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Home / Relationships

Relationships: We’re turning into alcoholics

 We’ve got into the habit of having a drink early in the evening, to relax from work, and then some more during the evening (Shutterstock)

Hi Chris,

I guess that ever since I was old enough, I’ve always drunk a bit too much. But I’ve noticed that my husband has started keeping up with me.

We’ve got into the habit of having a drink early in the evening, to relax from work, and more often than not, we have several more during the evening.

So that without really noticing it, we’re actually drinking quite heavily. We keep saying we’ll cut down, especially as when we’ve been drinking, even the simplest disagreement can turn into quite a nasty fight.

I want to quit. Do you have any other suggestions?

Drinking too Much

——

Hi Drinking too Much!

Alcohol’s always been an important aspect of male culture, of course, but nowadays it’s just as common for women to enjoy the relaxation and sociability associated with drinking.

But heavy drinking can cause a lot of problems, such as increased health and accident risks and damage to relationships. So you’re not the first person to want to reduce your intake. Or to discover how difficult that can be.

That’s because regular drinking, long before there’s any sort of addiction, can become an irresistible habit. That’s not just about the taste and effects of the alcohol.

It’s because the whole ritual of ‘having a drink’ becomes a habitual behaviour that can be really hard to change.

Mostly, we’re told that the only way to control alcohol is total abstinence and Alcoholics Anonymous. And AA is very successful. But their approach isn’t for everyone, especially people who are only drinking a little too much.

So to begin with, you might like try a psychological technique to help you to manage your drinking. It’s called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT can help you to reduce your intake to a safer level and keep it there. You’ll need a CBT counsellor to start you off, and will probably be asked to abstain for a short period, then re-introduce alcohol and evaluate its effects, monitor your drinking, set limits for yourselves, manage risky drinking behaviour, and above all, recognise and avoid the triggers that lead to excess.

This approach doesn’t work well once someone’s become dependent on alcohol. For them, abstinence is still the best approach. So harmful drinking habits are best addressed early, before the problem becomes acute.

So is CBT a reasonable option for you? Yes, if you can pass that test of abstaining for a short while. It will still require a lot of effort and commitment, and it’s possible that you will find you just can’t do it. If that happens, it’s a real wake up call, and you should consider joining AA again.

You won’t master the skills of moderation overnight, but with the help of CBT the heaviest drinkers are drinking significantly less within six months.

 

All the best,

Chris.

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