Why do you think Australia is leading the charge in terms of binge drinking?
Australians are known around the world as big drinkers. I believe this stems from our British heritage. Drinking a lot is as culturally acceptable in Britain as it is in Australia. Swilling alcohol is often regarded as proving manliness and women seem to be emulating this behaviour. Also, advertising presents alcohol as attractive, whether it be on billboards or television. The European culture is more about pacing oneself, slow drinking and pleasure. Generally, I think Australians also have the attitude of coming from the land of plenty where there is good food and alcohol available.
Do you think the late work hours are contributing to this epidemic?
Long hours drive people to escape in many ways, one being alcohol consumption. It is a quick fix because it turns off a busy mind and relaxes people. This is part of the problem. Alcohol has become the stress management pill. If someone is drinking too much as a coping strategy they will be creating an emotional habit that can seem difficult to change. Over a period of time if someone has been using alcohol to unwind from work, the mind will then learn this is how to deal with life and this is when someone may be concerned they have a drink problem. However, I believe they have a thinking problem not a drinking problem. It is the emotions of stress, anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues first that trigger the alcohol craving. This is what I treat with The Drink Less Mind program.
How can women avoid social or peer pressures to drink?
Unfortunately many people are uncomfortable with people not drinking socially. This is because they themselves feel they have an alcohol issue and try to encourage others to drink to cover this anxiety. Woman are generally ‘people pleasers’ so often it may seem difficult to say no to alcohol. My top tip is to tell what I call ‘little white lies’. Say you are on medication, or have an important meeting the next day. Even better say you have a cracking hangover and couldn’t fathom a drink!
What are some of the health concerns of this behavioural pattern – physical and mental?
Over consumption of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, liver damage, throat cancer, anxiety and depression, just to name a few. However my belief is that it is the psychological aspects of binge drinking that is the most concerning. People who drink more than they want to are using alcohol as a way to deal with vulnerabilities, such as loneliness, boredom, social and sexual anxiety, insomnia and low self-esteem. If someone is using alcohol to combat any of these emotional states alcohol will become a problem for them.
The Drink Less Mind is not for alcoholics but rather for people who recognise their drinking behaviour interferes with their lives in negative ways.
What are your tips for women to curb their drinking?
• A lot of people drink alcohol when they are actually thirsty. Before you start drinking, have one big glass of water to quench your thirst and keep a glass of water with your alcohol. Try to adhere to my DOWO policy: ‘Drink one, water one.’
• Write down the emotions that are driving you to feel the need to have a drink. Is it stress, anger, boredom, loneliness? All of these emotions are valid but drinking will only suppress them until the morning. Then you will wake up with a sense of low self-worth because you are not dealing with the feelings.
• Hold your glass of alcohol in your non-dominant hand, this will help you stay more conscious of the fact you are drinking and it will feel slightly different.
• People tend to drink faster when they are in the middle of doing something else like watching TV or typing away at the computer. Leave the glass of alcohol somewhere else so you have to break the state of activity to drink it. It may seem annoying at first but you will be surprised at how quickly this habit reduce drinking.
• When deciding to cut back, avoid people who like to a drinking partner for a few weeks. People who encourage heavy drinking will want you to drink with them to avoid dealing with their own issues.
• Instead of pouring that glass, pamper yourself in different ways such as a long aromatherapy bath, a massage or that DVD