• Kedren Elliott

How living alcohol free can help you with your mental health

Last week on the Happiness Hub podcast I spoke to Sarah Palmer who decided to quit alcohol and has been alcohol-free for 3 and a half years.

As part of her journey and to help others, as she pretty much went sober on her own, she set up the alcohol-free community called Sobalicious and started running events for the alcohol-free community.

The group has gone strength to strength since Sarah set up Sobalicious in 2019 and is now a community of over 300 members supporting and helping each other. During lockdown meetings continued online which has helped the community grow, as people from all over the UK could join the Tuesday and Thursday meetings that Sarah runs along with monthly online book club meetings and quizzes.

Our chat did gave me a lot to think about about in terms of my own relationship with alcohol and reflect on how, as Sarah mentioned, we often can use alcohol to mask or manage feelings that we have and maybe don't want to deal with or feel that we can't. This is sometimes called ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol.

Alcohol and mental health

Alcohol has been described as 'the UK's favourite coping mechanism' and many people drink to manage stress, depression, anxiety and a whole suite of other mental health conditions.

The relationship between mental health and alcohol is a complex one, as drinking in it self can cause and make depression and anxiety worse if drinking excessively. This is why it's so important to get the right help to manage your drinking in order to maintain good mental health.

Using alcohol to self mediacte can mean that the underlying mental health problems aren’t addressed and you may come to rely on alcohol to manage your mental health problems, that reliance can itself become a problem.

Sometime you might find that your drinking starts to get in the way of other activities and puts a strain on your relationships and that you are starting to think and plan around your drinking prioritising it over other things – this can undermine your mental wellbeing.

Depression in particular and heavy drinking have a very close knit relationship and that having either condition increases a person’s chances of experiencing the other.

Managing your alcohol intake can be one way of reducing your risk of developing depression. If you do experience depression, reducing the amount you drink may help to manage symptoms.

Where to get help

There is a lot of places out there to get help like Sobalicious if you are worried about your drinking and want to cut down or quit altogether. Finding what is right for you is important, so speaking to your doctor, joining a support group or contacting a local alcohol service and speaking to someone will help.

You can find Sarah and Sobalicious on Facebook and Instagram too, and the NHS website has a list of other free services such as AA that you can join for help and support.

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