I’ve been revisiting a great book this week thanks to a friend who has just discovered it. Called, “Kick the Drink Easily“ it’s by Jason Vale, (better known these days for his books on juicing and nutrition) and makes a fascinating read. There’s a section in the book on stress and alcohol and the abiding myth that we need a drink to relieve stress. Reading it again took me straight back to so many Friday evenings when I couldn’t wait for that first drink because it had been a long hard week, I was stressed and I needed a drink.
And actually, it didn’t have to be a Friday night or a long week, any stressful day was enough of a reason. (By the way, have you noticed that we almost always say “I need a drink”. We never say “I need 3 or 4 drinks in quick succession”, even though that’s what so many of us actually do!)
If you tell a lie long enough and hard enough even the person telling the lie ends up believing it
Jason says this at the start of a chapter, and it’s so true in this case and it’s a lie on so many levels.
Let’s start with that lovely sensation of all the stress and tension leaving your body as you lift that first drink to your lips. Its wonderful isn’t it? And you know what, it really is wonderful. You’re doing that all by yourself; making your body and mind work in harmony before the alcohol gets anywhere near your nervous system to cause its effect. In fact, if you’re anything like me just the act of ordering or pouring that first drink is enough to start to unpin your shoulders from your ears and allow you to start taking some deeper breaths.
Ask yourself this:
Are the things you are stressed about improved in any way by drinking? Or are they all still there, exactly the same as they were when you wake up the next morning?
The alcohol might have blocked them out for a while because once it does get into your system it immediately starts to reduce your ability to think well. But here you are the next day, possibly with a banging headache or feeling sick, and nothing has changed, except now you’re beating yourself up for drinking too much as well. Does this sound familiar?
You might say “No, I feel better because I spent the evening having a few drinks with good friends and talked some stuff through and that helped”.
That’s part of the myth
I know when my marriage broke down, the idea of a few drinks with friends after work was infinitely preferable to going home to a hostile atmosphere and taking the diazepam the doctor had prescribed. That’s what my friends encouraged me to do and it seemed to help.
Actually what helped was being in a comfortable, social place, with friends who valued me, were supportive and were totally in my corner. The alcohol was incidental. I could have been sitting there with Diet Coke, orange juice or plain water all evening and still got all the positives. And what’s more, I wouldn’t have been wandering through New Street station on my own afterwards to try and get my train home with the equivalent of a bottle of wine on board. I wouldn’t have been waking up tasting disgusting, feeling rough and not remembering half of the night, or how I got home. The problems that were stressing me hadn’t gone away and I wasn’t doing anything to resolve them while I was drinking “ to relieve the stress”
The only reason I needed a drink to feel better was because I thought I needed a drink to feel better.
So far, I’ve talked about alcohol not helping with stress despite the myths but if we’re honest, that’s only half the story, isn’t it? At best, it doesn’t change anything beyond blotting things out for a few hours, during which you lose the time and will to take any positive action towards resolving your stressful situation.
Often, it just makes things worse as your ability to think about and handle your stresses is dulled by alcohol’s depressive effect well after your last drink. The physical effects of alcohol take three days to get over. And that’s without the additional stress of worrying about what you may have said or done while drinking and whether you are OK to drive the next day.
Think about yourself at your very best and most capable. When you’re able to think clearly and take constructive steps to manage the stresses in your life. Knowing the difference between what you can change and influence and what you can’t. When you think about that best version of yourself, what part does alcohol play? My guess is none.
So what could you be doing instead of drinking to treat yourself well, care for yourself with kindness and harness the resources and support you need to deal with your stresses and challenges?