Reviewed By Pamela Kirkpatrick - Senior Accredited NCS & Registered Member MBACP Adv. Dip.
Ask A Therapist: Do I drink too much?
25 August 2023
How do I tell when it’s time to make a change or get help?
“My friend has commented on my drinking habits, which was surprising to me because I don’t feel like I have a problem or an alcohol addiction. It has got me thinking though… How do I tell when it’s time to make a change or get help?”
Firstly, thank you so much for getting in touch. It’s so healthy to check in with ourselves about our lifestyles and habits from time to time.
Perhaps your connection with alcohol is balanced, or maybe there are moments when you question its impact. Being transparent with yourself about how alcohol makes you feel is a big step, and recognizing when to seek help is equally important.
We tend not to look at our relationship with alcohol unless we consider it a problem. As with many things in life, a healthy balance is so important. Alcohol is a natural depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings, actions and can affect our mental health too.
Northern Irish Culture & Excessive Use
Excessive use of alcohol can so easily sneak up on us, not least because it’s nearly seen as part of our social culture in Northern Ireland, to the point where it can sometimes feel awkward or daunting to abstain when in company. It's understandable that you might feel uneasy about abstaining in social settings, fearing you might miss out, or be seen as less fun or exciting.
Our culture doesn't always provide a welcoming space for those who wish to improve their relationship with alcohol. The hospitality industry still has room for improvement when it comes to offering accessible non-alcoholic alternatives that allow everyone to enjoy the party while staying true to their choices.
Addressing The Balance
Addressing the balance requires us to be open and honest with ourselves as we explore the role it plays in our lives. The lines between moderation and excess can be blurry, and it's completely natural to wonder when it's time to reflect, make a change, or seek support. That’s a decision only you can make.
Imagine treating alcohol like any other part of your diet and asking yourself:
- How much is too much?
- Do I use it to wind down and relax?
- Do I use it to let go, socialise or party?
- Can I take it or leave it?
- Is it impacting me positively or negatively right now?
- Is it enhancing my life or getting in my way?
- How much control do I really have?
- Is it affecting my relationships, work or health in any way?
Your well-being is the priority
Changing established lifestyle patterns can be daunting, especially when everyone around us seems to follow the same path. But remember, your journey is unique, and your well-being takes precedence. This is your journey, and you're the captain of your ship. If you find yourself questioning your relationship with alcohol, it's a sign of growth and introspection. Whether you decide to make small changes or seek help, the choice is yours.
Here are some steps that might help you gain more understanding and control of your consumption.
- Self-Care Check-ins: Before and after consuming alcohol, check in with your emotions. What feelings arose when you decided to have a drink? How does it make you feel in the moment? What emotions do you experience after? Did it have any impact on your relationships? Recognizing these shifts can empower you to make mindful choices.
- Be Kind to Yourself: If you decide to reduce your alcohol intake, take it step by step. Celebrate each achievement along the way. Remember, this is a personal journey, and you should be proud of any progress.
- Embrace a New Hobby: Engaging in a new hobby can be an excellent way to redirect your energy. It's a chance to fill the void that alcohol may have occupied during moments of solitude. Choose an activity that excites you and adds a new layer of meaning to your life.
- Practical Strategies: Create a budget for alcohol expenses, opt for non-alcoholic alternatives, or choose smaller servings, (rather than getting a crate of beer, buy 4 small bottles). Reward yourself with any money saved - it's a positive reinforcement that will trigger feelings of achievement.
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