Do you find it easy to bust the booze budget? I know I do! A small glass of wine with lunch, a beer before dinner, a bottle on the table. Oops, did we finish that one?
It’s so easy to drink just a little too much, which isn’t a problem… until it becomes a problem.
We’re not talking about alcoholism here, we’re talking about regularly slipping up and then getting the guilts about the empties on the table. But this “not really a problem” drinking that can cause you more grief than you may realise.
First, what is the definition of overdoing it?
Obviously this varies greatly from person to person but, for the record, the public health guidelines recommend drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime; and no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion. Bear in mind, standard drinks are around 110ml wine, and three-quarters of a beer.
It is also advised we take at least two alcohol-free days per week. And if you are on any medications or have any health issues, you should speak with your doctor about the most appropriate level of drinking for your health.
Although we know all this, research has shown Australian over-60s are more likely to drink every day and more likely to drink alone. It’s also believed one in five people are drinking heavily, with 30 at least per cent consuming more alcohol than is recommended.
If you feel alcohol is controlling your life or has become more important to you than your family and friends, it’s important to seek help.
But if you simply want to cut back and regain your mastery over something you enjoy, it could be time to reassess your reasons for drinking and bring some awareness back to why and how you drink.
Georgia Foster is a clinical hypnotist who says in many cases, it’s not someone’s drinking that is the problem; it’s their thinking.
“There are lots of underlying reasons people drink too much,” she says. “It could be the stress of not being where they expected to be at this age. Or perhaps they are feeling the brunt of ageism, feeling somewhat disregarded, which makes self-confidence go down. They may feel they’re not as useful to their children as they once were, are less connected to their partner, or possibly just bored and seeking stimulation”.
According to Ms Foster, who has developed a training program to help people improve their relationship with alcohol, the most persistent reason for drinking excessively is to banish negativity.
“When we drink, it turns off the negative self-talk and turns the brain’s Radio Crazy down for a while. But when we wake up in the morning, it all comes back, and this can leave people festering in low-self esteem”.
Ms Foster says the key is to acknowledge your relationship with alcohol and to examine the reasons why you want to drink at that moment. It could be just habit or a way of putting off a task for another day.
If you do fear you’re drinking a bit too much, the answer is not to cut it out for good but to cut it back to a point where it becomes a guilt-free treat.
“People who drink too much tend to drink quickly,” says Ms Foster, “So I train people to savour their drink, to taste it again. More often than not, they get to the end of the night with two thirds of the bottle left”.
“If you enjoy drinking then it’s important to keep the good bits. Fun drinking is fine, it’s emotional, regular and unhelpful drinking that has to be dealt with,” she adds.
Do you think you drink for the right reasons? And could you improve your relationship with alcohol?
Georgie Foster is running Drink Less Mind seminars in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August. Find out more here.