Do you find yourself drinking alone? When we think of someone who drinks too much, we tend to think of someone propping up the end of the bar in the local pub, or a young adult partying the night away in a club, surrounded by their friends. The reality, however, tends to look a little different.
Drinking alone at home is not always a terrible habit, but it is a practice that can develop into alcohol addiction. When people drink around friends and family, it is considered acceptable, but when they drink alone, it is frowned upon.
So why do people drink alone? Is it bad to drink alone? Is drinking alone alcoholism? If you tend to drink solo, you might want to consider the information on this page.
In my experience, binge drinking alone can place you on a slippery slope. The foundations of addiction can be firmly laid in solitary moments with very few checks and balances from other people to put the brakes on when things are getting out of hand.
When reaching out to me for help, the vast majority of them drink alone, and/or hide their drinking from their loved ones. Often when they drink in a social setting, lone drinkers often feel quite conspicuous, and I get many stories of people 'topping up' in other rooms, or then continuing to drink after others have left at social events.
Drinking excessively is riddled with guilt and shame, and this does not enjoy external scrutiny. A relaxing glass of wine after a long day at work can seem like a well deserved treat, but if it simply ended there, then there wouldn't be the scale of alcohol addiction we see across the developed world. Ask yourself this question and listen to your gut feeling – “is drinking alone a problem?” Here’s the answer: drinking alone is rarely a good idea.
When alcohol is consumed alone on a regular basis, it can suggest a serious problem in certain people. Going out drinking alone can quickly escalate into irresponsible alcohol consumption.
Now, you may be wondering, “why do I like drinking alone?” Lone drinking is often born out of a desire to numb certain feelings - perhaps feeling stressed due to a demanding job, feeling lonely due to lack of companionship, or simply feeling bored as you haven't got anything better to do.
Alcohol is an addictive depressant. Momentary stress relief due to the depressant effects of alcohol is counteracted by the stimulation and anxiety your body produces to counter this. (Ever wake up after a heavy night feeling anxious? (The alcohol is wearing off, but your body hasn't realised yet and is still producing anxiety!)
Lonely feelings are amplified due to low mood and confidence inhibiting you from reaching out to friends and family. Lowered energy levels make it all the harder to get up and about and do something that makes you feel happier.
In a word, yes. It is depressing to drink alone at home or in public.
Physically, alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant, so it reduces heart rate, slows brain function, reduces cognitive responsiveness and suppresses breathing. What starts as 'relaxation' very quickly escalates. Further consumption results in slurred speech, reduced concentration and dizziness. Alcohol also inhibits the neurotransmitter Glutamate leading to memory loss.
Have you ever woken up, frantically checking your phone to see who you may have called/texted or what you may have posted on social media? This guilt contributes to the anxiety that heavy drinkers who binge drink alone feel the morning after.
Emotionally, this lowering of your mood tends to have a significant effect on your self-esteem. If a person continues to drink beyond a safe limit, they will begin to experience the negative emotional effects of alcohol. Alcohol has been demonstrated in studies to cause depressive thoughts and, in some cases, suicide attempts.
By feeling out of control of the situation, you tend to feel bad about yourself, feeling weak and agitated. Feeling in control of your own destiny (as much as we ever can be) is a key pillar of good mental health and alcohol kills that stone dead.
In a word, yes.
Physically, alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant, so it reduces heart rate, slows brain function, reduces cognitive responsiveness and suppresses breathing. What starts as ‘relaxation’ very quickly escalates. Further consumption results in slurred speech, reduced concentration and dizziness. Alcohol also inhibits the neurotransmitter Glutamate leading to memory loss. Have you ever woken up, frantically checking your phone to see who you may have called / texted or what you may have posted on social media? This guilt contributes to the anxiety that heavy drinkers feel the morning after.
Emotionally, this lowering of your mood tends to have a significant effect on your self esteem. By feeling out of control of the situation, you tend to feel bad about yourself, feeling weak and agitated. Feeling in control of your own destiny (as much as we ever can be) is a key pillar of good mental health and alcohol kills that stone dead.
If you are concerned that you seem to have more desire to curl up on the sofa by yourself with a bottle and drink alone all night than to get out and do other things, this is a key red flag.
If you think of this as a cycle of behaviour:
You can see how this cycle repeats itself. When I am speaking to clients who are considering joining the Freedom Programme, they often mention 'downward spirals' and this is a good example.
Do not get overwhelmed by the scale of the changes required. There are no huge steps on this journey - only little ones that add up over time. Have a look at how this cycle may be manifesting itself in your life, and see where you can influence it.
By starting with a small change and transitioning away from drinking alone, the cycle starts to repeat in a slightly different way.
For example, perhaps you used to enjoy going to the gym. You could decide to have 2 nights a week where you do just that. Initially, this is going to feel like a challenge as it represents change. Provided you are doing something that you feel pretty confident is going to have a positive impact it will become a positive and normal part of your life.
Let’s play the above cycle out again with the positive intervention:
Does this resonate with you? The key thing is the principle of breaking the cycle where you can. Small changes set you off toward a different destination.
If you had gone back in time to see me in 2015 when I was drinking solo way too much, you’d realise it was a different story. I was grossly overweight and was walking with a stick, due to my Gout.
If you had then told me that just 3 years later I would have ridden the entire course of the Tour de France for a children's charity, be a qualified 'spin' instructor and be helping thousands of people ditch their alcohol addiction, I would have laughed in your face. You would simply have been talking about someone else!
In fact, such a monumental change would have felt completely overwhelming. I probably would have done nothing about it as it would have seemed too big a change. And yet here I am. Big things happen in tiny steps.
Remember when I mentioned 'downward spirals' above? I have seen time and again that the difference between a downward spiral and an upward one is paper thin. A different choice, a tiny commitment - who knows where that will lead?
Taking action is its own reward. Fear keeps us stuck, but facing the smallest fears can build confidence and get you moving.
If you find yourself drinking alone and want to transform your relationship with alcohol, it’s time to check out our Freedom Programme. This course will help you change your thoughts and feelings about alcohol so you can move on to live a sober, happy life.
Greta Thunberg, the climate activist said an incredibly poignant thing in an early talk she gave: