It’s no big deal to let your hair down occasionally with a drink. That feeling of release at the end of a tough week of study or work can be really great, especially when you enjoy it with friends. But if you can’t relax or feel normal without a drink, if you lie about your drinking habits or feel guilty or ashamed about them, or if you are often ill or black out from alcohol, then your drinking is less about pleasure and more about avoiding pain.
It takes guts to admit that you are drinking too much, but once you do, it’s a sign that you’re ready to get your drinking under control. And once you do start to drink less, you can learn to deal with the feelings that are making you drink.
Why do we drink too much?
We might begin drinking for any number of reasons:
- To forget a traumatic experience (abuse, bullying, loss)
- To cope with stress at school or work
- To boost our self-esteem and confidence in social situations
- To blot out depression or anxiety
- Because our brain has locked onto alcohol as a way of feeling good
We might also have a family history of alcoholism, which is not an excuse, but can explain why some of us find it so much harder to drink moderately. But whatever the reason, you don’t need to suffer and you don’t need to feel bad about seeking help.
When you drink, you’re just trying to deal with your problems – there’s no need to feel ashamed.
What can you do?
1. Pace yourself
Replace every second drink with a glass of water or soft drink and reduce the size of each serve of alcohol, too. You’ll drink less and won’t be as dehydrated. (If you feel under pressure to keep up with your friends, buy a soft drink and ask the bar staff to serve it in a spirit glass.)
2. Get help
Giving up heavy drinking takes courage, and you’ll need some support. This is because the emotional issues you were trying to avoid can start coming up.
Reach out to family, friends or your doctor. There are many confidential services available – some are medical, others may be counsellors, groups or social services. Here are some you could contact right away:
Counselling Online (1800 888 236) offers 24/7 telephone and online counselling for alcohol (and drug) problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous Australia (1300 22 22 22) also offers 24/7 telephone counselling for alcohol problems.
On the bright side, once you start cutting down, you’ll also be able to think more clearly, you’ll sleep better and you’ll have more energy.
You can do this.