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Controlling your drinking means looking at the bigger picture

Many people come to realise that they have a problem with controlling how much alcohol they drink. Often, the first time they come to this realisation is because something has gone wrong in their life; with a relationship perhaps, or at work.

There are many experts who believe that drinking in moderation is not possible for those who have experienced problems with controlling their level of alcohol consumption. They would argue that the only safe option is complete abstinence for the rest of your life. Whilst there is certainly plenty of evidence supporting this point of view, others disagree and highlight the many individuals who have successfully changed their relationship with alcohol and who now drink sensibly and in moderation. I tend towards this view myself.

However, keeping your drinking under control when you’ve previously had a problem with it represents a big challenge. It’s much more complicated than simply learning to control your alcohol intake and requires a complete re-evaluation of the role of alcohol in your life. This might involve changing many things; not just how much you drink or what you drink, but who you drink with, where you drink and importantly, thinking deeply, constructively and critically concerning your beliefs about alcohol and its role in your life.

The Bigger Picture

Alcohol is everywhere. It’s a multi-million pound industry and drinking is endemic in our modern lifestyle. Our social lives are built around alcohol; we drink to celebrate, we drink to commiserate, we use alcohol to build close relationships and to maintain existing relationships with family and friends. If you stopped drinking for any length of time, you are probably aware of just how ingrained alcohol is in the fabric of our society. From “wetting the baby’s head” to “toasting the dearly departed”, alcohol is with us throughout our lives, from the cradle to the grave.

Alcohol for every occasion, cradle to grave

It is almost certainly the case therefore, that the person you are, your very sense of identity and the entire basis of your social network will contain alcohol as an important component. So, changing the relationship with alcohol probably means changing the person you are; what you do, where you go, whom you socialise with and how much time you spend with them. Of course, not all of these people and situations will potentially be dangerous from an alcohol consumption point of view. However, many of the situations will be high risk for you in terms of quickly re-establishing a pattern of unhealthy and out-of-control drinking. Having the courage to recognise the situations for what they are and then acting accordingly is therefore important.

Also important is a process which involves you in a realistic and even critical appraisal of your beliefs about the role of alcohol in your life. Finally, you will need to build new beliefs, new ways of being, new ways of relating to people and new opportunities for you to engage fully with your life without alcohol controlling or compromising your enjoyment of it. Let’s look at each of these in more detail before we consider some management and coping strategies that could perhaps help you in the short term whilst you go through this process and make some adjustments.

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Dr Alan Priest, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist provides therapy for problem drinking and alcohol dependency in Huddersfield and Halifax.Contact Me.