How to Change your Relationship with Alcohol

I learnt how to control my alcohol consumption and not let it control me

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Last year I had a discussion with my partner about people that we admire or characteristics that we admire in other people. One of the characteristics I admired in other people; not drinking. I admired people that gave up alcohol despite social pressure and habits. I admired people that gave up alcohol because they wanted to live a healthier and happier life.

So a year ago, I decided to change my relationship with alcohol and take control of my life. And it started with making the decision.

“You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward. It will instead disappoint and frustrate you and make you anxious and unhappy and hard to get along with (and then resentful, and then vengeful, and then worse).”
Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

1. I become conscious of every drink I had

If you want to change a habit, it starts with being conscious of the habit first. I though about how many drinks I was actually consuming, and I realised I drank every single week. Every weekend when I got home from work, I had a glass of wine and on Saturday and Sunday, usually a glass or couple.

I was drinking without thinking. I wasn’t conscious of my drinking because it had become something I did without being aware of it. That was the first step. Once I became aware of my drinking habit, I could stop it. You can’t stop something that you are not even aware you are doing. Like a nervous tick, you just continue until either you become aware of it or someone else does. I became aware to my drinking and realised that unless I was being a conscious drinker, I was going to consume far more than I actually wanted.

2. I started small

I didn’t decide over night that I was going to quit drinking altogether and vow never to touch another drink again. If you start big, then you are setting yourself up for failure. When you do fail which is inevitable, you feel like failure and may turn to alcohol to ease that pain. Which is the opposite of your initial goal. Or you may throw in the towel and say, “Oh well, I just had one glass of one, I may as well have another.”

I made a vow to myself to not be hangover this entire year. And so far I have achieved that goal. I started with dry January. One month. Not one year or 10 years. Its possible to start even smaller. If one month is a lot then start with one weekend. I started with dry January and it felt pretty good to achieve that. If I could do one month then I could do another and another.

3. I didn’t ban alcohol altogether

This seemed to hard. So I didn’t do it. I allowed myself a drink on special occasions, birthdays and weddings and I also didn’t restrict myself to just one drink. I had drinks at a wedding and more than two on my birthday. The point was not to totally ban alcohol but to change my relationship. If I really wanted a small glass of wine at a wedding or engagement party, I allowed myself that treat. I began to see alcohol as a special treat and not a regular drink. Water is my regular drink. Alcohol on special occasions.

4. I became conscious of how I felt when not drinking

You never regret the nights you went to bed early and woke up fresh the next morning. While I regretted every single night, that I drank too much and woke up with a hangover the next day. I love waking up fresh and ready to face the day without a headache. I decided I wanted to feel like that every day; alive and awake.

When I was tempted to drink, and I have been many times, I thought, “What will future Kate want?. Does she want to wake up dehydrated and sick or does she want to go for that run she planned.”

This solidified my decision to not drink. Now that I have significantly decreased my alcohol consumption, I cannot imagine going back to drinking the way I did before.

5. I was kind to myself

Changing your relationship with anything is hard. Giving up drinking was hard. It has taken my about to 2 years to say with confidence that alcohol no longer controls me. Two years ago I would have had a glass of wine on a good day, or on a bad day, or in celebration of anything. Two years ago, I would have been hangover at least a couple of times in one year. Two years ago, I had severe headaches and took strong painkillers to ease the pain. Today, I have not been hangover once this year. I drink only when its suits me and never in excess. I am proud of my progress, even though it might not be perfect.

Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

I am conscious of my alcohol consumption and if I have one glass of wine a month now, it is a lot. When I do have a glass of champagne at a wedding or glass of wine in celebration of something I drink it slowly. I don’t rush through my drink eager for the next one. I savor the taste and find that one glass of something is enough. I can have one glass and no longer look in earnest for the next refill. I used to have a bottle of wine a weekend or at least a glass now I go running every weekend, hiking or cycling.

In the end…

Changing my relationship with alcohol has changed my life. I won’t go back to drinking like I did before. It has gotten easier with time. I feel amazing not drinking and it has been worth it to feel the way I do now. We don’t need alcohol to live our best lives. I gave up alcohol and I am living a healthier, happier life.

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

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