10 August 2015

Over the limit

A healthy lifestyle benefits both physical and mental health, but isn't always easy to maintain, especially when the goalposts as to what constitutes 'healthy' keep moving. The basics remain constant, however: don't smoke; don't drink to excess; eat a balanced diet; get enough sleep; and take some exercise.

On the plus side, I follow a good diet and don't smoke. On the negative, I suffer from insomnia, do no exercise, and my drinking, well, it can get a little out of hand. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean twenty-something-on-holiday-in-Ibiza out of hand. It's the middle-aged, middle-class, a-few-glasses-of-wine-a-night-can't-hurt kind. Not drunk, just drinking.

It began a long time ago, with up to a glass and a half of wine to accompany dinner, on two or three evenings a week. As I live on my own, this was usually lone drinking - which some see as the proverbial slippery slope - and I drank more when I was with my partner or friends. 

This gradually crept up to two glasses on multiple nights a week, albeit small ones; as I always refill a 250ml bottle from a box, I can be precise about the quantities, at least. I finally decided to do something about it when, a few months back, I began half-filling a second bottle, for a third glass.

The increase in volume was certainly a concern. Somebody I used to work with was a recovering alcoholic and once told me he'd started with a glass of whisky a night but, before he knew it, was up to half a bottle. Where would I stop?

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto/
More worrying, though, was that I could always find a reason - good or bad - for drinking. 'It's been a tough day.' 'It's Friday.' 'You have something to celebrate.' The excuses came thick and fast.

In the past, I've implemented rules in order to cut down, such as only drinking at weekends or when socialising with other people, but always ended up breaking them.

Sometimes I'd give up drink entirely, which I actually found quite easy - too easy, in fact. At the end of the target length of time, I'd pick up my drinking habits right where I'd left off, telling myself I could obviously stop any time I wanted: exactly how addicts of all kinds fool themselves.

Self-medication is no solution to any mental health condition, but substance abuse is an all too common problem amongst those suffering from a whole host of disorders. I assume that alcohol serves to relax me from my state of almost permanent anxiety, although I'm not consciously aware of it, as I don't get noticeably inebriated. 

However, any positive effect is temporary, and if I develop a full-scale addiction, I'll have a permanent, and much bigger, problem to overcome. Besides, I don't ever want to be faced with having to give up alcohol for good, just because I can't control my intake now.

So, on Saturday 11 July, I reverted to my 'only drinking with others' rule, and, to date, I've stuck to it. Not only have I massively reduced my consumption of alcohol, but I've hardly missed it at all. Long may it continue.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Helen, and it seems as if you are taking care of your "problem" before it actually becomes one. Good for you!!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk. Many people I know are probably in the same boat, without having a mental health problem - regular alcohol consumption seems to have become the norm these days!