When Annie Grace's stash of beer exploded over her kids she knew she had a problem. Solving it with a self-devised 30-day programme the bestselling author reveals the simple tricks to cutting down or giving up for good
It may seem naive but at 26 years old I had no idea that alcohol was addictive. My exposure to it was limited. Growing up, my parents didn’t drink. In college, I really didn’t drink. So there I was trailblazing in the corporate world and my boss tells me I need to spend more time in the bars. I was dumbfounded.
He went on to explain that the bar is where the deals are made. Eager to please and get ahead – I made it my mission to drink like the boys. In fact, I even had my formula for success – alternating wine and water. I was dedicated to the point that, if I felt I’d had too much wine, I would make myself sick so I could continue drinking and making deals. My formula for successful drinking became a formula for building a tolerance and a need.
Quickly, I went from just drinking at work to also drinking at home. I was in a fast-paced, pressure-filled role at work and I felt as if I needed my wine to relax and unwind. It was my go-to for dealing with anything uncomfortable. As my career and home life demands continued to grow over the next decade, so did my drinking.
By this time, I was living in London with my husband and my two young sons. One day we were on our way to the London Eye and I was hungover from a corporate event the night before that involved a wine tasting. To ease the pain, I had slipped two beers in my purse. There we were queuing up when I dropped my purse and suddenly we were standing in the midst of a beer fountain. Myself, my husband, my kids – we were all drenched in beer. On the outside I laughed it off, but in reality, I was mortified. How had I become this person who was stashing beer in her purse? When had I become a day drinker?
That was the moment I decided I needed to drink less. Alcohol had a power over me that I wasn’t comfortable with anymore. I thought it was going to be so easy to drink less, after all – I went all those years without drinking.
It wasn’t. It was hard. Really hard. I knew I wasn’t physically addicted but somehow alcohol had woven itself into everything I did – work events, socializing with friends, rewarding myself after a long day of parenting – everywhere I turned alcohol was there. Emotionally I was so attached to alcohol that when I decided to drink less, I felt really deprived and angry that I was missing out on something I enjoyed. So I’d find a reason to drink rather than miss out and then I’d be happy.
Until I woke up at 3am full of anxiety and regret over the fact that I just could not drink less. The war I was fighting internally was exhausting – wanting to drink less but repeatedly losing track of when two glasses of wine turned into two bottles. Disgusted, I’d drink more just to fall back asleep and turn my brain off.
While all this was taking place I was also dealing with intense back pain. Someone recommended I read Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. He suggests that some pain manifests physically but actually originates in the subconscious due to repressed unconscious emotion. The premise is that your desires come from your subconscious rather than your conscious mind. To illustrate – you don’t choose who to fall in love with. In my case I had a strong conscious desire to drink less but my subconscious mind believed alcohol was vital to my enjoyment of life; vital to relaxing, to having a good time, to having fun. So if I could change my subconscious desire for alcohol by bringing it in line with my conscious desire to drink less, I would be free.
This book sparked a year long search for information, knowledge and answers to how I could remove my desire to drink. In addition to working with Dr. Sarno’s team, I discovered a new technique called ‘liminal thinking’, which guided me through a process to uncover and change my subconscious desire for alcohol.
About 11 months into my research, I made the decision that that day would be my last day drinking ever. Everyone around me was justifiably skeptical. Yet, here I am, six years later – not having had a drop of alcohol, yet I never feel deprived or as if I’m missing out on anything. There’s no pain in not drinking because my unconscious desire for alcohol no longer exists. I’m just free.
I knew that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. There had to be others out there just like me. Others that wanted the freedom I had discovered. It would have been selfish of me to not share what I had discovered with others. I took all my research, all the journals I’d written and from it came a book, This Naked Mind.
I never set out to write a book. I only wanted to be happy again. To be a better wife, mum – human being. I am all that, but in the process I’ve been able to share this information that has freed people all over the world from the same alcohol trap I was stuck in. And it all started with an exploding can of beer.
Annie Grace’s four tips to drinking less or not at all
1. Keep your glass full
You’re used to having a glass in your hand so don’t break that habit. Just change what is in your glass. Sure you can drink water, but there’s also so many great mocktail and alcohol free options available now that you can also have fun experimenting with those.
2. Stay aware
If you’re feeling drawn to drink – examine your motivation for it. Are you doing it out of habit or avoidance? Knowing your motivation can help you make healthier choices.
3. Be positive
If you approach cutting back from a place of everything you’ll be missing out on and what a drag it will be – chances are that’s exactly how it will go. Instead, remove your expectations and allow yourself to just experience things as they are.
4. Be prepared
Make a plan for whatever parts of drinking less that cause you worry. If it’s drinking while prepping dinner – throw dinner in the slow cooker in the morning instead. If you’re worried about drinking while out, peruse the menu ahead of time and decide what you’ll order before you head out.
* The Alcohol Experiment – 30 Days To Take Control, Cut Down Or Give Up For Good by Annie Grace, £9.99, paperback (HQ, HarperCollins) is on sale now