How do you know it’s time to take a break from drinking?
It may not be obvious to you or to others that alcohol has crept more and more in to your life. You function almost perfectly well in the daytime, but you know that you shouldn’t have had that extra one (or several) the night before. You know you’re not quite ‘with it’ most mornings, but you shrug it off as normal behaviour. But at some point, you just know – you’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired. But it takes time to admit it to yourself.
I knew I had an issue because all day I would tell myself I didn’t want to drink that evening. I put rules down for myself – not on a Monday, not until after 8pm, not by myself, definitely not after exercise! And yet when it all came down to the crunch, I’d still go and find that drink. The anxiety would kick in about not having one, and ‘that voice in my head’ aka ‘the wine witch’ would tell me to! And when I started hiding how much I was drinking from my other half, well, that speaks volumes in itself.
That’s the thing with getting into a habit of everyday drinking. It becomes the norm. You expect to come home and have a drink after work – because you deserve it… Or after the kids have gone to bed…. or after you made the effort to go the gym… or after, well, you don’t need an ‘after’ because you just need it.
Alcohol and Grey Area Drinking
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance. Please don’t think that I’m making light of any of the things associated with addiction, because I’m not. There are different levels of addiction, levels where people are more physically dependent than others. What I’m talking about here and below relates to my experience of being a ‘grey area drinker’- between the extremes of being able to moderate and the type of rock-bottom ‘bottle of whiskey a night’ drinker. I talk more about my journey of realising I was in this zone of grey area drinking in one of my earlier blog posts here. And there’s a whole lot more we could discuss about dopamine and various toxins and chemicals – that’s a topic for another day however there’s an interesting article around the Science of Alcohol here.
So what’s your Subconscious got to do with it?
Well, the subconscious mind is a weird thing – I’ve got to know mine quite well! Did you know that our subconscious mind runs 95% of what we do, and the conscious mind is the insignificant little bit on the top that thinks it’s in charge! The main priority for our subconscious is to keep us safe. It’s been programming everything we do since birth based on what we’ve experienced, significant events that’ve affected us in the past, learning what brings us pain, and what brings us security and comfort. Unfortunately, it can’t distinguish between what’s good for us in the immediate now (even though we don’t like it), vs what’s good for us in the long term! It perceives the immediate pain as unbearable, and it wants to protect you from this.
Let’s take drink as the example (of course!). The thought of not having my daily drink would send me into panic mode. My subconscious would recognise that panic is not good, but it knew from past experience that having a drink would ‘settle’ the anxiety. So the fix for my subconscious was to send out ‘that voice in my head’ telling me non-stop it was ok to drink until I caved in and had one. “Phew”, would think my subconscious, “that was a close one!” and so the cycle would start all over again. Drink – crap sleep- hungover – regrets & promises – anxiety – Drink…..
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, you’re not alone. The drinks industry works very hard without any qualms to push us towards drink as much as possible – cheap booze, ‘gin o’clock’, mummy’s wine o’clock, prosecco with every thinking you can imagine celebrating… It’s no wonder that people in general, and particularly women, are getting more and more locked into habitual drinking.
How to ask your Subconscious to help you change your drinking habit
So how do you work with your Subconscious to help you change your drinking habits? The first most important thing you can do is to simply have an awareness of how your subconscious mind reacts to a situation. By having an awareness that it has your best interests at heart, but not always the right way of getting you there, you can start to choose how to react. Here’s a few examples of how you can start bringing your subconscious patterns to your awareness, and what you can do to start building new patterns of thought and behaviour:
Start by speaking out loud! You’re in the kitchen, you’re beginning to waiver because your inner voice is pointing you in the direction of a drink. Tell it “thank you, but no, as it won’t help me in the long run”. Say out loud what the outcome will be if you were to have that ‘one’ drink. By acknowledging out loud, you’re raising your level of awareness of the subconscious habit, and reminding yourself of the likely consequences. It helps you make a choice at that usual ‘trigger’ moment.
One of the biggest ways to help create change is to re-word and re-think how you approach your issue. Instead of thinking about ‘stopping drinking’, which is an action, start identifying yourself as ‘a person who is having a break from drinking’. Say it out loud. Notice here that it’s a positive statement. For example, stating that “I’m a person who doesn’t drink” is a negative (uses the word ‘doesn’t’). The subconscious can’t understand the negative term, all it hears is ‘drink’. Like when you say ‘I don’t want to eat chocolate’, but then all you think about is chocolate! So identifying with a positive statement about your identity is far more powerful than saying you’re not going to have a drink. Try it now – “I am a person who is taking a break from drinking” – how much more powerful does that make you feel?
Visualise yourself in the future. Perhaps that future is the next day? The next week, or 3 years? What does it look like? Where are you? Who is there with you, and what do you hear around you? Most importantly, really begin to feel what it feels like to be you in your future vision, with all things you want to have. How amazing is that? Keep this vision close to you whenever you start having a few wobbles.
There are times when your subconscious is more accessible to influence than others. This happens when we are close to sleep – just waking or starting to drop off (it’s a delta-wave thing if you’re interested). This is the time to speak out loud your new positive identity, positive affirmations to strengthen your mindset, and to remember and cement your wins of each day. It all reinforces the new message that you’re sending your subconscious.
Motorways to Footpaths
Remember that it takes time. The behaviour patterns your subconscious has built over the years are a bit like motorways. They’re easy routes to take. Building new thought and behaviour patterns are like going from the motorway to a footpath to start with – brambles, uneven ground, takes a bit of effort. But the more used the new path gets, the easier the path becomes, and suddenly you can see the view. And you realise the journey and the outcome are far more interesting than the motorway ever was.
I work with my Clients through Coaching and NLP techniques to help them make better choices, and to become who they want to be. If you recognise that you ought to to rethink your current drinking habit, drop me a message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free discovery call over a virtual cuppa!