AS October starts, many people will be thinking of giving up booze for ‘Stoptober’.
While cutting down on your alcohol consumption won’t damage your health, one expert warned banishing completely it is a ‘terrible idea’.
Speaking to The Sun, alcohol coach Sandra Barker said unfortunately, it’s not a health trend that actually works.
She said: “You may as well call it Deluded October, instead of Stoptober because that’s what you’re really doing when you join up, you’re deluded.”
First of all, Sandra says, is because doing this is a ‘surface level approach’, which focuses on the symptom – drinking alcohol.
This, she said, completely ignores the root cause as to why you need to cut back.
“Put simply Stoptober doesn’t deal with the reason you want alcohol in the first place.
“So, when you simply remove alcohol the thoughts and emotions you were numbing out from, come rushing to the surface.
“This feels very uncomfortable. It reinforces the belief that life is miserable without alcohol, you will feel deprived and either give in and drink, or slog it out to the bitter end, summoning superhuman levels of willpower, rejoicing when the month is over and embrace ‘can’t remember November’ to compensate. “
Then, she said, the cycle continues time and time again.
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Unless you address the root cause of why you drink then you will continue in this cycle.
“Stoptober does not work for the same reason crash diets don’t work.
“Evidence has proven people on crash diet have a blowout before starting, stick with it until their willpower runs out and then break the diet with another blowout ending up heavier and more disillusioned as a result,” she added.
Sandra said that despite the popularity of Stoptober, Dry January, Miserable March, and various other month-long challenges to stop drinking, there is remarkably little evidence of any long-term positive results.
Instead of Stoptober, she said you should have two alcohol free days each week all year rather than a one month abstinence.
If you’re serious about making a long term change to your habits, Sandra said work on your reasons for wanting to do so before taking a break.
Forcing yourself to cut out booze for a whole month, she says, makes it more desirable, and almost like a forbidden treat.
Where to get help if you have a problem with alcohol
If you think you might have a problem with booze then you may need to seek help.
This might be the case if you often feel the need to have a drink or if you get into trouble because of your drinking.
If other people have warned you about your drink and it’s causing you problems then a good place to start is your GP.
There are other places you can go to get help:
- Drinkline: Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
- AA – a free self help group that follows the 12 step programme
- Al-Anon Family Groups – a group for friends and family members impacted by drinking
- We Are With You – for individuals, families and communities struggling – call 0808 8010 750 – if you’re over 50 and worried about booze
- Adfam – local support groups and message boards
- National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) – call 0800 358 3456
- SMART Recovery – to help people discover if they have a problem
She said: “If you struggle and feel really deprived whenever you try not to drink the good news is that you are not alone and there is a solution.
“Consider the underlying reason for your reliance on alcohol and what emotions you are trying to avoid or create.
“For example are you drinking to stop worrying about your job or your relationship, or are you using it to try to reduce social anxiety and create confidence on a night out?
“Facing the underlying problem is not easy but it is necessary to break a dependency on alcohol.
“Getting to the place where you no longer need alcohol to numb out and can enjoy yourself without it is not easy and you may need the support of an expert but it might just transform your life,” she said.
What are the benefits of Stoptober?
While Sandra says Stoptober is a bad idea, it has been proven to be beneficial to your health.
There are other benefits though, alcohol contains a large amount of calories – which by cutting out for a month, can help you lose weight.
You also remove toxins from your diet which are present in your favourite tipples and cut out added sugars from mixers.
Taking a break will also help repair your liver.
Liver specialist at Southampton University, Dr Nick Sheron said regular drinking induces certain enzymes in your liver that metabolise alcohol.
“If you drink heavily, over weeks or months, levels of these enzymes will increase and your tolerance builds”.
“If you stop drinking completely, the enzyme levels go back down, this allows your liver a chance to repair itself and replace any damaged cells which may have been caused by alcohol.”
Mark Shelton, Optometrist and Clinical Development Coach at Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, said: “A temporary problem associated with alcohol consumption is blurred or double vision, but this should wear off once the person sobers up.
“Drinkers may also find they experience bloodshot, puffy or dry eyes for a day or two after drinking, caused mainly by dehydration or a change in blood pressure.”
He added that some studies suggest that having more than three alcoholic drinks a day can have more longer-term consequences on a person’s vision, increasing your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause the individual to lose focus in their central field of vision.