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Dry January and what it can mean

It’s January and how many of us are participating in dry January? For those of you not familiar with this concept, dry January encourages us all to cut out alcohol or to think about how much alcohol we’re drinking and try to cut back. For many of us this is a welcome relief from the excesses of the festive period but for some of us dry January can feel like more pressure is being piled on us, particularly if we think we have a drink problem

Signs of an Alcohol Problem

Turning to alcohol to cope with life and emotional problems can be a sign that you have an issue with alcohol. It can also mean that you could be at an increased risk of health problems, substance use disorders, relationship trouble, and mental health problems.

The line between alcohol use and misuse doesn’t just depend on how many drinks you have or how often you drink. Instead, it depends on whether your use of alcohol causes problems in your life. Many of us can have a few drinks every week without experiencing any issues, however, someone else might experience serious problems when they consume the same amount of alcohol.

Alcohol potentially becomes a problem when it causes social or relationship problems in your life. Maybe you find yourself arguing with your partner or friends when you’re drinking, or maybe you become the loud person who embarrasses their friends on a night out.

If you start to drink and drive, or start a fight with someone whilst drinking, this could be a sign that your alcohol intake is causing problems in other areas of your life.

Taking time off from work because you’re hungover or secretly drinking while you’re at work could be signs of a problem. It’s also important to consider whether drinking is affecting your physical or mental health. If you continue to drink despite health issues or even when it’s taking a toll on your mood, it may be a sign you have a problem.

Strategies to Try on Your Own

If you’re worried about how much alcohol you are consuming, try taking some steps to change your drinking habits. If you’re drinking a lot or you’ve been drinking daily, you might experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop so it is essential that you seek out medical advice before quitting alcohol.

If you want to stop drinking alcohol safely, or cut down, here are some other strategies you might try:

  • Set a goal for yourself. Decide how often and how much you want to drink. You might decide to quit drinking altogether or you might set a limit on how many drinks you have in a day or a week. The NHS offers guidelines about the number of units to drink each week.

  • Keep track of your drinking. It’s easy to underestimate how much you’re consuming, especially when you may be drinking at home. Writing down how much and how often you’re drinking can raise your awareness. Start keeping a log to help you see how much you’re drinking every day.

  • Create a list of reasons why you want to cut back/stop. What are the reasons you want to stop drinking? List the benefits of not drinking and the reasons you’d like to stop. When you’re tempted to reach for alcohol, look at the list.

  • Don’t keep alcohol in the house. It's tempting to keep a well stocked drinks cabinet in the house. However, if your house is well-stocked with alcohol, you could potentially drink more and more often. So if you can, try not to keep alcohol in the house.

  • Try other coping skills. Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re tempted to drink. Are there triggers for drinking, or times you feel more tempted to drink? Are you sad, lonely or bored? Try using other coping strategies first. You might find reading a book, listening to music, going for a walk or watching a film can help you cope.

  • Get support. There are online or telephone services who can help you if you need immediate help. Try Drinkaware who offer a chat service or if you need longer term help, there are many addiction counsellors you can turn to.

Talk to a Professional

A professional can give you information about drinking, risk factors for substance abuse, and strategies for managing or quitting alcohol. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, talking to a professional might give you the information you need to ensure you have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

You can also reach out to a therapist. A therapist can assess your habits and make recommendations that could help you manage your alcohol intake.

A Therapist may also help you discover alternative coping skills to deal with uncomfortable feelings like loneliness and boredom. If you have other coping skills you can reach for, you may be less likely to turn to alcohol to help you regulate your feelings. A therapist can also help you talk about the feelings you may have been masking by drinking alcohol. xx

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