Loneliness and alcohol don’t mix

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Dr Bunmi Aboaba of  The Sober Advantage asks, ‘Do you drink because you’re lonely or are you lonely because you drink?’

Dr Bunmi Aboaba

 
Most black women don’t drink very much.  Their intake of alcohol is lower than the national average, in fact.  The point that many African-Caribbean families come from strictly religious backgrounds lends to this.  I have personally come across very few black women on my journey into sober coaching but the ones I have met drank secretly. It’s not really our culture to hit pubs or bars or to talk about drinking.

So if a black woman is drinking, the chances are she is doing it privately… secretly.  This means that she is quite possibly also lonely, as loneliness and alcohol have the potential to go hand in hand and create a chicken and egg situation.

Loneliness and alcohol issues – which comes first? Does one trigger the other? 
The answer is – it depends on an individual’s circumstances. Some people drink because they’re lonely or bored…and some people are lonely because they’ve become alienated through drink.

Let’s start by considering what is loneliness?

It may seem straightforward, but loneliness can take many forms:

  1. Feeling like you can’t connect with anyone physically or emotionally
  2. Feeling hopeless and abandoned
  3. Feeling as if no one cares about you or that no one likes you
  4. Feeling left out or feeling like you’re missing out
  5. Feeling as if no one understands you

Why is loneliness on the increase?
One of the favourite theories is the increased frequent use of social media. People don’t need to call one another for a catch up… or even meet up often. A lot of people communicate primarily on social media sites.

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 The other problem with this is the ‘social media bubble.’ We often surround ourselves with people who lead similar lifestyles and have the same political views. This means we’re not exposed to a wider world and remain narrow-minded.

Social media, memes & FOMO
It’s one thing being in a social media bubble, but it’s another when it comes to memes about alcohol. You’ve seen them – the mocking inspirational quotes saying “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy wine and that’s the same kind of thing” and “Shut up liver, you’re fine.”

Sure, I know they’re meant to be funny and they mean no harm… but they are harmful. For example, it normalises the ‘wine o clock’ culture among mums – and we see it every day on Facebook. It isn’t normal to down a bottle or two of wine every single night, but those with alcohol issues may feel like these posts validate their drinking habits.

People tend to post a filtered version of their lives on social media. It may seem they have the perfect life…but you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

This can ramp up ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) in some people. You might see someone partying all the time, drinking champers in a club and generally living the high life. This can cause people to feel incredibly lonely as they believe their life doesn’t match up to that.

Using online communities for good
There are so many positive communities online including the Club Soda Facebook Group and Soberistas (it even has its own chat facility!). Start using social media for good – not to beat yourself up, or validate behaviour that you know, deep down, probably isn’t good for you.  

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Subconscious self-harm
Now let’s talk about the alcohol itself. Alcohol can be used as a self-harm method. People may feel they’re not worthy of having any friends or feel like no one likes them and that people think they’re a bad person. So they stay away from people and drink because it’s a case of a “that’s what I deserve” mentality.

This concoction of low self-esteem, feeling worthless and lonely can spur someone on to drink more as an emotional pain reliever, as well as a way to chastise oneself.

Let’s talk about money.
Generally, the current economic climate means people have less disposable income and more debt. The price of alcohol in bars, pubs and restaurants has also increased – a 175ml glass of wine can cost up to £4.93 in the UK! A bottle of wine in the supermarket costs around £5. It’s much more affordable to drink at home – which can encourage some people to drink alone on a regular basis.

Loneliness leads to boredom
Sometimes it’s loneliness itself that leads to drink. Being lonely can often come with being bored. Some may choose to drink for something to do and to alleviate negative thoughts for a while. But it can come with emotional and physical price-tags such as lack of energy, hangovers, depression, anxiety and more.

Beat loneliness, beat the bottle
So how can we beat loneliness and, as a result, alcohol issues?

It’s time to do some groundwork – find your triggers, inspirations and motivations.

Your triggers can be anything from seeing a certain person’s social media posts to being left out of a social event. This could be the prime time to take a social media detox.

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Now write down your motivations – why do you want to overcome your issues with alcohol? Some ideas include:

  • Look, feel and be healthier
  • Be a better parent
  • Be there for your elderly relatives
  • To start a new hobby
  • Make new friends

Learn to make new friends

The plan of action:

  • Realise that alcohol is a one-sided friendship that tries to take away the best of you.
  • Disconnect from any people in your life that contribute towards your feelings of loneliness and urge to drink. These people aren’t genuine friends and anyone who can’t support your decision to face your alcohol problems isn’t worth having around.
  • Make amends with those you may have alienated through drink: Apologise and salvage the friendship. If the friendship is unsolvable then you can make peace with the fact you tried and move on.
  • Try new activities: Take an evening class or try a new activity. This is where you’ll meet new friends… likeminded people who are far more likely to support you.
  • Focus on you: Build your own self-confidence and learn to love yourself.

 

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Bunmi Aboaba a Sobriety Companion and Coach and founder of the . Bunmi is dedicated to helping professionals overcome drinking problems. Her combination of holistic therapies is used to prepare a bespoke plan designed to fit around busy schedules. Bunmi helps people battling a variety of addictions to get control of their lives and beat their addiction – for good.  Bunmi uses a variety of techniques to help her clients, all of which she has used herself to help her gain her sobriety and remain sober for 10 years.  See: www.thesoberadvantage.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/bunmiaboaba/

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