Have you ever had a toxic relationship? Or seen a friend battle with one?
You can imagine the scenario, right? The all-too familiar story of starting a relationship that promises everything. You have great times together and then some point it has turned sour. However the fear of being alone, fear of consequences or fear of the unknown, coupled with low self-esteem keeps you or someone you love stuck in a relationship that isn’t working and isn’t going to change.
Maybe you experienced it first-hand, you saw it in a film and slapped your forehead every time she went back to that loser! Usually, it has been a subtle change over time, so slow we didn’t see it sneaking up on us. What once was fun and carefree has taken a darker turn; it has become stale or even damaging.
We have great resolve that we will never text them again, but then, when we are lonely or feeling vulnerable and we find ourselves sending that text... The boyfriend/girlfriend promises to change, so we meet up again, but by the end of the evening they are calling out our faults again. We wake up in the middle of the night in a panic and in the morning, they tell us we embarrassed them or made a fool of ourselves and when we really need them, they leave. We think we can change them or they will change, but nothing ever does. They may give us just enough to keep going and we take the bait because our self-esteem is so low we think we can’t be without them.
Does this sound familiar?
Have you ever thought about your relationship with alcohol in the same way? You think it will change, yet you wake up at 4am with a terrible hangover and think never again I am done! You try really hard not to drink again; maybe you hold your resolve for a few days. Though, yet again you break your resolve and you say to yourself: “I will just have one, it will be different this time”. And yet it never is.
We may think ‘I’ll only drink on holiday or at the weekend’ (read ‘I will only sleep with him on holiday - I can handle it’) but this keeps the contact and relationship alive and the door open. We’ve had a great time with them the night before and the morning after they are gone. We try hard to manage it, them, our feelings and our cravings to be with them.
In our book we use the term Grey Area Drinkers, a term we first heard used by functional nutritionist and Coach, Jolene Park. Which seems to fit the picture for so many of us, it’s not that bad, but it’s not that great either. Alcohol is sucking the joy out of life and yet, giving it up feels scary, hard and unmanageable.
You are not alone. According to the NHS statistics on Alcohol (2017) 28% of men and 14% of women in the UK would be classed as having AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). This is over 10 million people. However, of this group, only 76,000 were treated for problematic drinking. This means that millions of Brits are drinking in a harmful or hazardous way. With only a few recognising it or seeking help because they don’t fit the stereotype of the alcohol-dependent person.
Luckily conversation around alcohol is changing. We are no longer stuck with the black/white binary model of you either are or aren’t an alcoholic. The understanding of alcohol use has become more nuanced. We can now talk about the relationship we have with alcohol rather than only focusing on the units and frequency.
So how can you get free of this toxic relationship and dump the bad boyfriend/girlfriend booze? Some tips to remember:
- See alcohol as a bully – and the only way to deal with a bully is to not play with them
- No means no – never go back (or in sober terms NQTD never question the decision)
- Accountability – have a buddy you can call, text so when you get the urge to text the ex (i.e. reach for the bottle) someone can remind you that it’s not going to help.
- Recognise that it will feel sticky for a moment, you are withdrawing from something familiar, so sit it out knowing that it will pass, or distract yourself until it does.
- Surround yourself with people who love you for you, who are not caught up in this toxic relationship
- Find healthy hobbies you can build new relationships with, what did you love before you got involved with alcohol? That is a good starting point?
- Keep a check on negative self-talk any voice in your head that tells you to engage again in this toxic relationship is not your friend. What would you say to your best friend about this relationship? Take your own advice.
- Focus on self-care, what do you really need? What do you want and how can you get that for yourself, rather than outsourcing your feelings to someone (something else)?
Please note: If you think you might be physically dependent on alcohol, there are potential dangers if you stop drinking suddenly. You may need to work with a professional to stop, if in any doubt reach out to your doctor.
It can be incredibly scary to let go of a relationship, no matter how toxic it has become. You are not alone though; there are a huge array of groups & support available. You can contact us at www.lovesober.com and we can help you find what the right fit is for you, our book Love Yourself Sober has a wealth of tips and strategies to help.
You deserve better, we see you, so let’s kick this bad boy/girl to the curb, ok?
Love Mandy and Kate x
Love Yourself Sober: A Self Care Guide to Alcohol-Free Living for Busy Mothers by Kate Baily and Mandy Manners is published by Trigger Publishing, priced £12.99, available online and from all good bookstores