5 Lies We Tell Ourselves When We’re Drinking Too Much

5 Lies We Tell Ourselves When We’re Drinking Too Much

I can’t tell you how many times I swore I was done with drinking. 

I’d decide I’d had enough – it was time to stop. But then the doubts would creep in.

I’d start to wonder if I was overreacting. I’d find ways to justify my drinking and convince myself that really, there was nothing to worry about… Can you relate?

Nearly every non-drinker I know has been through this cycle at some point – where moments of clarity are followed by some serious, head-in-the-sand denial!


Here are 5 lies we tell ourselves when we’re drinking too much. How many resonate with you?

 

“I don’t drink every day, so I can’t have a problem.”

Society has a fixed idea of what constitutes problem drinking, but in my experience it’s just not that black and white. The women I work with tend to be super smart with good jobs and busy lives that look great on the outside. They are not your cliched, stereotypical problem drinker. 

We need to stop using clumsy statements like “I don’t drink every day / I don’t drink in the morning…” Ultimately, problem drinking is about how you feel when you do drink. If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to – and it’s making you miserable – then that’s all the information you need. 

 

“Everyone is drinking this much.” 

The problem with this is that too often, we only see what we want to see. We never really know how much other people drink. We don’t see what happens behind closed doors. Some people drink a lot in public but have nothing at home. Or it might be the other way around.

Often the people who talk the most about drinking consume relatively little; when they tell you they could ‘murder a drink’ they mean exactly that – one drink and not the whole bottle! In any case, alcohol affects different people differently. What is ok for one person may not be ok for you.

 

“My drinking doesn’t affect anyone else.” 

It can feel as if your drinking is your own private matter. After all, you’re still doing all the things you’re meant to do; you look after the kids, manage a stressful job and pay the bills on time. You’re keeping the show on the road – and from the outside, everything looks fine.

Yet when you really think about this, other people are inevitably affected. Perhaps you have conversations with your partner that you can’t remember, or you’re too hungover to do the activities you planned with your children. When you’re drinking too much, alcohol touches every corner of your life. 

 

“I’ll be able to stop, as soon as this is over…”

Perhaps you’re waiting until that birthday, holiday or wedding has been and gone. Maybe you’re holding off until you change jobs and feel less stressed. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll definitely get sober and stick with it – just as soon as it’s the ‘right time’.

Deep down, we all know that there’s never going to be a perfect moment to quit. Yet by kidding ourselves that there is such a thing, we give ourselves permission to stay stuck and not change. The truth is that you can quit whenever you decide to – there’s never a ‘bad’ time to let go of a habit that’s holding you back.

 

“It’ll be different this time.”

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Yet somehow, with alcohol, we convince ourselves that this is exactly what will happen! So we try again and again to exert willpower over a brain-bending, mind-altering substance. 

If you love the feeling that a few glasses of wine brings, then instinctively you will always feel dissatisfied with a single glass instead. It’s much easier – and loads better – to just cut out booze completely. (I wrote more about why moderation rarely works here.)

 

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Is There Such A Thing As ‘Normal’ Drinking?

Is There Such A Thing As ‘Normal’ Drinking?

“Is my drinking normal?”

I used to ask myself this question all the time. At the height of my drinking career, my alcohol intake certainly didn’t feel ‘normal’. I tried all kinds of things to cut back, but nothing ever worked for long.

It wasn’t until I actually quit drinking completely that I began to wonder…. what on earth is ‘normal’ drinking anyway?

It slowly began to dawn on me that I might’ve spent years hankering after something that didn’t actually exist.

If you’re stuck in the same place I was – yearning to be a ‘normal’ drinker – consider this:

 

When you really think about it, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about drinking 

Alcohol is a poison that slows down your brain function. You may lose your sense of balance and struggle to remember what you’ve said or done. 

Side effects of withdrawal from alcohol include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, headaches, tremors, heart palpitations and seizures.

The fact that we choose to do this to ourselves – and we’ve made it culturally acceptable and cool to do so – is pretty weird when you think about it! What’s even stranger is that in most other areas of life, we’re super health conscious and cautious. So why take such risks with this drug?

We know alcohol is dangerous – those old myths about the health ‘benefits’ of drinking have been thoroughly debunked. The latest research shows there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption at all.

 

If there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ smoking, why would there be ‘normal’ drinking?

When it comes to all other drugs, we’re very clear: there is no ‘normal’. No one aspires to be a ‘normal’ heroin user or a ‘normal’ smoker. There’s no such thing.

With those drugs, we readily accept that it’s hard to control them – if you use them, it’s normal to become addicted to them. And yet with alcohol, we expect the opposite.

When someone struggles with booze we blame the user, not the drug. We give that person a label: alcoholic. This label implies their behaviour is unusual, wrong or abnormal, when it’s actually incredibly normal to become addicted to an addictive substance!

I find it very interesting that we don’t call heroin users ‘heroin-oholics’ and we don’t call smokers ‘nicotine-oholics’.

 

There’s no official definition of ‘normal’ drinking

Your idea of normal drinking is probably not the same as the next person. Is it drinking like your partner? Or your friends? Is it being able to have one or two and then stop?

What about drinking in the morning? Surely that’s not ok… unless you’re catching an early morning flight. Apparently then it’s perfectly acceptable to have a pint with breakfast!

Most people are more worried about their alcohol intake than they let on – particularly those who boast about how little they drink. The author Jason Vale puts it like this:

“If I kept saying to you that I was in ‘control’ of my banana intake, that I only have them a few times a week and that I can even go two complete days without bananas… wouldn’t you immediately know I had a problem with bananas?”

 

‘Normal drinkers’ get addicted to alcohol

If you only take one thing from this blog, make sure it’s this: it’s normal to become addicted to an addictive substance. Especially when it’s something like alcohol, the most normalised drug on the planet.

It’s the drug you grew up watching your parents use; it’s glamorised, romanticised and marketed as the solution to all your problems. No wonder it’s so appealing.

Culturally, it’s very convenient for us to pretend that drinking is black and white; that you’re either a normal drinker or a raging alcoholic.

The truth is that thousands – if not millions – of drinkers are stuck somewhere in the middle, in the grey zone. And that may not be a happy or comfortable place to be… but it is completely predictable and unsurprising. 

 

If you need support to stop drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.

 

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Celebrating 6 Years Sober With 6 Key Stats

Celebrating 6 Years Sober With 6 Key Stats

Today I’m celebrating 6 years of alcohol-free living. Six YEARS!

I’m so pleased that back in April 2013 – for some unknown reason – I finally decided to pay attention to the voice in my head that had been wondering whether I’d be happier sober.

Initially, my plan was to stop for 100 days as an experiment. I promised myself I’d give it my all and see how I felt afterwards.

Back then, I had no idea that I’d fall in love with this alcohol-free lifestyle 😀

It’s hard to measure the impact sobriety has had on my life over the past 6 years, but in this blog I’m trying really hard to do just that!

I decided to get out my calculator and work out a few key stats… and the results are pretty mind blowing, if I do say so myself…

 

Amount of wine not consumed: 1458 bottles

The hardest part of writing this blog was working out how much I actually used to drink, because it varied so much!

Sometimes I’d be good for a few days and then drink two bottles of wine a night. Other weeks I’d have a few glasses after work, night after night after night. Sometimes I didn’t drink wine – I switched to gin and tonics. Or strong cocktails.

So calculating some kind of average is tricky. But having read back through some old diaries, I decided – for simplicity – to account for 2 large glasses of wine a night (250mls of wine per glass). But as I said, it was often more than that.

1 bottle of wine = 750 ml

2 large glasses of wine a night = 4.6 bottles of wine a week

730 glasses a year = 243 bottles a year.

243 x 6 years = 1458 bottles!

 

Money saved: £8,748 ($11,405 USD)

Pretty amazing, huh? That’s £1458 a year. And the thing is – I know that figure is wrong. It’s a massive underestimate.

To calculate this I stuck with the formula I used above, i.e. 2 glasses of wine a night. A bottle of supermarket wine costs around £6. But obviously, wine purchased in a restaurant or bar costs waaaaay more than that. Things like cocktails, prosecco and spirits are all very pricey too.

I haven’t even attempted to work out how much money I spent on taxis home, late night takeaways, and the cost of replacing missing keys / phones / train tickets etc, all of which I was very good at losing!

 

Calories saved: 919,800

Wow. That’s not far off a million calories! One glass of wine contains 210 calories. So two glasses of wine a night means 153,300 calories a year.

Now of course, it’s not as if I only drink water these days. I enjoy lovely alcohol-free cocktails, and the occasional AF beer. Obviously those drinks contain calories too.

However, the liquid calories I consume nowadays are nowhere near what they once were. And alcohol-free drinks never, ever make me crave stodgy, calorific snacks in the way that booze always did!

 

Time saved: 2190 hours i.e. 91 days

This was another tricky one to calculate, because sometimes I’d be able to power through my hangover – I’d go to work and get the job done, even though I didn’t feel great. On other days, I lost hours and hours.

I wasted so much time being drunk, hanging out with people I didn’t like that much, getting into stupid arguments and watching movies I wouldn’t even remember afterwards. And I can think of plenty of weekends where I had to cancel plans because I was too hungover.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to allow 1 hour a day for all that drinking and recovering afterwards. That’s 2190 hours saved over the past 6 years i.e. 91 days. Heck, even if you halved that figure to just 30 mins a day, we’re still talking about weeks and weeks of my life!

 

Sleep gained: 312 nights

Even a few glasses affected the quality of my sleep. I’d wake up at 4am, tired but somehow wide awake. I’d often toss and turn until 6am, before finally going back to sleep just minutes before my alarm went off. That was very annoying!

When I was drinking I was more inclined to stay up late too – even if I was just home alone, watching trash TV. When you account for going to bed late, and then losing a few hours around 4am, you very quickly end up in a big sleep deficit.

I’d say I easily lost 8 hours – one night’s sleep – a week. Multiply that over six years and you’re looking at 312 nights. That’s not far off a year!

 

Memories gained: millions

Ah, I’d love to be able to put an actual figure on this! When it comes to sobriety, there’s a lot of important stuff you can’t actually calculate: e.g. memories and opportunities gained, increased self confidence, self worth and overall awesomeness. You simply can’t measure that stuff.

As a drinker, I regularly blacked out, which means there are pockets of time I do not remember. There are other times that I kind of remember, but not with much clarity. And that’s such a shame because I’m talking about weddings, holidays, parties and special moments that should’ve been very memorable.

Nowadays, I love knowing that I’m showing up fully for my one and only life. It’s not slipping by, blurry and forgotten. We only have one shot at this thing called life… so why not be fully present for it?

 

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31 Clues Your Drinking Is Becoming A Problem

31 Clues Your Drinking Is Becoming A Problem

“You’re hardly an alcoholic!”

That’s the kind of reaction I used to get whenever I spoke to my friends about my drinking. 

And to be honest, it’s the kind of thing I often said myself. 

When I thought about problem drinking, I used to think in stereotypes and extremes, often picturing down-and-outs, who drank all day and had lost it all. 

My life was a million miles from that. So I was fine… right? 

What I didn’t realise at the time is that there’s a pretty big grey zone in between ‘normal drinking’ (whatever that actually is) and full blown, pouring-vodka-on-your-cornflakes type of drinking. 

And guess what? A lot of harm and unhappiness can happen in the grey zone. 

If your drinking is worrying you, but you’re not sure whether things are ‘bad enough’ yet, this blog is for you. 

 

Here are 31 signs that indicate your drinking is becoming a problem:

1 – You spend a lot of time thinking about drinking – what, where, when, how much.

2 – You often promise to ‘just have one’, but that rarely happens. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

3 – You’ve created lots of rules around alcohol e.g. not drinking before a set time, only allowing yourself certain types of drinks.

4 – You frequently break your own rules.

5 – You’re ashamed of your drinking and beat yourself up about it.

6 – You try to hide how much you’re drinking from those closest to you.

7 – Your partner has expressed concern.

8 – Your drinking feels like a big, heavy secret – it’s a source of stress and anxiety.

9 – You dread putting out the recycling bin. Sometimes you dispose of empties away from your home so no one else notices.

10 – Given the choice, your favourite way to drink is by yourself. Alone, you can have as much as you like without being judged.

11 – When socialising, you keep a careful eye on everyone else’s glasses to make sure you don’t drink too fast.

12 – In public, you work hard to be moderate. People would be surprised to discover quite how much you drink at home.

13 – You’re passionate about running or yoga, so everyone assumes you must be super healthy. This makes you feel like a fraud.

14 – You’re disappointed – angry, even – if you’re unexpectedly asked to be the designated driver. 

15 – When someone makes a joke about your drinking, you’ll analyse it for hours, wondering why they said it and what they really know. 

16 – You’re often anxious about whether there’s enough alcohol available. Will your supplies last? Should you get more? 

17 – You buy your wine from different shops on rotation because you’re worried the store staff will judge you.

18 – You’ll often delay eating so you can drink without a full stomach dampening your ‘buzz’.

19 – You feel bad about rushing through things, such as your child’s bedtime story, in order to be able to drink.

20 – You’re regularly blacking out. There are long periods of time that you have no memory of.

21 – Mornings often begin with you trying to work out who you called last night and what you posted on Facebook.

22 – You frequently argue with your partner whilst drunk and then cannot remember why the next day.

23 – You drink to manage your emotions. It’s your go to whenever you’re stressed or sad or tense. You have few other coping mechanisms.

24 – After a change in circumstances, e.g. retirement or leaving a stressful job, you thought your drinking would naturally wind down, but it hasn’t.

25 – You’re permanently exhausted. Alcohol is seriously affecting the quality of your sleep.

26 – You rarely have enough energy for the hobbies you used to love. 

27 – Your physical appearance is changing. Your face looks puffier.

28 – You diet hard during the day, but you’re still putting on weight – you know the empty booze calories aren’t helping.

29 – You’re scared something bad is going to happen. You’re not sure what, but you’ve had a few close shaves recently, e.g. driving when you shouldn’t.

30 – You keep googling things like ‘am I an alcoholic?’

31 – You find yourself on websites like this.

 

Ultimately, if your drinking feels like it’s becoming a problem, then it probably is.

You don’t need to wait for things to get worse. You don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to change – you can raise your standards any time you like.

If you need support to quit drinking or take a break from booze, you can find out more about my online course here.

 

Let me know in the comments…

How many of these 31 clues resonate with you? And if you’ve already quit – how did you know it was time to stop? What prompted you to take action?

 

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The Problem With ‘Being Good’ Monday To Thursday

The Problem With ‘Being Good’ Monday To Thursday

Back when I was drinking too much, but I didn’t know what to do about it, I tried hard to ‘be good’ from Monday to Thursday.

I could get my head around staying alcohol-free during the working week. But a sober Friday, Saturday and Sunday? That was not going to happen!

Because I wasn’t ready to quit completely, being good during the week seemed like the next best thing.

What I didn’t realise is that there’s a big problem with ‘Monday to Thursday sobriety’.

In fact, there are actually 3 different issues…

 

You’re teaching yourself that you can’t quit long term

If you’re only ever sober during the working week, what you’re really telling yourself is that alcohol-free living is only ever possible when you’re at work, in a routine and not doing anything fun. Basically – you’re treating sobriety like a strict diet.

Not only are you teaching yourself to believe that you can’t stop properly, you’re also reinforcing the idea that sobriety = hard and boring, whereas drinking = joy. Long term, successful sobriety happens when you realise that you can live a full and happy life without alcohol, no matter what day of the week it is.

 

You never get time to do the all important mindset work

When you’re only ever stopping for a few days, all you can really do is cross your fingers and hope for the best. You’re not giving yourself enough time to get clear on why you’ve been drinking, tackle the root causes or find some sober tools (i.e. alternative coping mechanisms).

To be happily alcohol-free, you’ll also want to work on your mindset, tackle your limiting beliefs and educate yourself about alcohol. Doing all that stuff takes a little while, and you deserve the time and space to make a proper go of it.

 

You never, ever get to the good bit!

If you’re only quitting from Monday to Thursday, here’s what you’ve got to know: you’re forcing yourself to repeat the hardest bit of sobriety again and again and again. Seriously – the early days are some of the hardest! So why keep putting yourself through it?

It takes time to find your sober feet, overcome a few challenges, smash some sober firsts and gain a bit of momentum. Studies show that you need 66 days for a new habit to bed in – so it’s hardly surprising that taking four days off here and there isn’t enough.

 

What to do instead:

You don’t need to quit forever (that’s way too intimidating). But you do need to be able to experience sobriety properly and see what it’s REALLY like. And that means taking a break from drinking for two or three months. That’s when you start to see what it’s really all about.

Taking alcohol off the table for a defined period of time means you can give sobriety 100% and throw yourself into it, whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that at a set point in time, you will stop, review and decide what happens next. What’ve you got to lose?

If you need support to stop drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.

 

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3 ‘Rules’ Keeping You Stuck In The Drinking Cycle

3 ‘Rules’ Keeping You Stuck In The Drinking Cycle

“I’m not stupid. I’m not helpless. So why can’t I figure out how to stop drinking?”

This is something I used to ask myself a lot.

In other areas of my life I was proactive and determined; I was great at problem solving and finding solutions.

So when it came to sobriety, why was I so stuck?

If you’ve been asking yourself the same question, this blog is for you.

I wanted to share a few of the sneaky, inner beliefs that can trip you up and keep you stuck in the drinking cycle:

 

“I need a vision – a long term plan. I can’t start before I’ve got it all figured out.”

In many areas of life, long term goal setting makes sense, because most of us like to know what we’re working towards before we begin. But when it comes to sobriety, this approach can lead to so much overwhelm you never even get started.

Your mind races years into the future and suddenly, you’re worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. The thought of being sober forever is so intimidating you can’t bring yourself to get started.

How to get around this:

The trick is to move forward with a short term plan – one that gives you something to work towards, and lets you experience alcohol free living properly, without being so intimidating it feels unachievable.

Taking a break for two or three months is a perfect place to start, because it gives you the chance to overcome a few challenges and test drive sobriety properly, without you getting too freaked out about it.

Once your break is over, you can see how you feel at the end. Perhaps you’ll set another short term goal. Or maybe you’ll go back to drinking. Whatever the outcome, you’re in control and moving forward, step by (manageable) step.

 

“You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

“I can’t fail. I have to get this right.”

To get ahead in school, you had to pass your exams. To get promoted at work, you have to hit your targets. In most areas of our lives, we’re conditioned to think that success = good, and failure = bad.

So it makes perfect sense that we’re not keen on trying something that exposes us to a massive risk of failure. When we’re so fearful of failing, putting up with the status quo can feel much safer (even if it is making us unhappy).

How to get around this:

The key is to reframe your relationship to failure. This doesn’t mean setting out with the express intention of drinking as soon as things get challenging, but it does mean not beating yourself up if something goes wrong.

When I think about my students, most of them have a string of ‘failures’ behind them. Perhaps they joined my course after struggling to quit alone. Maybe they ‘wasted’ a month going to AA meetings and getting nowhere.

But those ‘failures’ weren’t really failures – they were part of the journey. When you’re doing something great (and sobriety is great!) the chances are you won’t figure it all out the first time. You are going to fall flat on your face at some point. The important thing is that you get back up again.

 

“Failure is success in progress.”
Albert Einstein

 

“I’ve got to keep this a secret and figure it out by myself.”

No one else can run the race, take the exam or ace that job interview for you. I bet you’re used to relying on yourself and you’re proud of the fact that you can (usually) figure things out on your own. Your drinking is your business… right?

The thing is, your drinking isn’t just about you. It impacts every area of your life, from your health to your relationships. When you’re struggling with alcohol, your partner knows about it. Your kids pick up on it. Your friends notice something is off.

How to get around this:

Start looking at how you handle other challenges e.g. losing weight, training for a run, parenthood, learning new job skills… you get the idea. How often do you truly go it alone? Or do you look elsewhere for help, guidance and support?

If you’ve been struggling to figure this all out on your own, now is the time to get out of your own head and start thinking about where you can get some support. We all need a bit of accountability and an outside perspective at times.

Addiction thrives in isolation, so start inviting people in. If you’ve got friends and family to talk to, ask for their support. But if you’re not comfortable confiding in those around you, seek out help elsewhere – it doesn’t have to be face to face. (If you want to join my online community, there’s more information about my coaching programme here.)

 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Helen Keller

 

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