Taking a break from alcohol: Why do you really drink?
I’m taking a break from alcohol. So recently I’ve been trying to drink mindfully. I’ve always been the last girl standing on a night out, priding myself on the fact that I can keep up with the lads and I’m a “heavyweight”. The problem was I could never recognise when I was drunk. This may sound strange to you as you may be able to pinpoint the exact moment alcohol starts to affect you but I can’t. My brain just tells me I’m fine and to have another drink. So I do. Then I have another and another and another. Mindlessly really. Until I’m royally f*cked. Sorry but there’s no delicate way to say that because, frankly, it’s not a delicate state to be in. It’s a mess.
Haven’t you tried sorting yourself out, woman?
In an effort to stop this, over the years, I’ve tried different things such as imposing a strict “one drink” policy or insisting that a friend be my drunk radar, ripping the glass from my lips when they think I may be crossing the line. Neither of those things worked. They were just a pain for other people. Taking a break from alcohol seemed a bit extreme.
However, recently, I’ve been reading into ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy – I’m sure I’ll write a more detailed blog about that in the near future). The premise of this, very briefly, is all about noticing your thoughts and being curious about them as an observer, as opposed to as someone who is being completely controlled by them. I have found this approach really useful with a lot of aspects of my life so I thought, why not try it with drinking?
Mindful drinking: what could go wrong?
The problem here may be obvious to you. Trying to use mindfulness with drinking didn’t work as drinking interferes with your brain. Being curious about your thoughts and feelings doesn’t really work when you’re surrounded by other people who are smashing pint after pint. So again, once I’d had one drink and everyone else was having more and more, so was I.
However, being curious about my thoughts the day after does work. What I discovered was pretty simple: The reason I kept drinking was that I’d started and I didn’t want to get off the drinking rollercoaster. Actually, I didn’t want anyone to get off it once I’d had a drink either. I can’t be the only person this has happened to. I know my excessive drinking has been responsible for friends overdoing it. The other reason was that it felt good so why would I stop? Then I really thought about why it felt good, exactly like I did when I really thought about whether eating tons of chocolate and then purging it felt good.
When I got curious about it, I realised that, like binging and purging on food, binge drinking and then spending the next day regretting it did not make me feel good. At all. I realised it felt good to temporarily block all thoughts and feelings out with booze but ultimately this made me feel worse. So I realised I had to stop.
And I have, in the name of compassion towards myself and those I care about. I’m taking a break from alcohol. Check out how that’s going for me.