is to get some decent space between you and your last drink. You need some clear-headed thinking time, so choose a target that will stretch you. (One week is not going to cut it.)
Once you’ve decided on your goal, commit to not drinking during that time. Don’t think about the future and don’t worry about what you’ll do in the long term. Instead, concentrate on the here and now. Give it everything you’ve got; read and learn as much as you can and get help if you need it.
Once you’ve hit your target, then – and only then – should you decide what to do next. You can always go back to drinking if you want. You always have that option, but many people decide to carry on for a bit longer. They set another goal. They do a bit more and see how it feels. Honestly, it works. In 2013 I set out to stop drinking for 100 days. Now I’m well over 1,000 days.
Still not sure if you really need to take a break? Are you wondering if your drinking is ‘bad enough’?
It’s really tempting to insert some cheesy, magazine-style quiz here. If someone at BuzzFeed can dream up a test called Which Cookie Matches Your Personality? (I’m a ginger snap, by the way) then I’m pretty sure I could create one called Should I Take A Break From Alcohol? (Maybe I’d need to weave in something about your star sign, or your favourite member of One Direction, for extra authenticity.)
It seems we like to be categorised. Or maybe we just like the decision to be taken out of our hands. Either way, when it comes to booze, you don’t really need any kind of complicated algorithm to work out if you’re drinking too much. It all comes down this: if you’re repeatedly drinking more than you intend to – and it’s making you miserable – then you probably should stop for a while. And if you’re staying up late, googling, “do I have a drinking problem” then yeah, you probably have got one.
Let me put this all another way. If you thought you had a gluten intolerance, and it made you feel bloated, lethargic and ill, would you carry on buying sandwiches at lunchtime? I doubt it. Would you try eating sandwiches every other day or just at the weekend? Maybe you would, to start with. But if that didn’t work, and you still felt awful, then I suspect you’d try and cut out gluten completely. Wouldn’t you want to experiment and find out if a gluten-free diet made you feel better?
It’s exactly the same principle with alcohol. Some of us are just allergic to it. And guess what? Alcohol is not essential to life! Alcohol is not the same as air, food or water. You can have a perfectly full and fabulous life without a drop of booze passing your lips. I know some people will try and convince you otherwise, but I promise it is possible. Go on – try it.