Congratulations, you’re nearing the end of a month without alcohol! Maybe you found it easier than anticipated, maybe it brought up some uncomfortable moments for you, maybe you slipped up a few times and indulged in ‘just a few sips’ … or more. It can be hard to make the adjustment back to ‘normal’ once the monthly restriction has lifted and there’s no longer the public declaration of ‘I’m not drinking’ and the socially acceptable excuse of Dry July sobriety to hide behind. But don’t panic! Here at Hello Sunday Morning, we’ve prepared five tips to help you stay on track to assess or change your relationship with alcohol after your little hiatus. 

Congratulate yourself 

Well done, you did it! You stuck to a goal and proved to yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. You got to reap the many health benefits to your liver, mental state, waistline and vital organs, from having a break from alcohol. Now it might be tempting to think about ‘rewarding yourself’ … so go ahead we say! But keep in mind that reward doesn’t need to be an alcohol-based one. Buy some new clothes, plan a holiday with your mates, take the kids on a spontaneous day-trip or splurge on a giant box of the finest imported Belgian chocolate truffles money can buy (ok, maybe just me?). 

Make a note of how it felt:

  • To wake up without a hangover
  • To remember everything you did the night before
  • To have that extra cash in your wallet not spent on late night Ubers, expensive rounds at the bar and greasy hangover food
  • To lose a kilo or two
  • To have more time up your sleeve
  • To go to the social event sober … and survive
  • To come home from work and not reach for that glass or bottle of plonk

If you can do it for a month, can you do it for longer? 

Assess your relationship with alcohol

Think about the what, why, when and how of your drinking. How much do you normally drink in a week? Three glasses a day is 21 a week, or more than a thousand a year. And the glasses you pour yourself are probably bigger than the ‘standard drinks’ used to measure health effects and long-term harms. Do you drink because it’s fun and enjoyable? Or because of habit and routine? Or because ‘everyone else around you is’? If you’re drinking to manage stress, anxiety or a bad day, some of the tried and tested tips we recommend at HSM include changing your routine, getting out into nature, taking up meditation or yoga, committing to an exercise routine, and finding other ways to process your thoughts – like journaling or therapy. 

Make some new goals

Now you know you can stick to a goal, set another one! These don’t have to be as strict as giving up alcohol. You might want to find a new hobby, do that thing you’ve been putting off  for a year, learn a language or get your Marie Kondo on and clear the clutter. You’ve already proven to yourself that you can follow through on a goal, so run with the momentum and set a new one to challenge yourself.  

Find your community

Was it easier to give up the booze for a month knowing there were thousands of people around the world simultaneously sharing your journey? Being part of a community of people all on the same path is a really effective way to find support and understanding, and makes it more likely you’ll stick to your goal. If your new goal is to join a gym and get fit – find a gym buddy! If it’s to drink less or moderate your drinking, join our Daybreak community right here. Daybreak is a community of people all supporting each other to change their relationship with alcohol, and all from the convenience of the phone that you’re probably holding right now. 

How did you find Dry July? What got you through the tough moments? Do you have any tips for others to stay on track? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

The struggle to find a show or movie that doesn’t contain alcohol is quite universal and reflects why alcohol has become central to socialising, glamour, excess and wealth. It’s often what most characters in a movie or show will do when they get home from work, or after a success or a difficult day and you’ll often see them on screen saying to their co-worker ‘F*&(&^ I need a drink’ or ‘C’mon I’ll buy you a drink’ or ‘let’s all get drinks!’. Now it’s not wrong to enjoy a drink but making alcohol the first thing they have after a hard day or a good day, over time, creates an expectation that this is the norm. I strongly believe this has contributed to a society where it’s often deemed strange or ‘unhelpful’ to not offer or turn to alcohol.

Some shows like Suits I absolutely adore and love, and so do many others, but I often ask myself whether they were being sponsored by a whiskey or Scotch company, based on the sheer number of times they would ALWAYS pour a glass of liquor. Does seeing this repeatedly on our screens from a young age influence us? I think it would be ignorant to assume it doesn’t to some degree, whether we are aware of it or not. Now that’s not to say that the movie industry is to blame for the 5,500 deaths due to alcohol that we see every year in Australia, but it certainly plays a role in our drinking culture. High-profile endorsements of a product have always contributed to promoting the use or consumption of that product; this is the fundamental basis of marketing – make a product seem attractive and convince you to buy it. These tactics are similar to what we have seen in the past with tobacco, using celebrities and supermodels to promote a product which aligns itself with what some would consider ‘attractive’ lifestyles. The power of branding is incredibly influential on the human psyche and I would be lying if I did not at one stage think ‘I should have a glass of wine in the shot’ before taking a photo. Why is that? What does having a glass of wine in a photo represent? It represents a cultivation of hundreds of years of short-lived positive experiences which alcohol does provide, contributing to its continued positive public perception for a long period of time. However, as education and human knowledge has improved over the last century, we are becoming more aware than ever of the risks that alcohol poses to our health.

I think we are seeing a shift in Australian drinking cultures as we become aware of our drinking behaviours. Developing an awareness of when and why we consume alcohol as a part of self-care is something that anyone anywhere can do. Doing this myself has already been so helpful because I feel so much more in control around alcohol, rather than being reactive.

Anonymous 

My name is Amber.  I am a chef and have been in the hospitality industry for about 20 years. I believe that it takes a certain type of personality to become a chef. There is a craving for achievement, a passion for perfection and a desire to go above and beyond. Over my career I have witnessed first-hand how this drive can cause outstanding success but ironically – like a double-edged sword – the consequences can be debilitating.

Two years ago, I hit rock bottom, after many years of alcohol abuse, cleverly hidden from view. It damaged my health, ruined my relationships with boyfriends and family and destroyed my ability to function during everyday tasks without having had a drink.  

At that time of my life I was not aware of support services like Lifeline and Beyond Blue and help was certainly not something I asked for.  It was beaten into me as an apprentice that you must find a way to do things yourself and that asking for help was weak. This, unfortunately for many chefs (mainly older generations), is still just the way it is – in life – as well as at work.

The hardest thing I found, in getting back on my feet, was telling my chef friends and colleagues. Drinking is so ingrained in the culture of the kitchen that I was faced with encouragement to continue drinking, not the support I needed to stop. Consequently, I had to remove myself from those groups and slowly build the muscle to socialise again.  I am so pleased and proud to say that I am strong enough to be around alcohol without having it myself and haven’t done now for two years.

Just after Christmas, my chef mentor and best friend took his own life. He had been in the game for many years, had owned his own restaurant, been in the limelight, had what looked like ‘it all’ but underneath that was obviously not the case. He had been struggling with drug and alcohol dependency since virtually the moment he stepped into the kitchen and that, unfortunately, is the lifestyle you get handed when you enter the cheffing world.   

The package deal is a constant on-the-go existence, with busy services and a work hard, play hard mentality. Having to keep the energy up when all signs point to shutting it down. Even on days off it’s a constant search for perfection, where can you get the next best idea, quest for the perfect dish, must impress, gotta get the hats, gotta get the stars, it’s non-stop. I can only imagine its likeness to a battle field, under around-the-clock panic mode. Then, the accepted and encouraged antidote is to uncoil the pain and stress with alcohol or drugs, anything that will numb you for a while so you can take time out. I refer to this package deal chefs receive when putting on their apprentice uniforms as ‘The White Jacket Effect.’

It is unrealistic to expect to reduce the pressure in this unforgiving work environment, but I would like to step up and do something to get the topic talked about and get rid of the ‘push-on’ motto. There is certainly a shift occurring in the younger generations, but it is the older ones such as myself and Richard, that have it ingrained in our make-up.

Chefs are not invincible and I don’t want to see another brilliant life be wasted. Therefore, I am hosting the first ever White Jacket Effect Workshop in a few weeks time with 20 – 30 of my chef friends and colleagues. There will be speakers from RUOK?, Hello Sunday Morning and The Red Cross to talk about the resources and support available to people who were in the same situation as me. These guys and girls who are in the kitchen, day in and day out, will discuss the heavy topics and nut out some positive solutions together.

My vision is to develop communicative, ‘Safe House Leaders’ in the cheffing community, who are keen to:

  • abolish suffering in silence
  • address ‘balance’ and encourage health and wellness
  • start conversations about how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

I am committed to taking action to cause change in the culture of the kitchen and to redefine what it means to put on that white jacket.

Lifeline Australia:  24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call  13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au

 

This Friday, 8th March, is International Women’s day – a time to celebrate how far women have come and reflect on how far they still have to go, in terms of gender equality. While politics, policies and parenting may take the spotlight, there’s one area where women may not be able to make considerable progress – alcohol. The effects of alcohol can be more pronounced in women, and women have unique considerations in terms of fertility and health. So, before you reach for the glass of chardonnay after the kids have gone to bed, or the gin and tonics for your girls weekend away, here are five things all women should know about alcohol, and tips for healthier outcomes.

 

1. Women are generally more easily affected by alcohol than men

Women generally have more fat and less muscle in their body composition than men. Alcohol tends to distribute itself mostly in tissues rich in water like muscle, instead of those rich in fat. In a way, the fat acts like tetris blocks where the alcohol doesn’t distribute, thus making it more highly concentrated within the rest of the body. Similarly, women are generally smaller in stature than men, meaning less space for alcohol to concentrate in. Both of these factors can lead to higher Blood Alcohol Concentrations (BAC) for women when they drink the same amount as similarly sized men.

Tip: Women shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up drink-for-drink with men, nor participate in rounds, as the effects of alcohol can be more pronounced for them. Alternate water with each alcoholic drink and have a nutritious meal before drinking alcohol.

 

2. Women are drinking more now than in the past, and middle-aged women are the risky drinkers

Around one hundred years ago, the number of women who drank alcohol, globally, was approximately half that of men. The social acceptability and availability of alcohol has seen women catch up over the century to reach consumption rates almost on a par with men, effectively meaning almost double the alcohol consumption for women over this time period.

In Australia, among women, 13 per cent of those aged 50–59 are likely to be drinking at risky levels – defined as more than two standard drinks per day. This usurps the ‘stereotypical’ thinking that the younger nonchalant generation drink to excess. Women aged 40–49 are not far behind with a risky drinking rate of 12.5 per cent. Many theories attempt to explain this trend, such as the expectations of juggling parenting and careers, patterns of ingrained and automatic behaviour formed over time, or the emotional labour of running a household.

Tip: If drinking has become a way to cope with the ‘mental load’ or the emotional labour of running a household that disproportionately falls to women, try reducing your expectations, delegating and ‘doing less’ instead.

 

3. Cutting down on alcohol may be the fastest way to lose weight

Whether for vanity or health reasons, straw polls of women in the Western world often indicate a desire to ‘shift a few kilos around the waistline’. In 2016, Australian women aged 25 and over were most likely to drink bottled wine as their alcoholic beverage of choice in 2016, whereas men preferred regular strength beer. While it may be obvious that sugar-laden cocktails can quickly add ‘empty calories’ to your overall daily intake, wine isn’t a harmless bystander. A regular sized glass of wine (150 ml) contains around 130 calories, with slight variants for red vs white and sweet vs dry. Beer sits slightly higher, at around 140 calories per ~350 ml bottle. You may also be more likely to reach for larger serving sizes of food, extra sweets and – more wine – due to reduced inhibitions and decision-making capabilities and not feeling satiated from the consumption of ‘empty calories’.

Tip: Drink half a bottle of wine, four times a week? If you cut it out completely and do nothing else differently you’d lose ~9 kilos in 12 months.

 

4. Alcohol may increase the risk of developing breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers

Alcohol use is a cause of cancer, the risk increasing in line with consumption for both genders. For women specifically, there is strong evidence to suggest that alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer. For women whose alcohol consumption leads to weight gain and a high percentage of body fat, this in turn can increase the risk of cancers including of the ovaries and endometrium. Women who drink excessively develop more medical problems than men.

Tip: For those who choose to drink alcohol, do so within the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol i.e. drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime. Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

 

5. Alcohol can affect conception, fertility and the health of your baby

For pregnant women, drinking alcohol increases the risk of stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, miscarriage, birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD. FASD is a condition that is an outcome of parents either not being aware of the dangers of alcohol use when pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or not being supported to stay healthy and strong during pregnancy.

While alcohol does not directly affect the contraceptive pill, consumption of alcohol can lead to less compliance with contraception generally, due to forgetfulness, a change in regular routines or reduced inhibitions to use barrier methods, and therefore increases the risk of pregnancy.

Conversely, research shows that even drinking lightly can increase the time it takes to get pregnant; women who drink large amounts of alcohol are more likely to have heavy or irregular periods and fertility problems; and alcohol can also affect ovulation, which can make it difficult to conceive.

Tip: The National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia’s peak body on developing national health advice, recommends that for women who are pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

In what other ways do women have a unique relationship with alcohol?

Festivities for Sydney’s Mardi Gras are in full swing this week and it’s a time to celebrate diversity in sexuality, gender and relationships. Oxford street will be filled with colour, music, choreographed dance moves and elaborate costumes on Saturday night for the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. The parade originated as an equal rights protest 41 years ago, but these days is much more of a pride celebration, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from Australia and overseas. Changes have occured recently in Australia for the LGBTIQA+ community in terms of marriage equality, but discrimination and abuse is still very present, and this can have deleterious effects on the physical and mental health of those on the receiving end. Sadly, statistics indicate poorer health outcomes for the queer community in terms of alcohol and other drug use, mental health outcomes and help-seeking behaviour.

 

Alcohol use in Queer communities

Research indicates those in the sexual- and gender-minority communities are more likely to drink alcohol, to drink at risky levels and are at greater risk of experiencing alcohol use disorders.

  • In a survey of the health and wellbeing of LGBT Australians in 2012, nearly 92 per cent of respondents reported drinking in the past year, compared with 77 per cent of the population aged over 14 from a 2016 national data set
  • A national survey of Australians in 2016 found 25.8 per cent of homosexual or bisexual respondents drank at a level considered to be risky to their health over a lifetime (more than two standard drinks per day), which was much higher than the figure of 17.2 per cent for those identifying as heterosexual
  • Higher rates of risky drinking per single occasion (more than four standard drinks) were also reported for homosexual and bisexual respondents (41 per cent) compared to heterosexual respondents (25.5 per cent).

 

Illicit and other drug use

Similarly elevated patterns exist among homosexual and bisexual communities in terms of illicit drug use and the misuse of prescription drugs. For example, use of methamphetamines in the past year was almost six times higher (6.9 per cent vs 1.2 per cent) and the misuse of pharmaceuticals almost three times higher (12 per cent vs 4.3 per cent) in bisexual and homosexual survey responders, versus those who identified as heterosexual.

 

Mental health outcomes for Queer Australians

Research suggests that LGBT people are at increased risk of a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm and suicide. This may largely be due to discrimination, abuse and stigma. In a report by The Australian Human Rights Commission, around 60 per cent of same-sex attracted- and gender-questioning young people said they experienced verbal abuse because of their sexuality, while 18 per cent reported experiencing physical abuse.

 

Help-seeking behaviours

It’s important to reduce as many barriers as possible for those in the queer community to access assistance, support and treatment for both mental health or alcohol and other drug issues. Barriers can include things like lack of money, limited time, travel to healthcare providers, previous negative experiences and lack of knowledge about available support. Studies also show that LGBT people may delay seeking treatment in the expectation that they will be subject to discrimination or receive reduced quality of care and they also risk presenting for help much later in their trajectory, which can lead to worse health outcomes.

 

Anonymous, free, professional, immediate, non-discriminatory support to quit or cut down alcohol use

Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app reduces many of these barriers. Daybreak is an online program and app that helps people change their relationship with alcohol through a supportive community, habit-change experiments, and one-on-one chat with health coaches.

Daybreak is free for Australians to download, it’s immediate and doesn’t require travel to an appointment, or a referral from a different practitioner. Best of all, Daybreak doesn’t discriminate. No questions about sexuality are included in the sign-up form. Most members who download Daybreak receive support from other members (peers) within five minutes of posting an update. The chat function enables coaching from qualified health professionals for those who want more support.

 

Other alcohol, drug and mental health support options available for the queer community

Culturally appropriate services offer safe spaces for non-discriminatory and non-judgemental support on a range of issues including sexual health, mental health and alcohol and other drug use.

The AIDS council of NSW (ACON) works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, specialising in HIV prevention, HIV support and general health outcomes.

Touchbase, an online resource, seeks to help LGBTI people – as well as their partners, family, and friends – improve their knowledge about the interaction between psychological wellbeing and the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Reachout has compiled a further comprehensive list of Australia-wide LGBTQI support services.

While the revelry will fill the front pages of the Sunday papers, not all those in the queer community will be celebrating this weekend, and some may find this a particularly hard time of year if they are struggling with their own sexuality or gender issues. If you know someone who may be struggling (or that someone is you), please let them know they are not alone, and support, without fear of discrimination, is available.

References:

Act on Alcohol: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities. Available: http://actonalcohol.org.au/facts/fact/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-lgbt-people/

Australian Human Rights Commission: Face the Facts: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people • 2014 ISBN 978-1-921449-67-3. Available: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/7_FTF_2014_LGBTI.pdf

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW. Available: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/3bbdb961-ed19-4067-94c1-69de4263b537/21028-13nov2017.pdf.aspx

William Leonard, Marian Pitts, Anne Mitchell, Anthony Lyons, Anthony Smith, Sunil Patel, Murray Couch and Anna Barrett (2012) Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians. Monograph Series Number 86. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University. Available: https://www.glhv.org.au/sites/default/files/PrivateLives2Report.pdf

 

 

 

It doesn’t feel like long ago that I struggled to go just one week without alcohol. So it’s hard to believe that it’s now been two years without a drink. My original goal was to stop drinking for a year. However, after seeing how much my life changed in that year, I decided to stick with the sober life. I haven’t decided that I will never drink again but the longer I stay sober, the more reasons I find to want to stay sober.

Giving up a twenty-year binge-drinking habit has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The new lifestyle still presents challenges, although it has proven that sometimes the hardest things to do are often the most rewarding.

Last year was tough. I consciously didn’t date anyone all year. I knew it was going to take at least twelve months to adjust to an alcohol-free life and to feel comfortable enough within my new sober skin to go on a first date. I also avoided as many social events as possible. Just the thought of going to a pub or bar, sober, made me feel uncomfortable. A few months into the year I came to the realisation that I not only had social anxiety but most likely always did have, and had been self-medicating with alcohol.

A few months into the sober life I got invited to a party. I knew I had to go because it was for a good friend and I couldn’t avoid parties for the rest of my life. I was dreading the thought of going. I constantly pictured myself at the party being socially awkward. I would keep coming up with excuses in my head of how I could get out of going. However, I knew that to move forward I would have to get over these hurdles. As it turns out, the party wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, nor were the next few parties after that. It’s like anything I guess, the more you do something the easier it becomes. Which is what happened after the first sober date; once I’d jumped that first dreaded hurdle it became easier and easier.

Slowly, I would start to see the benefits of being the sober one. Sure, maybe I wasn’t as loud, or cracking as many jokes, as the people drinking but at least at the end of the night I was coming home with money in my wallet and a clear head. It was a nice change to be able to remember everything that happened on a night out. The biggest benefit was saying goodbye to hangovers. Waking up fresh on the weekends has opened up a whole new world of opportunities. This simple pleasure was something that I’d not really experienced many times before. In my first (and last) blog ‘My twenty-year love-hate relationship with alcohol’, I calculated that I’d roughly wasted three and a half years of my life laying on a couch watching TV, hungover. With hangovers now out of my life, I’ve gained at least one night a week (from not drinking) and one full day (from no hangovers). I now find I have time to do things that I’ve wanted to do for years but never thought I had the time or money.

Another huge benefit of saying goodbye to booze is the amount of money you save. Also, the amount of energy you find you really have. Last year I discovered that with all the extra time, money and energy I had, I could finally start living the life that alcohol was holding me back from living. My thirst for alcohol became a thirst for knowledge. I took a short course in photography, which was something I’d always been interested in. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing two more similar courses. I also started up at a guitar-building school and built a bass guitar as well as rebuilding an old bass guitar that I had. I started studying Spanish. Learning another language was always on my bucket list. When alcohol was in my life, the thought of studying anything after work was just not an option. I couldn’t think of anything worse back then. Probably because I spent most of the week tired and recovering from the weekend. When I was drinking I would come home from work exhausted and quite often fall asleep on the couch before dinner. These days, most evenings I feel like doing something productive.

Realising how much more time I had on my hands got me thinking how I could get more hours out of a week to do things I wanted to do. So I slowly cut back on TV, to a point where I don’t really watch any now. I was watching probably three hours a night and maybe ten hours a day on a weekend, if I was really hungover. That’s up to thirty-five hours a week I’m getting back. So now I feel like I’m making up for some of that time I wasted with all those hangovers. I cut back on social media as well. Cutting out roughly an hour a day gives me another seven hours per week.

I love to travel. A big dream of mine was to do a big trip around the world. So now with a clear head, I put together a plan to make it happen. Obviously giving up partying was a huge saving but it also got me thinking of other ways to save money. As the year went on I could almost feel the brain cells grow back and actually started to feel smarter. Well, I was at least thinking a hell of a lot clearer anyway. Even the fact that I’m now writing blogs. The old me would have laughed at the idea of writing. The old me couldn’t have been bothered. My memory has never been great but I think that has improved a bit as well.

So by the end of 2017, after a year of planning and saving hard, I was off on my dream holiday. I travelled to twenty countries over six and a half months and ticked off a bunch of things from the bucket list. Peru and the Inca Trail were at the top of my bucket list. I got to spend seven weeks in Peru and did the Inca Trail. It was as amazing as I hoped it would be. I swam with sharks on the Belize Barrier Reef and snorkeled with a manatee. I went caving in some beautiful caves in Cuba, Belize, and Vietnam. I went to a few NBA games in Canada and the US and went to an NHL game. I went on the biggest zip line in the southern hemisphere, in Costa Rica, Superman style. In Nicaragua I saw flowing lava in a volcano, I climbed volcanos and even boarded down one. I met hundreds of people and made new friends all over the globe.

Living that dream was the best thing I’ve ever done. There is no doubt that it was better than a bunch of nights out at my local pub. That was another one of my reasons for wanting to stop drinking. I figured that I had been drunk so many times and had so many nights out but there were so many countries out there waiting to be explored. So why would I want to live the repetitious life of getting drunk every weekend when that money could be getting spent on something much more rewarding.

I think one appeal of alcohol is that it’s a quick solution to make you feel good. At least, that’s what we think. Is it really making you feel good though? If you are a heavy drinker like I was, there was only really a window of maybe a few hours that you felt good and happy before things started to get blurry and memory loss kicked in. For that few hours of feeling good, I would have to pay. Not just financially but for the next few days whilst I recovered. They say the older you get the worse the hangovers get. I partially agree with that. In my case, the hangovers were not necessarily getting worse but just lasting a lot longer. I don’t believe that it was just because I was getting older though. I think it was because the older I got the more alcohol I could handle and the longer I could drink for. As an adolescent, I maybe drank for two to six hours before vomiting or passing out. As I got older, I practically trained myself to be able to drink all through the day and night. So if your drinking sessions are three to four times longer than when you started out drinking, it makes sense that the hangovers are going to last three to four times longer.

So I eventually realised the hangovers that lasted for days were just not worth the one night (a few hours) of fun. In fact, the nights were no longer even really fun anymore. Rollercoasters are great fun but I imagine if you sat on one for twenty years, the novelty would probably wear off. Not only was drinking no longer as fun as it used to be but it was slowly becoming depressing. I felt like I was walking through a really long tunnel, slowly walking away from the light (the fun times) and into the darkness.

I think a lot of people are under the misconception that a night out with friends was fun because they were drunk. Maybe the night out was fun because you enjoy the company of your friends and they make you laugh. I don’t miss the taste of alcohol or the action of drinking. I do miss hanging out and having a laugh with friends though. It’s just unfortunate that having nights out in our culture, and most Western cultures, usually involves alcohol.

When I went back to work after travelling for the first half of the year, there was a new guy at work. He’s one of the most stereotypical Australians I’ve ever met. A tradie who’s life revolves around football, cricket, gambling, and beer. When he found out I didn’t drink, it was as if I’d just told him I was an alien or something. ‘What’s wrong with ya!?’ he said, in absolute shock. That reaction really annoyed me. I don’t think it was necessarily him I was annoyed at though. I was more annoyed because I felt that statement summed up the mentality of so many Australians. Because the vast majority of Aussies drink, they seem to think there must be something wrong with anyone that doesn’t. Coming home and having to deal with that attitude again was kind of unwelcoming.

People get stuck in loops. If you have a big night every weekend you usually feel pretty run down for a few days. Later in the week, you might feel like you need to get drunk to pick you up again. I think that in itself is a misconception though. Does it really make us feel that good? We might tell ourselves that it makes us feel good because we’ve had so many fun nights with alcohol. But really, there’s nothing fun about drinking alone and it doesn’t really make you feel good either. In fact, if you’re drinking alone, it’s probably making you feel more alone. Some people say they like a drink because it helps them relax. Is it the alcohol making you relaxed though, or the fact that you’re no longer at work and now sitting at home with your feet up. Ask yourself: Why do I drink? Question your relationship with alcohol. Is it really making you happier? I would actually love to hear all your answers.

Other negative loops can be eating too much and having weight issues. I’ve never really been overweight but I can relate to overweight people. Eating fatty or sugary foods is a way to momentarily feel good but then you may have the remorse when you start to put on weight. You might start to get down because of how you look, so you eat something that tastes good to make you feel better again. It’s a snowball effect. Drinking is the same. I enjoyed getting drunk (in the early days anyway) but then would have regrets about wasting money and only having myself to blame for feeling like rubbish for days after. It starts to really beat you down after so many years.

In my last year of drinking, that metaphorical tunnel was getting dark. To my surprise, it continued to get darker after I stopped drinking. Eventually, I stopped, I turned around. Now I’m heading back towards the light end and into a much happier and brighter future. I’m slowly becoming stronger, healthier and wealthier. I now feel like I’m stuck in a positive loop. The healthier I become physically, the healthier I become mentally, so I want to become stronger and healthier physically etc. At thirty-eight years old the thought of turning forty was really getting me down. Not now though; now I’m genuinely excited to see what my future holds and no longer worried about being in my forties.

It’s probably no real big surprise that one of the biggest benefits of getting rid of binge drinking from your life, is the health benefit. I had suffered from headaches and poor digestion as long as I can remember. Now for the first time in my life, my body is functioning the way it should be and coincidentally, no more headaches! For decades I had tried to work out what was causing the headaches. I now believe they were caused by digestive issues which were most likely linked to dehydration from binge drinking. The last few years I was drinking, I also noticed my legs would ache a lot. Sometimes to the point that I couldn’t sleep because my legs were so restless and aching so much. I had read that this could be caused by being dehydrated.

Which made sense, considering I was almost always in a state of dehydration. When I was drinking, I would constantly need water at hand, even all through the week. I was always thirsty. About six months after giving up alcohol, I started to notice that I could survive without having a water bottle constantly attached to my hand. About six to twelve months later, I started to notice my legs weren’t aching as much. There were a couple of times in the years leading up to me giving up alcohol that I had a month off drinking. When my legs still ached after a month sober, I decided that it must have been just from work and because I was getting old. Even though I didn’t think it was quite right to feel like that before I’d even turned forty. As it turns out, it takes longer than one month for your body to fully recover from twenty years of abuse. So, my advice to anyone looking to give up drinking is, don’t give up after a month because you haven’t noticed enough changes. It’s now been two years for me and I’m still discovering new benefits. I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety but I definitely am an overthinker and occasionally get anxious about things. For example, I would overthink everything I posted on social media. I probably deleted fifty percent of things I posted because I would sit there overthinking what I had posted and wondering what people would think. In the last year, I think I’ve only deleted maybe one or two posts. So obviously my mental health is in a much better place as well.

They say ‘you are what you eat’. I now know what they mean by that. Although, I think the saying should be, ‘you are what you consume’. It’s amazing how much your mental and physical health changes when you stop fueling your body with rubbish and start filling it with decent fuel.

A quick recap of the last two years:

  • Made peace with who I really am.
  • Randomly got offered (and accepted) a great job.
  • Travelled the world for six and a half months.
  • Swam with sharks.
  • Hiked the Inca Trail.
  • Climbed a volcano.
  • Lowered my anxiety levels.
  • Became healthier and stronger both physically and mentally.
  • For the first time in thirteen years, got involved in a serious relationship.

Far too many amazing life-changing events to just be a coincidence that they happened when I stopped drinking. Having said that, I did go through some tough times as I adjusted to a life without alcohol. My tip for anyone considering going down the long and rough road to a sober life (I learned this on my travelling. It’s a bit of a cliche but it’s true): Sometimes the longest and bumpiest roads, lead to the best places.

Anonymous

Written by Zane Pocock

If you’ve decided to forgo alcohol, maintaining a healthy social life is one of the most difficult aspects that many of us are familiar with. This is a complex enough challenge when we stay in the same place; maintaining friendships that have been partially built on drinking, getting through the Christmas season and getting to know yourself again are just the start of the hurdles we face.

But removing yourself completely only makes this change even harder, even if it might initially seem easier to start over. Whether by choice or for work, family or any other reason, sometimes we find ourselves leaving our old lives behind not only behaviourally, but geographically as well. It’s no small undertaking and it can be even more difficult when we’ve already removed a crutch we previously relied on.

I have now moved to an entirely different country twice since I decided to stop drinking. The first time was so difficult that I reflect on those three years with a feeling that I partially wasted a chunk of my mid-20s.

The main realisation is obvious in hindsight but difficult to confront when life is already busy: not all enjoyment, socialising and purpose can come from work and family. No matter where we find ourselves, it’s imperative to build a community. In my case, the easiest way to do this in a new environment would have been to hit the piss and connect with others over painting the town red. Hell, I’m comfortable admitting that I did that the first time I moved and I still have lifelong friends from that time.

But habits change and now I don’t drink. I’m still comfortable and happy about this decision, but it has made life difficult when moving around the world. So what do you do?

Here are some tips I’ve discovered for moving to a new place as a non-drinker. They can probably be applied to all situations, but moving geographically is a particularly difficult challenge to navigate. The key is to follow through on these intentions.

 

Build your comfort zone

This post is all about getting into social environments and building your sense of community without the help of alcohol. Although it might seem counterintuitive, one of the best things I’ve done is put a lot of effort into making myself feel at home.

For the three years that we were living in Sydney, my wife and I never set up our own place. We moved into a fully furnished apartment because we liked the harbour view, and that was that. But it never once felt like home – it always felt like we were living in someone else’s life, in transit to whatever our ‘permanent’ home was going to be.

This was a mistake. No matter how important it is to get outside and meet people in your new community, it’s equally important to have a home that you feel comfortable in; somewhere that offers respite from a loud, busy world and can function as a home base for all the battles and challenges you’re going to face.

So, what makes a place feel like home for you? For us it meant we needed to buy our own furniture, invest in some resilient house plants, and front up for the wall-repair costs to install some art that we actually wanted to live with. I had forgotten the feeling of walking in the door and feeling the stress drop off as my nest was revealed before me. It’s helped me acclimatise and jump into unknown situations with the knowledge that there’s a comfortable respite waiting to greet me later in the evening.

 

Join a Meetup group

What are you passionate about? A great hack I’ve found for easing into social situations without the help of a drink, has been to connect with others that are interested in similar things to me. It means the conversation flows relatively seamlessly – in many cases, so effectively that I found it easier than with alcohol.

Meetup is a powerful online tool for this, with in-person gatherings organised by crowds of like-minded people in various group sizes and locations. I was astonished by how many groups I could join when I signed up for the service and I’ve made healthy use of it. I try to get to something every week and my community thus far has essentially grown from this central hub.

There are other options, most of which are facilitated through other virtual or online communities – it all depends on what social channel your people tend to concentrate on. Local Facebook groups will often be very specific and bond over a sense of where you’ve come from. In my case, for example, a group of New Zealanders in New York has been a supportive, thriving community. Or an app like Shapr facilitates one-on-one meetings. This has been great for professional and personal connections alike, in a context that allows for deeper personal relationships to be built.

 

Join a sports club

This is similar to interest-aligned socialising such as joining Meetups or book clubs, except sport is a particularly helpful exercise (sorry) thanks to the endorphins – locking those good feelings into a connection with the people you’re with and forming incredibly deep, meaningful social bonds. The key thing to realise here is that you don’t have to be any good.

It’s also a great way to get to know a different culture. For me, baseball was a foreign concept, but through engaging with a local club I now feel like a piece of the American puzzle has been filled in for me – while also being a lot of fun.

 

Show up

When I’m at home before an event, the sun has set and I’m a little tired from the day, I’ve always found it the obvious choice to just stay home. Social environments exhaust me; even more so now that I don’t have a prop to launch me into everyone else’s superhuman social level.

But from my recent experience, Woody Allen seems to be right when he says, “Showing up is 80% of life.” When I moved earlier this year, it didn’t take long to fall into the familiar trap of signing up for things then using every available excuse not to go. I was tired, it was too hot, the commute too long, I had very important work to do … You know them all.

But in the past couple of months I adopted a policy that I had to go to everything I signed up for. This had some great benefits. It forced me to filter the signal from the noise on all the great groups I’d signed up to, through Meetup and the like. For most of us, we’re never going to go out for something every single evening. That is objectively exhausting and it requires being picky about what you sign up for. It means I’ve actually gone to things and now that I’ve met people, not only do they expect to see me again, but I also feel familiar with the environment and more comfortable heading out. It’s a self-reinforcing social cycle.

 

Keep in touch back home

Life gets busy, and if there’s one thing I know painfully well it’s that international social connections take a lot of effort to maintain, even with the global communications infrastructure we now have at our fingertips. Heck, sometimes it feels difficult enough if people are just in another neighbourhood.

Thing is, when you’re not seeing your friends, family and colleagues as often as you used to, it’s easy for this to escalate into full-blown social isolation – even if you’re doing everything else to establish a new community, perfectly. Home is where the heart is, and no matter how well you set yourself up, you’re likely going to miss everyone you’ve left behind.

Some people I know are really good at managing this, but if you’re not one of them then the solution, unfortunately, is good scheduling. Particularly if you’re managing different time zones, it’s helpful to have a regular recurring catch-up with the people you miss the most – it reduces the cognitive load for everyone involved and the game theory means everyone will give a second thought to cancelling at the last minute – what if you’ve arisen early or passed up another opportunity? Take your pick of medium for this – there are so many services from Skype to Facetime that there’s no point listing any preferred ones.

 

Challenge yourself to start conversations

In case you can’t tell by now, I’m a ‘textbook’ introvert. Socialising doesn’t come naturally to me and it takes a lot of energy to feel confident without liquid courage.

Are you curious about the place you find yourself in? That curiosity alone is probably enough to fuel an avalanche of questions for any locals you meet. That’s been the case for me. We all know this can be easy if you go down to the local bar, but if that’s difficult to manage then you can try some other tricks. One of my favourites is to skip the supermarket and instead go to the local butcher, baker, farmers’ market and the like. These environments are socially similar to bars as they often become local community hubs and you’ll find the people behind the counter will have sunk deep roots into the local goings-on and way of life.

I also try to make a habit of striking up conversations with taxi- and Uber drivers, people I’m stuck in a queue with, and in any other situation that seems ripe for a chat – with varying success. Pro tip: New Yorkers don’t like talking on the Subway.

 

Practice self-care

No matter how many times people stress the importance of looking after yourself, it’s always worth being reminded of it and I’m sure many of us have yoga, meditation and exercise goals on our New Year’s resolution lists.

But the amount of noise generated in the name of self-care doesn’t undermine its value. A good diet, for example, is going to substantially change how your mood evolves in the course of a day and have a material impact on how you interact with others while you’re building your community.

Proper self-care brings the disparate pieces of the puzzle together. It means you have routines to get in to the day and unwind at the end of it. Exercise helps you think straight, and consistent sleep cycles help you reinforce things you’ve learned and build good mental models for your new environment. Look after yourself and the rest will follow.

 

Consider getting a pet

This one might be a bit difficult to manage so it’s certainly an optional suggestion. With that caveat aside, getting a dog is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my sense of community.

Within a few months of our most recent move, my wife and I had adopted a puppy. It’s a blessing in disguise because we’re constantly being forced outside for her toilet breaks, only to meet half the residents in our neighbourhood. Even ‘back home’ I have never felt so connected to a community as I do right now. After all, dogs will be dogs, and when they get together to do their doggy things the only option owners are left with is to get to know each other.

If a pet isn’t appropriate for your situation, just talk to your neighbours! I feel like I’m tapped into this thriving hyper-local network which isn’t exclusive to dog owners – it just helps to have the excuse. Now, when we have 20 police officers gathering in the apartment building hallway (true story) there are enough of us connected to systematically work out what’s happening, despite their tight-lipped approach. It’s deeply rewarding – and even a good safety precaution – to know the people you live amongst.

 

This list is not exhaustive, but it accurately presents the steps I’ve taken to build a community in a new environment as a non-drinker. What was a daunting task when I first moved, is now an opportunity to slowly construct exactly the life I want to live and the community I want to be surrounded by. If you find yourself in a similar situation, see it for the promise it holds and invest heavily in building your new social life. It makes life fun again. What have you found that works for building your community?

 

Christmas in Australia: the shopping centres are filled with perfectly decorated Christmas trees, long lines for Santa photos and upbeat festive tunes from Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé humming from every speaker. At home, Christmas movies are on every TV and Netflix channel, the kids are finishing school for the year and the smell of mangoes and sound of cicadas fill the warm summer nights. For many, these associations mean happy times with family and friends and reflecting on a wonderful year of health, love and laughter. For others, Christmas time and the holiday season are tinged with sadness, heartbreak, loneliness and grief. Unmet goals or resolutions, the burden of ill health, the loss of loved ones and feelings of hardship can be magnified at this time of year, when it seems like everyone else around you is so happy and festive. If someone you care about might be struggling this holiday period, here are some ideas for reaching out to them and showing you care. And if that someone is you, we’ve got tips to look after yourself in a healthy and positive way this Christmas season.

 

A simple message to a loved one can go a long way

 

How often do we ‘intend’ to send that text message or make that phone call to tell someone we’re thinking of them? And how often does that well-intentioned thought quickly pass and get replaced by the myriad to-do lists and extra burdens of the Christmas period? Take a few minutes each day before you go to sleep to send a quick message to the three people who were on your mind that day. A simple ‘thinking of you’ or ‘how are you this week?’ can mean the world to someone, and brighten their day. Plus, thinking about others can help to give us perspective on our own issues, help form social bonds and potentially reduce our own depression and anxiety due to less self-focused thinking.

 

Extend the invitation, or find a new tribe of your own

 

Know someone who might be spending Christmas alone? Perhaps they just moved to the area and don’t have a big social circle; perhaps they’ve lost a loved one this year and no longer have the security of their usual traditions. Check in with the host of your event and ask if they wouldn’t mind setting an extra place at the table. Don’t take it personally if they decline – being social among strangers can be a hard task for someone going through an emotional time at Christmas, but they will likely appreciate the invitation and thought.

If you want to connect with others and make new friends to share your holidays with, search for meetups happening in your area (organised group and social events, often free or cheap in cost); use Facebook to search for events near you, ask at your local church or community group for their social schedule, or check your local council website for Carols by Candlelight or other community events.

 

Connect with nature

 

Running around trying to find last-minute Christmas gifts, attend school concerts, flutter between social events and see every friend and family member before the end of year for ‘Christmas catch-ups’ can be overwhelming, stressful and expensive. A simple antidote is to take some time for yourself and head back to basics, in nature. Go camping for a night (even if it’s in your own backyard), head to a rainforest or the beach, go for a long hike, catch a sunset, take up bird watching or swim in your local pool. Nature can be a grounding force, can reset our energies and help us to keep perspective on what’s important at this time of year. If you know someone who is going through a rough time this Christmas, ask them to join you. Or better yet, ask them what their favourite nature pursuit is and offer to accompany them.

 

Enrol in a Mental Health First Aid course

 

If you’re altruistically inclined and dedicated to helping others, not just for the festive season but beyond, consider enrolling in a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Course. One in five Australians will experience mental illness in their lives, and stigma and lack of knowledge about, or access to, treatment options can often exacerbate these conditions. MHFA courses can teach you how to listen and respond to someone with a mental health problem, even if they are experiencing a crisis. You’ll learn how to help someone to access the support they might need for the successful management of symptoms as part of their recovery. Courses are certified and can often be subsidised by your workplace or charitable organisations.

 

Download the Daybreak app and connect to a supportive community in your pocket

 

It can be easy to turn to alcohol or to drink more than usual during the festive season. Whether it’s the social pressure of Christmas events, a way to unwind from the extra stress, or to cope with feelings of loneliness and loss. While this may feel good in the short term, it can lead to negative coping patterns being established that are harder to break, down the track. If you’re considering quitting, cutting back or even maintaining the amount of alcohol you drink, type ‘Daybreak’ into your phone’s app download store and start connecting with others on a similar journey. It’s free for Australians and there’s also a desktop version if you prefer to use your computer.

 

For these who need more serious help at this time of year

 

If you feel like your problems are insurmountable and can’t be solved on your own, or if you’re seriously concerned about a loved one, it’s time to call in the professionals.

Lifeline is a free service for any Australian experiencing a personal crisis, and offers access to 24-hour support and suicide prevention services via phone and online chat.

Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for Australian young people aged 5 to 25, and offers support anytime, for any reason.

Remember, you are not alone. It’s quite normal to feel different emotions at this time of year and it’s ok to admit it. If you’re not feeling yourself, reach out to someone you trust and let them know, or seek professional support.

We wish all our community a safe, happy and healthy Christmas season!

June 17, 2018. The day that would change my life forever.

I started drinking at the young age of 14, and I fell in love with being drunk. It made life fun and entertaining, and turned me into a more sociable and likeable person. It helped ease my nerves in a social environment and made me not care what others thought about me. To be frank, it made me not care at all.

I liked the feeling of security and invincibility when I was intoxicated. It wasn’t until after years of drinking and getting older that I learned my lessons the hard way. I started experiencing the negative impact alcohol had on me but it still didn’t stop me. I was blind to it. I was too stubborn and delusional to admit I had a lost control with my drinking.

My drinking turned me into someone I hated

I would say and do things to family members and people I loved that I would regret years later. I would say and do whatever I wanted without thinking about the short- or long-term consequences.

Alcohol let me live in a distorted world where anything goes. I thought I was on top of the world and in control of everything, only to have the world fall apart and crush me underneath. After a failed relationship, I was no longer drinking for the same reasons I did when I was younger. It was no longer for pleasure, enjoyment or social gatherings; I was drinking to kill or at least ease pain, loneliness, self-pity, blame, anger, hatred, shame, guilt and depression. It was the end of the world. I was in a black hole. I felt like there was nothing left for me. I was literally trying to drink myself to death.

I couldn’t function normally without alcohol in my system

The only way to stop the sweating and shaking at night was to wake up and have a drink. I thought I could never break this vicious cycle, so I lost hope and accepted my defeat.

At this point, the few people who still loved and cared about me saw a version of me that nobody had seen before; a version of me that I never thought I could be. They knew I was battling demons stronger than I had thought possible. I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy or pity because the hard truth was I had put myself in the position I was in. I didn’t want to admit it, accept it or even face it.

I told myself that death had to be better than whatever this thing called life was, and by this stager my family had seen and heard enough. My parents mentioned the idea of sending me into a detox and rehab center for my drinking. I still can’t say how or why it happened but one day I could see how much my self-destructive drinking was hurting my family. Parents were watching a son, and brothers were watching a brother inch closer to his funeral.

I finally decided, after spending half of my life in denial, that I had a problem with my drinking and it was time to get help

So low was my self-regard that I feel that the decision to go into detox and rehab was done more for the sake of my family that for myself. Ironically, it was the first time in a long time that I wasn’t being selfish. I wanted to die but my family wanted me to live. It took a lot of courage and willpower for me to finally admit that I had a problem, and that it was time for change.

That decision started me on the road to controlling my life again. It gave me a higher sense of personal responsibility and ownership. I agreed to enter a detox and rehab center on June 17, 2018. The idea of entering a detox and rehab centre was terrifying at first. I asked myself, “how did I ever get to this point?” I told myself, “I’m nothing like these other people here, I don’t belong in a place like this.” But I realised on the very first day just how wrong I was.

We all shared an obvious weakness in common. However, we were also defiant, courageous and strong enough to admit we needed help. People like us come from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life, and if you saw us on the street you would not know that we had lost control of our drinking habits.

I came to understand how my choices and behaviours had affected people who’d had the misfortune of crossing paths with the old me. I acknowledged and accepted the chaos and destruction I’d inflicted on others – I had no choice but to. I was finally able to forgive myself for what I had done in the hope that, one day, those that I have harmed can forgive me, even though I may not deserve it.

The new, sober me has learned to love myself and others again

The new, sober me is the strongest version of me I’ve ever known. It was the longest, darkest and hardest battle I had ever fought. Accepting that I needed help allowed me to take back control of my life. It made me feel I was human again, and not an abomination to society. My only regret is not going through treatment sooner…but I also learned it’s never too late to seek help.

Written by Hello Sunday Morning supporter, Kevin Repass

2018 has been the year of self-care. Everywhere we hear about the importance of looking after ourselves, making space for ourselves in the midst of chaos and finding ways to recharge and boost our emotional resources.

Being able to make choices about our personal wellbeing is powerful and can make a huge difference to our quality of life.

It can give us a sense of control and mastery over our lives, which is important when our lives are busy and stressful. There is a growing awareness that our busy lives and multiple commitments (especially for the sandwich generation) have resulted in a generation of people who are stressed, anxious and in desperate need of ‘me’ time, but sadly do not have many options for this.

Alcohol use as self-care

Many use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a chaotic, stressful day. On one hand, it is kind of a great self-care tool. It can be physiologically relaxing, has a pleasurable taste and is often consumed when relaxing on the couch with something nice to eat.

On the other hand, it is a somewhat risky self care tool. One that is hard to cap at one or two, largely because it is almost too effective at helping us to unwind. We generally stop at one bubble bath, or one cup of tea a night – but alcohol is a self-care tool that is fairly difficult to shut off, due to its powerful effects on a stressed out brain.

Often, particularly if someone has had a stressful day, they might crave that release. However, at the same time, the release is then followed by a desire to keep the feelings going. Many people also experience this effect with sugar and junk food. The mechanism is similar, but with alcohol it is even more profound, since it is affecting multiple parts of the brain and reward system, as well as switching off the consequential thinking part of our brains.

Making the day after harder

What starts out as a gentle way to recover from a hard day, often becomes something that can make the next day even harder. Someone might find themselves finishing the bottle of wine in the quest to replenish those emotional resources. What follows is poor food choices, poor sleep and lower energy, making it less likely we will have the day we were hoping for.

Many members on Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app describe this conundrum. The very understandable aim to treat themselves to a drink after a long day (self-care), balanced with the equally important need to look after their health and energy levels. The perennial question: How can I practice self-care in the way that I want, without taking away from my quality of life? I’m trying to relax and recharge after work, but I end up waking up the next day feeling awful and even further away from my wellbeing goals.

Consider the importance of rituals

Many people will describe the pleasure of coming home and pouring a glass of wine and sitting on the couch to relax. Often there are things like sound, smell, taste and even temperature that can inform the ritual and make it something that is repeated. You probably have other rituals that you do daily that have similarly grounding and comforting effects. Whether that is taking a coffee break in the sun, or the process of getting ready to go to bed in the evenings.

Perhaps we can also be a bit critical of the idea of alcohol as a form of self-care

Some questions to ask might be: Is this really helping me to recover from the day? Is this making my life better in the long run? Is this all I need to top up my emotional resources, or are there some other things that will also help?

Rituals often ground us and provide a predictable framework for us to behave. Often this is why people might start to feel relaxed when they get home and have poured a drink, even before they have had a sip. It is not the alcohol itself that is grounding and relaxing – it is the knowledge that they are home and have the next few hours just for them. Many self-care rituals are similar – we benefit both from the activity (listening to our favourite music) as well as the action (knowing that we are doing something for ourselves).

Consider what other kinds of rituals might accompany, or replace alcohol

This might look like creating a new evening ritual of having a shower as soon as you get home, and then going for a walk. Or it might involve pouring that glass of wine, but also pouring a large glass of soda water. It might involve calling a friend or family member for a chat after you put the kids to bed, so that when you get to the couch you are in a good mood. It might involve having that glass of wine, but only after you’ve done a few other things first that have calmed you down and set you up for a good evening.

Often, when we look back on the most difficult or stressful times in our lives, we can see that the rituals that give us a sense of safety and stability have often fallen over. We do need things like this to give our life structure and allow us to feel grounded and safe.

The good news is that if we can find rituals that actually work for us, we are likely to see improvements in our quality of life and wellbeing. If you are finding that alcohol is a big part of your nightly ritual, consider what kinds of small changes you can make to allow room for other things to fill some of those gaps.

Original Article written by Hello Sunday Morning Health Coach Briony and published by Ten Daily

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