It could be that you have been feeling this way for some time because of the evidence of drinking in unhelpful and unhealthy ways in the past. Maybe it seems the only thing left to do.
There could be many reasons why you decide enough is enough and I commend anybody who has the courage to stop doing something that they know is interfering with the quality of their life.
There is a particular personality type that I call the ‘All or Nothing’ drinker. They are very good at alcohol free days and also very good at drinking a lot, and I mean a lot! This type of drinker is either abstaining for a period of time to justify their heavy drinking or because they feel so guilty and out of control about their drinking. The assumption is that quitting for a period of time will re-adjust the drinking scale to be less when they go back to drinking. Alas for many, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Another name for this drinking personality is The Perfectionist. This drive to do things 100% includes drinking a lot or not at all. Perfectionists are high achievers, so will often do things to extremes and this includes drinking. I find a lot of Perfectionists give themselves a really hard time about their relationship with alcohol, and often for many this leads them to decide to quit because they just can’t trust themselves. To a certain extent this is true because their history of fast and furious style drinking confirms this. Their past is all the evidence they need to decide drinking just isn’t for them anymore.
Your drinking history
The mind works on history and it will continue to use these references of drinking because it is deemed normal. Perfectionists are not good with change. However, once a Perfectionist learns how to do things another way and they perfect it, whether it is running a marathon or going back to university and passing with great results, they feel great about it. They store another thing they are good at which will lift their spirits and make them feel they are top of their game.
So when a perfectionist decides to quit drinking it is with the decision that this is the ‘only’ way forward. They cannot imagine drinking in healthy and moderate ways because the history of drinking shows this is not achievable. However, this is far from the truth. They can learn to drink less in a slow and balanced way. They’ve just got to teach their mind and body that it is possible.
Many Perfectionists may not realise it but after abstaining from drinking for a period of time, when they think about drinking, they are already anxious and fearful about the situation. They question themselves with ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ This anxiety in itself can drive them to drink in fast and furious ways. This one emotional trigger of fear can hinder the best laid plans to drink in a positive and healthy way.
One of the easiest ways to train a Perfectionist to drink in moderation is to build some positive references in their mind first. One of the best ways is with imagination.
Before they have their first drink after abstaining Perfectionists will often use old references as their future drinking. In other words, their drinking history they project into the next drinking moment. Sadly, this means, they have already planned the heavy drinking outcome before they get there!
In order to change this drinking/thinking crystal ball moment, the Perfectionist drinking behaviour needs to be rehearsed with a different style of drinking, such as being calmer before they drink, seeing themselves drinking slowly and hydrating themselves with water while they drink. They need to build positive references that drinking in a way that supports them to drink with trust is key.
The mind must become familiar with this new way of drinking, so the Perfectionist can learn to trust again.
My top tips for how to do this:
- Each time you recall past unhelpful drinking ways, say STOP in your mind and replace it with seeing yourself drinking feeling calm and happy before you have that first drink.
- Each time you feel anxious about drinking, put your favourite song on that reminds you of positive times in your life and ignites a sense of freedom to trust in your ability to drink less.
- Imagine before you have your first drink, seeing yourself sipping water between sips of alcohol. Repeat this through your day before you have that next drinking situation.
- Keep a phone reminder every half an hour with an image that represents you pacing your drinking and waking in the morning feeling good about you, such as going for a run or going to that yoga class.
- Repeat in your head a positive mantra while using positive imagery that represents these statements to be true such as ‘I am calmer before I have my first sip of alcohol’ or ‘it is safe for me to enjoy drinking alcohol from a calmer and more positive space.’
Find out more
Georgia Foster is a clinical hypnotherapist and leading specialist in overdrinking behaviour. Foster’s book, Drink Less in Seven Days, is published by RedDoor Books, £14.99 paperback, £7.99 eBook http://amzn.to/2EJnwu3
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