Escaping emotions and alcohol

Today I’d like to tell you a story about how I came to be more aware of the way I used alcohol to either mask or deny my feelings.

Have you ever heard of the acronym HALT?

Apart from the word itself meaning stop the acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired and can be used as a mindset tool in a wide variety of situations not least those involving eating and drinking.  The model was originally developed to help people in recovery see when they might be vulnerable to returning to old habits.

How do you feel right now? Can you stop for a moment and really recognise where you are emotionally?  Do you feel great? Okay? Not so good?

If you aren’t feeling your greatest, taking a moment to HALT is one of the best things you can do for your overall mental and physical health.  Here is how I used this tool when I was first alcohol free.

The moments in my life when I was most likely to reach for a drink at home was sometime after 6pm when the day felt like it was about to change gear, out of work mode and into either cooking time, family time, relaxation time or perhaps socialising.

Let’s consider hunger

At 5pm when I was standing in the kitchen thinking about cooking it was all too easy to reach for something to eat quickly (which was generally unhealthy), but what I really needed at that time was a large glass of water.  I made a conscious effort to switch my afternoon snacking habit to make sure I always had a good snack and drink at about 4pm in the afternoon instead of waiting until I was ravenous and therefore more likely to want to press the self-destruct button and pour myself a glass of wine.

I often mistook hunger for thirst and used wine as a thirst quencher when we all know that’s a ridiculous idea.

What about anger

Maybe it’s simpler to describe anger as feeling general negative emotions – we aren’t always able to think rationally when we are in a negative mindset.  It’s important to notice your feelings and try to establish why you are feeling the way you do.  Will you feel better if you address the feeling head on – what has bought you to this feeling?  Is this feeling likely to last a long time or can you start to think of a positive solution now? 

Alcohol might temporarily numb the feeling of anger but it certainly won’t relieve the cause of the anger.

What about loneliness

We all experience loneliness at times in our lives. Even when people surround us in a busy family, we may not be actively interacting with them. What’s more, with all of our modern technology, many of us are plugged in electronically but not connected emotionally.

I used to stand gazing into the fridge wondering what I was looking for and it took me a long time to realise that over the years I’d taken to phoning my friends less – before we had kids we used to speak on the phone every week or so and somehow life had got in the way of that lovely practice and had been replaced by text and WhatsApp.  I’ve reintroduced the practice and feel much more connected and less lonely.

A glass of wine won’t ever fix lonely!

Finally tiredness… or exhaustion.. or feeling overwhelm

I used to get to 5pm and think that it was now time to turn off.  I didn’t have a strategy that allowed me to happily change pace and a glass of wine or G and T in my hand felt like a little pick me up or treat to see me through a task that didn’t fill me with all the joy in the world ie cooking dinner. 

I looked for new ways to treat myself at this time.  A 10 minute walk around the block to reinvigorate myself, a 5 minute guided meditation to calm myself, a few yoga stretches to remove tension from my body – these were all strategies that worked brilliantly. 

I kept a list of ideas in the back of my diary so I didn’t have to think of them – I could just open the page and pick something.  When you are already tired it’s difficult to come up with new strategies to cope. 

Be prepared.

A drink never did help me feel less tired… It just helped to mask the feeling of overwhelm. 

How can you start to remove the overwhelm from your life so you don’t arrive at 5pm feeling like a drink is the only option

Would you like some support and kindness for your Alcohol Free/Drink Less next steps – Click here for details of my 1:1 coaching programme – I’ve been where you are and know how hard it can be