Drinking is a huge part of life here in Australia. We celebrate the New Year with overflowing bubbles, Australia Day with a stubby in hand and Christmas Day with a punch or Pimms.
Add to that all the ‘little’ moments we celebrate with booze, too – like our home team scoring a try or goal, our best mate’s promotion or a beautiful sunset at the end of a day at the beach. Even a perfectly barbecued sausage is cause for cheers.
But with alcohol so normalised – even celebrated – in Australian culture, it can be hard to take a step back and consider how much is too much.
According to leading mental health support provider Reach Out, some of the signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking alcohol, or wanting to, when you wake up in the morning
- Regularly consuming alcohol on your own
- Worrying about when you’ll be able to have your next drink
- Sweating or feeling nauseous when you don’t drink alcohol
- And being unable to sleep without drinking alcohol.
Of course, you don’t need to be an ‘alcoholic’ to be negatively impacted by alcohol. Binge drinking – which means more than four drinks in one sitting for women and six for men, and is practically a national sport here in Australia – can do more damage than you think, even in the short-term.
You no doubt know the obvious impacts like a bad hangover and memory loss, but binge drinking can also lead to nausea, vomiting and body shakes, alcohol poisoning and increased risk of physical injury. In the long-term, it could even lead to brain damage, heart problems, fertility issues and cancer. Yikes.
So yeah, most of us could probably drink a little bit less. It’s becoming easier to do so, too, with more education around alcoholism and more zero-alc beverages on the market.
There is still immense social pressure to ‘get on the beers’, so if you’re keen to cut back, keep the following tips from Reach Out in mind:
- Set your limits: Before you start drinking, decide how many standard drinks (not individual beverages) you’ll have and then stick to that number. It helps to think about how expensive alcoholic drinks are and set yourself a budget.
- Go slow: Spacing out your drinks can stop you from getting drunk, so try leaving a certain amount of time between drinks (like an hour) and savouring them instead.
- Try saying no: If you’ve had enough, say ‘No, thanks’ when someone offers to buy you a drink. You can tell them you’re good for now, and then change the subject.
- Avoid rounds and shots: There’s nothing wrong with buying your mates a drink, but if you’re with a group of seven, it can quickly derail your plans to drink less. It’s also a good idea to stick to drinks you can sip, rather than shots, as it’s easier to space them out.
- Water and food are your friends: For every alcoholic drink, have a glass of water or a soft drink (you don’t have to tell anyone it’s not alcoholic). Make sure you also have a meal if you’re drinking to slow the effects of the alcohol.
- Focus on other things: Try an activity while you’re drinking, like playing pool. If you’re in a bad mood already, drinking alcohol won’t help. Try doing something else that’s relaxing, or talk to someone about what’s on your mind.
If you’re thinking about giving up alcohol altogether (go you!) this first-hand account from a sober uni student is a great insight.
Over time, you’ll find the fun in sobriety – a bigger bank account and hangover-free weekends are two huge bonuses, not to mention the health benefits – and might even wonder why you didn’t try it earlier?