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Alcohol Awareness Week

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Hugh Osborne qualified as a cognitive hypnotherapist in 2011. Since then he has built addiction-focussed practices in London and Zürich, Switzerland.

Hugh also developed an addiction-focussed training, Addiction Inside Out, which he has offered to Quest Cognitive hypnotherapists since 2015.

He is also a writer. His book, Insights From The Edge, tells the reader of his personal journey from addiction, through recovery, and how he came to help fellow strugglers on the path.

Hugh is also  a co-founder of Sunflower House, a holistic health practice that offers bespoke wellbeing solutions for its clients. Hugh lives in Zürich, Switzerland, with his wife, son, and two cats.

Alcohol Awareness

The Subject of Alcohol Awareness Week is Change…

But what does the word ‘Change’ actually mean?

When we become concerned about our drinking, we usually think we have only two options for change: to either…

Moderation or Abstinence

No wonder most of us don’t feel so inspired to change!

Even though we may be concerned about alcohol’s impact on our health, work, relationships, and general quality of life, we still struggle to find the motivation to change. Our loved ones might want us to change, and we may think we need to change, but change seems impossible until we start wanting it!

Let’s face it… nothing much happens until we want to change. It doesn’t matter if our friends, families, and loved ones, want us to change. External motivations like these only have a limited lifespan. For change to be a realistic possibility, we have to want it for ourselves. But how do we get to that place of wanting it with those two uninspiring options?

Moderation = Dull!

Abstinence = Even Duller!

So our choices are Dull or Duller? I don’t know about you, but contemplating these dreary options is enough to make me fancy a glass of wine or two!

How can we make Change a more inspiring prospect?

Perhaps one less considered option is that of bringing awareness to our drinking. Not only to the drinking itself but the underlying patterns of thinking, feeling, and being, that drive our relationships with alcohol.

One of the problems with the Abstinence or Moderation choice is that they both make alcohol the problem. But what if the problem is less about alcohol and more about the relationship we have with it? Instead of questioning what and how much we drink, how about examining the place we drink from? Why not bring awareness to the emotional frequency of our drinking? Instead of using willpower and effort to enforce change, why not bring more awareness to the aspects of ourselves that resist change?

The human body is made up of cells. Cells are made up of molecules. Molecules are made out of atoms.

It has been scientifically proven, most notably in the famous Double Slit experiment, that atoms behave differently when being observed. Assuming that we, in our deepest core structure, are mostly made of atoms, what happens when we turn our attention inwards and bring some awareness to our inner functioning? What happens is that we start to behave differently… or at the very least, experience the possibility of doing so. In therapeutic terms, one of the great pioneers of psychotherapy, C.G. Jung gave an excellent description of this process in his famous quote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

How to bring awareness to your drinking

There are several ways to bring awareness to our drinking in ways that can inspire us to want and desire change. Here are two of them…

  1. Keep an awareness diary
  2. Feel your feelings

Keep an awareness diary

Keep a diary of how much you drink over the course of a week. Be precise! Every drink you take should be listed — the type of drink, alcohol percentage, and quantity in ML.

This may seem like a tedious exercise at first. However, if you do it with awareness, you will start to learn things about your drinking habits that weren’t visible to you before. You may also find that the discomfort of seeing the amount you are drinking, as it adds up over the week, may make you naturally want to reduce.

It’s not uncommon for someone to keep an awareness diary and move quickly into a reduction in consumption of 20-30%. From there, further reductions become more manageable as your body adjusts to less alcohol. Some will say that 20-30% reduction is not enough, but if you keep in mind that anything more than nothing is something, you will know that this is a good shift in the right direction.

Feel your feelings

The best and worst thing about stopping or reducing drinking is that you get your feelings back. Alcohol acts as a buffer between you and your feelings. A few drinks at the end of a stressful day may help relax you. The problem with using alcohol as a relaxant is that our feelings don’t get processed in the way nature intended.

Our bodies are homeostatic, so balance will be restored after a stressful day if you allow your body the time it needs to do its job. The thing is, alcohol does the job much faster! It feels good in the short term to have regular access to such quick fixes. However, in the longer term, our natural regulating systems, like serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, get lazy. They don’t have to do anything because every day, alcohol comes and does the job for them!

To begin feeling your feelings, think of it like a hot bath. You can’t just jump straight in. Doing so would be too greater shock to your system! Instead, practice dipping into your feelings for a short time, and repeat this regularly, several times each day. After a while, you will find you can feel even the most uncomfortable stress and anxiety with more ease. This is all that’s needed to begin to naturally process these feelings. Once you can do this, you will be less reliant on alcohol as a relaxant and will probably find your consumption reducing over time.

Does Change seem a little more interesting now?

After reading this article, you feel a little more interested in the possibility of change. Remember that alcohol is secondary to the relationship you have with it. Change the relationship with alcohol for the better, and a decrease in consumption is the most likely outcome.

For now, I invite you to get curious and begin exploring your relationship with alcohol. Change is more likely to happen once you start to bring awareness to your drinking, so give yourself the gift of that, and some positive change will be the most likely outcome.