Seedlip Drinks (Lincolnshire) are free from alcohol
If you would like to learn how to give up alcohol addiction, you may find this post useful. Many people (including around 1 in 5 young people) in England don’t drink at all (teetotal). And many of us enjoy the odd tipple, whether that’s a beer (old man at his local pub), special occasions (a glass of champagne at a wedding) or a good glass of wine with dinner. But for many people, alcohol is ‘the last legal drug’ and because it’s okay to sell, it can (like electricity) turn from something for good (growing organic grapes, artisan beer and cider, a good night out) to something bad (chronic alcohol addiction which can lead to all kinds of problems including liver damage, car accidents and even death). Many people are also intolerant to alcohol (most cheap wines contain sulphites, which can lead to severe flushing, after drinking just one glass of wine).
Like most addictions, alcoholism usually starts small, and then tolerance builds up. If you have a real problem, speak to your doctor before giving up alcohol completely, as you may have to do this gradually, to prevent your body going into shock. But for most ‘social drinkers’, cutting down or giving up is something you can safely do yourself.
This post is not designed to be ‘nanny state’. If you enjoy a tipple to support your local organic vineyard or brewery, then go ahead and enjoy it. But if you (or someone you know) is having adverse effects and needs to cut down or give up, then you hopefully may find this information helpful.
Why Do Some People Drink So Much?
In fact, the highest-drinking countries are not where you would presume. Topping the list is Vatican City (a country in its own right). It could have something to do with all the communion wine, but it seems these priests are positively plastered, supping down way more wine per capita, than any other country worldwide. Pope Francis is known for living a pretty simple life, but he got censored by The Vatican after declaring that ‘Scotch whisky is the real Holy Water!’ Eastern bloc countries (like Belarus and Lithuania) also drink a lot.
A lot of it is culture (in mainland Europe, binge-drinking is frowned on, and you will never see a drunk in the street in Italy or France). There, the alcohol culture is healthy: children grow up seeking parents sip wine, and French women also (contrary to media opinion) don’t drink that much. They may enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week, but they don’t drink all the time. They also drink a lot more water (alcohol is very dehydrating), they eat better and they don’t snack (saving the calories to have a glass of vino). And just as importantly, they don’t worry about it. If a French or Italian person wants a glass of wine, they just have one. And a good one at that, not cheap rubbish (they send that over here to our supermarkets!)
You can use this Alcohol Change UK’s unit calculator for a quick guide to see if you are within limits. For instance, a bottle of wine at 13.5% is 10 units, which is almost two-thirds of a weekly allowance.
So why do some people not drink to a problem rate, but others do? There are many reasons, which can differ for various people:
- Those growing up with alcoholics, are more likely to succumb. This could be genetic, but also because of culture or even stress, due to the childhood memories and habits.
- Those who are traumatised. Often people who would never drink, start doing so due to life problems. Someone loved could die tragically, and send someone into an alcoholic spiral. The same with people who make mistakes that they feel guilty about. Both can turn to drink, simply to numb out the pain.
- Others can drink due to peer pressure. If you start a new job and everyone’s drinking, you may say yes, as you feel pressured that it will cause problems if you say no.
- In a slightly less pressuring manner, it can be due to wanting company. If you are an old man who likes a nightly pint at the pub, this is a habit that will likely continue, especially if the man lives in a lonely community, and the landlord and fellow drinkers are his friends. In this case, it’s probably not much of a problem at all, if any.
Tips to Cut Down (or give up) Drinking
- If you like the taste of alcohol or have formed bad habits (due to habit), then one idea is to simply replace the alcohol drinks with low-alcohol or non-alcoholic versions (either a few times a week or always). See the posts on local artisan non-alcoholic wines, low-alcohol beer and shandy, low-alcohol spirits or no-alcohol spirits.
- Belvoir’s Elderflower Cordial is used by many drinkers with fizzy water to taste just like a white wine spritzer. So you get all of the joy and none of the alcohol. You could use this all the time, or have it a few times a week, and drink a couple of glasses of wine at the weekends. Or try one of their alcohol-free Pressé drinks.
- You’ve likely heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is free and confidential, and you can get a ‘buddy’ (someone who had a drinking problem) who will help you through the hard times. They also hold online meetings, useful in times of Coronavirus. We Are With You also offers personal or online support, which is free and confidential (they can also help if you are concerned about someone else, and need to chat).
- Allen Carr is a method known to help stop smoking, but it also has success with other addictive behaviours. See his 10 tips on how to stop drinking, which works like his non-smoking method. You basically use new psychology to turn yourself back to the person you were, before you needed a ‘fix’ to alleviate stress. You didn’t need a cigarette or brandy when you were 15, so you likely don’t need one now. Other people also feel stress, so you can be like their mindset.
- Most alcoholics are deficient in vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins. So get a good organic supplement, to help stop the jitters.
- Treat yourself with some self-care: long walks, warm relaxing baths and massage etc.
- Take up some form of exercise. If you drink a bottle of wine a night, you are taking in around 5000 extra calories each week and will likely gain weight. For the same amount spent on alcohol per month, you could join a nice gym (say in a local hotel) and have a nice workout and swim a few times a week, followed by a jacuzzi or sauna. And still have money leftover for a nice coffee with friends.
- Change your social circles. There’s nothing wrong with a friendly drink down the pub. But if you are within a hard drinking culture, then change. Most serious drinkers tend to hit the bottle in the evening, when they turn on the TV ‘to relax’. Try a new routine for 21 days. Eat your dinner then follow the Ayurvedic proverb of ‘after lunch, rest awhile, after dinner, walk a mile’. When you come back, sit in the garden and read a book. Or phone a friend. Or bake a cake.
- Change your alcohol. If you wolf your way through a few pints of cider a night, try a chilled glass of a better local organic brand. Rather than several glasses of wine, try a a large brandy glass with ice of Baileys Almande (made with almond milk), which you will drink slower. A glass of red wine is slower to drink than white wine, which often goes down the palate like lemonade. Or dilute white wine with fizzy water, and drink spritzers. This means you’ll cut your alcohol in half, and hydrate – as you dehydrate!
- Keep alcohol out of your house, and just have a drink when you are out with friends.
Alcohol Units are Confusing
One very confusing legislation by government that has not changed for years, is the alcohol units on bottles. Most people need a degree in science to understand how much they can drink, before safely driving. Of course, 0 is really the correct answer. But if you decide to have a quick drink, then how do you work out all the units on the bottles? The Green Party has a policy to simplify the method (paid for by taxing alcohol, which has to be done carefully, to stop community pubs going bust: our beer tax is among the highest in the world). They would also reduce the amount of alcohol in the blood, to be legal to drive.
NHS has the figures, but these are very complicated, unless you are good at maths. It depends on the brand, the size and the strength, what you weight and how tall you are, and how your body processes alcohol. In simple terms, their advice is for men or women to have no more than 6 pints of average beer (or 10 small glasses of low-alcohol wine) a week. Their site says to ‘work out the number of units in a pint (ABV 5.2%) by multiplying it by the millilitres and dividing by 1000. How many drinkers do that?
Books to Help You Give Up Drinking
- Drink Less, Live More is a good little book packed with common sense advice. Drinking less means having more energy, more focus and more money. It’s a big step to better health, better moods and a better life. Whether you are keen to cut down or wish to give up alcohol altogether, this pocket handbook has all the facts and tips you need, to re-shape your life the way you want.
- Drink? offers a book on the science of what alcohol does to our bodies. Professor David Nutt cuts through the noise to explain the short and long term effects of alcohol, makes complex science digestible and takes readers through alcohol’s journey inside the body and brain, from the very first sip. Covering mental health, sleep, hormones, fertility and addiction, it sheds light on what ‘responsible drinking’ really means and gives you knowledge to make the best decisions for yourself, without relying on TV ads or government.
- The Alcohol Experiment is a simple 30-day program to look closer at why you drink, what you get out of it and whether it’s really the alcohol that is giving you what you want. Does alcohol really help you relax? Are you really in control? Annie gives you the tools, to take control of your drinking for good.
- Quit Like a Woman is a unique book, in a world obsessed with drinking. We drink at work, lunch, book clubs and weddings, and yet those who don’t drink are often questioned, as if there is something wrong with them. When Holly gave up drinking, she saw how much alcohol plays a part in society, for women in particular. She also noticed the way that alcohol companies increasingly target women. This book is an interesting read on drinking culture and a celebration of how to celebrate life, without always having to resort to the sauce.
A Few Inspiring Stories
- Aussie life coach Bex Weller ran a successful business, helping others to get healthy. Yet in private, her own life was going in the other direction. Realising that she was beginning to have a problem with drinking, she gave it up and founded Sexy Sobriety, a fun site where you can read her books and take courses, with friendly support.
- Robert Downey Jr was born into a successful Hollywood family, and had it all: looks, fame, money and talent. But after his debut film playing Charlie Chaplin, he quickly went downhill, becoming addicted to drink and drugs. He was caught one night flying down the highway in his car and got arrested. Another time he climbed into someone’s house and fell asleep in an empty bed belonging to a child. He was sent to prison where he scrubbed pizza pans for a few cents an hour, and quickly got his life back into gear. Through a combination of family and friends, yoga and meditation, counselling and self-discipline. Now back as a successful actor, he says he not a fan of a very liberal approach, saying the ‘hard knock’ lessons actually helped, rather than hindered him.
- Rich Roll was a promising young athlete and lawyer, when he also became addicted to drink and drugs. Age 31, he had lost most of his friends, was overweight, depressed and facing possible jail time. When one day he could not make it up a flight of stairs, he went vegan, gave up alcohol and dug out his running shoes. Today he is one of the fittest 25 men on the planet, and runs Ironman Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon). He now spends time raising his family and writing vegan cookbooks with his wife.
- Rachel Brathen is most known as the world’s most popular Instagram yoga star. Born and raised in Sweden, this tall, blonde and beautiful yoga teacher has it all, with a happy family and successful business, living on a beautiful tropical paradise. But as a teen, a series of tragic life events led her to become addicted to drink, to null the pain. When she almost died of alcohol poisoning, her mother sent her to yoga camp, which is where her new life began.
- Yogi Cameron used to be a supermodel (he came to England from Iran during the war and was discovered on the street). After starring in a Madonna music video and meeting Nelson Mandela, he gave it all up to move to India to study yoga and ayurveda. Today he runs a wonderful website Inspire Living with his wife on healthy spiritual living and writes lovely books on how to live a pure teetotal life!
Other people who don’t drink at all (teetotal) for various reasons (from not liking the taste, a healthy background or previous issues) include:
- Brad Pitt
- Russell Brand
- Fearne Cotton
- Ellie Goulding
- Leana Lewis
- Shania Twain
- Natalie Portman
- Chris Martin
- Andy Murray