How to be kind to yourself when you’re giving up alcohol

Dr Bunmi Aboaba

The typical alcoholic is not what you would expect – today’s heavy drinkers tend to be high achievers.

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Dr Bunmi Aboaba of The Sober Advantage works with professionals to help them stop drinking, she says: “There’s lots of causes of addiction – sometimes it’s genetic and people can be predisposed to addiction, but it can also affect certain personality types – you tend to find addiction more in over-achievers. People who are really self-critical or perfectionists and people who get overwhelmed are affected too.”

People in high octane jobs – such as athletes and lawyers – are also prone to alcoholism. “They want to continue that endorphin rush from scoring a goal or sealing a deal. Creatives are more prone to addiction too.”

Read more articles related to mental health:

Woman drinking wine

Using alcohol to cope with stress

Many people drink as a means of coping with stress and to manage day-to-day life. “If you’re mentally well, stressors (causes of stress) don’t bother you and you can just get on with your day. When things become problematic is when you’re not very well mentally, stress begins to bug you,” says Dr Aboaba.

“Things like your computer crashing, road rage, feeling overwhelmed at work – people can’t cope with those stressors, so their thoughts and feelings become dysfunctional. They experience exaggerated responses to things which, to a balanced mind, should not be a problem.”

Feeling stressed, burnout or fatigue can lead people to turn to alcohol. “You’re running on cortisol (the stress hormone) all the time and you’re completely overwhelmed.”

Drinking alcohol starts to become a problem when it begins to affect your life and those around you. “It becomes a mental compulsions – all you can think of is a drink,” she says.

“You can’t go through the day without a drink. You plan your life around a drink. You get upset and irritable if there’s no drink around. Or every night when you get home, you have to have a drink to wind down. It’s when you can’t do without a drink.”

For Dr Aboaba, the warning sign is when you start to feel better after having a drink: “That’s when I start to think that you have a drink problem.”

Read on to discover Dr Aboaba’s tips for being kind to yourself when you’re trying to stop drinking.

Meditation and self-care

How to be kind to yourself when you’re cutting out alcohol

  1. Be kind to yourself – don’t be critical. “It’s all about self-love and self-forgiveness,” Dr Aboaba says.
  2. Make a plan. “There’s nothing worse than not having a plan to cope with your stressors. Focus on your self-care and treat yourself instead of having a drink.”
  3. Hang around with people who don’t drink. “Connect with people you know who don’t drink – stay away from the drinkers,” she advises. “Don’t go into a bar early on. Maybe you can do that later and have a mocktail or a soda – but there’s intense peer pressure to drink if you’re trying to cut back or stop drinking.”
  4. Start a new hobby.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.
  6. Make sure you’re eating well. “That goes out of the window when you’ve been drinking a bit too much!”
  7. Get active.
  8. Have a buddy. “Find someone who understands what you want to do and you can check in with them every day. Someone you can talk to if you’re feeling stressed.”
  9. Change your route home. “Don’t walk past your normal bar every day – drinking is a routine. So start a good routine instead.”
  10. Help the community. “Be involved with your community and spend your time doing something for somebody else, because you’re giving something back.”
  11. Get professional help if you need it.
  12. Make your excuses. If you’re a business person or need to attend lots of events where drink is likely to be present, Dr Aboaba recommends having excuses prepared in advance in case anyone asks why you’re not drinking: “Say that you’ve got an early start the next day so you can’t drink or say that you’re trying to get fit. Go in late and leave early. Go in with a strategy.”
  13. Get yourself in the right mindset. Start the day with some meditation or relax by reading a book. Make sure you take proper breaks and get some fresh air.
  14. Try the 3 x 3 x 3 technique in the morning. “Spend three minutes thinking about what you were grateful for yesterday or what you’re grateful for today. Spend three minutes thinking about your goals for the day and then spend three minutes just dancing to the radio!”
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Photos by Kelsey Chance and Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash