Friday, 22 May 2020

Is Your Lockdown Drinking a Problem?



Surely if there's one time when we really deserve a drink or two at the end of the day, it's a global pandemic?

After all, we can't see our friends, go to the pub or out for dinner. How else can we celebrate getting to the end of a difficult day of Zoom meetings and home schooling? So long as it doesn't become a problem...

But how do you know if it's a problem or not?

I, like many people, used to think the answer to that question was black and white. The world, we are told, is divided into 'normal drinkers' and 'alcoholics.' Alcoholics, I assumed, were people who poured vodka onto their cornflakes in the morning and passed out on park benches. If you didn't fit into that category then you didn't have to worry too much about your alcohol intake.

I know now that this is not true.

For a start, drinking issues come in sliding scales of grey.

Just because you don't fit the stereotype of a problem drinker does not mean that your drinking isn't a problem. It can still be giving you insomnia, anxiety, weight issues, relationship problems, compromising your immune system and raising your risks of getting cancer.

Also, just because you never used to have a problem with alcohol doesn't mean you can't develop one.

Many people who contact me for help had no issue with their drinking throughout their twenties and thirties, but then spent much of their forties trying to ignore the increasingly insistent nagging realisation that it had all somehow got out of control.

If you've found yourself waking up at 3am, worrying about how much you - accidentally - drank the previous evening, or Googled Am I an alcoholic? Or clicked on this article because you just want to prove to yourself that the answer to the question in the headline is no, then here are three danger signs to look out for:

1. Drinking for the wrong reasons

Usually, when we start drinking as teenagers, it's a social thing. Alcohol helps us to relax when we're feeling a bit apprehensive and awkward, it puts the swing into a party and gets everyone onto the dance floor.

If you're only drinking as a means of social lubrication, it's unlikely to give you any major problems. Unless, of course, you're going to parties every day of the week. Which is unlikely to be the case right now.

However, if you're using alcohol as a form of self-medication, as a way of dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, then that is an issue.

It's an issue because alcohol only solves those problems temporarily.

Alcohol is a depressant, and over time it increases your anxiety levels and exacerbates depression. And the worse you feel, the more you drink. Before long, you're stuck in a horribly dangerous negative cycle which just sucks you further and further down.

2. Breaking your own rules

When the world was a different place, and most of us left home to go to work, it was relatively easy not to drink too much. You'd have to wait until you got back from the office before pouring a drink.

Now, that's probably not the case, and you've probably set yourself some rules, or guidelines at least.

Maybe you've resolved not to drink during the week? Or not to drink before 7pm? Or not to drink more than two glasses of wine a day?

The rules you choose aren't actually important. What is important is can you stick to them?

If you find that you're constantly breaking your own - perfectly reasonable - rules, then your drinking is becoming a problem.

3. Thinking about drinking

I used to think that everyone spent quite a lot of time thinking about drinking. I had no idea that people without drinking issues don't really think about it at all. Unless they're offered a drink, it rarely crosses their minds.

However, people like me, who have gradually become addicted to alcohol without even realising it, find that they are spending increasing amounts of time thinking about it.

Am I going to drink today? Do I have enough booze in the fridge, or should I go shopping? Can I justify another glass? Surely I deserve it?

That insistent voice in your head, which anyone with any form of addiction will recognise, just won't go away, and the more you try to stick to your rules, the louder it gets.

If you've read this far, and if you've seen yourself in any of this, then the bad news is your drinking probably is a problem.

There is lots of good news, however.

First off, you are not alone. There is so much help available - much of it virtual. Check out Club Soda on Facebook, Soberistas.com, Janey-Lee Grace's Sober Club and my SoberMummy Facebook page.

Secondly, now really is a fabulous time to quit. Most people find socialising and parties the hardest things to navigate when they first stop drinking, and right now you can happily avoid all of that, and just hunker down with a mocktail, some popcorn and Netflix.

Finally, and most importantly, if you do decide to stop drinking, you'll discover that you're actually not giving up anything at all, but gaining so much. Before long you'll be less anxious, sleeping better, and you'll be so much happier, healthier and more energetic.

If you're at all sober-curious and want to know what to expect if you quit drinking - all the highs and all the lows - then check out my memoir, The Sober Diaries.

And if you're looking for some feel-good fiction as a healthier way of de-stressing and forgetting all about coronavirus for a while, then why not read my new novel (a Radio 2 bookclub pick!) The Authenticity Project. You can read the first few chapters for free using Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature.

Stay safe and well, my friends.

Clare Pooley

You can find out more about me, or contact me privately, via www.clarepooley.com


20 comments:

  1. So timely. I didn't have a drink last night, although it took nerves of steel to pass TWO mini Tescos on the way home without stopping for a bottle of prosecco. It was HARD. After dinner I went out to look for our beloved missing cat. One reason I gave myself not to have a drink. Two years ago I stopped drinking and as promised, felt amazing. Then old habits crept in. Am completely fed up and feel that this lock down has created a REASON for me to drink more.
    I am a nurse to boot and really do know better. Reading this post over breakfast has confirmed that I tick all the danger boxes. Now the question, what is more important. Me or the bottle?

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  2. Thanks for sharing such beautiful information with us. I hope you will share some more information about lockdown drinking. Please keep sharing.
    Health Is A Life

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  3. Hi. Would anyone know where I could find a good spell caster? Asking for a friend.

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  4. Hi Claire! I'm on day 8. Last weekend I hit an all time low and I can't go back. I am positive but it does scare me a little that I might fail. Drinking recently has not been enjoyable at all. I felt so miserable drinking and because of medication I take for anxiety it could do my body very serious damage. I know this will be hard but I just wanted to know does the fear of missing it too much and failing to away or will I always worry? Thanks for your time. X

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    1. Hi Amazing Grace, well it sounds like you're doing well. Things do get easier as time goes by, I promise! I found the first few weeks/months a really hard slog with a couple of slips. But now life is better than ever and I would never go back. Stay strong and keep happy, you can do this. Good luck xxx

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  5. I think deadlines have been my Achilles heel. Just needing to get on and finish but it was not until the last few years that I knew I had a problem but couldn't quite put a finger on it. My father was dying and I had a two year rotation break in my right arm. I was still working on my own and for my husband, the girls had left. Then I started needing some serious alcohol to help me through as the sertraline did not seem to do much except stop me weeping. So Brandy, port, vodka as well as wine to give the energy to get on and nurofen. Dad died, the arm healed 18 months afterwards and the drinking didn't stop. Then the golden moment of having to call the police as my husband had locked me in a Barn, interview by the and the woman's Abuse agency to be told that I have been a victim of domestic abuse for a number of years but I hadn't recognised it. So here goes. Not looking forward to to the withdrawal headaches and fuzzy heads. I have only two weeks to work for him. I have to find a new home. So again maybe too much all at once but I can't believed I let the wine witch blind me or antheiestise me for so long.

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  6. Claire, I've read your first book (at my sister's recommendation, who btw has been sober for the 2 years since reading it) and so much resonates with me. It is me. I'd so LOVE to stop drinking and know it would improve the quality of my life/relationships so much. The problem is I'm struggling. I stay motivated for a few days sometimes even a week but then the craving gets the better of me and I crack open a bottle. I've stopped buying wine so there's none in the house but then I'm at the shop. I'm really struggling to stay motivated. I'm worried. Any tips to staying motivated and fighting those initial cravings?

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    1. Hey, join Club Soda on FB and surround yourself with sober people for support. Soberistas and Pirates are good groups too. You can do this! Good luck x

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  7. I wanted to tell you how much the Sober Diaries has helped me. I can't say it enough. I am a 40 year guy from California and I am sitting in my car on the freeway thinking about how much in common I have with an English mum of three! Thank you so much for writing. I am 75 days sober and I have experienced and still experiencing all of the items you write about.

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  8. I read your book on holiday after a recommendation from a running friend who has been AF for 106 days. For years I've been disappointed with myself most mornings and irritable because of it. I have 3 children, two of whom are teenagers and have seen me with wine glasses more than cups of tea! I broke the news to my friends as I'm out (in a friend's back garden) with a few of them tonight and was very surprised, a couple of them are going to make mocktails to support me. Wow! Anyway day 5 for me up at 8am hangover free, I'm aiming for 100 days with a view to it being permanent, I hope so.

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  9. Hi Clare, I read your book whilst stopping drinking and gave up for 7 months. I felt great and realised that I could deal with everything in a much calmer way. Unfortunately for various reasons my job, relationship I started suffering from anxiety (which I am prone to) I then started drinking again and have done for the last few months. I exercise regularly and eat healthy and suffering from anxiety is really scary and starting to take over my life. However I am determined to stop drinking again (which I am on day 1 and I have started to read your book again) also trying to deal with my anxiety.

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    1. Hi, I see you wrote this awhile back but I could use someone to talk to of you'd like to communicate

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  10. Hi Clare.
    You are my Wonder Woman. I started to read your book 3 days ago and I’ve since not sipped a single drop of alcohol.
    I’ve known for months that alcohol was becoming a serious problem but I kept myself in denial. I would have a day of here and there to convince myself that I’m not an alcoholic if I can do that.
    I would battle with the witch in my head, I would be thinking about drink constantly. I would wake in the morning feeling crap and telling myself that I’m not drinking today, then by midday the witch would start and I’d be saying oh just 1 glass of red with my evening meal can’t be to bad I’m sure? And then evening would come the witch has won and I’d be a bottle of wine down and tempted to start on the whiskey once that’s gone.
    Over the last 12 months I’ve battled with depression/anxiety and take medication for this, and I know that mixing alcohol in the mix of this is a recipe for disaster.
    I have 2 children that I feel have missed out on their mummy has she’s not been the best she can possibly be. And having the last 3 days AF I can’t tell you how good I feel at the moment, I know there are twists and turns to come but I’m determined to beat the witch and become myself and a mummy to my beautiful children again.
    I’m currently sat in bed with my youngest son relaxing with my morning cuppa ( and not my usual pint of water and Nurofen) reflecting on how much I have seriously not enjoyed the last 12 months of drinking. I’ve had 3 days AF and already my anxiety has dropped to a low, I feel more positive and I’m looking forward to waking up in the morning. ( to be honest it’s 8.30am on a Saturday morning) I seriously don’t remember the last Saturday morning I had where I woke before 10am feeling as fresh as I do this morning.
    Don’t get me wrong 5pm hits and The witch is in full force. I could murder a glass of wine (I.e bottle) but a couple of distraction techniques have helped a lot, a hot bubble bath. Becks blue. Or even a trip to Tesco at 7.30pm for cake haha! Or just genuinely keeping myself busy ( my house has had more spring cleans in 3 days than it has in 12 months)
    I’m praying that I can keep this positive mindset and motivation.
    I’m so sorry for the essay but I feel great letting that of my chest....
    Thank you again Clare. And to everyone on here, let’s keep sharing our good days and bad days and get through this together. Xxxxxxx

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    1. Hi! I'm on day 24 and I'd love to have someone to talk to if you want to communicate:)

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  11. Thank you Clare! Enjoyed your book and 4 days sober now.. feel better allready!

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  12. I am truly enjoying your book. I knew things were getting out of hand but your book Sober Diaries really opening up my eyes. Especially since you describe a lot what I go through. I can't put your book down. Thank you.

    IWillBeBetter♥️

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  13. Hi!! I can't believe I finally figured out how to leave a comment. I'm not sure how I did it though so this may be my 1st and last comment.I'm reading your Sober Diaries book right now. Like as I type this now.i just got to October. I absolutely love this book! The fact that you could include some humor in a book that could save lives is huge!! Anyway, I'm 52 and been drinking for about 20 years and today I am 25 days sober and I go between being completely okay, almost giddy to convincing myself I'm to old to get sober. I've gone to far in the wrong field. I just read the white bunny field page and was reading it out loud.. literally yelling it!! Don't quit! Your past the toughest obstacle!! You and I drank the exact same way. I've never shut a bar down, never even go to bars. I have however shut myself down...in my bedroom with my bottle of wine and the door locked with kids knocking on it! Towards the end of December I was drinking in the morning. Something I said I never would do. I'm a Mother of 6. My youngest just left for college and I am utterly alone! Completely alone. I'm not even working right now because of Covid. I was scared I'd drink myself to death and nobody would find me for a long time. I pictured it in my head. So the day after my birthday Jan 4th I said challenge yourself Amy and I bought 6 books of Amazon yours being the 3rd I've read and I think I'm doing OK?? I don't have any friends that don't drink. I actually adopted a dog on the pound website and he gets delivered Sunday. I've never had pets. I need something to talk to. Something to be accountable for.What else should I do? God 🙏 I hope this message reaches you. Thank you for writing the book. Umm, I don't wanna stop writing but I don't know what else to say. I feel RAW! Sliced WIDE OPEN. Does that make sense?

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  14. I’m also alone my 2 children are grown and have families of there own. I do have a dog and it helps. I don’t know if I’m an wino but I just can’t have 2 or 3 glasses. I quit smoking it will be 3?yrs in June and the wine took over.

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  15. Hi!! I can't believe I finally figured out how to leave a comment. I'm not sure how I did it though so this may be my 1st and last comment.I'm reading your Sober Diaries book right now. Like as I type this now.i just got to October. I absolutely love this book! The fact that you could include some humor in a book that could save lives is huge!! Anyway, I'm 52 and been drinking for about 20 years and today I am 25 days sober and I go between being completely okay, almost giddy to convincing myself I'm to old to get sober. I've gone to far in the wrong field. I just read the white bunny field page and was reading it out loud.. literally yelling it!! Don't quit! Your past the toughest obstacle!! You and I drank the exact same way. I've never shut a bar down, never even go to bars. I have however shut myself down...in my bedroom with my bottle of wine and the door locked with kids knocking on it! Towards the end of December I was drinking in the morning. Something I said I never would do. I'm a Mother of 6. My youngest just left for college and I am utterly alone! Completely alone. I'm not even working right now because of Covid. I was scared I'd drink myself to death and nobody would find me for a long time. I pictured it in my head. So the day after my birthday Jan 4th I said challenge yourself Amy and I bought 6 books of Amazon yours being the 3rd I've read and I think I'm doing OK?? I don't have any friends that don't drink. I actually adopted a dog on the pound website and he gets delivered Sunday. I've never had pets. I need something to talk to. Something to be accountable for.What else should I do? God 🙏 I hope this message reaches you. Thank you for writing the book. Umm, I don't wanna stop writing but I don't know what else to say. I feel RAW! Sliced WIDE OPEN. Does that make sense?

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