BLOG | 02 OCT 2019
Alcohol and you – What’s your relationship status?
This is not the typical article giving you facts about alcohol and its harmful effects (if you want to read about that, and it is important, please check out great websites like drinkwise.org.au OR alcoholthinkagain.com.au).
Yes, we all know too much is bad for you; but what I want to discuss is our relationship with alcohol: Non-existent? Social friend? Dependant? Or a toxic relationship?
In support of Ocsober and other months of abstinence like Dry July and Febfast I wanted to check in with our drinking habits. And for some of us, they are a habit (and in some cases an addiction). The reasons around alcohol use and dependence are far and wide. What I am interested in is the way we view alcohol, and to get us thinking a bit deeper about it.
Whether we like it or not, Australia is immersed in a drinking culture. At any celebration, sporting event, commiseration or just embracing the end of the week; it is expected and (accepted) that alcohol be in attendance as well. So how does this attitude shape the way we drink? Is it necessary for some of us to drink in order to have a good time? In order to talk to people at a party? In order to celebrate? In order to relax? In order to cope? In order to sleep?
Crossing the line from having a few drinks socially or at home, to developing a dependence; to drinking at dangerous levels can happen without intention or without knowing it.
This “grey zone” is a time of being in between and is a good opportunity to reflect on drinking habits and ask yourself why you do it.
Some answers are more simplistic: “it crept up on me…1 glass of wine when I was cooking, turned in to 3 or 4 every night. It was my reward after a long day”.Other reasons are more complex, particularly when alcohol is used to either create feelings (relaxation, excitement), mute feelings (depression, anxiety) or influence feelings (social occasions).
Other factors to consider are the people around you. Did you grow up in a house where drinking was a regular, everyday habit; and so, it is for you too. Or did you grow up in a house where a parent was an alcoholic? Does your partner drink and hence that is why you drink more often than you probably would? Does your partner abstain and therefore you feel guilty about having a drink on your own?
The answer to some of these questions can give you insight into your thoughts and feelings around alcohol. For some people, alcohol is an old buddy that is there for them in good and bad times. But what are the implications of such a dependence? The lines start to get blurry when drinking alcohol encroaches on aspects of your life and physical health. Such as:
- Feeling hungover frequently
- Tired, irritated, unable to concentrate
- Weight gain, weight loss, stomach complaints
- Feeling anxious or uncomfortable at the idea of not drinking
- Frequently not knowing when to stop
Whatever your relationship status, take the time to reflect: If you find yourself in the grey zone, this is a first step in acknowledgment and you can make some positive changes. Challenge habitual behaviour and thinking styles (e.g “I have to have a wine while I cook”), and replace with healthier alternatives (“I’ll have a cup of tea instead”).
Small changes can make a big impact mentally, physically and emotionally. Often just becoming more aware is all people need to change behaviour; and when that happens it can have a huge positive impact on your overall health.
*If you feel that alcohol is actually a big problem and you need help, consult your GP or call the Alcohol and Drug Support Line 1800 198 024.