The vast majority of these people are juggling families, jobs, caring responsibilities or community commitments. They are making valuable contributions to the world around them, not whiling away days on park benches with cans in paper bags.
This shows that ‘problem drinking’ is deeply personal - if you are drinking more than you would like on a regular basis and don’t seem to be able to reduce it, then for you it’s a problem - whether it’s a glass or a bottle. I’ve worked with thousands of people (mums, boyfriends, CEOs, students, grandfathers, successful execs and small business owners) learning how to stop drinking and even though what they do, what they drink and how much they drink might differ, they all found the way to change their behaviours by looking at their drinking differently. If, like them, you are looking for ways to stop drinking or drink less, here are some important factors to keep in mind.
Willpower is about using rational thought to change your behaviour. You know that making the change is a good decision, so you just do it, right?
If this worked we would all be slim, healthy and have loads of savings in the bank! But the human brain doesn’t work this way. 90% of our thinking is non-rational. Addictions and damaging behaviours lie in this subconscious thinking, which is why it is so hard to override. Yes you will need a degree of discipline and as with all good intentions, you may even be able to keep it up for a while, but if you are relying on willpower, you are making life hard for yourself. At some point your willpower will wane and if you haven't dealt with the underlying cause - your feelings - you may stumble.
This might sound counterintuitive but it’s a powerful thought when you get your head around it. The human mind doesn't deal in negatives, it likes positives much more. So instead of thinking about how bad your drinking is (and what a bad weak person you are) reframe your thinking. Put some time aside and make a list of what will improve in your life if you get control of your drinking. Think about your health and wealth, your relationships, your work…. It is amazing how many things get better when you get control of your drinking. Getting really clear on your motivations for changing being about a better future will help you keep moving forward
Once you have got really clear on how much better life will be with less drink in your life, spend some time thinking about what (or who) could get in the way of the better future you have imagined for yourself. Here are some examples:
Don’t set yourself mammoth goals. This adds pressure when you least need it.
Start with a few hills before climbing your Everest. I always recommend that people start by committing to a week without drink and be quite conscious during that period if how it feels. Keep your positives list close to hand and be aware of your triggers.
While the physical impact of drinking less may start to become apparent in a week or two, reprogramming your thinking takes longer.
Many people are ashamed of their drinking, which is incredibly unhelpful as it means that they don't feel publicly confident about seeking help- so their problems continue. The following options can offer you support as you make your change
Whilst there is no doubt that unhappy people, the mentally ill or those who have suffered trauma may exhibit self-destructive behaviours, addictions are habits and problem drinking isn’t always triggered by a major life drama. Many people see their drinking escalate over time and suddenly notice it’s a problem.
If you are concerned about how reducing your drinking might affect your health then talk to your GP. They are best placed to give you advice
As an ex-drinker of Olympic proportions, this is perhaps the single most important thing to do. Drinkers often follow a well-trodden path of good intention - they start strongly, have a ‘wine wobble’ and then punish themselves - leading to more drinking and a downward spiral. If you are reading this then you are clearly serious about changing your drinking, so give yourself credit for that.
Problem drinking can leave you feeling alone and desperate, but with help and support, you can find a way through. Just focus your effort where it can have the most impact - by thinking about how much better your life will be with less alcohol in it.
Join our Facebook support group to get help and advice for others in similar situations.