• Val

Alcohol is not the answer

Updated: Jan 7

Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that it has become the answer to many things including a coping mechanism for stress and heralded as a much-needed social lubricant.

However, alcohol never makes anything better.

It will not diffuse stress and it is not needed for healthy and positive social interactions

Alcohol may provide temporarily relief but anyone who has drunk a little too much in the name of stress, emotional comfort or for social pleasure, can, if they are truly honest about it, attest that the after effects are never as good as the initial pleasure.

Alcohol and COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions

During the UK Lockdown that started in March 2020, several studies suggest alcohol use and misuse rose.

This is a worrying outcome since alcohol comes with the risk of reducing a person’s immune function, is associated with several ill-health risks and is highly addictive. Unfortunately, as we enter a second lockdown here in England, I fear people may again turn to alcohol as the magic elixir of life.

What prompted me to write this blog? I went onto social media one morning after the second lockdown came into force to see a post from someone on my timeline asking if 9:30am was too early for an alcoholic beverage.

Although many may see this as humorous, the true drive for someone to reach for alcohol before socially acceptable times of the day may reveal a deep-seated connection with alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism.

However, since alcohol is ingrained in our culture as something positive and, in the minds of some, necessary, warning signals such as this can go undetected.

I am not saying this particular individual has an alcohol issue, but in more cases than not, this behaviour indicates an unhealthy association and/or relationship with alcohol.

This is also not the first time I have seen such a post and I have seen such posts from different people on my timeline.

During the last lockdown I saw many people on my Facebook feed posting pictures of their alcohol consumption. It worries me that despite this being just a 4-week lockdown at this stage, we will again see a rise in alcohol consumption.

I can only guess that the government is also concerned since they have placed a restriction on pubs being able to sell take-away alcohol during the lockdown period.

Although this may be a measure to restrict spread of the virus, I wonder if it is also to limit the impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Several countries in Europe have also introduced restrictions on the sale of alcohol as part of their current their current lockdown measures.

Alcohol and Health

The trouble with alcohol is that it never truly brings with it much good.

  • It’s expensive.

  • It reduces inhibitions.

  • It leaves you unable to function in control and with clarity of thought.

  • It reduces your immune function.

  • It comes with a wrath of ill-health side effects if consumed regularly enough at levels above regarded as safe Levels that many who socially drink unknowingly go over on a frequent basis.

Test your knowledge of safe limits of alcohol consumption

1. If you or a friend drink two bottles of wine to yourself/themselves throughout the course of a week with an alcohol by volume (abv) percentage of 13.5% for each bottle, is this above or below recommended safe levels of alcohol consumption?

2. If you or your friend drink eight pints of 3.6% abv beer to yourself/themselves during a day time drinking session, is this above or below recommended safe levels of alcohol consumption?

Check your answers here

In his book ‘Drink?’, Professor David Nutt lists the following ill-heath effects of sustained alcohol use above safe limits:

  • Hepatic steatosis – fatty liver

  • Alcoholic hepatitis

  • Cirrhosis of the liver

Alcohol is known to be associated as a significant risk factor in the following forms of cancer:

  • Liver cancer

  • Breast cancer

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Oesophageal cancer

  • Pharynx and larynx cancer

  • Lip and oral cavity cancer

  • Nasal cancer

In the Global Burden of Disease study in 2019, of 87 risk factors in 204 countries, for the 25-49 year age group, alcohol was reported as the number one disability adjusted loss in years risk factor – i.e. after deaths from disability were taken out of the equation, alcohol was the highest risk factor for the number of life years lost due to premature death for the 25-49 years age group.

The report also noted the positive impact of health warnings and restrictions on tobacco and smoking which has reduced the impact of this type of risk factor globally since the research project began in 1990.

For me this study highlights both the danger of alcohol consumption and also a call to action in terms of spreading the message about the ill-health effects of alcohol use in order to reduce the burden on society and health systems globally.

Alcohol is not the answer

From my own experience I can assure you that alcohol is never the answer.

Alcohol is a useless sleep aid

I used to use alcohol as a self-prescribed sleep aid. However, despite getting me off to sleep with ease, my alcohol fuelled sleep would invariably cause me to have very unsettled sleep throughout the night. Alcohol never performed the function I was accessing it for. This is one of the things that drove me mad in my quest to stop drinking. I knew that it didn’t actually help me sleep, but the chemical reactions and dependency I had created for myself by misusing alcohol over time, meant that I continued to reach for this drug even though it never worked!

Alcohol the anxiety drug

Over time, alcohol also induced anxiety within me.

One of the other reasons I self-medicated with alcohol towards the end was to reduce the feeling of anxiety. However, after drinking to get to sleep and then passing out, I would very often wake in the early hours of the morning with the most overwhelming feelings of anxiety in my core.

It was horrible.

It left me wide awake.

I would feel incredibly anxious.

I was unable to think with clarity.

Once this feeling had come on I always immediately regretted drinking the night before. But it was too late. The damage had been done.

A cloud of anxious feelings and thoughts would loom over me for several hours during the next day of a heavier drinking episode. Each time this occurred I vowed to give up drinking. I made promises to myself to stop.

But sadly, so often until I became teetotal, I would succumb to the death grip of alcohol’s addictive properties and again drink to ease my anxiety and/or help me off to sleep.

Alcohol never helped me sleep, it only left me restless and feeling anxious.

Alcohol never appeased my anxiety, it only made it worse.

Whatever the question or problem, alcohol is not the answer

I ask all readers to be respectful. This is an honest and heart-felt account of the struggle I incurred.

I thank you in advance for your respect and kindness and I encourage you to sign up to my mailing list so I can notify you about new blog updates.

If you are struggling with how much alcohol you are consuming or if you would like to talk further on the subject please get in touch. Your conversations with me will remain confidential. Please note that I am not a therapist but I can support you to find a way to address any issues you may be having with alcohol.

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