November 15th-21st is Alcohol Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to having conversations around alcohol and in 2021 the focus is ‘alcohol and relationships’. We’re all encouraged to look at how alcohol and our personal relationships can become intertwined.
For many of us, alcohol and socialising are closely linked. Going down to the pub or having a drink with colleagues after a hard day at work is a pretty common event across the UK! In fact, it can be a way we bond and build friendships. If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, this doesn’t need to be a problem. However, our relationship with alcohol can change. If drinking is negatively affecting our relationships, it can have a huge impact on our lives.
During the first UK-wide lockdown, 1 in 3 adults said they drank more alcohol than they normally would, even with pubs and bars being closed. For many people, this increased alcohol consumption was caused by the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic. Now that we leave lockdown, there are still pressures and triggers that may cause increased drinking. Some people feel uncomfortable or ostracised if they don’t drink in social situations and others will have anxiety about socialising they mask with alcohol.
This Alcohol Awareness Week, we’re encouraging everyone to take time to reflect on their relationship with alcohol.
It’s perfectly possible to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Many people enjoy socially drinking, and others find a glass of wine and a good book a fun way to unwind. When alcohol does become a problem though, it can begin to take over your life. If left untreated, problems with alcohol can develop into alcoholism which can be extremely damaging to your physical health.
These are a few common signs to look out for in yourself, and your loved ones:
Drink Aware offers a self-assessment tool developed by the World Health Organisation. If you do worry that your relationship with alcohol may be unhealthy, it’s recommended you speak directly with a GP.
When speaking to your GP about any concern it’s always best to be honest about your experiences so they can offer the right help. Remember that GP’s aren’t there to judge, they’re there to help you. The likelihood is your GP will have spoken to people in your situation before and be able to offer you advice and next steps.
Getting professional help is incredibly important if you have become physically dependent on alcohol. Going “cold turkey” can actually be harmful and it’s best to work with a doctor, as you may need medication to help stop drinking.
Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:
These physical symptoms are very serious and can have a long-term effect on your health. Make sure to speak with a doctor to understand the best steps for quitting alcohol.
When speaking to your GP, it’s helpful for them to be as accurate as possible. Being able to explain how much you drink and how it’s impacting your life can help them work out the best treatment for you.
While your GP can help you make the first practical steps towards quitting alcohol, there are other forms of support. For many people, looking at mental health support can be extremely beneficial. Counselling can help you understand wider issues that may contribute to why you choose to drink and help you create a healthier relationship with yourself.
You can also look at joining recovery support groups. For many people, this peer-to-peer support helps to lessen feelings of isolation during recovery. They can be incredibly beneficial and allow you to spend time with a group of people struggling with similar issues. This gives you the chance to honestly discuss the difficulties of overcoming addiction.
If you have a close network of friends and families, they can also offer a great source of support. Being honest and open about your struggles can help your loved ones better understand your situation. This puts them in a better place to offer emotional support. It can also be incredibly helpful if you need to make lifestyle changes, as they can support you with changes in routine.