What liquid does the body see as a poison which can lead to ?
The start of new relationships
The breakdown of old relationships
Low self esteem
You got it !
Alcohol. The Liquid of fun.
’Tis the season to be jolly’- Right?
As anyone who has ever had too much ‘jolly-ness’ can confirm however, we all know that even if the down side the following day includes just one of the above variables, we can begin to start the self loathing process of regret, and commitment to a life of sobriety (until the next social function calls that is).
The crazy thing about alcohol is the two fold effect it has on the body. It can make you happy then sad. Confident, followed by shamed. It can even lead you to believe you have lost weight, (initially caused by dehydration), followed by weight gain (both the calorie content of the alcohol PLUS the cr*p food most of us crave the following day). Its no wonder we struggle to know how we feel about it.
It seems to bring out the best and the worst in many. Alcohol is so socially embedded within our culture these days, its very difficult to imagine life without it. Although this is definitely harder for some than others.
I’m not here to judge anyone on the who’s, whys ,whats and where’s of drinking. I write this from a place of observation. Both personal and professional. And to try and offer something in the spirit’ (excuse the pun) of Christmas, to help the many people I see who seem to go against their own expressed wishes, when it comes to drinking, leading to a whole host of negative feelings at the start of a new year. Whether you are a dieter looking to lose bdy fat, a head full of stress, looking for more opportunities to relax, or someone with low mood, low energy looking for greater health. You wouldn't go far wrong to look at alcohol as a contributory factor.
But recognising how Christmas is perhaps for many, a little ‘trickier’ than many other seasons,
as someone who has great experience in:-
drinking (I’ve been there done that in the world of booze I assure you)
2. Learning now how to survive social situations as ‘the sober (ish) one’
I thought I’d pen a few words, to help share my thoughts on the world of booze. I am not claiming to never drink, I love a glass of bubbles as much as the next girl, and there is no doubt I will have at least one hungover day this Christmas. I am just sharing what has worked to help me reduce my alcohol intake over the years, to now be in a place of what I term as ‘balance’.
So heres my top tips of how to SURVIVE Christmas (semi sober).
*** Plan Negotiable’s Vrs Non Negotiable’s.
So its Christmas -
that means meeting up with a range of people-parties etc etc. Mark out on the calendar, in a diary or make a log of events where you can ‘get away with not drinking’, these are your ‘negotiable’s’. So this means anything you can drive to and from. Anything where you can leave a little earlier. Anything where you may have a meal planned, an activity which will replace the lack of attention to your sobriety (when everyone else in the world will seem drunk).
Make your non negotiable’s, events which are more spread out. These should be the nights, and occasions, which are ‘super special’. These are worthy of the sore head in the morning, or the calories gained. Make them fewer and far between.
***While nights of ‘excess’ are higher. Rethink those small glasses of wine at home after work. The ones that can easily be replaced with herbal tea, lime and soda. The ones you really wont miss once you get into a pattern of avoiding.
NB This may take removing wine or alcohol from the kitchen. It could even mean working on a reduction initially so 7 nights of drinking to 5, 5 nights to 3, 3 to 1, etc etc.
Initially replace the post work glass of wine with ‘something nice’. This could be a piece of chocolate. It could even be a hot bath with candles. Just make yourself feel like you have rewarded yourself initially for the avoidance of booze. After the first few weeks this habit will be deleted. Eventually you can replace your ‘swap’ for the pay off of satisfaction.
***Be your own Fun Police. Now this is half tongue in cheek, and half serious. But so many people I know have no ‘off switch’. The off switch is VERY DIFFICULT to find after 2 bottles of prosseco or a keg of beer. Strange that isn't it ;). Becoming your own fun police involves developing restraint where you THINK you need it, and part of this is learning your TIPPING point. For me I know my point of tipping is when I begin to feel tired. This is actually a time when I am most at risk of ‘trying to drink more alcohol’ to wake myself up. In my early twenties I would fight the night ending. THE FOMO (Fear of MISSING OUT would set in). Now I have learnt when my conversion isn't flowing, and I am only ‘half present’. I am tired. Learn to listen to your body for signs, and see if you can develop a pattern of when you are most likely to start drinking at greater amounts. The are the times when alcohol is to be quite frank ‘wasted’ on you. (as oppose to the other way around). The fuzzy feeling wont return. You will just get ‘more drunk’. NB you will also begin to take in a lot more calories which you will find difficult to track. Take note.
***Plan something EARLY the following day that makes you feel good and involves activity. For me this is a session in the gym. For you this could mean a swim. It could mean meeting a friend for a coffee, taking the dog for a walk, taking your kids roller blading, visiting your gran or visiting a christmas market. Whatever it is. Give yourself a reason to get up the following day. Make arrangements that are hard to cancel. If you make the following day a bigger focus than the night out, an automatic ‘reign in’ will often occur. This is the reverse of what most people do. If you plan a hangover day. You will be hungover. If you plan a day of fun or activity. You may even find yourself drinking lime and soda because you don't want to ruin your weekend.
***Have a GET OUT at the ready. Create a cost -benefit analysis in your head. Now this may well be a controversial point. But lets get real. Being the driver amongst a bunch of people who are declaring their love for you, whilst spitting dry roasted peanuts in your ear, is not that much fun.
I am pretty dam happy to have got to an age where I can be open about leaving situations as soon as I feel that I am no longer learning, or experiencing anything new. Slightly harsh maybe, but one of the benefits of maturity, I guess, is being self aware. I now apply a ‘value adding’ judgement to any party, function or event that I feel is no longer adding a benefit which would outweigh the cost.
So, benefits- get to stay up late-drink more- possibly have more fun- the cost? Feeling fatigued the next day- exercise routine impacted, grumpy, work life suffering, less tolerance with family members, mental fog, low mood, temptations to eat poor diet…blah blah blah…..Ultimately, when applying this formula you’d be surprised by how much of your life can be improved simply by learning to leave a little ahead of time and one less drink. Have a cut off- a get out- and apply it.
***Respect alcohol for what it is. Its a poison to the body yes. Its a depressant, yes. But in small amounts, good quality wines have actually been shown to have some benefits. I’m always a little sceptical of research in this area (you can pretty much prove anything you want to these days if you have enough money to fund it), but what we do know is that you can live a long and healthful life and still ‘enjoy’ a drink. Thats if we learn to ‘enjoy’ the management of how we use alcohol within our lives and the effect it has. As with food, think about the quality of what you drink. Think about the social situations when you drink it. Are you ‘using it’ to serve a purpose. Or are you ‘enjoying it’ for what it is? Don't kid yourself that abstinence followed by full scale binges with negative health effects, are consistently doing your body good. But conversely one glass of wine amongst friends wont break a diet plan if you are committed elsewhere.
***And finally- Know that you ARE FUN and CAN BE FUN without ALCOHOL. Now this comes down to confidence in yourself, and taking note of who you spend your time with. I know on a personal level that I can be VERY FUN when I drink alcohol. I also know however that I can be VERY FUN without it. Learning to embrace your own confidence in life is part of a long hard process that starts with reflection and self love. Without getting too deep, if you think that (hopefully) you will spend MOST of your life sober, this is a huge chunk of time you could potentially be feeling FUN. Practice a little self love. Spend your time with people who make you laugh. Who enjoy the small things, and ditch anyone who makes you feel forced to drink at times you don't want to. Living by this philosophy will never do you a disservice.