Alyssa, one of our health coaches at Hello Sunday Morning, looks at some of the myths that come up when we talk about changing our relationship with alcohol. Read on to learn the truth behind these myths.
Myth 1: Not drinking will result in losing friendships or relationships
For many people, drinking alcohol is a part of their social life. It’s something that they do with others or something that connects people. As time goes on, we hope that friendships and relationships go deeper, that connection goes beyond the drinks. However, this isn’t always the case. We hear from people that when they choose to drink less for a variety of reasons, their friends and the people in their lives often have an opinion about it. Sometimes this is encouraging and uplifting. They are excited for you to experience life differently and reap the benefits from less alcohol in your life. But sometimes the opinion is hurtful. People have been called boring, self-righteous, dull, judgy or uptight. These words can be hurtful. They can cause a wound and most of the time they’re more about the person saying them, than about you. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to hear. If you experience this, we encourage you to lean into the people who uplift you in your choice to reduce or quit alcohol. These people do exist and if you choose to reduce your drinking they won’t leave. Find ways of socialising with others that doesn’t involve alcohol and, as hard as it may be, realise that some people aren’t ever going to be ok with your decision. Your life is your life; you’re not responsible for making others approve of your choices.
Myth 2: Reducing/quitting alcohol guarantees weight loss and/or better sleep
Reducing or quitting alcohol comes with some great benefits. However, everyone’s experience is different. Our relationship with food often interacts with our relationship with alcohol in a variety of different ways. Some people may find that when they reduce their alcohol consumption they replace it with a different drink that they enjoy or maybe a type of food that brings them joy. This isn’t wrong and if alcohol was meeting a need in your life, it makes sense that when you remove it, you might replace it with something different. We also know that just like alcohol, people’s relationship with food is complex and we’re all trying to figure out how to do this best. For many people weight loss isn’t an accurate indicator of overall health and there is a shift towards focusing on holistic health and adding health-promoting behaviours to our lives. One of these behaviours can be reducing or quitting alcohol. If you’re wanting to learn more about how to develop a relationship with food, your body and health in a positive way, there are various approaches and health professionals who can help. As a place to start, speak to your local GP, and maybe make an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist. There is no one path that works for everyone and it’s important that you feel supported to figure out what is right for you. It can be a similar experience with sleep. Less alcohol results in better sleep for many people (Sleep Foundation, 2020). But there are so many things that affect our sleep and alcohol may just be one of them for you. If your sleep doesn’t improve after reducing or quitting alcohol, it might just be a sign that it requires further attention and support to improve.
Myth 3: If I stop drinking alcohol, I won’t be able to relax
A short-term impact of alcohol is the numbing effect due to it being a depressant. This is one of the reasons that reducing your drinking can be hard at first as it’s meeting a need for relaxation or managing stress. We all need ways to relax, especially after a long day or when we’re going through a difficult season of life. The issue with alcohol is that it’s only temporary and doesn’t help you restore your emotional and physical energy. Finding new ways to relax and care for yourself is an important part of changing your relationship with alcohol. Keep in mind that it will take time to find new strategies and habits. It will also take time for you to experience similar benefits of restoration and relaxation from these new things. Your brain takes time to adjust. In a practical sense, investigate and try out a whole range of ways to look after yourself. From yoga, meditation, reading, exercise, eating delicious food, drinking an AF drink, talking to a friend, joining a club or activity, writing, taking a drive, painting or being out in nature. It’s about figuring out what works for you.
Myth 4: Alcohol helps with my [insert physical/mental health condition here]
After a short discussion around the HSM office, we discovered that there are many myths we have all heard about how alcohol is often recommended as a way to improve various physical or mental health conditions. These range from alcohol helping with anxiety to alcohol increasing breast milk production. Unfortunately, neither of these things are true. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to just know when these myths are true or not. For many people, education on alcohol and its effects on our physical and mental health isn’t comprehensive. We are all still learning more every day. If you’re not sure about something you’ve been told or heard, do some research. Ask a health professional such as a GP or a qualified mental health professional. Use evidence-based websites and sources of information to learn more from. We have some great information and blogs on alcohol to help you learn more. You can also check out websites such as Alcohol and Drug Foundation as well. Where our health is involved, lots of people often have a different opinion and want to contribute with their advice. It’s ok to say ‘no’ and go about finding out the truth for yourself.
Myth 5: As soon as I stop drinking, the benefits will happen
We know there can be several physical and mental health benefits that occur when you reduce or quit drinking (Cassata, 2021). To read more about the benefits and the average amount of time they can take to occur, check out our blog post here. As mentioned previously, these changes take time and there is no timeframe that is the same for everyone. Sometimes social media and seeing others’ experiences can play a part in our high expectations. We see blog posts and testimonials and pictures showing people thriving. It gives us hope and confidence that we can experience this as well. The flipside is that it can sometimes give us unrealistic impressions that change happened overnight and that it was easy. For many people who make the choice to reduce or quit alcohol it takes time, hard work and support from others to get to that place of breakthrough. This isn’t meant to be a reality that takes away your motivation, just a reminder that what we see publicly doesn’t always show what happens behind the scenes. This can also be a reminder about why having support from peers or coaches who have been there is so helpful.
Share with us below what myths you have heard about alcohol and what helped you to learn the truth.
Alcohol and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 26 March 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep
Cassata, C. (2021). Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Cut Out Alcohol for 30 Days. Retrieved 26 March 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-quit-alcohol-for-30-days