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  • Writer's pictureChristine Coulson

Secret Sipping: How living alone changed my drinking

Updated: Jun 18

Man sitting alone on sofa watching television

I love living alone and have done for well over a decade. I am incredibly comfortable in my own company, and I like nothing more than getting home, locking the door behind me and pulling the curtain that affords the glass-surrounded door some privacy, signifying to myself that my 'social' day is done, and I can relax.

Inside my home, I am the only person who has any say in what I watch, what I listen to, what I eat, what time I go to bed... OK, so I'm also the only person that can put the bins out, clean the litter trays and do the washing up but that's a small price to pay for the solitude. I genuinely think that if I were to meet a partner, I'd keep our lives separate and would not consider living with someone. I just do not wish to share my space with anything with fewer than 4 legs.

This arrangement, however, can lead to unique challenges if you're starting to worry about your relationship with alcohol.

When you live alone, your drinking goes un-noticed. No one is there to witness the drinking, the hangovers or the recycling. This is brilliant if you're in the midst of a struggle you're not willing to acknowledge; you don't have the inconvenience of anyone being worried about you - but it can be harder when you start to question your habits or become concerned for yourself.

If you live with someone, they witness your drinking and "I think I may be drinking too much" can be gently brought into a conversation over the washing up, or during a discussion about the grocery shopping list when the topic of buying alcohol comes up. But when you live alone, if you are brave enough to utter the same sentence to a friend or family member; that will inevitably be followed by an explanation. Because they may have seen you drink when you're with them, but they won't be aware of your other nights out, or your nights in. No one will be aware of the extent to which you are drinking, and the impact it is having on your life.

The truth is, you probably aren't talking to anyone about your drinking because it's such a private thing. You're potentially googling things like "am I an alcoholic" in the middle of the night - that's not a living alone thing - or cancelling plans because of a made up ailment instead of admitting you're too hungover to move, or you're spiralling with anxiety or a similar negative emotion.

This was my experience, and it was amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2020. it literally became illegal for me to drink with anyone else, anywhere else. All of my drinking disappeared behind closed doors. Even more hidden, even more unnoticed. And thinking back, when things started to open up again I didn't really emerge. What is it they say - alcohol likes you to be alone? Well it did it my case that's for sure.

I continued to drink too much for a year after that. And I won't tell you what 'too much' looked like for me because it's not a competition. I wasn't drinking every night, but I was drinking at a level that is higher than most. And guess how any people were aware of that - that's right, only me. Private. Un-noticed.

I personally think making changes to the way you drink alcohol is harder when you live alone. If you decide to moderate, without someone to encourage you, to be accountable to or to make that cup of herbal tea instead of opening the bottle of wine, if you're often relying on willpower alone. If you have a problematic relationship with alcohol and you want to make change - WILLPOWER ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH. That's a hill I am willing to die on, and it's probably for another blog.

If you 'do the work' - and by that I mean do some deep searching within yourself as to why, when and how you drink as well as educate yourself on what alcohol actually is - you won't have to rely on willpower. You'll build foundations onto which your new relationship with(out) alcohol can be built and your mindset around alcohol will change. If you live alone, it can be easier to do the work; you can read books, listen to podcasts and you can leave things lying around. When I took the decision to quit, I decided that my home would be an alcohol-free environment. This is incredibly easy to manage living alone. In the same way I can live in the knowledge that the only baked beans brought into my home will be Heinz, I know no alcohol will cross the threshold either.

When you're single, you only have yourself to consider. If you need to get into the bath to stop yourself from heading to the shop in the early days - that's fine. If you need to tuck yourself up in bed by 9pm - that's fine. If you need to connect with other sober people at a brunch or on a zoom - that's fine. You can really prioritise yourself and your journey. Of course it's not always that easy; and if you're struggling to hold yourself accountable or are struggling with building the foundations of your new sober lifestyle, that is where coaching could help. Where that support doesn't exist 'in house' (literally) - a coach can help you on that road as you do the work, and start to carve out the path for yourself. If you feel I could provide you with that support, get in touch today.

Photo by Juan Ordonez on Unsplash

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