While this one is written specifically for those of you who have decided you want to totally stop drinking. Again, like his other book, it concentrates on the cognitive aspects of your alcohol problems – what you are telling yourself internally about alcohol.
The British Medical Association released a report last week that the UK is currently experiencing an alcohol epidemic. Hospital admissions due to alcohol are increasing dramatically (5% increase over a year), and alcohol related crime is going up by about 7 percent per year according to local government figures.
Why do so many people in the UK feel the need to binge drink? It’s not about increased accessibility since the change in the licensing laws or even the low cost of a drink, because they are now roughly the same here as those in Europe.
But other countries don’t have as much of a bingeing problem. And we’ve had this problem for at least the last ten years, not just since they relaxed pub opening times.
Are we just more stressed than our cousins on the continent? For many people, alcohol is the only escape they have from the stress of their lives. Perhaps its the fact that we have the highest working hours per week in the whole of Europe, and that our debt culture is spiralling?
The solution some have suggested is increased taxes or warnings such as those on cigarette packets, but has that stopped anybody smoking? No, it has just increased the revenue for the government that’s all (which at least pays for increased pressure on health services).
Maybe education might help – but this is not a case of people being ill-educated about the risks of excessive drinking; like the risks of smoking, we’re all well aware. But that is not enough to motivate people to cut down. The motivation must be internal, you can’t expect someone to change their behaviour just by telling them its bad for them. They must choose to change through seeing that the costs outweigh the benefits.
We’ve now opened our free support forum for anyone with alcohol problems.
There are no expectations that you must be sober, it is just a community space where you can share your experiences and hopefully get some support from other people in a similar situation to yourself, whether you want to give up drinking completely, or if you just want to cut down.
You need only provide a valid email address to join – but this will never be displayed, so you can remain completely anonymous.
A recent survey by YouGov found that 33% of adults between 30 and 50 felt that alcohol had ruined a night out for them at least once in the past year.
They also pointed out how much more of an effect alcohol has on the body the older we get, our organs just can’t recover as quickly as they used to. So it’s no surprise that they also report that NHS admissions due to alcohol for over 35 year olds have increased by 50% in the last three years. This is all adding up to a big problem. What is going on in the UK right now?
One of the biggest difficulties people face when they’re trying to stop drinking is what to do when other people are drinking alcohol around them.
The temptation to have a drink yourself is one aspect of it – “they can do it, so why can’t I?” Seeing them getting merry, and desperately wanting a taste too. How are you supposed to resist the urge?
The other aspect is, you begin to realise your drunk friends are actually quite tiresome, their sense of humour doesn’t quite match yours anymore, you feel left behind. Suddenly you’re the odd one out, when you’ve been so used to being part of the crowd, one of the party. This can feel very isolating if you’re the only one who’s not drinking.
Then of course there’s the concerned advice from your inebriated companions:
- “what’s wrong with you?”,
- “go on, just one won’t hurt…”,
- “don’t be such a _____ ” (insert a likely derogatory label).
This makes it even harder, and what should be a fun evening can turn into an endurance test.
This all depends on the company you’re with of course, if you’re just with your family or your partner in a restaurant then obviously the pressure won’t be so awkward, but pubs, bars and clubs with your old ‘drinking buddies’ will take some getting used to.
What really helps here is to enlist an ally – a close friend (or your partner perhaps), who’s not that bothered about drinking either and is prepared to be sober for a night to keep you company. That way you won’t feel quite so different, and you’ll have somebody who’s on your level, someone you can chat to comfortably (make sure you sit next to them of course). You won’t need to do this forever, but just until you get used to not drinking when your friends are.
An interesting study by Hertfordshire University recently discovered that talking about your cravings can actually reduce their power over you.
Although they used chocolate, not alcohol, the principle is exactly the same. The test subjects who were encouraged to talk about their desire for chocolate subsequently ate 50% less than those who were told not to talk about it beforehand.
If you try to ignore your cravings, or suppress them and pretend they’re not happening, then you can end up drinking even more. So if you want to beat your cravings for alcohol, just acknowledge them and talk about it with someone who is supportive.
Work is often the biggest source of stress in our lives, and people sometimes end up using alcohol to relax and deal with that stress.
The result is often that your work performance suffers because of your hangovers. This makes it hard to concentrate, so you might well be feeling guilty.
Perhaps you’re also worried that your colleagues suspect you have a drink problem – can they smell it on your breath perhaps? So this creates even more stress.
Have you got to the stage where you feel the urge to have a little drink at lunchtime, just to calm your nerves? Or at the end of the day, are you watching the clock in the office, thinking about that first drink you can have once you leave work?
For some unfortunate people, alcohol becomes a part of their job – people in the promotions business, or staff in pubs, bars or restaurants for example. Then the two issues can be even more complicated. Business meetings at lunchtime or Friday afternoons can often involve a drink, it can be a source of bonding with your colleagues, or an important part of relationship building with a client.
So what can you do, if drinking is part of your work culture?
Is there any way your job situation could be improved so it’s not so stressful? Or is there perhaps another way to deal with that stress that doesn’t make the situation worse, like drinking does?
Give us your suggestions:
Everyone seems to drink alcohol in our culture. Many seem to drink too much on occasion. But how much drinking is too much?
Many of our clients say – “Why can’t I be like other people? They seem to be able to drink without getting drunk all the time.”
Regular drinking is not necessarily a problem – in Mediterranean cultures families will usually have wine with dinner on most days. But they just have a glass or two. Few people in those countries see any problem with drinking like that.
The truth is, it varies from person to person – there’s no absolute level of alcohol consumption at which you have a problem.
Most people know if they’re drinking too much
… even before other people tell them. Basically if the negative consequences are more than the positive ones. But there are many signs to look out for –
- if you’re looking forward to a drink more than the other things in your life,
- if you’re often feeling depressed or guilty – like you need to hide how much you’re drinking from others, or even having a ‘secret’ drink when you can get away with it,
- if you’ve ever noticed a pile of your empties and thought ‘wow, that’s getting big’,
- if the following day, you can’t concentrate on what you need to, because you ‘just can’t face it today’ – (you’re too hungover),
- if you’re finding it difficult to look people in the eye, because you think they might be judging you,
- if you’re buying a bottle during the day, do you buy lots of groceries with it to hide the fact that you’re buying alcohol before lunchtime?
- but one of the surest signs is this – if you’re hungover, and you start thinking ‘just one drink will take this hangover away’, then you’ve definitely got a problem.
What signs have you noticed that you’re drinking too much?
Some unfortunate research has just been published that alcoholic women suffer more brain damage as a result of their drinking than men do.
They appear to be more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol withdrawal particularly. In the long term, this eventually leads to cognitive dysfunction and motor control disorders.
Male brains, by comparison, seem to be better at repairing some of that damage. But not all of it of course, just in case any men were thinking that was a carte blanche to drink more!
There’s a campaign being run in the UK right now to improve access to talking therapies (like counselling, psychologists etc.). At the moment, waiting lists for NHS funded help can be up to 18 months. This is just not acceptable.
The government is holding a funding review very shortly – so a group of UK charities (including the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health) have organised an online petition asking for more funding to be made available for this area.
If you’re a UK resident then please sign it now at www.weneedtotalk.org.uk/petition.asp
Update – This petition has now been presented to the government.
Liv.52 is a herbal medicine specifically formulated to help strengthen the liver. It assists in the elimination of acetaldehyde (the toxic by-product of alcohol) – which means you don’t get so much of a hangover. It encourages regrowth of new liver cells and protects against alcohol induced liver damage.
This is one of the few herbal medicines that has actually been researched extensively, and shown to be highly effective. Look at some of the research if you don’t believe it.
Taking this medicine won’t solve all your problems with alcohol, of course not. But it might just help your liver to cope with the effects of your drinking.
If you’re interested in herbal medicine to help reduce your alcohol consumption, read this about Kudzu…
Unfortunately, one of the biggest causes of people drinking too much alcohol is as a way of coping with depression. The unfortunate thing is, that as a solution it’s probably the worst there is, because alcohol itself causes further depression.
Only when you cut down your drinking will you be able to feel any happier. But once you’ve cut down, how do you stop the cycle beginning again? You have to deal with your depression some other way…
Read this report from the Mental Health Foundation on the effects of Alcohol on Mental Health, it explains in more depth the link between alcohol and depression.
(if you don’t have Adobe Acrobat installed to read this pdf, get it from the Adobe Website)
Struggling with addiction is stressful – when you’re trying to stop drinking you can end up in a cycle of battling with cravings and guilt, having to remember all those things that you’re supposed to be doing differently.
It can be exhausting, so much so that it creates its own cravings. But stress is all about your perceptions of your abilities – if you tell yourself that “I can’t do this”, then of course you’ll feel stressed about it.
If you tell yourself that, “yes this is difficult, but I think I can do it”, then you’ll feel more confident. It’s simple really, you just need to get into the habit of saying positive things like that to yourself, eventually you’ll believe them.
What you’re trying to do right now is very difficult, so recognise that you need to off-load to people, to talk it through, to schedule in some relaxation time, some treats for yourself. If you’ve got a family to think about too then this can be hard to justify: “I’ve been such a strain on them already, how can I ask them to sacrifice even more?”, or “How can I take time away from my children when I’ve already been neglecting them because of my drinking?”
The point is, you need some time to relax if you’re trying to stop drinking, because it’s an incredibly draining task. Acknowledge that, be honest about it. You can’t be strong all the time!
One of the things that can easily induce a craving for alcohol is low blood sugar. This can occur after a ‘rush’ of simple carbohydrates (sugar, processed wheat etc.), blood sugar levels quickly increase, then decrease again just as sharply.
It can also occur if you haven’t eaten anything for a long time – so don’t let yourself get too hungry!
The craving comes about because your body associates drinking alcohol with lots of quickly available carbohydrates, and that’s what it asks you for. So the one thing you need to do when you’re cutting down your alcohol intake, is keep your blood sugar levels fairly balanced.
You can prevent the low blood sugar, and hence the craving, by not eating so much sweet or processed food. Eat more fibre-rich whole foods, like wholemeal or granary bread, muesli or granola, fruit instead of chocolate (sorry!). And don’t forget those sugar-packed fizzy drinks, they’ve got to go too.
So next time you get a craving for alcohol, eat something instead – you’ll be amazed at how quickly that craving disappears. Just make it something healthy though, OK?
Many people looking for help on this site do not consider themselves to be alcoholics. They are not drinking all day, every day. But they are regularly binge drinking alcohol to excess, such that they are damaging their health, their relationships and their self esteem.
It is easier to convince yourself that you haven’t got an alcohol problem if you can regularly have days where you don’t drink at all. You think you’ve got control of your drinking for a while, so you’re not as concerned any more.
Then it happens again – you binge, and wake up feeling awful. Maybe you carry on drinking heavily for a couple of days to deal with how guilty you feel about it all (and the hangover of course). But this type of binge drinking can have serious negative consequences which you need to do something about.
Are you an alcoholic or a binge drinker?
Take our test of alcoholism signs and symptoms.
Many people with an alcohol problem are drinking as a way of dealing with boredom. They’ve got nothing exciting or interesting to do, so they drink instead, and that keeps them entertained.
Watching TV for hours is boring and uninspiring, but if you have a drink then it becomes more tolerable.
So, is your life too dull? If you weren’t drinking so much, what would you be doing with your spare time instead?
If you have difficulty answering that question, then here’s the first problem you need to solve before you can move forward.
The alcoholic head taster for a brewery in Brazil has been awarded financial damages by his employer after the courts agreed he had not been prevented from developing alcoholism.
How were they supposed to have done that?
He drank anywhere from 16 to 25 glasses of beer in an eight hour shift. The company argued that he was already an alcoholic before they employed him. The judge decided that in that case they were negligent in employing him in the first place.
Maybe he wasn’t spitting out enough of his tasting samples. But I’m sure there’s a few people out there who wouldn’t mind his job. If you’re looking for help with an alcohol problem, try our free consultation with no obligation, we’ll get back to you asap with some ideas about how our online treatment programme could help you.
The UK National Health Service has officially recognised the effectiveness of online therapy.
Cognitive Therapy is now being offered via Skype video as part of the NHS services, in an attempt to provide for people who find it difficult to come to a clinic for conventional counselling.
An online service can be used as a private space where a person can get support and therapeutic help from a professional. This is especially useful for people with alcohol or addiction problems, who may be too embarrassed to see a therapist or counsellor face to face. You don’t have to take time to get to someone’s clinic, they can come to you via your computer.
In all other respects, the nature of online therapy or counselling is the same – the same techniques are used, the same issues dealt with. If you’re not sure how this would actually help, read more about how online therapy works.
There are many ways to quit drinking –
- you can check-in to a rehab if you’ve got the time,
- you can try taking ‘Antabuse‘ (which will make you feel very ill if you drink any alcohol),
- you could go to AA meetings to meet people with similar problems and do the 12 steps (but do you believe in a higher power?),
- you could get a gym membership and spend every evening working out to distract yourself (not going to happen, right?),
- you might want to try Kudzu (a herbal supplement which helps you cut down how much alcohol you want to drink),
- best of all though, you can try the most convenient help available – online one-to-one therapy.
Online therapy will help you to quit drinking by encouraging you to change some aspects of your lifestyle, by getting you to look at the emotional and cognitive aspects of your habit, helping you to deal with anxiety or stress a bit better and by giving you some easy, practical tips to cut down the amount of alcohol you drink on a daily basis. It is probably the best option for those who are abusing alcohol, but who are not dependent alcoholics. (see: Am I an alcoholic?)
To quit drinking you first have to ask the question – “WHY am I drinking so much?” Our therapy service will help you to answer that.
A new report from the United Nations finds that prescription drug abuse is now more prevalent than illicit drug abuse. With the only exception of cannabis, there is now more trafficking and consumption of pharmaceuticals (particularly stimulants, painkillers and tranquillisers) than street drugs. This is causing a huge increase in the level of fake prescription drugs too (which contributes to 10% of the overall amount). And far worse, a huge increase in the number of overdose deaths as a result.
The International Narcotics Control Board estimates that the illicit market will double to $79bn (£40bn) over the next four years.
This poses the question – if the politicians are trying to reduce the harm caused by drugs use, perhaps some of their funds should be diverted towards encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to take some responsibility for the problem – if 90% of these illicitly used drugs are coming from licensed factories, why aren’t the big pharmaceutical corporations being asked to take more control of their supply lines? They are one of the most profitable industries in the world after all.