Almost half of Britons drank more during lockdown than they would normally. If you’re looking to change your relationship with alcohol, a good start is identifying (and challenging) the lies we tell ourselves about drinking.
Lie: a craft beer subscription is better than finishing a four-pack of Foster’s
It’s great to support small businesses, particularly after the year they’ve had, but this halo effect can negate the ABV in our minds. “A double IPA from a craft brewery could have double the alcohol of a mainstream lager,” says Andrew Misell, director for Wales at Alcohol Change UK. “All that matters in terms of alcohol and health is how strong the drink is, and how much of it you’re drinking.”
Lie: I need a drink to calm social anxiety
Social confidence is a muscle that you must exercise; however, there have been precious few opportunities to do that during the past year. If you’re re-entering social situations, it’s tempting to take the edge off with a sharpener or three. But as Chloe Brotheridge, author of The Confidence Solution, says: “If we’re numbing ourselves of social awkwardness, we don’t get a chance to develop real confidence.” The answer is to push through the discomfort. “When you go into a situation where you feel nervous, but you survive, your nervous system learns that scenario is safe. And next time you will feel braver.”
Lie: I deserve that glass of wine after the day I’ve had
Since working from home became living at work, a drink has become a welcome off switch, especially after a tough day. “Alcohol consumption increased alongside levels of stress in lockdown,” says Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of the Mental Health Foundation. “Drinking to mask depressive mood or general unease has the opposite effect once the drink wears off. It’s why a hangover is often accompanied by anxiety.” But that’s easy to forget in the moment, so find other ways to relax that feel like a treat. And don’t keep wine stocked in the fridge.
Lie: the only alcohol-free drinks are sugary pop
An obstacle for social drinkers who want to cut down has always been that no one wants to be the guy clutching a tepid J20. But sugar-packed juices are over, thanks to stylishly designed drinks brands, distilled with the bite you’d expect of a negroni. “All drinkers deserve something sophisticated and complex, not just those consuming alcohol,” says Claire Warner, co-founder of alcohol-free aperitif Æcorn.
Lie: a hangover means I’ve failed at moderate drinking
The road to drinking less often involves a few nights of excess. If you wake up with a dry mouth and a throbbing headache, the worst thing you can do is tell yourself that alcohol has “won”, so you might as well have a bloody mary. Instead, accept that there will be bumps along the road, and use them as an opportunity to learn about yourself. What was the series of events that led to you overdrinking, and what might you do in the future to prepare for the same situation? Once you’re able to ditch defeatism, you can embrace slip-ups as part of the process.
• Mindful Drinking: How Cutting Down Can Change Your Life, by Rosamund Dean, is published by Orion Publishing Co. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.