Dry January fuels negative thinking

Are you one of the  3.1 million people (Yougov poll) people starting the new year partaking in Dry January? Are you  willingly undertaking a month long journey of restraint, deprivation and a whole lot of willpower? It sounds like a pretty rough way to start the new year so why do so many of us do it?  Well,  we use January as a conduit to rid the excess of December and reemerge in  February with more money in our pockets, less eye bags and renewed energy. The statistics show that Dry January results in  health benefits, such as improved sleep and weight loss (alcohol concern), so if that’s your thing go ahead and reap the rewards.

However, if you’re taking a break from booze for other reasons, for example you’ve overdone it to the extent that you’ve been losing your memory along with your dignity on one too many occasions then Dry January isn’t going to cut it. Quitting for a month will give you false confidence that you are in control and will lesson the real reasons you need to take a break (any shame-producing drinking mishaps will conveniently be a distant memory come February). It’s also likely to propel you into the next month with an alcohol fuelled vengeance, the act of denying your desires is like a coiled spring, heightening the “I deserve it” thinking pattern.

Taking a month off will not alter your relationship with alcohol. If you have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, Dry January will hide it for a month but it will not change it. Dry January is appealing as it’s a quick fix. When things in our lives are not clear cut or easily understood it causes discomfort and we naturally work to resolve this uneasiness as soon as possible. We do this by categorising things into good or bad, black or white. How simple to think that we were drinking too much (bad) so we resolve this by quitting for a month (good) and on we go with our day, our month, our year. By quitting for a month we eliminate our awareness of the drinking problem and continue on in the same on and off drinking cycle year after year feeling satisfied and perhaps self-righteous (on the surface at least).

How much more difficult and challenging it would be to go deeper and cut through the little lies we tell ourselves and face up to the possibility that the drinking that we so love on the one hand, the glass of red by the fire, the girly get togethers with prosecco, the champagne celebrations is also the very same thing that is causing ruptures in our relationships and is damaging our health and self-esteem. How much more complex and uncomfortable it is to acknowledge this and to know that there are no quick-fixes. What if  the realisation that we’d be better off not drinking ever again rears its ugly little head? I would ask you to try and sit with this uncomfortable feeling for as long as possible and if you do want to make changes, the good news is there is an alternative to Dry January:

1.Expand the non-drinking areas of your life.

Rather than focusing on what’s lacking when you’re not drinking try and change your mindset and look for things that will add value to your life. What could you do with all the time that you used to spend drinking or hungover? Focus your time and attention in as many areas of life as possible be it meeting new people, strengthening existing relationships, practising mindfulness, travelling or learning new skills.

2.Identify the emotions you feel when drinking.

Pause for a moment and notice what emotion you are experiencing before you decide to take a drink. Is it stress, boredom, excitement? Try to identify the emotion and then come up with  alternative behaviours that will relieve your stress/boredom or channel your excitement.

3.Try gradually altering your habits.

Switch it up a little bit, don’t do what you’ve always done; have a mocktail in between alcoholic drinks, drink reduced alcohol wine, try alcohol free beer. If you always go to the pub on a Sunday afternoon, go somewhere else that’s appealing to you but that doesn’t serve alcohol.

If you require additional support to work on your drinking behaviour and any related issues such as self esteem, managing emotions or changing habits, It’s quick and easy to get in touch via video call to talk to Gina, counsellor/psychotherapist at  www.hollaandheard.com

 

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 11th, 2018 at 4:50 pm and is filed under Alcohol, alcohol help, counselling. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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