Alcohol is one of those funny drugs (well, not so funny). It is legal, yet it is also one of our most harmful substances.
These are some of the things I would like you to watch out for.
1. How are you using it?
Alcohol is a social lubricant. However, it’s a toxin, a poison. The idea with it is less, not more. It’s designed to be ingested in small quantities. Be honest with yourself: do you have the occasional social drink – or do you drink daily? Drink alone? Drink when you are stressed, lonely, tired, happy? You know how it goes. If so, then get some support to reduce and build up those alcohol free days. Maybe even take a break.
2. Increased tolerance
Have you noticed that you are drinking more and more? That you are drinking more to get a desired effect, or maybe you don’t even feel the effects anymore? It’s not necessarily something to be proud of being able to drink more than other people in your social group. Drinking regularly can cause this. If this is you, then cut back slowly and stop for a while.
3. Black outs/loss of memory
Some of us have occasional nights when things got a bit hazy due to a binge drinking session, but, if it’s a regular occurrence, then it is definitely time to take a closer look at your drinking habits.
4. Decreased sexual performance and fertility
Problems in the bedroom aren’t always caused by alcohol, but those with drinking problems are unlikely to be fully functioning Casanovas. (Even if you think you are!) For men and women, it can result in reduced fertility and impotence in men.
If you are trying to conceive then its best that you both abstain from alcohol for a while. It’s particularly important that women do not drink whilst pregnant.
5. Sleep problems
If you are unable to sleep properly when you have had a drink this could be due to your alcohol use. This is your body working hard to process the alcohol in your system. Most people think that alcohol aids sleep. Well, it does initially as it relaxes you, but later it alters the quality of your sleep as your body works hard to process the alcohol.
6. Causing problems in your life
Have you fallen out with your partner, friends or relatives as a result of your drinking, but this hasn’t made you change your ways? Is it interfering with your work? Do you take days off because of your alcohol use? Have you or anyone else been injured as a result of your drinking, or do you now suffer from an alcohol related illness? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, then you definitely need to seek professional help.
7. You’re keeping secrets from friends and family
Are your cans of lager in the secret cupboard rather than in a fridge? If you feel the need to keep your alcohol stash hidden from your nearest and dearest, think about why this is the case. If your drinking habits are normal, why are you concerned that others would see what you are going to drink?
8. Stomach problems
This can be over acidity, and you may be using a lot of anti-acids. You may have even been to your doctor as it bothers you so much. Alcohol is a highly toxic substance; even a little makes your stomach produce more acid than usual. This can in turn cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) which triggers tummy pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in heavy drinkers, even bleeding.
9. Skin problems and ageing
Is alcohol ageing YOU? Deep wrinkles, red skin and chubby cheeks sound familiar? As well as causing bloating and dark circles under your eyes, alcohol dries out skin and can lead to wrinkles and premature ageing. Alcohol is not a good look.
10. You’ve tried to quit
Have you tried to take some time off from drinking a number of times but struggled?
We all have those “I could really do with a drink” moments, but if you struggle to go for a day without thinking about your next drink, warning lights should certainly be flashing. Alcohol free drinks can really help when you first stop drinking or take a break.
12. Drinking to cope with a life problem, using it as a crutch
All of us will experience difficult periods in our lives, some more than others. If your life is difficult and you drink regularly you are probably using alcohol to cope and mask difficulties. If you struggle to reduce your drinking because life is just too difficult make sure you get some professional help with whatever the problems are.
If you recognise any of the above, then start by calculating your units and measure what you are drinking. Keep a record. This app is pretty good:
If you are unable to cut down due to anxiety or physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating and shaking, then please speak to your doctor first before embarking on any reduction programme.
Drink by Professor David Nutt is the best factual book on alcohol.
Stephanie Chivers is a recognised behaviour change expert. Contact the team at Women Who Don’t Drink if you need some support https://www.womenwhodontdrink.com/