Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast

Are you drinking too much? 10 Red Flags to Consider

May 12, 2024 Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb
Are you drinking too much? 10 Red Flags to Consider
Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
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Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
Are you drinking too much? 10 Red Flags to Consider
May 12, 2024
Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb

Have you ever woken up at 3am with a pounding heart and a regretful mind, questioning your decision to indulge in those extra drinks? Or found yourself promising to cut back, only to slip back into old habits when stress kicks in? Today Bella talks about her 10 unmistakable red flags that signal it's time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Whether it's the wake-up calls, the failed moderation attempts, or the realisation that you're self-medicating, we're tackling these issues head-on.

Taking a break from drinking isn't just about giving up something; it's about gaining a whole new perspective on life. Imagine feeling healthier, looking better, and having more energy – that's the transformative power of drinking less. If you're wrestling with moderation, you no longer enjoy activities you used to enjoy or experience anxiety in moments you used to breeze through, we’ll guide you through the benefits of taking a break, seeking professional guidance, from counselling to coaching programs.

Link to our previous episode on Secret Drinking.

10 RED FLAGS

1. 3AM wake up
2. Self medicating stress, anxiety and depression
3. Moderation fails
4. Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy 
5. Fixated with alcohol vs liberated
6. Secret Drinking
7. Panic and claustrophobia
8. Emotionally burnout: cynicism, detached, demotivated
9. General risks: youth, family members, trauma
10. Staying Power


MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever woken up at 3am with a pounding heart and a regretful mind, questioning your decision to indulge in those extra drinks? Or found yourself promising to cut back, only to slip back into old habits when stress kicks in? Today Bella talks about her 10 unmistakable red flags that signal it's time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Whether it's the wake-up calls, the failed moderation attempts, or the realisation that you're self-medicating, we're tackling these issues head-on.

Taking a break from drinking isn't just about giving up something; it's about gaining a whole new perspective on life. Imagine feeling healthier, looking better, and having more energy – that's the transformative power of drinking less. If you're wrestling with moderation, you no longer enjoy activities you used to enjoy or experience anxiety in moments you used to breeze through, we’ll guide you through the benefits of taking a break, seeking professional guidance, from counselling to coaching programs.

Link to our previous episode on Secret Drinking.

10 RED FLAGS

1. 3AM wake up
2. Self medicating stress, anxiety and depression
3. Moderation fails
4. Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy 
5. Fixated with alcohol vs liberated
6. Secret Drinking
7. Panic and claustrophobia
8. Emotionally burnout: cynicism, detached, demotivated
9. General risks: youth, family members, trauma
10. Staying Power


MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Speaker 1:

Hello, I'm glad you're here. Today we're going to talk about the red flags of drinking. What are the red flags that might signal to you that it's really time to look at this alcohol thing a bit differently, to take it a bit more seriously, to significantly cut back or, better yet, take a long break from it? I've got 10 red flags that I'm going to talk to that I've developed over the course of my counselling practice, which I think are pretty good indicators that if you're just showing one or two of these red flags in your life, then there's time to do some serious thinking about your relationship with alcohol. I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you tuned in. Let's get started. Are you trying to drink less alcohol but need some extra motivation? Maybe you've tried moderation, but you keep waking up disappointed and hungover.

Speaker 2:

Are you curious about sober life? Or maybe you're like us, have been alcohol free for a while and are in it for the long haul. Well, you're in the right place. I'm Meg.

Speaker 1:

And I'm Bella are in it for the long haul. Well, you're in the right place. I'm Meg and I'm Bella, and our Not Drinking Today podcast is an invaluable resource to keep you motivated and on track today and beyond.

Speaker 2:

We are this Naked Mind, certified coaches who live in Sydney and love our alcohol-free life.

Speaker 1:

And, last but not least, if you enjoy the content of our podcast, please rate, review, subscribe and share it.

Speaker 2:

It really is integral to getting the podcast out to those that might need it. So grab a cuppa and let's get started.

Speaker 1:

Occasionally, it can be really good to reflect on your present relationship with alcohol to consider is it taking more from your life than it's giving? I hazard to guess, if you're listening to this podcast, the answer is yes, and you might've had an inner voice that has been there for quite some time already telling you slow down. Your future is going to be less happy if you keep on drinking like you do. It's just useful to have also a bit of a blueprint, a guide, to work out if you are hitting some red flags that you need to know about. That can really then help guide you towards what you're going to do about it and to make a commitment about what changes you need to make and when. So I've got these 10 red flags here and look, they've been developed from my years working as a counsellor and a coach in this sphere of alcohol, stress and burnout, also my own lived experience with battling with a few alcohol issues or two in my lifetime. So I'm going to talk about 10 red flags. Let's start with the first one, number one the 3am wake up. That's a big, glaring red flag and it's a really common symptom that people experience when they've been drinking either a binge drinking weekend or night, or there's been quite a long habit of drinking, say, three to four glasses to a bottle a night. What happens is that we really get those chemical relaxers from our hit of alcohol, which is GABA and dopamine, but our body counteracts that in an effort to seek homeostasis by the release of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol and what happens is that these stay in our body a whole lot longer than those depressive chemicals. We get the 3am wake up, and it's a horrible thing to have happen, because it's really hard to go back to sleep. It's often filled with anxiety, ruminating thoughts and it can ruin the next day. So if that 3am wake up has been a feature in your nightly routine for quite some time now, it's really going to be impacting your wellbeing, your state of mind, your stress levels, and it's really then going to make you more prone to drinking the next day to try and get more energy or to alleviate that stress that you're feeling already. So treat this as a red flag. The good news is that it really just takes a couple of weeks of being off alcohol to be able to regain your normal sleep rhythms and get back into that restorative sleep pattern that gosh we all need. We all need to survive.

Speaker 1:

Red flag number two self-medicating stress, anxiety or depression with alcohol. It's really common and it's something that most of us do. I would say drinking to alleviate stress is one of the most common reasons why people start to develop a problematic relationship with alcohol social anxiety or just low level anxiety and depression. Now, if we're starting to self-medicate symptoms like this, well, research has shown that we have then a higher risk of developing a dependence on alcohol, relying on it to really feel relief from these symptoms. Now, alcohol fuels these symptoms. We know that, particularly stress, anxiety, alcohol exacerbates these symptoms by well, all of the things really, by pumping our body full of those stress hormones, by the lack of sleep, by the lack of motivation we no longer want to put our sneakers on and go out for a run. It also creates stress in our relationships, the way we view ourself, our self-respect, self-trust, anxiety in the way of ruminating thoughts, negative self-talk of ruminating thoughts, negative self-talk these things can really be exacerbated. Depression too, you know, with feeling flat. Alcohol can have us feel like, you know, our energy has been restored or can really elevate our mood, but it's temporary and we know that it's going to really exacerbate those symptoms.

Speaker 1:

Now, red flag number three moderation fails. You're going to be able to know whether you are trying and failing at moderation. You know. You've set those rules. You've told yourself you're only going to drink on Saturday, you're only going to drink Friday and Saturday, and then it becomes Wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, or when you go out, you're just going to have one, you're going to then have water and then another one. You end up having a whole lot more. Maybe you haven't even kept count. The fact is, you are pretty much stuck in a cycle of exhausting rules, feeling deprived, failing, and then you're back in that guilt cycle. If you are trying and failing at moderation, I dare say you're caught in a holding pattern that may have been there for a good 10 years. Have a look over your drinking history. If this is, you treat it as a red flag because you really don't want to be held in this pattern any longer. You've got too much to look forward to.

Speaker 1:

Red flag number four do you actually enjoy many activities without alcohol anymore? So once upon a time, you would have loved hiking. You would have loved going to events, listening to music, hanging out with your friends, going to movies and barbecues, and you would have done this without alcohol. You would have given it a thought. But as alcohol starts to creep into our lives and starts really impacting all of the sectors of our life, we can find that we're not getting the same enjoyment from these everyday activities without alcohol anymore. The fact is that alcohol reduces our joy baseline. So when we drink, we get huge dumps of dopamine, and GABA helps us to feel that artificial high relief we feel good. Us to feel that artificial high relief we feel good. Now when we stop drinking, we've got increased stress hormones in our body, which already makes us irritable and frustrated. Antsy is the word I like to use, but we're also in a dopamine deficit, so our receptors aren't working as they should be. We're not a well-oiled machine like we once were, and it takes the shine off life. Everyday activities, even just sitting in the sun with a cup of tea, which should be quite enjoyable, we no longer really enjoy anymore. Enjoyable we no longer really enjoy anymore. Take stock of some of the activities that you used to enjoy. Compare them to now. Look if you're noticing that you just need alcohol or you're not enjoying everyday activities without it. Treat it as a red flag. Red flag number five. Red flag number five fixation versus liberation. This is a beautiful benchmark.

Speaker 1:

I truly believe that we all owe it to ourselves to aim to live in a state of liberation when it comes to alcohol. Liberation means that we have the choice. We have the choice to take it or leave it. We're not thinking about driving past the bottle shop. We're not thinking about that half empty bottle in the fridge or the champagne in the wine fridge. When we're out socializing, we're not comparing what we're drinking to others. We're not thinking about how much we've drunk the night before.

Speaker 1:

When we wake up, liberation means that we feel free, fixated. Well, that's when you start thinking about your first hit of alcohol early on in the afternoon. Or you've got somewhere to go out and you're already thinking about how much you're going to drink. You are driving home, you go past the bottle shop, you pull over, you are thinking about going back to that bottle in the fridge if you've had one. You're in a state of fixation, you're trapped, and I don't know about you, but for me, I don't want to be controlled by a substance. So take time to really think about what your thoughts are around alcohol. Are you able to get through the day without thinking about it, or do you feel you're fixated? If so, treat that as a red flag.

Speaker 1:

Red flag number six secret drinking. And we've touched on this episode before in this podcast. And gosh, we got some amazing downloads from this episode. So I know that this is more prevalent than our Australian society really gives it credit for, and I'm going to put the link to this episode again in the show notes. But secret drinking is a red flag, and quite a serious one, because it can start small and can rapidly, quickly escalate. And what happens is when it gets into the flashing red zone, you're drinking rapidly at quantities you're not keeping really track of, and it can be quite dangerous and it can be quite dangerous.

Speaker 1:

So if you're noticing secret drinking habits start creeping in, you're sculling a glass in the pantry. You're hiding a bottle. You're sneaking glass from your partner before you go and sit down on the couch to watch a movie. You're hiding bottles. Please pause here and think about what you can do to pull yourself out of this habit, and if it involves reaching out to a friend, a counsellor, a coach, do it. It's really worth it to pull yourself out of that cycle earlier rather than later. I know from experience. Believe me Now, red flag number seven panic and claustrophobia.

Speaker 1:

Look, this is something that I have learned through the various clients that I have had and also from personal experience. If you are a binge drinker or habitual drinker, you know a bottle most nights of the week you might start to notice a bit of high anxiety, panic and claustrophobia creeping into your everyday life in unusual moments which have never really occurred before. Stuck in traffic that's a big one. Are you starting to feel anxious about not being able to get out? Your heartbeat's starting to rise. You're starting to feel really antsy. Or you have to go out to a social event and you're starting to get anxious about where to park. That is a big one, particularly among my female clients. Parking anxiety among my female clients, parking anxiety, holidays being claustrophobic on airplanes. Here's another one being at the hairdressers and sitting in that chair and not being able knowing you're not being able to move for a couple of hours.

Speaker 1:

That's a real sign. If it's paired with your knowledge that you are drinking too much, that alcohol is really impacting your nervous system. You're probably depleted in some of those very relaxing juicy neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin. You've got stress hormones pumping through your body from the alcohol, the body's reaction to alcohol. It's a red flag. Your system is probably running on threadbare. You may not be sleeping. Treat this as a sign that something has to change and it's probably alcohol.

Speaker 1:

The next one red flag number eight emotional symptoms. Now this one I often talk about in terms of being really caught in an alcohol stress and burnout cycle. Are you starting to notice these types of emotional symptoms in your everyday life and interactions with others? Detachment, a fear of failure, imposter syndrome, a real lack of motivation. You're really feeling sluggish. These are the signs that you could be on the cusp or experiencing burnout. If you're coupling this with heavy drinking even moderate drinking, actually even light to moderate drinking, heavy drinking, even moderate drinking, actually even light to moderate drinking you're going to exacerbate these symptoms. You're going to escalate your pathway towards burnout. Once you're in that phase, it's quite hard to pull yourself out and you really then have to undergo some significant lifestyle changes to pull yourself out. So take stock of your mood. Is your baseline personality? Normally energetic, enthusiastic, effervescent, but you're noticing now you really don't care about other people's feelings, empathy reduction and cynicism. Treat that as a red flag.

Speaker 1:

Red flag number nine these are some general risks that research shows that if they are showing up in your family history or your life history, that you've got then a higher risk of developing a problematic relationship with alcohol. There were three of them, general risks. Number one did you start drinking young? So I consider that being 18 years old and under in Australia, and after talking to hundreds of women and men, many of us start drinking at the age of 14, sometimes below this is going to have significant impacts to our nervous system, our social coping skills and our brain activity nervous system, our social coping skills and our brain activity. So just you know that's a red flag.

Speaker 1:

Another one have you suffered trauma in your early life or more recent life? There are so many ways that trauma can show up in our life. It can be neglect, abuse, it can be a problematic relationship with our family members, it can be divorce, it can be financial stress, carer's burnout, gosh, there's the full range. Don't be dismissive of these things. Really think what has occurred in your life. If there's a degree of trauma there that has then led to an increase in the way that you drink, treat that also as a red flag. And look. The third one. Think about your family history. Are there family members that you know about that have had an alcohol addiction An auntie, an uncle, a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a cousin? If this is the case, that can increase your risk of also developing an alcohol use disorder.

Speaker 1:

Developing an alcohol use disorder Now, red flag number 10. This is one that I really love talking about. It's often one that is not necessarily regarded as an obvious red flag, but well, huberman mentioned it on his amazing podcast when he delved into alcohol and our bodies and our brains, and I love it. And it's all about staying power. Do you notice whether your energy ramps up in a social setting when people are drinking and you're drinking whilst others in the room tend to fade? Are you the one that is trying to get people to drink more? You're doing the rounds. You're really making the case that we need to go on to another bar or somebody's house to continue the party. Your staying power is ramping up while others are starting to fade. It's a sign. It's a sign that you've got a really high tolerance to alcohol.

Speaker 1:

This is showing that you might've been drinking at high rates, higher than everybody else, for quite some time. So you've got those enzymes really built up in your body that are breaking down the alcohol, because they're needed. They're needed because you've been drinking quite a lot. It might also show a genetic propensity towards drinking at high quantities and it shows that you may have lost that ability to hold back, to exercise control, to moderate. It's really ticking. All the things that are showing you're drinking more than everybody else.

Speaker 1:

Treat that as a red flag as well. So I'm going to put these red flags, I'm going to list them in our show notes so that you have them. I hope that you found this useful. I think they're really clear categories that you can turn to in moments when you're really wanting to take a look at your relationship with alcohol. You've probably already noticed that you're just sick of it. You're sick of feeling sick and tired of alcohol. So have a look at these 10 flags Now. I only think you need to be ticking one of them.

Speaker 1:

If only one of these red flags are showing up in your life, I personally believe that that is good enough reason to make some changes. So what should you do about it? Well, I always recommend that you need to take a good break from alcohol to reset, rethink and start to feel the toxins leaving, and then the benefits of how good you can feel without alcohol. Now just a word of caution here. If you are a moderate to heavy consistent drinker, please go see your GP, get some guidance here. You might need to undergo a medically guided detox. If you're physically addicted, it's incredibly unsafe to stop without doing so. So see your GP or the Clean Slate Clinic and get some guidance there.

Speaker 1:

But a six week break at least will just give you time to consider how much alcohol has started to control your life. Are you able to get through that six-week period quite easily? If so, great. How good are you feeling afterwards? Do you really want to ruin that good feeling by starting to introduce alcohol again? It's up to you, of course. If you're finding that it's really hard to take that six-week break, then consider getting some help. You know there's podcasts, there's books, there's some great coaching programs out there now that can really help with that mindset shift. To help give you support, you might even need some one-on-one coaching and counselling support as well.

Speaker 1:

But look, it's a pretty good sign that if you're struggling to get through six weeks alcohol-free after making a commitment to do so that some long-term changes might need to be made in your life. Six weeks is one thing. Three months is a great break from alcohol. A year is even better, and I can say that once you get to a year, you really start to question why the heck would I even consider going back, because by that stage you are probably feeling and looking better than you have done in a long time, and what better motivation is it than that, than to keep going?

Speaker 1:

Look, I hope that this chat has been useful for you. If you've got other red flags that you have factored in that feature in your life, I'd love to hear them as well. Let's share the red flag advice around far and wide and, of course, reach out to Meg and I if you've got any questions. I hope you have a lovely day out there. See you later. If you don't already know, in addition to our podcasting work, we are each sobriety coaches with our own separate businesses helping people to drink less.

Speaker 2:

If you or a loved one want to take a break from alcohol, we invite you to have a look at our individual websites.

Speaker 1:

Meg's is glassfulfilledcomau and Bella's is isabellafergusoncomau, so take the next step that feels right for you.

Recognizing Red Flags of Drinking
Warning Signs of Alcohol Dependency
Long-Term Changes for Sobriety