Having a drink with colleagues after work or with friends and family at the weekends is socially acceptable. After all, if you don’t go over the top when you do drink, what’s the harm?
Guidelines state that low-risk drinking is keeping within the recommended levels of 14 units a week. But, an OECD report last year reported that Britain had one of the highest alcohol consumption levels of 36 developed countries including Italy, Spain, and Australia.
The report stated that British adults drink around 108 bottles of wine or 427 pints of medium- strength beer a year. That figure means that we are drinking just over 2 bottles of wine or 8 pints of beer every week. If this report is accurate, then, in a week, the average Briton is consuming well over the recommended level of 14 units.
If you ask people you know why they drink the majority will probably say to enjoy themselves in a social setting. But, is everyone you know telling the truth and does the same apply to you?
In 2018 Drinkaware surveyed people’s drinking patterns. They interviewed 6,000 adults. Out of this number, Drinkaware found a whopping 60% of adults drink alcohol to cope with stress.
If you are feeling stressed at work and your drinking is increasing, then it may be that you are using alcohol as a crutch. If you are, it’s important to recognise what you’re doing so that you don’t slide into dependency.
How can I tell I am using alcohol as a crutch?
Using alcohol as a crutch might be because you want to mask negative feelings, feel less anxious or to so that you are comfortable in social situations. When you get home at night, do you pour yourself a glass of wine before you do anything else?
Have you asked yourself why you do this? Is it a habit, is it your way of relaxing? Do you stop at one glass or do you more often than not, wake up on the sofa with an empty bottle on the coffee table?
If you use alcohol to calm your nerves because social situations make you anxious, this might be a sign that you need help to conquer your social anxiety.
Are you using alcohol to cope with a heavy workload and long hours? Does your work satisfy you, or are feeling miserable?
While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink, using it as a crutch means your hiding from a problem that’s affecting your life. Alcohol might make you feel better in the short term, but it won’t solve your problems.
Should I give up drinking?
If you can’t function without a drink then maybe it’s time to get help. If you start missing days off work, going to the pub instead of spending time with your family and, overspending. Then yes, your drinking isn’t normal, and you need help.
But, if you recognise that your drinking has increased because you want a problem to disappear and your drinking isn’t out of control, you can do something about it before the situation gets worse. Think about the problems you are trying to forget. Can you take steps to improve your situation?
If you have a look at the Anxiety UK website, you’ll see they have a questionnaire which will confirm whether or not you have social anxiety. They have a fact sheet you can download free of charge or for a small donation. Anxiety UK recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You can access treatment online or with face to face therapy.
Is your alcohol consumption due to the problems you have at work? Maybe you are suffering from burnout. If you have lost interest or you can’t find the energy to work productively. Maybe, you don’t feel valued you’re working too hard or, you have a problem with a colleague. In this case, you need to address these problems with someone at work who can help you. Ask for help if your workload is overwhelming, sort out any contentious issues with your co-workers and take some time off.
Are you drinking more because you’re depressed? Do you feel your problems are insurmountable? If you do get help from a therapist or see your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed about admitting you’re struggling. Talking to a trained professional can help you to see things in a clearer light. Medication may help you to feel better. Tell your family and friends how you feel so that they can give you the support you need.
Throwing away the crutch
We all need coping methods. Life with less alcohol is possible. Instead of heading to the pub, try the gym or the swimming pool. Exercise produces feel-good endorphins which will help to lift your low mood. Get the bike out of the shed, take a stroll. Make time for yourself, and you might find that you don’t need to use alcohol as a crutch after all.