Is your drinking becoming problematic?
This week (18/11 – 24/11) is National Alcohol Awareness week. It is a good opportunity to focus on the dangerous effects of excessive drinking. The media is regularly reporting about the increasing binge drinking which is affecting the nation; especially younger people. There have also been many reports and discussions about the availability of low-cost alcohol. Would the price increase of alcohol stop people drinking? Probably not; the reasons behind the excessive drinking are much more deep-rooted. Problem drinkers don’t just start drinking for the sake of it; there is always a reason behind it, and this is what needs tackling. Excessive drinking is A problem, not THE problem.
Before considering counselling for alcohol dependency issues, it is important to reduce the amount you drink (if your drinking is a daily activity). Since counselling brings many emotions to the conscious level, it wouldn’t be beneficial to use alcohol to numb them; this would be very counter-productive.
But what type of counselling would be the most helpful? There’s no doubt Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is beneficial; it would help you to manage the ‘here and now’, and learn how to cope with various situations, i.e. when you are feeling anxious. Mindfulness is also a very useful way of learning to take control of your body and your emotions. It is also important to explore the reasons behind your drink problem, so more psychodynamic and humanistic approaches would be beneficial, such as Transactional Analysis (TA), Attachment Theory, and Gestalt Therapy.
These are just a few to mention. Over the years I have noticed how often clients with alcohol issues don’t necessarily know the reasons behind their problematic use; it has become such a habit. But when we start exploring, we often find issues such as childhood trauma, abuse, bereavement, and relationship problems. It also seems to be fairly common to have other addictions simultaneously, such as gambling, co-dependency, and excessive working.
If you feel or think you are drinking too much or using alcohol to numb painful emotions, it might be worth of seeking help. It is often helpful to monitor your drinking by keeping a drink diary; be honest, and measure your drinks properly (home measurements are often very different to pub measurements), and calculate the units, and how much money you spend on alcohol. This itself might be an eye-opener.
If you are concerned about your family member’s or friend’s excessive drinking, it is also beneficial to seek help and advice; problematic drinking, like other addictions, affect people around the drinkers as well.
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