Day 2 – What kind of drinker are you?

Today we want you to think about what kind of drinker you are – what do you use alcohol for, what role and function does it play in your life?

By understanding the answers to these questions you will be able to work on alternative coping strategies and develop a better relationship with alcohol.

Everyone’s situation will be personal and unique, but for starters here are some common types of drinker. As you read this try to think about where you might fit in (spoiler alert: you may fit into several categories).

Using alcohol to manage feelings and moods

As I mentioned previously, I started to drink almost daily in response to a period of stress and grief. It is common for people to say that alcohol has become a convenient way to ‘self-medicate’ or cope with a range of emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, stress, grief, or the burden of responsibility. Some people might also use alcohol to deal with nervousness or shyness and to feel more confident in social situations.

Even mood states such as tiredness or boredom can lead people to alcohol. I have spoken to several clients who say that they often wake up feeling so tired that they vow to go to bed as early as they can that evening. Instead, when they arrive home from work or finish putting the kids to bed, they prop themselves up for a few hours with alcohol (often labelled ‘me time’).

At the more serious end of the scale, it is common for people who suffer with anxiety, trauma, OCD or depression to attempt to manage their symptoms with alcohol (even if they are also on medication and/or receiving therapy).

Let’s not forget the positive emotions – people also drink when they win money, get good news, pass an exam, or feel satisfied at a job well done or task completed.

In fact, for many people alcohol has become the accompaniment to almost any emotion they are likely to experience.

Daniel-Radcliffe

With my herd at the watering-hole

For many people, drinking in bars and restaurants is the mainstay of their social life. Bars are socially acceptable, convenient places to meet on common ground, and having a drink is just a habitual part of socialising with a group.

People with a large social circle could find themselves out most nights of the week – meeting a large network of friends and acquaintances, business contacts and colleagues. For professions like the building trade, the pub is often the place to get paid, to hire, and to be hired.

Drinking can also relate to feeling a need to conform to what is expected in certain situations with certain people. Men particularly speak about pub culture and feeling a sense of community. This gives them an opportunity to bond with their drinking or sport buddies – something they are not entirely convinced they would get if they ordered soft drinks. But women can also feel pressure to drink in some of their social groups.

Many sitcoms and soaps revolve around a watering hole where much of the action takes place – and the pub or bar does become a ‘home from home’ for some people. This might tap into emotional drinking as well. If there’s nothing and no-one at home, the bar becomes a form of social support for a lonely person.

Drinking as an extreme sport

For some people, drinking – specifically getting drunk and having all sorts of ‘legendary’ anecdotes and memories to recount – is fun and entertaining and something they look forward to, even plan for.

This type of drinker might get frustrated when others want to drink moderately or end a night at a reasonable hour. In which case they become a drinks-pusher, trying to convince everyone to carry on drinking back at someone’s house or a club, or getting rounds of shots or buying sneaky double to trick others into getting on their wavelength (e.g., utterly hammered).

No one can sustain this kind of night out every night – so this character is probably more of a binge-drinker. But because they can be great fun to hang out with friends might go along with the kind of night they have in mind once in a while. At the same time, they might also avoid and make excuses not to see them, because they can’t cope with and don’t want that type of night out very often.

Although these nights might be referred to as ‘epic’, there are usually quite a few negative consequences of this type of drinking. From not remembering anything you said or how you got home, to mystery bruises, lost keys, wallets and phones, to using unlicensed cabs, having unprotected sex and taking risks with strangers, even getting arrested for drunk and disorderly.

Because of the rate at which a unit of alcohol leaves the body, there can be more serious consequences of hardcore drinking. If you only finish drinking in the early hours of the morning, you could still be over the drink-drive limit by 8am. And if a school smells alcohol on a parent when they drop off their kids, they have a duty to inform social services, especially if the parent has driven the child to school.

Habitual drinking

Alcohol is so ubiquitous that it is easy to simply end up drinking more than you want to – and for this to go on for some time. Maybe you don’t fit into any of the above categories but are simply drinking out of habit. By habit we don’t mean addiction, but that you are not drinking mindfully. It can be easy to just accept any drink that is offered, despite what we had ‘sort of hoped’ or planned for ourselves that evening. For instance, you might meet a friend who suggests a cocktail before dinner, and then split a bottle of wine with your meal. Even though this person usually drives and doesn’t drink, and you had been expecting (and hoping) that this wouldn’t be a drinking evening for you either. You might contribute to a whip when you’re out in a group, and just go along with what everyone else is having – letting the group set your limits, rather than setting your own. There’s maybe an element of peer pressure or desire to fit in here, but often it’s just about accepting what’s going on, and not being worried enough to do anything about it.

Please know that we are not judging any kind of drinking as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You have joined a MOB because YOU want to change your drinking, at least for a month. This post is about understanding the reasons why you drink – including what you enjoy about it – so that you can begin to challenge yourself and find other ways to get what you are currently getting from alcohol.

Later in the MOB we cover strategies and ideas that can help you avoid alcohol whatever type of drinker you are, and encourage you to look at other ways of coping with emotions and moods that are linked with your use of alcohol.

For more on today’s topic, you can watch a 10 minute video with Helen, Laura and Sam from October.

Your actions for today

  • Reflect on what you mostly ‘use’ alcohol for – what type of drinker are you?
  • Think of one positive thing you can do instead of drink alcohol that could meet the same need – and commit to trying it at least once during your MOB.
  • Visit the Club Soda private facebook group and post that one thing you are going to commit to trying.

Coming up

Tomorrow we start thinking about pitfalls.

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