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What to do if you if you're concerned about your drinking

No one generally likes to think of themself as an addict. Let’s be honest it isn’t something that you’ll necessarily share with others when you’re in active addiction. It’s a secret, isn’t it? No one needs to know, or should that be, no one can know? Having a secret addiction can be both exciting and shameful at the same time. You have this ‘thing’ that no one else knows about and equally, you have this ‘thing’ that you don’t want others to find out about. But the strange thing is, would you even admit to being an addict? Even just to yourself?

Addiction isn’t something that anyone chooses, no one wakes up and thinks “ok today I’m going to become an alcoholic, a drug addict, or a gambler” and so on. That isn’t how it works. It creeps up and in and eventually out. Addiction is known as a progressive dis-ease. It happens quietly, it happens without knowing, and it can happen to anyone.

Take alcohol for example, you enjoy meeting up with friends at the weekend after a hard week at work for a couple of drinks. Then after a while, you start drinking not just one night of the weekend but extend that to the whole weekend. At some point, you start swinging by the pub or bar on the odd weeknight. You might find yourself at a point where you’re popping out for a pint or a glass of wine with lunch during the working day. Before you know it, your drinking is an everyday occurrence and there’s a drink for every reason. A good day, a drink to celebrate, a bad day, a drink to commiserate, a drink to get over a boring day, a drink to relax, a drink to help sleep, and the list of reasons goes on and on and on. Then boom, one day out of the blue you wake up with shakes and tremors and the only cure is a drink. But this isn’t the start of the downward spiral, that started long ago.

People in active addiction will generally function quite well for some time before the real problems begin, or at least get noticed. They give themselves permission that “of course, it’s okay to miss the odd day at work” because they feel a little rough. It isn’t a problem to miss the odd meet-up with friends. It’s forgivable to let loved one’s down now and then. Then before you know it, you’re turning up for work under the influence, your colleagues and boss might not see it at first, but they will eventually. You start arriving home from work drunk on any given or multiple nights of the week. Your relationships become strained. Your loved ones don’t know what is going on and there’s a good chance you won’t either. The stakes become high, but you don’t realise this or you might be in denial.

People in addiction find a way of blaming everything else except their drinking for the loss of their marriage, the breakdown in their relationship with their children and extended family, and the loss of their job and home. Their friends weren’t real friends they tell themselves when the people they cared about started disappearing one by one. Of course, it isn’t because of the alcohol, the alcohol is your best friend, always there, always faithful. Alcohol is there for you at every point in your daily existence. And eventually, the day comes when it’s ALL you’ve got.

However, that said, maybe you are at a point in time where you are just simply curious about your drinking habits. Is it that you notice you are picking up a drink on a weeknight when normally you wouldn’t? Maybe you’re recognising that you’re buying two bottles of wine at the weekend instead of one. Your life is probably still very much intact, with good relationships with your partner and children, still attending social functions, keeping up with work tasks and attending any extracurricular meetings that are important such as parent evenings. Is it just that now you are starting to notice your drinking habits are changing and you want to address it before you get to point of no return?

We humans like to think we are in complete control, we have this. But when the day comes (and it does) that you realise all you have is that bottle in your hand and no one else around. This might just be the wake-up call, to be honest with yourself. Is this what you really want? This is where choice does come in. You have the choice to continue as you are, or you have the choice to do something to help yourself break free from this downward spiral of addiction and let go of that bottle.

Although the NHS no longer offers the services it once did, there is lots of support out there for addiction such as AA, NA, community support groups and counselling. Joining any of these groups and services could just be your lifesaver. You’ll find yourself among people who have similar stories to tell and their support will be genuine and with compassion.

Counselling can help you explore why you turned to drinking in the first place. Maybe there was something going on in your life that was difficult to cope with or maybe unresolved issues from younger years were resurfacing. Whatever the reasons, counselling is a safe and confidential space for you to talk about your journey and experiences not only through addiction but also through life.

However, counselling and groups and services can only help you if you want to be helped. The first step is helping yourself and letting others in. Starting a new chapter without alcohol isn’t easy and will even seem scary. But it does get better if you let it. You have a life to live and loved ones who miss you and new friendships to build. Maybe now is the time to go get life!
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