This week is Alcohol Awareness week, but by the look of the search results for my website, we should have one once a fortnight!
People who visit my website (www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk) are regularly searching for things like “can hypnosis help me remember last night?”, “excessive drinking”, “drink issues”, “binge drinking longer drinks”, “alcohol binge mood swings” and so on. And the number seems to be increasing.
While the media is busy wringing its hands over the problem of binge drinking and the health lobby is busy talking to us about units of alcohol (hands up all those who know what a unit of alcohol actually represents?) and recommending arbitrary daily intakes, the situation is being exacerbated by pubs – who, despite “voluntary controls” are still offering spirits at lower prices than beers and charging as much for soft drinks as they do for vodka shots – and by drinks companies who are hell-bent on disguising the taste of alcohol in novelty mixers and sending in promotions girls with shot laden backpacks.
Don’t misunderstand me. I come from an advertising agency background of the old school. It was nothing to stagger out of a restaurant at 6.00pm blinking at the daylight in summer and confused by the darkness in winter having gone in for lunch at one o’clock. Evening drinking was also the norm, so I’m no stranger to a drinking culture.
But the difference appears to be that there is a lot more peer group pressure to keep up with the crowd and that being drunk is now the only way of having a good time.
There seems to also have been a loss of distinction between being “tipsy” as my Gran used to say, and plain shit-faced, falling down drunk. Being tipsy meant that you could enjoy drinking but still go to work in the morning feeling fine and without a noticeable hangover. Being completely ratted means that you can’t remember the previous evening, or how you got home, oversleeping in the morning, losing the odd day at work every month because you’re too hung over and tired to go in, and suffering a noticeable loss of performance even when you manage to get to work.
As a result, I’m now seeing people who are worried about what alcohol is doing to them. They don’t want to change their friends, or the places they socialise, or the job they do. But the pressures of each means that they are spending too much money, drinking too much hard alcohol, and feeling that they have stopped enjoying themselves as much as they used to and begin to worry about the health implications of continuous bouts of heavy drinking. They also worry about whether or not they can stop.
So how can I help them? Well, the first thing is for them to understand their own reasons for drinking too much. I saw someone recently who was entertaining clients most nights and having a very active social life at weekends. He felt that peer pressure at work and at home was driving him down a very dangerous path, especially as alcoholism was in his family. Another client was drinking two bottles of red wine a night to herself, as well as going out with the girls three times a week, just because she was bored being at home all day with the kids.
Having understood the problem for that individual, there are a range of therapies available. For those having a problem with peer pressure, for instance, I first use hypnosis to install a subconscious “drinks counter” – which keeps count of the number of drinks being consumed during an evening and paces consumption against a maximum number of drinks, which the client sets for him/herself. This works very well in helping the client regain control of the amount they drink.
The second thing I do is teach clients to drink like a lightweight. This is a tailor-made technique matched to the lifestyle of each person. The way they cut down the amount of alcohol they take in depends on their surroundings – it’s easier to drink less in a club for instance, where its dark and noisy and everyone is on the move, than it is in a restaurant where it’s more noticeable if a glass doesn’t get refilled as often as others. So I teach clients how to use the technique in various situations and to monitor it with the subconscious drinks counter. As a result, clients have not only been very successful in cutting down, but have even developed their own variations to suit themselves. My client entertaining drinker, for instance, not only halved his alcohol intake in the first week, but came in for his next session saying that he’d not drunk anything at all for three nights that week because “I just didn’t fancy it” – and no else one noticed the change!
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