Drink­ing prob­lem?

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - YOUR LIFE -

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.’

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