A client asked me recently about what I considered to be a ‘normal drinker’.
It’s a great question.
When I hit my forties, I drank less than in my twenties and considered myself a ‘normal drinker’.
I used the fact that other people drank as much or more than me as evidence that there was no issue.
I wasn’t a daily drinker, didn’t drink vast quantities on my own, was able to say no to a round of shots etc, therefore I could tell myself I was a ‘normal drinker’
However, when I attempted to change my relationship with alcohol, I was shocked at how dominant alcohol was in my life.
I considered alcohol as necessary to take the edge of a stressful day, to celebrate, to relax, to connect with friends etc etc.
And I couldn’t imagine going on holiday and not drinking, never mind a night out.
It was uncomfortable to realise that I had become dependent on alcohol. And that it took extreme willpower to not drink at an event, or to go more than a couple of days without wine.
Unfortunately, each time I attempted to cut back my willpower ran out and I was back to square one.
Like most drinkers I did not identify as an alcoholic and knew that AA was not for me.
It was only when I discovered the science behind alcohol, what it does to your body and brain that I was able to make any changes.
And by getting expert help I was able to achieve a mindset shift, to realise that instead of needing alcohol I felt great about being indifferent to it.
What I have learned is that while it is easy to identify those who are heavily addicted to alcohol, and assume they have some sort of addictive gene or are ‘weak willed’ and just out of control, there is no such thing as a ‘normal drinker’
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance and once we learn to use it to make us feel better it is very easy to end up drinking more than we would like.
If you want to stop relying on alcohol, the very first mindset shift you have to make is to understand that the problem lies not with the drinker, but with the drink.
Our culture has normalised alcohol and holds it up as being essential to everyday life.
This is ingrained in our minds from our experience growing up where alcohol played a starring role in every important social event, to films and tv adverts trying to sell us the message that drinking is what makes life fun, worthwhile, and allows us to relax and destress.
The truth is , alcohol has crept into our lives more and more, without us realising.
So rather than asking if you are a normal drinker, ask yourself this:
Am I using alcohol to make me feel better and am I drinking more than I planned too?
If the answer is yes, then the bad news is that you are not in control but knowing this allows you to take action before you hit rock bottom.
The good news is that you can live a full, healthy life, still enjoy parties, have decent conversations you’ll remember the day after, and actually combat stress, ALL WITHOUT ALCOHOL.
This is doable, if you open your mind to the realities that most people avoid.
Yes, it will feel different and awkward at first but with expert support it can be an amazing journey where you feel better because you no longer need alcohol.
And I am looking forward to the time when it is completely acceptable and normal to be a non-drinker in our society.