10. Have a good diet
It is important that you eat properly. Malnutrition causes so many problems in heavy drinkers. Treat yourself to something healthy that you like. Eat before you start drinking, then the alcohol will be absorbed more slowly.
Drinking dulls your sense of taste and smell. If you are drinking heavily, you will not feel like eating as you are consuming lots of calories. Beer and lager are particularly full of calories (about 200–300 per pint). Change to white wine mixed with lots of carbonated water (dry white wine contains 70 calories per 125ml glass). Vodka or gin with a slimline (no sugar/ diet) mixer, such as tonic or coke, is also about 70 calories per unit/shot.
Drinking heavily not only makes you put on weight, it also fills you out, making your face look bloated and your skin much older. Heavy drinkers sometimes have ‘spider veins’ (actually capillaries) on their faces and a ‘whisky nose’ is a red nose full of broken capillaries. Nobody wants a hooter like that!
Nobody wants a beer belly either. Isn't it worth cutting down? On the other hand, many people who have been abusing alcohol for a long time are skinny. This is because they do not eat enough, so as the alcohol has more effect; their bodies break down the muscles and even their bones to obtain the nutrients that their food-deprived body needs. Some people have got to a point in their alcohol abuse where they cannot eat a lot of the time, because they vomit any food. They can sometimes eat after consuming some alcohol. People at this stage have had their stomach lining corroded by the acid that the consumption of alcohol generates. Even one night of heavy drinking can cause diarrhoea and sickness, as you probably know!
Take vitamin B complex to prevent nerve damage. You can buy tablets from the chemist’s or health food shop. Think about ways of changing your diet to increase your intake of this essential vitamin; B vitamins are found in whole grain cereals, green vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach), meat, fish, nuts, milk and eggs.
Try getting more omega-3 in your diet, by eating more oily fish (such as sardines or mackerel), or taking flaxseed oil tablets.
Drinking at least 1– 2 cups of coffee a day can prevent liver damage. However, this will offer no help if you are a heavy drinker. Of course too much caffeine can cause anxiety and sleepless nights.
Malnutrition can cause severe problems. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by prolonged heavy drinking and poor diet, especially a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1). It causes physical damage to the brain and memory can be severely impaired. This may eventually mean the person can no longer live at home, and will have to be cared for in a residential home.
A heavy drinker’s personality may drastically change too; they may stop bothering about their appearance or looking after their health. These changes can develop very rapidly and in people of all ages.
11. Treat yourself with rewards for not drinking
Cravings will be a lot easier to deal with if you have some of these in the house. Smoothies are full of vitamins. Maybe invest in a smoothie maker or a juicer (with the money you’ve saved from not drinking).
Treat yourself to things that make you feel good, as a reward for not drinking. How about a new haircut, a new outfit, some music, jewellery, a book or favourite magazine?
12. Look after yourself
Look after yourself – think about your needs and try to fulfil them. Do you give care and love to others but not yourself? If you are the type of person who puts other people's needs before your own, try to be conscious of this. You need to look after your own needs. It’s great giving to others and caring for them. But you deserve your own time; time to pursue your own needs. You may feel guilty if you look after yourself. Or you may feel guilty and blame yourself if someone close to you is unhappy, dissatisfied, bored or experiencing any other negative feeling. If this describes you, you may want to find out about co-dependency (see ‘Further reading’ at the end of this book). Some people need therapy or counselling to find out what they want, or to free them to look after their own needs.
Co-dependency is about people who look after the needs and feelings of others, usually their co-dependent partner, before themselves. Their good feelings and self-esteem are dependent on the feelings of the other person. Their energy is put into receiving approval, protecting and solving their partner's problems. It doesn’t matter whether goals are achieved or not, co-dependents are driven further; they continue to suffer an anxious feeling of incompleteness or emptiness no matter what is accomplished. If you recognise yourself in this description you may find the literature on co-dependency very helpful.
Exercise has so many benefits for your physical and mental health. People who exercise regularly feel less depressed, less anxious, less tense and less aggressive. They also sleep better and have more energy. Health benefits also include increased heart functioning, protection against coronary disease, lower cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. Exercise improves muscle strength, uses up energy to prevent obesity, joints and bone density can be improved, thus preventing osteoporosis.
The less you do, the less you feel like doing. The more you sit around, the more you feel like sitting around. Watching TV is particularly bad. Research has shown we move around very little whilst watching TV, compared with other passive or relaxing hobbies such as socialising or reading, which use up more energy.
People who feel depressed may find it very difficult to start exercising, but their mood will improve with exercise, particularly to give their mood a lift early in the morning. So why not start the day with an early morning walk?
14. Sort out your sleep
A lot of people drink alcohol to help them sleep. Alcohol often helps you get to sleep quickly, but in the morning you don’t feel refreshed. There are several reasons for this. You may have to wake up to go to the loo during the night as the drink has filled your bladder, and then not be able to get back to sleep. By this time, the decreasing levels of alcohol in your bloodstream may be making you feel more anxious than normal. This can also cause strange and disturbing dreams.
Alcohol also affects your breathing whilst sleeping, especially after heavy drinking. It makes some people snore or stop breathing for a while, and in extreme cases it disturbs your sleep (as well as driving your partner nuts!). This means you could still feel tired and unrefreshed in the morning. If you have a problem with snoring you can ask your doctor for help, and your partner can use earplugs.
Don't worry about not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep will not harm you – it won’t make you ill. Often people’s performance and concentration are not affected by minor shortages of sleep, you just feel as if they are. When you‘ve given up alcohol, sleep patterns do get disturbed, but the quality of sleep will get better. Most people need 6–8 hours of sleep per night, but some need less. Some people need less sleep as they get older.
Here are some tips for helping you get a decent night’s sleep:
try to get up early, at the same time every day
don’t catnap during the day.
Try to stay awake until bedtime
avoid caffeine and smoking during the evening. Nicotine is a mild stimulant; smoking does not calm you down, it only feels calming because it relieves nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Giving up smoking can help you get a better night’s sleep. Non-smokers and ex-smokers get, on average, 20% more sleep each night than smokers
moderately exercise during the day. Yoga may help you relax
spend some time outside
relax in the evenings. Try not to do stressful things – do these during the day. Use relaxation CDs or tapes. Or use your own relaxation methods such as imagining yourself in beautiful, relaxing, safe place, such as a garden or a beach
don’t work in the bedroom. Your bedroom should only be associated with sleep and pleasant, relaxing activities
if something is worrying you, write down your thoughts. Then go and make yourself a cup of herbal tea (camomile or peppermint are calming), or a warm, milky drink. Watch some relaxing TV. Then go back to bed, and may be you will sleep. If you cannot sleep, you can still take advantage of this time to rest and relax in the peace and quiet.
15. Try meditation
Meditation puts you in an altered state of consciousness. So does being drunk or stoned, except meditation isn't bad for you, and if you've got the time you can do it as much as you want.