Kate's Blog

Fact vs Fiction: Is Alcohol Helping Me Cope With Stress?

“It’s been a stressful day. I want a drink!”
We’ve all heard other people say they need a few drinks to unwind, and most of us have said it ourselves. The idea of drinking away our stress is very well established in our culture and psyche. Most drinkers believe that alcohol is a great way to relax, ease your worries and melt away any stress.
It’s no wonder then, that one of the biggest fears people have about sobriety is how they’ll cope without alcohol. Personally, I spent years thinking alcohol was the solution to my stress, not the cause. I had no idea that with every glass, I was pouring more stress into my life.
When it comes to alcohol and its stress-busting properties, I think we’ve all been sold a whopper of a lie.
Here’s why:

Alcohol makes you more stressed in the first place.

The problems start with the things that happen when you’re drunk. We’ve all done stupid things that have created extra stress for ourselves. And then, when you’re hungover, you feel awful – physically and mentally. That makes it harder to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day life. The more reliant you become on alcohol, the more stressed you feel. You’re constantly wrestling with yourself about when you’ll let yourself drink again, what you’ll drink and how much. And to top it all off, you’ve got the stress of knowing you have a drinking problem and all the emotions that brings with it. It’s all stress, stress, stress.  

Alcohol makes stress more likely to stick around.

Stress happens for a reason. It shouldn’t be a badge of honour – it’s often a sign that something is wrong or needs to change. It means you need to take action. But when you’re drinking, it’s very difficult to make change happen, or summon the energy to tackle problems head on. Heavy drinking is just a sure-fire way to stay stuck in a life you don’t like.

Alcohol never makes your stress go away – it just makes it easier to ignore.

Opening a bottle at wine o’clock will not help you cope or deal with stress. Stress happens for a variety of different reasons, and alcohol is just, well – ethanol. It’s the main ingredient in paint stripper. It can’t possibly make your boss nicer, or your children behave better, or your partner less annoying. In short, it can’t fix things. What it can do is distract us and numb us, for a very short time. That makes it easier to ignore whatever’s happening right in front of us, but as Virginia Wolf said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Drinking doesn’t solve anything. When we sober up, the exact same problems will still be there (or they might have got worse).

If drinking really worked, you’d know about it!

If alcohol genuinely was a magical, stress-busting potion, you’d need less, not more of it over time. You certainly wouldn’t be reading something like this. You’d be too chilled out to care, or you would’ve already decided the hangovers were worth it. They’d be a small price to pay for feeling so fabulous every night … right?
Deep down, we all know drinking isn’t really everything it’s cracked up to be. At best, it can offer a bit of a numbing sensation and a distraction from our feelings. When we’re making jokes about ‘wine o’clock’ it’s easy to forget what we’re really doing when we drink: we’re trying to not feel anything. We’re trying to erase a little bit of our life. And that’s a pretty scary idea, isn’t it?

Now I’d love to hear from you…

What’s your experience in this area? What impact has your drinking / sobriety had on your stress levels?
Have a great week!

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


20 Responses

  1. This is spot on! Exactly, a paint thinner ingredient doesn’t create magic in your life, in fact, it often poisons what is good in your life, and lets you check out for a little while. Alcohol is one big lie. Thanks Kate!

  2. Ha Ha – for so many years the hangovers were worth it…
    …Alcohol gave me perspective and confidence
    …No stress!
    It wasn’t till I was sober that I realised how skewed and inaccurate drunken perspective is, you only have to listen to bar ramblings between a bunch of guys 4 pints down; as for confidence, I guess I was always ok but I was drinking away any confidence anyone else had in me.
    I knew drinking didnt solve anything, I was out for a good time, at the time that didn’t stress me – it bloody well should have done

  3. Fabulous. It’s such a big fat LIE that drinking is fun. Sure, it might have some fun elements but when you’re falling arse over tit, vomiting in to your boots and suffering extremely anxiety the following day, who in their right mind would think, “ooh that was fun, I can’t wait to do it again”.

  4. Drinking for stress began when I had 3 children 5 and under and a husband on the other side of the world ( allegedly). I hit my stride in this so fast that I didn’t have a chance to even consider that it may be making things worse. I thought that time was increasing my stress, just the way things were – and felt ‘at least’ I had wine. Sigh. Time has passed and life is no less stressful. The children and I are always running and busy, but that’s the way we want it. It’s churlish to whine and moan about what’s our good fortune t have legs to play football and dance and (me) drive and although I still get in the house and look at the time and count the bloody tasks and think ‘HOW HOW HOW will this be done’ that voice is losing it’s teeth. The jobs always get done, and at 9 I get into smaller pyjamas, take my make up off a non puffy, better complexioned face and watch tv that I remember in the morning. I can’t explain how wrong I had this stress and booze equation and am thankful every day to have right! Thank you, Kate. x

    1. Hmmmm, I like your message. But I am finding it hard to give up wine–I am drinking to stay a little numb from the the lifestyle associated with motherhood (young children). When I am not a little numb, I can become overly anxious. Chores are a just a little more tolerable with some wine. I suspect this is unhealthy thinking, but. . . I need an alternative.

      1. I really really remember that feeling. I think that the stress anxious feeling was massively exacerbated if not caused by deinking, though. I still find this time a bit hard to get through but then I also did with wine. I have tea now and that seems to fill the gap. The thrill though when it’s all over( bedtime) and you’re sober and can do what you like without feeling crap is amazing. In case you’re thinking that it sounds like I wasn’t that bad if I can just stop it and jog on and have some flipping tea- I was that bad, really I was that bad and I swear to you that if I can do it and not feel like I’m missing anything, anyone can. I do or did have moments of craving but they were nothing compared to waking up at 4 knowing I was up for good and feeling actual real fear at the day ahead. It’s honestly I promise you just better.

    2. That’s great to hear Jane – you’ve got a lot on your plate but I’m glad things are clicking into place for you!

  5. Eighteen months ago I stopped drinking (thanks to you Kate Bee). Today is my 50th Birthday and I can honestly say that I’ve never been so happy; stress and all. Years and years, night after night of drinking wine to ‘cope’ caused so much horrible stress and pain. Now, I can embrace life and actually enjoy the challenge of facing and dealing with stress in mindful ways that help me live a complete life; something alcohol had robbed from me for over 30 years.

    1. Happy 50th birthday Kath! I’m so happy to hear about your 18 months – it sounds like alcohol free living has made a huge difference to you! Hope you’re having a lovely day!:-)

    2. Hi Kath. I too drank for 30 years. Sometimes less, sometimes more, but alcohol was always part of my life. I stopped a week ago, and am already enjoying so many benefits. I admire your fortitude and aspire to your achievement – turning 50 in March 2018 with 16 months’ sobriety would truly be something for me to celebrate. I wish you well and thank you for writing.

    3. Thankyou for your comments they are starting to sink in.. I wake up with fear anxiety, money worries.. hey wine wine will take all that away but it never does… please someone help me!!!

  6. I love the encouragement on this blog. I had four months without wine and and now I am on another day two. Looking back I can see where things started slipping emotionally, with stress, fear, and anger, and then mentally thinking “it isn’t that big of a deal if I drink” and allowing myself to plan. It’s all very sad. I am feeling a little wobbly today but I am encouraged and motivated to keep working towards sobriety. Thanks to everyone that has posted; it helps so much. Kate, do you have a new Sober School starting any time soon?

  7. I am laying on my bed trying to get myself together to go to work with a terrible hangover having crashed out of sobriety yesterday after 7weeks. I feel like crap and I cannot believe I used to feel like this most mornings. I have used alcohol for stress relief for many years, in the last few weeks I have realised that I needed to make changes instead of drinking. I am so mad that I am starting again now 🙁

  8. I was using alcohol to numb out and to not feel lonely. I am recently separated from my husband and about to turn 60! But I felt even worse with alcohol. “She”is not my friend, lol. Instead I am choosing to lean into the pain, feel my own feelings and finding other ways to cope, of which there are many! It’s only been a couple of weeks but I feel powerful. Thank you, Kate.

  9. Im three days into my life of sobriety after 10 years of heavy boozing. 5 kids n a difficult husband did me in. At th back of my mind I know im only to be blamed but I couldn’t handle all the stress. I’m really craving a beer… any thing to drink.. . Thanks for ur blog. I wish i could say that I’m 18 months sober like u some day

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