HELP! My partner is drinking too much!

So what do you do if you find your partner has upped the anti and is drinking much more than usual? And because you drink with them, you find your own drinking at an uncomfortable level. Well unfortunately you can try to make your partner cut down but in the end if they do not want to, you are only left to address your own drinking.

In changing your own alcohol consumption you can also, by example, encourage your partner to address theirs. Can I suggest the first thing to do is talk about the issue with your partner to see what can be negotiated. As in any addiction you are likely to experience a defensive response at first but if you can get through, request you write a mutual drinking contract. Sign it a store it. Things like: not drinking 2 days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays are easier, sharing only one bottle in restaurants, stop drinking shots, drink water between drinks, etc. You can be really creative here with this contract.

I like to think drinking can be put in 5 stages of use. Stage 1 – not drinking every day and not binging, stage 2 is drinking most nights but limited to 4 drinks (half a bottle of wine), stage 3 is drinking every night and a bottle a night, stage 4 is drinking 2 bottles of wine a day and stage 5 is drinking before noon all day after.

If you feel you are at stage 3 or 4 how ask yourself how can I get it back to stage 2 or 1, where you feel more comfortable having a drink without damaging your health and experiencing constant hangovers? (If you are in stage 3 or 4 you are probably close to a functioning alcoholic and if in stage 5, AA is your only real alternative).

So say you try to introduce a creative drinking contract with your partner but they are not committed to real change, what then? First if you clean up the bottles each morning, buy drinks for them on the way home and support your partner’s drinking by always joining them, you are only enabling them to continue as they were.

The great thing is if you instigate change, like not drinking for 2 days a week, within weeks your brain will create a new pathway where it establishes a new habit. (Habits are created by repeated behaviours, so we can reverse unwanted habits by not doing what we normally do. Simple – it’s not rocket science and you knew this anyway – right?)

One other good thing to do is consider why you drink. Is it because you like the taste of wine? Do you use alcohol to relax? Do you drink to help being social? Do you drink to become numb or to forget? Do you drink to get drunk? Knowing why you drink helps you see important messages about drinking.

There is evidence that people, who drink within their own limits, are happier than non-drinkers. Maybe it’s the gaiety of drinking with others and relaxing as a break from life’s stresses. There is also evidence that we are likely to drink more as we get older, especially in retirement, so having a check on it as we age is a good idea.

Having a discussion with your partner about drinking is an adult conversation to have and if you can draft an agreed contract, you are both on your way to enjoy drinking more without damage. If this can’t be done with your partner then it is up to you to lead the way by example in drafting your own contract. Good luck!

Alcohol and Depression

When we drink alcohol the party gets going and it all seems great but the ending is not always so. When we begin to drink we get an instant celebratory high but if we keep drinking, drinking and drinking the night can become weird.

We can end up having: forgettable sex, shameful behaviours, feelings of emotional anger plus experiencing a horror day afterwards with feelings of guilt, depression and loneliness. What a bummer when the night started off so well.

Depression brought on by alcohol use is a medical fact but the great thing is if we stop drinking the depression will lift in no time at all. There is a cycle that goes like this: love a drink, love another, and another, then drunk, then depressed, then loneliness. This is especially the case if we drink alone at home.

When we drink our pre-frontal cortex, which controls the regulation of our emotions is disabled, making us less able to manage our free-floating thoughts. Emotions and feelings come and go in our minds throughout the day and our pre-frontal cortex deals with them rationally. But if we drink a lot – bingo – we experience little control of these same negative emotions. That is why alcohol violence is so prevalent. When the person becomes sober again they find it hard to understand who that other person was – who behaved so badly. I have had clients who have ruined weddings, thrown wine in peoples faces, smashed up houses, attempted to drown them selves, hit their best friends, blah, blah, and blah.

Then there is the home drinker who drinks excessively every night (with a bottle of wine or more) and feels constantly depressed (because that amount of alcohol does that chemically) and then feels isolated, lost and lonely. That is a horrible habit to get into and experience.

But as I said before a lot of depression can be chemically eradicated instantly by giving up alcohol. To test this research, have a go yourself. If you drink every day stop for 2 days a week and see how much better you feel the following days. You will sleep better for a start, have more energy and your brain will function clearer. If you feel you are really out of control with drinking give it up for a month. You will lose weight, feel great, greatly reduce depression and be so much richer. You will love yourself so much more as well.

Most of all my clients prefer to manage alcohol better rather than give up completely. This means them coming up with a program of better management like: 2 days off a week, half filling wine glasses, drinking water between drinks, not having alcohol at home, etc. Everyone’s program is different.

I also ask my clients to give the person who gets drunk and out of control (them) another name. They then write stories about what this other person did under the influence of excessive alcohol. This really helps as the brain easily forgets these bad shameful memories.

What advice can you give to others about controlling alcohol consumption to relieve the symptoms of depression and loneliness? Or what are your experiences or thoughts about managing drinking?