A recent study has shown that the frequency of alcohol consumption is now slightly higher for males than it was 2-3 years ago, but it’s substantially higher for females, with self-reported reasons including boredom, increased stress and anxiety.
Now that vaccination rates are increasing and the weather is warming up for spring and summer entertaining, we’re well on the way to returning to our previous ‘normal’. For many of us, that includes getting our relationship with booze back on track.
The question is, how to get started? While a reduction in alcohol intake will look different for each one of us, there are certain strategies that can help.
Sarah Connelly, a Grey Area Drinking Coach and founder of Tapped In, an initiative to support people who are interested in living healthier, happier, more productive lives with less or no alcohol, explains that an important first step is knowing why you want to change.
“The reasons are different for everyone, but getting clear on why you want it – not just because you should, but for reasons that actually excite and inspire you – is a really good place to start,” Sarah says.
While getting clear on your ‘why’ sounds simple, Sarah explains that for most people it’s a difficult task.
“We all know what we don’t want, but many of us don’t know what we do want! If you aren’t clear on your why, a good tip is to start with a list of what you don’t want, then what you do want is the opposite.”
Choosing to stop drinking or to reduce your alcohol intake can be challenging in the beginning, and the company you keep can make all the difference.
“Other people can encourage you in the wrong ways when you’re tempted, they’ll say things like, ‘Oh go on, just have a drink, you’re not that bad,” Sarah explains. “If you join a community where people are actually celebrating being alcohol-free, or celebrating reducing their alcohol consumption, it makes the journey so much easier.”
Local writer Seana Smith, who runs the website Sober Journeys and has chosen to be alcohol-free since late 2019, has also found community to be an important part of the process.
“I’ve made friends from the online groups I joined, all women just like me who wanted to get healthier.”
This step isn’t necessary for everyone, but eliminating alcohol for a short period of time can be a useful step for many.
Seana found that a one-month program was a good starting point on her journey.
“I found that alcohol was affecting my mental health, I was really beating myself up about it,” Seana explains. “Eventually, I decided to do an online program and stop for a month. By the end of the month, I decided it was easier to for me to not take it back up again. Maybe it won’t be that way forever, but that’s what I’m doing for now.”
It’s always a good idea to find some substitutes while you’re reducing or quitting alcohol; no one likes to sit around at a party empty-handed. Thankfully, high-quality alcohol-free options are becoming more prevalent on the market.
Monday Distillery co-founder Sam Manning started her business after finding there weren’t many non-alcoholic options aside from sugary drinks or sparkling water.
“Our most popular product at the moment is the classic G&T, followed by the Mezcalita and Aperitz Spritz. I wanted products that had the taste and ‘vibe’ of adult drinks, for people who wanted options when it came to reducing their alcohol consumption,” she explains.
“For me it’s not about spruiking sobriety, it’s more about having really good options.”
Seana is also an advocate for finding good alcoholic substitutes, and says she “keeps busy” trying new mocktails and making it fun. She’s even listed some of her favourites on her website.
Ami Zielinski, founder of Central West Mums, says that planning in advance – particularly during the Spring/Summer entertaining period – helps her avoid overindulging and gives her more stamina for parenting.
“Last Christmas was the best I’d had in years with kids. Instead of drinking champagne from 11 am onwards, I chose to drink alcohol-free options until 7 pm when I had a champagne or red wine with a meal,” Ami says.
“I felt really good! Even with the late nights and waking up at 5 am with the kids to open presents.”