Not all alcohol abuse can be obvious, in fact many of the signs can be hidden. Here, hypnotherapist and alcohol addiction specialist Georgia Foster, explains the signs of alcohol abuse that even smart women can miss
I help women from all walks of life and industry learn how to drink less. Many are using alcohol as a way to cope, to de-stress, reduce anxiety and often to help them sleep at night. Whatever the reason, there is a way forward and unlike other approaches such as abstaining, I believe we have incredible resources within that when utilised in particular ways can teach us to drink in healthier ways.
Over the past 20 years people have been coming to see me at my London clinic as well as my seminars because they know they need to reduce their drinking but just don’t seem able to. These people include smart, hard working women who have responsible lives but have just got themselves into a bit of a drinking rut.
Regular women, hidden drinking problems
Such women know they don’t belong in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but equally feel they drink more than they should and this worries them. Ironically, it can make women drink more and the vicious cycle continues of worry, over-drinking, guilt and then drinking to run away from the worry again.
I believe it is the thinking before the drinking that is the problem. Drinking is a secondary activity. Many people don’t realise that their regular heavy drinking is a habit that can be unlearnt.
I believe it is the thinking before the drinking that is the problem.
I specialize in a powerful psychology that I call Inner Dialogue. When someone constantly worries and berates themselves about their drinking this will be driven by what I call The Inner Critic. It’s the part within that says things like ‘You made that silly comment in that meeting and everyone thinks you’re an idiot’ or ‘you promised yourself you wouldn’t drink tonight and yet I bet you,’ ‘you are such a failure, everyone else drinks less than you and I know they think you have a drinking problem.’
The Inner Critic is the negative part of the mind that literally drives us to drink
The Inner Critic is the negative part of the mind that literally drives us to drink. Unbeknown to the drinker, alcohol shuts down the critical part of the mind. It’s not the alcohol itself it’s the feelings it gives you. So it is no surprise if you are critical of yourself in any way, drinking a few glasses of wine or more will give you some sort of space to start to relax and just be.
Then in the morning the Inner Critic rears it’s ugly head and says ‘Why did you drink so much last night?’ ‘I think you have a drinking problem, maybe you need to go to AA.’ This then triggers the desire to drink again to run away from the anxiety and negativity and before you know it you are thinking about when you are going to have that next drink.
I help people drink less by training their minds to tune out of the Inner Critic and tune into The Calm Confident part. This is the part that knows how to feel safe and more logical and knows how to handle the Inner Critic.
When someone learns these tools they don’t need to drink to run away from self doubt and fear but rather learn healthier sober coping strategies so they don’t feel driven to drink because of the Inner Critic.
Here are my eight signs of alcohol abuse that I see smart women like you missing all the time.
1. Needing a drink before you go out to calm your nerves
This is a classic sign that you are tuning into your Inner Critic which is making you feel vulnerable in some way. Remember the Inner Critic cannot see into your future, so whatever it has to say is based on an opinion rather than the truth. For every Inner Critic comment, find the opposite, such as ‘I am feeling safe, calm and in charge of my life in positive ways.’ Keep saying this over and over again when you hear negative thoughts.
2. Looking for heavy drinking friends who you know will drink with you
Drinking has become a way to cover your social anxieties because you feel that being sober around people is an unsafe experience. Instead why not try going out socially with people who drink less or not at all so you can practice sober social confidence.
3. Thinking about drinking before you start your day
No, this doesn’t mean you have a drinking problem. It means that some sense of vulnerability is stirring and making you feel scared. Dialogue with your Inner Critic and find out what it is worried about. Guaranteed it is not based on truth. Tell it you will now handle all the worries from a much more logical space, so you can get on with your life in more optimistic ways.
4. Becoming aware that you are drinking faster than other people when you go out
I always say the first glass is medicinal. It can go down quickly. This simply means that your mind had trained itself that the glass of wine is your stress management pill and so it wants you to gulp it so you can chill out quickly. Before you have your first glass, imagine yourself feeling calmer and sipping your wine. Keep doing this before you have your first drink. Your mind will over a period of time associate feeling calm before the glass is in your hand.
Before you have your first glass, imagine yourself feeling calmer and sipping your wine.
5. Either not drinking at all or drinking too much (to the point where you don’t trust yourself with alcohol)
I call this the all or nothing syndrome. This is a classic sign of being a perfectionist and a high achiever. On the spectrum either not drinking or drinking beyond normal and healthy quantities. This means there is an underpinning lack of trust in your ability to drink in healthy ways. A brilliant way to combat this is to stop trying to be perfect (which is exhausting and drives people to drink). Think of each drinking experience as a pleasurable one rather than a way to escape being perfect. This will stop the urgency, so you can start to bring more balance into your life.
6. Feeling guilty if you say ‘no’ to drinking so end up saying yes to please
People pleasers can get themselves into some heavy drinking spaces with people who want a drinking buddy. Underpinning this behaviour is a fear of being rejected, so they say yes because they don’t want to offend. Top tip: Little white lies such as feign illness or that you are on antibiotics or even better say you have a cracking hangover and couldn’t fathom a drink!
7. Feeling like you don’t belong professionally or socially unless you join in and have a drink
The Inner Critic can often make us feel like an outcast and can trigger professional and personal anxieties. If you drink to fit in, don’t be coerced into this behavior. Long term your health and emotional wellbeing is more important. Keep reminding yourself you are employed because you are good at what you do not because of what or how much you drink. Start to build ways to improve your personal and professional self esteem without a glass in your hand.
8. Having blackouts and not remembering getting home, losing your phone, keys etc.
This is a sign that you are drinking faster than your mind and liver can process. If you are doing this on a regular basis you need to slow your drinking down. Best way to do this is drink from you non-dominant hand and between each alcoholic drink have a big glass of water.
I aim with my clients, seminar participants and on-line customers a way forward that irrespective of your old drinking ways it can become the past. My goal is that everyone learns to enjoy drinking from a guilt free space and when they do drink they trust and know they don’t need to drink to run away from their lives. This is liberating.
Self-esteem is key and feeling a sense of confidence in sober ways is part of my approach.
Self-esteem is key and feeling a sense of confidence in sober ways is part of my approach. There are important tools that need to be learnt, such as starting to appreciate things in your life that make you feel good about yourself without a glass in your hand. It could be training for something that inspires you or hanging out with positive people who don’t need to drink to enjoy themselves. The more you create these situations, the more your mind learns doing things that are fun without drinking becomes normal and comfortable.
Georgia Foster is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Voice Dialogue Trainer.
Georgia has two clinics in London, Chiswick and Monument and treats people all over the world via Skype, Face Time and phone.
She has been featured regularly in the media in Britain and Australia including Sky News, GMTV, Psychologies Magazine, Good Housekeeping, just to name a few.
Georgia specialises in alcohol reduction, emotional over-eating, self-esteem, anxiety and fertility issues.
Find out more about Georgia Foster at her website – www.georgiafoster.com