How I Knew It Was Time To Quit Drinking

How I Knew It Was Time To Quit Drinking

How do you know when it’s time to quit drinking or take a break from booze? It can be tough to tell.

We tend to view drinking as a black and white issue; you’re either a ‘normal drinker’ or an alcoholic.

In fact, many people are somewhere in the middle – in the grey zone. Life might look fine on the outside… but alcohol is still causing misery inside.

When you’re in the grey zone, the chances are there won’t be a dramatic wake up call or a major crisis that prompts you to stop.

It will probably be subtler than that.

I asked some of the women I’ve worked with to share how they knew it was time to quit:

 

Jo: “I tried to give up alcohol for Lent and lasted less than 24 hours. My daughter was pregnant with our first grandchild and I got drunk at her baby shower. I knew I needed to get sober for her. 710 days later, I am a sober grandmother for both of my grandchildren. Best decision ever.”

Cindy: “I decided to stop when I realized I was the only person still at the party. I was always the only person most drunk. I hated myself after every event. My family was concerned about me.”

Emily: “I saw an advert for a fun event in the park and my first thought was “Oh, too bad I can’t go to that, there won’t be any alcohol there.” That was the moment that I realized that I was so reliant on alcohol. I didn’t want to live my life like that.”

Heather: “In the last months of drinking my cleaner found a glass of wine hidden in the utility room. A friend borrowed a coat and found a glass in the pocket… I knew I was on the verge of losing my credibility and becoming known as someone with a drink problem.”

Jackie: “I came home from work, didn’t change my clothes or feed the dog… I went straight to the wine bottle, poured a large glass and started drinking just standing, looking at the cabinets. I knew right then I was in trouble.”

Ann: “I knew deep down that drinking was making everything worse. I had started to have suicidal thoughts every time I drank.”

Dana: “I had lost all interest in anything but drinking and did not like to be with anyone who didn’t drink.”

Kristen: “For years I tried repeatedly to moderate my drinking and failed every time. When my grandson was born with serious health issues, I knew I had to quit drinking completely in order to help care for him. I wanted to be fully present and available every hour of every day for him and his parents. Sobriety was intended to help my family — but it became the best gift I have ever given myself.”

Paula: “On Christmas day I drank wine for most of the day and it made me so sad and tired. I think this was truly the day I knew I would do everything this time to go AF for good. What was the point now that it provided no fun, just pain?”

Katie: “I realised I was likely halfway through my life, based on an average age expectancy of 81 for women in the UK. I had been suffering anxiety and depression on and off with extreme overwhelm and alcohol wasn’t helping any of that, it was making it worse.”

Amy: “I fell flat on my face the August before I took your October 2019 class while entertaining guests at our house. We had a BBQ outside and I tripped over. I cut my lip and the area between my eyes – no stitches needed but I was mortified and it looked bad for days.”

Suzanne: “I didn’t have a particular incident, just a constant niggling guilty feeling that I was plotting excuses to drink more and more. I was concerned about my health too and I was becoming very argumentative when I’d had a few glasses of wine.”

Melissa: “It was the exhaustion that finally set me free. I was tired of worrying about my drinking, of figuring out the logistics of when, where, what and how much to drink. I was tired of waking up dehydrated and feeling useless the next day.”

Victoria: “While researching a place to retire, I visited a golf community. I asked myself: Do you want to be the lady on the happy hour bar stool? Or the lady on the bicycle and golf course? Day 486.”

Suzy: “807 days ago I was taking my 20th or so break from drinking. Sometimes with the intent to quit, and other times with the intent to just take a break. Only this time I did things differently. I found your course and it was just what I needed to make it stick.”

For help and support to take a break from booze – click here for details of my online course.

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Staying Sober During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Staying Sober During The Coronavirus Outbreak

The spread of the coronavirus is creating a lot of uncertainty and our lives are being disrupted.

Fear, anxiety and cravings for alcohol are all normal – and understandable – reactions.

I know it can feel extra challenging to stay on track with your sober goals at the moment, but right now, it’s more important than ever to look after our health. 

Staying alcohol free is a great thing to do for yourself over the coming weeks.

In fact, when I think about the advantages of being sober at this time, there are 5 things that spring to mind: 

 

1. Give your immune system the best chance to do its job

Numerous studies have found that alcohol weakens the immune system. People who drink in excess are more susceptible to respiratory illness and pneumonia. And it’s not just chronic drinking that does the damage – binge drinking can also impair the immune system.

Looking after our health isn’t just about washing our hands and social distancing. Right now, it simply doesn’t make sense to be drinking a toxic, poisonous substance that makes us more vulnerable to viruses.

 

2. The hangxiety will make you feel worse

A common side effect of drinking is morning after ‘hangxiety’ (yes, it’s a real thing – more on that here). For me, it felt like a combination of guilt, stress, anxiety and a sense of impending doom. So, not exactly fun. 

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to have to deal with a lot of changes and uncertainty. I’ll admit, I don’t love that – but it is much easier to stay calm when you’re not dealing with a headache and raging hangxiety (or beating yourself up for drinking too much).

 

3. It’s easier to show up for the people you care about

Whether it’s friends, family or neighbours – we all know people who are more vulnerable than us. It’s much easier to look after those around us when we’re clear headed. Here’s what Jessica (one of my Getting Unstuck students) posted in our Facebook group over the weekend: 

“I have never been more grateful for my sobriety. In these turbulent times with coronavirus, self isolation, kids off school, had I been my former, drinking self, I would have been coping very badly. I would not have been able to care for my family in the way I feel confident I can now.”

 

4. Drinking requires constant management

When I was drinking, I was always wondering if I had enough wine at home. Was I sure? When was I going to make time to get some more? Has anyone noticed? Do other people drink this much? What if I run out? So many questions!

I don’t know what things are like where you are, but here a lot of supermarket shelves are empty. People are panic buying toilet rolls. Making sure you have hold of the basics is one thing, but worrying about alcohol is an extra level of anxiety you don’t need.

 

 

5. Alcohol won’t change anything

Drinking won’t alter the reality of this situation, nor will it make you feel better. If you drink because of stress caused by the coronavirus, all you do is hurt yourself more. The only thing alcohol is any good for is making hand sanitizer.

 

How to manage fear and anxiety without drinking

In the comments section below, I’d love to hear what helps you deal with uncertainty and worry, sober. I know you’ll have some great ideas! Here’s what’s working for me right now:

 

1. Limiting the amount of news I see

I’m a former journalist and normally a total news junkie. However, I’m finding the endless coronavirus updates to be fairly stress-inducing. There’s a fine line between being informed and being overwhelmed, so I’m trying to watch the news at specific times of day, rather than checking constantly.

 

2. Practicing good self care

Self care can be as simple as going to bed early enough to get the sleep you need. Turning your phone off. Staying hydrated. Easing off on your to do list. Or zoning out by watching Netflix or getting lost in a good book. This stuff is all really important right now. 

 

3. Actively looking for the positives

Cancelling plans and staying at home doesn’t fill me with joy, but I’m trying to focus on the upsides of being forced to slow down. The coronavirus is providing a great opportunity to do a bit less, unplug, read the books I never get round to, and do the things I keep putting off. We can use this time for good. 

 

4. Staying connected

Addiction thrives in isolation. As humans, we’re wired for connection – we need it! The good news is, we can still stay connected, even with social distancing. Now’s the time to be proactive; get on the phone or make a video call, use social media as a force for good. We’re stronger together.

 

For help and support to take a break from booze – click here for details of my online course.

 

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How To Drink Less: 10 Common Tips That Don’t Work

How To Drink Less: 10 Common Tips That Don’t Work

At the height of my drinking career, I must have googled “how to drink less” every other day. 

If you’ve done this too, you’ll know that google brings up millions of results… but most of the advice is exactly the same. 

In fact, when it comes to figuring out how to drink less, there are really just a small handful of tips you’ll hear over and over again. 

Here are 10 of the most common… and why they don’t work. 

 

1. Make a plan

“Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.” This is the very first tip on the NHS website. Not exactly helpful, right? If it was that easy to stick to a limit, you probably wouldn’t be reading this!

 

2. Set a budget

Here’s another gem from the NHS website: only take a fixed amount of money with you. Given that most of us rely on contactless – and can pay for things using our smartphones – this is hardly realistic. 

 

3. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water

I see this tip everywhere and it sounds great. But seriously… who can really be bothered to do that? When I drank, it was because I wanted to get drunk. I wasn’t interested in drinking water!

 

4. Limit time spent in bars

This tip (from The Healthy) kind of makes sense, but here’s what I know from coaching hundreds of women to quit drinking: the most harmful drinking can happen at home.

 

5. Dinner only drinking

Drinkaware says this helps because food slows down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s true… and that is exactly why most people won’t do it! If you crave the buzz you get from booze, why would you lessen that by eating?

 

6. Drink from smaller glasses

Some research has shown this can have an impact in a restaurant or social setting. But if you’re drinking at home – and you want to get buzzed – then a smaller glass isn’t going to hold you back. It’s just going to mean more refills. 

 

7. Pick lower strength drinks

Again, this sounds logical. However, if you’re using alcohol to numb out, you will need a certain amount in order to feel the effects. With lower strength drinks, all that happens is you end up needing to drink more of them to get the feeling you want.

 

8. Don’t drink past your “off” switch. 

Ummm, what? According to Huffpost, this means you should “stop drinking before you stop thinking.” If it was that easy to control a mind-altering substance that zaps your willpower, then drinking too much wouldn’t be a problem for anyone. 

 

9. Never drink alone

Towards the end of my drinking career I vowed to never drink by myself. This worked for a sociable couple of weeks, until I got fed up of my drinking being dependent on other people. I bet I’m not alone in this.

 

10. Don’t stock up on alcohol

Of course it makes sense not to have a fridge stocked with your favourite drinks. But I spent years only ever buying the exact amount of alcohol I needed for one night. And that was still far too much, too often.

 

The real problem with these ‘tips’

Imagine putting a tiny little plaster (a band aid) on a big wound. That’s what these tips do. They might give you a short term win; a temporary reprieve. But you’re not doing the deeper work. You’re not addressing the core issues. 

None of these tips get you thinking about why you’re really drinking – why you need to numb out with a mind altering, cancer causing drug, night after night. Instead, this kind of advice keeps alcohol up on a pedestal, as if it’s a special drug that can’t be lived without. 

Can you imagine anyone sharing tips like this about cigarettes or heroin, or any other dangerous drug? It’s unthinkable.

 

What to do instead…

If you want to try something that actually works, I recommend taking a complete break from drinking for 6-8 weeks. 

Why? When you only have the odd day off here and there, you never experience sobriety properly. In fact, all you do is make yourself repeat the hardest bit over and over again – the first few days. You’re teaching yourself that sobriety is miserable and you can’t do it.

A proper break gives you the chance to get past that awkward first month and on to the good stuff. Just make sure you give your break 100% – read books, blogs, educate yourself about alcohol. Tackle the issues in your life that made you so reliant on this drug in the first place. 

Then at the end of your break, you can see how you feel. You can always go back to drinking if you want to, safe in the knowledge that you have at least given sobriety a proper shot. 

That’s what I told myself when I took a break from booze in 2013. To my surprise, sobriety turned out to be so much better than I imagined. In fact, I decided I didn’t want to give my alcohol-free lifestyle up… and I’ve never looked back.

 

For help and support to take a break from booze – click here for details of my online course.

 

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4 Things All Women Need To Know About Alcohol

4 Things All Women Need To Know About Alcohol

From a young age, I was sold on the idea that drinking was what cool and empowered women did.

I’d grown up watching Sex And The City and in my mind, alcohol was linked to so many positives: fun, freedom, strength, success and happiness. 

However, the reality of alcohol was quite the opposite – it left me feeling trapped and miserable.

With International Women’s Day coming up, there’s going to be a lot of talk about empowering women this week. 

I think that having some honest conversations about alcohol would really help with that.

I’m almost 7 years sober now and I’ve never felt better.

But if I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, there are a four key messages I’d like to share…

 

Watch out for femvertising

Yes, that is a real word! It’s when adverts use female empowerment to sell stuff. For example, do you remember the Virginia Slims “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” marketing campaign? Linking a tobacco product to women’s liberation was a genius move in boosting sales (and making lung cancer an equal opportunity disease).

So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Diageo, the world’s largest spirits business, is an official supporter of International Women’s Day 🙄

Meanwhile, one of Diageo’s brands – Baileys – sponsors the Women’s Prize For Fiction. Budweiser is an official partner of the England Women’s football team. And Smirnoff’s Equalising Music campaign pushes for greater gender balance in the music industry.

Linking booze brands with female empowerment is pretty troubling. In the UK, alcohol-related deaths among women are at the highest rate in 10 years. Worldwide, alcohol is associated with 2.8 million deaths each year. 

 

Alcohol’s negative effects harm women more than men

Booze is a health disaster for us. We are faster to experience liver disease and damage to our hearts and nerves. Women who have 2-3 alcoholic drinks a day have a 20 percent higher breast cancer risk compared to women who don’t drink. Alcohol is also linked to a range of other cancers and reduced fertility. 

Many of these gender-based differences in alcohol’s effects on the body weren’t discovered until fairly recently, and more research is still needed. As this article explains, until the 1990s, almost all clinical studies on alcohol were carried out solely on men! 

 

Drinking is not self care 

Culturally, one of the biggest shifts in the way we talk about alcohol is the link to self care. “You deserve a drink!” is often shorthand for empathy and sympathy – a euphemism for just taking a break. 

The sad thing is, we really do need to take a break. We’re working harder than ever (because having it all often means doing it all) and we seriously need to look after ourselves and practice better self care. But alcohol is never going to facilitate that. 

Self care is about looking after ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Drinking a toxic poison which causes cancer, depression, anxiety and death can never be self care. It just can’t. It’s a contradiction in terms. 

 

Sobriety is more empowering than drinking

This is one of the biggest cons about booze: the idea that drinking is somehow empowering, rebellious and liberating for women. Yet alcohol is actually the most normalised drug on the planet. So how can using it be edgy and cool? 

Surely, choosing not to follow the masses and buy into the advertising hype is a more rebellious thing to do.

If it’s freedom you want, then sobriety is probably one of the best ways of getting that. (They don’t call it alcohol free living for nothing.) You’re free because you’re no longer dependent on a drug to feel good.

Honestly – how are we supposed to smash the patriarchy if we’re numbed and dulled by booze? It’s going to be a lot harder. Last year I wrote this blog about how some of the smartest and most inspiring women don’t drink. What might you be capable of, if booze wasn’t getting in the way?

 

For help and support to quit drinking, click here for details of my online course.

 

Download your free Wine O'Clock Survival Guide!

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What If Your Beliefs About Sobriety Were Wrong?

What If Your Beliefs About Sobriety Were Wrong?

Before I quit drinking, I had some very strong beliefs about sobriety. And I was convinced I was right about them. Such as:

“If I don’t drink, it won’t be fun.”
“I really need alcohol in order to relax.”
“No way can I dance without drinking first.”
“It is impossible to date sober.”

But here’s the thing. Every single one of my beliefs about sobriety turned out to be wrong.

(And not just a little bit wrong. Really, really wrong.)

Looking back, I think I could’ve quit drinking a lot sooner than I did, had I been a bit more open to the idea that what I believed to be true, may not be. 

When it comes to alcohol-free living, here’s why we get things so wrong:

 

We all have a confirmation bias

Our brains automatically scan for evidence that supports the thoughts we already believe to be true. So if you’re convinced that you need to drink in order to have fun with your friends, your brain will always be looking for (and remembering) evidence to prove that’s true. 

This means you might not even register the times when no one drank much, but you still had great fun. You won’t notice how little other people are drinking. And you’ll probably ‘forget’ those nights where you drank a lot and didn’t have fun at all. 

 

Why do we do this?

Our brains like to be efficient, and it takes energy to question and challenge your beliefs. We couldn’t possibly walk around questioning everything about our lives, all the time. Your brain likes to keep believing the thoughts you already believe, even when it’s unhelpful.

There’s a weird satisfaction in being ‘right’, even when it’s about something that’s negative, e.g. “I never stick at anything.” It takes more effort to challenge that belief than it does to just go along with it.

 

Changing your beliefs

The chances are you have some beliefs about sobriety and booze that feel completely and utterly true to you. I know this, because I’ve been there too. Unpicking those beliefs requires time, patience and a willingness to be wrong. 

Start by looking for evidence that your thoughts may not be 100% accurate. For example, if you believe that alcohol helps you have fun, what happens if you switch your focus and look for evidence that alcohol is stopping you from having a good time? I bet you already have some proof of this. 

 

Creating new evidence

As well as examining your past experiences, you’ll need to be willing to create new evidence in order to challenge some of your thoughts. If you’ve drunk alcohol at every party for the past decade, it might feel hard to believe you can have fun without booze. 

That’s ok. It doesn’t mean your suspicions are correct – it just means you’ve spent years practising the opposite belief and finding evidence to support that. You don’t yet have the proof you need to choose a different belief. 

 

Give yourself time

This is important: when you’re looking for new evidence, you’ve got to be patient. The first time I went to a party sober, it felt so awkward I didn’t enjoy it. However, the next time things were a little easier. By the third time, I surprised myself by actually enjoying it. 

It’s so tempting to try something once and then say “See! I told you it would be like this!” But creating new evidence always takes time. This is yet another reason for taking a proper break from booze – at least 6 to 8 weeks. If you’d like my help to do that, click here for details of my online course. 

 

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3 Things To Remember When You’re Finding Sobriety Hard

3 Things To Remember When You’re Finding Sobriety Hard

Very few people quit drinking overnight. Most of us spend a long time wondering whether it’s the right thing to do.

Even when we decide we are ready, there can be a lot to figure out, and things can feel hard.

I call this the ‘messy middle’. 

It’s that frustrating stage when you’re not where you want to be… but you’re not quite sure how to change. 

You’re in the thick of doubt, discomfort and uncertainty. 

If this sounds like you, please don’t give up.

Here are three things to remember when you’re finding sobriety hard: 

 

You’re doing something amazing right now

One of the reasons I love coaching women to quit drinking is because I get to spend time with incredible people, who are brave enough to rock the boat a little and decide they want something different.

I get to work with women who want to change, improve and grow. They’re willing to ask themselves the big questions and do what it takes to create lives they feel really good about. And guess what? I’ve got a feeling you’re one of those people too. 

If you’re reading this blog, then you’re already questioning whether alcohol really is everything it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t matter where you are in that shift, or how much work there is left to do. The fact is, you’ve stepped into the arena. 

 

I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past

It’s rare for anyone to be an ‘overnight success’. When you think about the people you really look up to, who you admire and respect, what kind of history do they have? It’s rarely ever easy. There’s nearly always been some kind of struggle there. 

It’s the hard times that make us. When you’ve been through a few storms, you tend to be more aware of what really matters in life. You’re more accepting of yourself and others. The struggle you’ve been through always gets put to good use. 

 

Screwing up is ok. In fact, it’s kind of vital

When we’re learning how to walk, we don’t give up as soon as we fall over. When we’re learning to spell, we accept our mistakes because after all, we’re learning. If we fail our driving test, it doesn’t mean we’re any less of a person, does it? 

In most areas of life, we have a pretty healthy attitude towards mistakes. Yet with sobriety, we tend to come into it convinced there’s something wrong with us, so if we don’t ‘get it’ straight away, our sense of failure increases. 

Consider this. What if there was no way you were going to get sober without first making some monumental mistakes? Just to be clear – I’m not giving you permission to give up on your AF goals. But what I am saying is this: sobriety is rarely a smooth path from A to B. 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison

Screwing up is part of you figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It’s how you realise what you really need – whether that be community, accountability, extra support, advice, strategies… you don’t know what you need until you take action.

Don’t give up yet. The chances are, you’re on the verge of a massive breakthrough.

 

If you’d love some help and support to quit drinking, click here for details of my online course.

 

Download your free Wine O'Clock Survival Guide!

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