So you think you might be drinking too much. You think it might be time to stop. But just as you’re seriously considering quitting, you start doubting yourself. You begin to wonder if you’re overreacting. You start to find ways to justify your drinking and suddenly, everything seems kind of explainable. Normal. Nothing to worry about. Nearly every non-drinker I know has been through this cycle, where moments of clarity are followed by some serious, head-in-the-sand denial. And at some point or another, most of us have told ourselves at least one of these five little lies:
“I don’t drink every day, so I can’t have a problem”
Society has a fixed idea of what constitutes problem drinking, but in my experience, it’s just not that black and white. The women I know who drink too much are all very sharp, with good jobs and nice homes and busy lives. They do not fit the stereotype of the loser drunk, the down-and-out who has lost everything. We need to stop using clumsy statements like “I don’t drink every day / I don’t drink in the morning…” There is no ‘one size fits all’ definition of problem drinking. Ultimately, it’s about how you feel.
“Everyone is drinking this much”
The problem with this is that too often, we see what we want to see. We never really know how much other people drink. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Some people drink a lot in public but have nothing at home. Or it might be the other way around. Besides, I’ve found that the way people talk about alcohol doesn’t always reflect the way they drink. Often the people who talk the most about drinking consume relatively little; when they tell you they could murder a drink they mean exactly that – one drink and not the whole bottle. Another problem with comparing yourself to other people is that alcohol affects, everyone, differently. What is ok for one person may not be ok for you.
“My drinking doesn’t affect anyone else”
It can feel as if your drinking is your own private matter. After all, you’re still doing all the things you’re meant to do: you look after the kids, hold down a stressful job and pay the bills on time. You’re keeping the show on the road and from the outside, everything looks fine. But sometimes it’s the little things that count. Things like having a conversation with your other half that you can’t remember. Being too hungover to race around with the kids. Feeling irritable and distracted and not fully present. When you’re drinking too much, alcohol starts to affect every corner of your life, whether you like it or not.
“I can stop anytime I want, I just don’t feel like it right now”
Maybe you can, but maybe you can’t. Telling yourself you can quit makes you feel in control, and being in control is very reassuring. Perhaps you’ve stopped for short periods of time to prove to yourself that you can do it. The crucial question is how you felt during that time. Stopping for a week or a month, counting the days, feeling deprived and missing it all the time does not prove that you don’t have a problem.
“It will be different this time”
This one is the killer. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Yet somehow, with alcohol, we convince ourselves that this is exactly what will happen. We want to be that person who stops after one or two and feels content with it. Confusingly, many public health messages promote the idea of moderation. And so we try again and again to consume a brain-bending, mind-altering substance whilst staying ‘in control’. In my experience, this rarely works. If you just love the feeling that only an entire bottle of wine can bring, then instinctively you will always feel dissatisfied with a glass of wine. It’s much easier (and loads better) to just cut out booze completely. So there you have it – five lies that nearly all of us tell ourselves at some point. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a similar experience, or if any of the above sparks off an ‘ah ha’ moment for you.