that made you drink to start with. You’re thinking about them and letting them make you feel horrible, and then thinking about them some more – all without hitting the bottle to interrupt what had been an unbearable vicious cycle. Personally, I discovered that I didn’t like myself all that much, and that I had been very, very sad for a very, very long time.
In the absence of the bottomlessly ravenous emotional pit that heavy drinking forces you to feed and feed and feed, you finally have the emotional energy to examine all these difficult things, and you can start thinking of ways to change your life, if that’s what you want. WHILE IT’S NOT NEWS that alcohol is physically addictive, the reasons for drinking to excess – and continuing to do so until it becomes a problem – may be complex, says clinical psychologist Thandazile Mtetwa, who practises at Ngezwi Psychological Services in Gauteng. ‘Some, like Sabine, drink to escape emotional pain, which usually results from some kind of loss, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce.’
And there are as many reasons to quit as there are to drink heavily, Mtetwa adds. ‘If you’re having blackouts, illnesses that you can’t explain like stomach cramps, or finding yourself unable to fall asleep unless you’ve taken alcohol, you need to think about getting help.’ The same applies if your heavy drinking is taking a measurable financial toll, or if other areas of your life are suffering as a result of your drinking, for example strained relationships with your family or problems at work, like chronic lateness or poor productivity.
‘The first step to quitting is recognising that your drinking is unhealthy or damaging to one or more areas of your life,’ says Mtetwa. ‘Be honest with yourself about why you started drinking or increased your consumption in the first place, and get professional help if necessary.’
She adds that replacing alcohol with a healthy habit can help, as can avoiding the kinds of places or people that are likely to put you under pressure to drink. ‘And surround yourself with people who are supportive of your attempts to quit drinking, as well as understanding and supportive of the situation that contributed to the drinking.’