AFTER a stressful day, reaching for boozy drink probably seems like an easy way to relax – but it does come at a high cost.
Simon Chapple, sobriety coach and author of the book How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days, says there are some key signs that indicate your drinking is out of control, and when it can actually be dangerous.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, he says: "The stresses of the national lockdown have undoubtedly caused thousands of people to find coping mechanisms to deal with the difficulties they are encountering, and in many cases this has meant drinking significantly more than usual."
He explains that a drinking problem can easily "creep up" on you, but by understanding the danger signs you can avoid it spiralling out of control and it having a negative impact your life.
"When we drink heavily or regularly we significantly increase the chances of exposing ourselves to a number of serious dangers," he explains. "It is important to be aware of the warning signs and to take action before it escalates into a major and possibly irreversible problem."
Here, Simon shares with Fabulous the ten signs your drinking habits might be causing you harm:
1. You're out of control
Simon says to ask yourself "am I in control of alcohol, or is it in control of me?".
If you find yourself obsessing about drinking during the day and planning your boozing ritual, then it might be time to cut back or take a break.
2. You drink more than you did five years ago
Cast your mind back to five years ago and write down how much and how often you were drinking.
If there has been a big increase, Simon says it's probably time to re-evaluate how alcohol features in your life.
The dangers of alcohol
According to Simon, recent research shows there’s no safe amount of alcohol, with proof drinking leads to the development of health problems including:
- Cancer of the liver, breast, colon, mouth, throat and esophagus
- Increased blood pressure, stroke and heart disease
- Liver disease, stomach problems and digestive complications
- Mental health problems including anxiety, stress and depression
- Bone health problems and an increased risk of osteoporosis
- Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies
- Problems with short and long-term memory
- Increased risk of injuries and accidents from drinking
What's more, alcohol is also proven to lower the immune system of drinkers, which increases their chances of getting sick.
"At a time when we all want to be as well protected from viruses as possible, it might be shocking to learn that a few extra glasses of wine might be leaving people at a heightened risk," he says.
3. You experience internal conflict
If you have thoughts about quitting booze but go back to drinking time and time again, it's a sign you should explore your relationship with drinking much closer, Simon explains.
"This type of ongoing internal conflict can be incredibly painful to put up with and trying to blot it out by drinking more is a sure fire way to end up further down the path towards putting your health at rise."
4. You strongly believe alcohol brings 'positive benefits'
Simon says that alcohol makes stress, anxiety and depression worse, and if you believe boozing helps you to manage, you should seriously reconsider.
"It can be easy to assume that because we believe something it has to be true, and when it comes to alcohol we will often avoid anything that might cause us to think that we could possibly have a problem," he explains.
"By facing up to the reality that alcohol makes [these things] worse, and exploring the truth about what we believe, it becomes possible to get back in control."
NHS guidelines on drinking alcohol
According to the NHS, regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week risks damaging your health.
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
- Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- Spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
If you're pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
You read more on the NHS website.
5. Other people notice
If people regularly comment on how much you drink, or make jokes about how you're always the first one to the bar, Simon says you should use this as a sign that you might be drinking too much.
And adds: "It's time to check-in with yourself and look closer at your behaviour."
6. You experience blackouts
According to Simon, blackouts happen when you have high levels of alcohol in your bloodstream, and you lose the ability to form and retain new memories.
"The more we drink, the longer and more severe the level of blackouts we can experience become, " he explains, and says they can be "extremely dangerous" and can expose people to significant risks
"To an outsider, a person experiencing a blackout might simply seem merry or drunk, but the reality is that they won't have any recollection of what they were doing and won't be in control of themselves," he says.
- How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days, £11.99 from Amazon – buy here
7. You put alcohol before loved ones and your responsibilities
Do you often put booze in front of important people, responsibilities or obligations?
According to Simon, this is a "clear signal that alcohol has become a big focus in your life".
And adds: "You should consider what really matters to you by taking a break," he says."Or getting your relationship with booze back in perspective by cutting down."
8. You experience a sense of guilt or shame
According to Simon, this is usually because you begin to recognise the damage that your drinking is causing to you and to those around you.
He continues: "This often leaves us facing difficult emotions and drinking again in an attempt to try and deal with them."
Although, Simon says it's important to remember that alcohol never gets rid of uncomfortable emotions and that they often end up feeling far worse – not to mention the raging hangover you'll be nursing.
9. You dread looking at your phone after a night on the booze
Every year, many people find themselves doing things they regret after heavy nights on the booze, according to Simon – this can include exposing yourself to a myriad of problems.
"If this is happening often, then it is time to take stock and consider making a change, a sensible question to ask yourself is 'would I have done this if I hadn't been drinking?'"
10. You drink when you shouldn't and have withdrawals when you don't
Other signs you're drinking too much includes picking up a bottle during the day – while you're working or if you're feeling bored.
Simon says it's also common for people to isolate themselves from friends who don't drink, or those who have made comments about your drinking in the past.
What's more, experiencing withdrawal symptoms in between drinking is a bad sign – such as shaking hands, sweating, anxiety or a racing heart.
He explains: "Although these symptoms are often mild they can be a sign that your body has become reliant on alcohol and in serious cases withdrawal symptoms can result in hallucinations and even seizures."
Simon’s top tips for addressing an alcohol problem:
Keep a journal – Begin to make a note of what you drink, how you feel and what is happening in your life as a result of your drinking. Track your mood at different times of the day.
Read – Get hold of some 'Quit Lit', this is the name given to books that help people change their relationship with alcohol.
Find a community – This allows you to connect with others who are on the same journey and find support and motivation, which can be a huge help when we want to cut back or quit drinking.
Talk – If you can become vulnerable and honest about your drinking with the people who matter to you, then you will likely find that you receive some incredible support.
Seek out professional help – It's sensible to find a professional sobriety coach or an addiction specialist who can help you overcome the problem.
Simon's new book – How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days is published by Sheldon Press and available here.
You can visit his website for more information at www.besober.co.uk or find him on Instagram as @besoberandquit.
What should you do if you are concerned about your drinking?
Simon recommends acknowledging the fact alcohol plays a big part in your life, and this doesn't''t always mean quitting alcohol forever.
He says: "The best place to start is by learning more about the dangers of drinking and understanding the best tactics for getting in control.
"Many people wrongly believe that quitting alcohol is impossible and that a life without drinking will be boring and dull, but this is not the case."
To help it stick, Simon says you need to take the time to learn and explore what your life could look like if it didn't revolve around booze.
One woman previously revealed, 'my boozing has soared during lockdown – I have Bucks’ Fizz breakfasts, vodka lunches and nightly cocktails in the garden.'
And another admitted 'I knew I had to quit boozing when my husband said I was too drunk to hold our baby as he hosed vomit off my clothes'.
Meanwhile, we revealed 8 ways the cold weather could damage your health – From ‘winter vagina’ to heart attacks.
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