The following article is kindly written and contributed by psychologist Tristan Abba - www.tristanabba.com
Has working from home seen your 5 o’clock quarantinis gradually creep earlier into the afternoon recently or are your usual weekend drinks appealing by Tuesday? Yes? Well you aren’t alone (insert hand-up EMOJI). Bottle shops have seen record sales over the past 2 months with more people staying in their homes and many other activity options off limits.
It’s totally understandable that we’re buying more alcohol. The population has been instructed to stay indoors more. Our daily routine is completely out of whack. You either are a bored panda, or you’ve got bored pandas sitting around the house all day. And if your bored pandas are school aged, then you’ve got a curriculum to upkeep and stress you out along the way.
By 3 o’clock in the arvy, many of my clients and friends are telling me that they’re just simply done with the day. They’re looking for a break. And If you’re usually in the habit of using alcohol to take the edge off, this is likely to remain your go-to strategy in these times also. So, how do you reel it back in once ISO ends, school goes back, the world returns to its former self, and socially acceptable drinking doesn’t start before school pickup time?
You might be thinking, ‘I’ll just stop’ but … well… maybe this isn’t so easy for you. This approach can be summarised in Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign from the 80’s (it didn’t work in case you’re wondering). Here’s a better guided approach if you’re having difficulty;
Define Your Motivation to Change
Reflect (or better yet write down) WHY it is that you want to cut down your drinking? Maybe you’re concerned about your health. Maybe you’re spending too much on booze. Maybe drinking affects your mood negatively. Maybe you’re less present with your loved ones when you’re drinking. Maybe your general motivation has decreased. Maybe you want to lose weight... Whatever your reason, know your WHY. Come back to this WHY before you make any decisions around drinking.
Set A Clearly Defined Goal
“Check yourself before yo wreck yourself” (Classic Ice Cube ’93 lyric). Take an account of what you’re currently drinking and decide what you would like to get it back to. Be honest with yourself.
Set Limits Each and Every Time You Drink
Once you’ve had that first beer/ wine, rational judgment is out the window. Your prefrontal cortex is effectively useless. You can’t rely on willpower. You can’t rely on rational thought so you can’t rely on your reasons for wanting to change. So set this prior to starting that first drink or don’t start at all.
Set Goals Around Your Alcohol Reduction
Simple stuff. Like, ‘I will not drink from Monday to Wednesday from now on’. Or, ‘I will not drink until whatever o’clock each day’. Then push this time back the following week, incrementally getting it closer to what you would eventually like it to be.
Know Your Triggers
Figure out what it is that actually drove you to drink more during ISO. Were you bored? Lonely? Stressed? Angry? Tired? Depressed? These are the most common triggers for drinking for people I meet in my practice. What are yours…?
Once you know this, use this knowledge to your advantage. If you’re lonely for example, reach out to others using a new platform or social media groups more regularly. There are so many out there right now. Stressed or angry? Try alternative stress reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise or yoga. Touch base with your therapist if you’re needing some skills and strategies more specific to your circumstances.
The 3 D’s
In managing cravings, addiction counselors recommend using the 3 D’s: Delay, Distract, Decide. Delay your drink even if you feel like one – all feeling eventually pass. Once you’ve delayed, distract yourself – go for a walk, have a shower, listen to music… Here’s a great list of enjoyable activities if you can’t think of anything. After you’re past the initial feeling, remind yourself of your motivations from the first step.
There is no single rule of alcohol use and change that applies to everyone. Know what you want your relationship with alcohol to look like going forwards and know why you want it to be this way. If you feel stuck, never feel embarrassment or shame about reaching out for further tips.