Have you ever Googled “Am I drinking too much?” or “How much alcohol is too much?”.
A recent study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal, shows about 21 per cent of women between 45 and 60 are now drinking at ‘binge-drinking’ levels.
That was definitely my situation but I didn’t consider it ‘binge drinking’. After all, most of my friends drank in the same way.
The rationale is that if you have a busy and stressful life, drinking helps to let off steam. It’s the way to relax, destress, have fun. Right?
Sure, we all know the downsides of drinking a bit too much. Hangovers, hazy memories, trouble sleeping, weight gain. But surely that’s just the price you pay?
And that’s exactly how I looked at it until my niggling internal voice started to question whether the price I was paying was too high.
The cost of drinking too much
I would never have labelled myself as a problem drinker – my relationships were all intact, I performed well at work, and I was fit and healthy.
But that was at the surface. What was really starting to concern me was that I was able to drink more than I previously had and I was drinking more frequently.
I was one of the middle-aged women who was drinking at ‘binge-drinking’ levels.
Although I described myself as a weekend drinker, my ‘weekends’ had extended so that they started on a Wednesday night and ended on Sundays.
Just to be clear, I still worked Monday to Friday, I just rationalised that Wednesday night was ‘almost the weekend’!
And while I was fit and healthy I knew that I was pushing the boundaries with this. I knew that drinking was not good for my health but I was also burying my head in the sand believing that I would somehow, miraculously be exempt.
As I moved into peri-menopause and realised that drinking was probably exacerbating my hormonal issues, I could no longer live in a state of denial.
Deciding to take a three-month break
After years of trying, and failing, to moderate, I decided to take a break for three months to see if I noticed any differences.
It seems that taking a month off drinking – Dry January, FebFast, Octsober – is acceptable but any longer is extreme.
“But you don’t have a problem, do you?” my friends would ask suddenly concerned that I had bottles of vodka stashed around the house and was taking shots throughout the day to keep me going.
I was not at that stage but does that matter? Surely it’s a good thing to take back control of your drinking before you reach a rock bottom, rather than waiting until things get really bad?
And anyway, drinking is a slippery slope. I had already seen that the amount I was drinking and how frequently I was doing so were increasing.
Did I really need to hit a rock bottom to decide that maybe, just maybe, I might be better off if I took a break from drinking?
So, instead of waiting until my life spiralled out of control, I took a step back.
Answering the “do I drink too much” question
I figured out that if I was asking the question – “How do you know if you’re drinking too much?” – I was probably drinking too much.
I realised that I didn’t need a Google search to help me find the answer.
The question I should have been asking instead was: “Would it help to take a break from drinking to see if there is a better way to manage life rather than relying on booze as my crutch?”
And the answer was yes. In last week’s blog I listed all the unexpected benefits of making that decision.