How To Stop Emotional Drinking?
For many of us, a glass of wine is the perfect way to wind down after a long day of work. While drinking can be a pleasurable, temporary relief, it’s only the case when done responsibly.
Unfortunately, with this behavior being normalised in our culture, it’s easy to turn to drinking as a way to deal with stress or negative emotions in life, potentially leading to overconsumption that bears serious consequences.
In current times of uncertainty and emotional exhaustion, it’s especially important we become aware of our drinking habit.
We had the pleasure to speak with Maria Sosa, therapist and holistic health coach about everything you need to build a better, healthier relationship with alcohol.
Signs of using alcohol as a coping mechanism
Dealing with negative and uncomfortable emotions can be difficult and exhausting. It’s easy, then, for us to use alcohol as a coping mechanism to run away from them.
“Naturally, our brains tell us to approach the enjoyable and pleasurable, and avoid the pain,” Maria said. “One of the ways we can bypass negative emotions is through alcohol.”
Here are some signs that we may be using alcohol to cope with discomfort:
- We are disconnected from ourselves; we reach for alcohol as if on autopilot.
- We have no tolerance for things that are unpleasant, drinking serves as a way to get through difficulties.
- We trivialise the amount of alcohol we are drinking; we joke about how often we engage in the behavior.
- We have no other ways of coping; alcohol seems like the only outlet and way to self-soothe.
Emotional Drinking vs. Intuitive Drinking
To Maria, a huge distinction between an emotional drinker and an intuitive drinker is the way they perceive alcohol and experience drinking.
An emotional drinker is someone who:
- Is not concerned with the experience and the enjoyable nature of being mindfully present in the moment
- Sees drinking as a way to get numb, bypass, and check out
An intuitive drinker is someone who:
- Is constantly checking in their senses, making sure they’re enjoying themselves and drinking is pleasurable
- Notices the effect of alcohol on the body and can make a conscious decision on what and how much to drink
That said, being an intuitive drinker means a lot more than drinking responsibly.
First, it’s about drinking from a place of awareness. “We are not hiding from the negative emotions,” Maria said, “we have a place to process those difficult parts of life and it is not through our drinking.”
Second, drinking becomes independent from the state of our mood, which means we’re also likely to drink less naturally. “Our bodies will let us know when we’ve reached a point where we are no longer getting any benefit from the experience,” she said.
How to become an intuitive drinker
To Maria, drinking intuitively is actually a form of self-care. “With each choice to drink or not drink, we are making sure to care for our wellbeing.”
So, how do we become an intuitive drinker?
“The first step is exploring our relationship with alcohol,” Maria said. And that means getting down to how often, how much, and under what circumstances we drink.
If you notice any patterns of your quality of life and relationships that are likely caused by drinking, then you should evaluate the possibility of an emotional drinking problem.
One question she recommended we ask ourselves is: would my life be better without alcohol?
Another way Maria said that helps with drinking more intuitively is tuning into our senses. And that means to be present. “We give our bodies the permission to lead the way and create more conscious moments, without the moral hungover that comes with over drinking.”
Want to avoid temptation? Try training your brain.
There’s no shortcut to curbing our drinking overnight. But instead of fretting over how we can train ourselves to drink less, Maria said we should actually train our brains to be more in tune when we’re drinking.
For example, we can tune into our taste buds and think about the flavours we are experiencing – is it sweet, bitter, or bubbly? What about the temperature of the drink?
By being present in the drinking process, “we are monitoring from a place of intuition instead of rules and restrictions, which we often like to rebel against,” she said. That way, drinking becomes an internally conscious choice that’s based on our body’s cues.
When asked how we can recognise it’s time to stop drinking, Maria said this:
“It requires being honest with ourselves and assessing why we are drinking.”
She stressed that every glass is a source of information that tells our brain about our satiety and satisfaction. And so, once we reach the point where more alcohol will not enhance the drinking experience, that’s when we know it’s time to take a breather.
“Remember that the purpose of drinking is not to forget, numb, or get through the day,” she said, “but to be present and fully enjoy a moment.”
“Alcohol is not necessary for this to happen.”