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  • Brooke Aymes

Why Do I Drink to Cope with Stress?

There is comfort for many people coming home at the end of the day and looking forward to opening up a beer or pouring a glass of wine with dinner after a long, stressful work day. Drinking alcohol to cope with stress is glorified in American society through movies, social

Women drinking wine to cope with stress after a long work day.

media and in our social events. In social media wine is being referred to as, “Mom Juice” as a way for Mothers to cope with the stress and responsibility that comes with parenthood. This behavior appears to be totally acceptable and totally normal which is why it can be super confusing when alcohol starts to get in the way of our quality of life and/or starts to prevent us from being able to achieve our personal and/or professional goals.

Alcohol is typically glorified as a coping mechanism for feelings of stress. Often times, we will come home from a work day and grab an alcoholic beverage as a symbol of transition from the work day into home life and we are totally justified in that because let’s face it with a house and pets and children there is plenty more responsibility to come in the home life part of our day.

The problem begins when alcohol starts making our lives a bit unmanageable. Maybe our wife starts to become upset because when we get home from work we are immediately drinking alcoholic beverages and are not present for her or our children in the same way as our sober self might be able to show up. Maybe we are finishing the bottle of wine at the end of the night and are unable to wake up in the morning for our exercise goals and it starts getting in the way of our personal goals.

When we begin to notice unmanageability in our lives, we might be wanting to change the behavior. Changing any behavior is difficult and when it comes to mood-altering substances it is even more difficult.

When discussing changing behaviors with people, I will often suggest that people go in the shower and complete their shower routine backwards. If they typically wash their hair first, I will suggest that they wash their hair last instead. When we try to change the behaviors in our shower, it usually feels very strange and we can see clearly how difficult changing behaviors in our everyday life actually is.

We may struggle with decreasing our alcohol consumption for a few reasons. Our bodies build a tolerance to substances when we use them. That means that the amount of alcohol that helped ‘take the edge off’ will no longer work in the same way over a period of time because our bodies naturally build a tolerance and we will begin to need more to achieve the same feelings.

We may have difficulty decreasing our alcohol consumption because our thoughts become

Man struggling with anxious thoughts about wanting to drink alcohol to cope with stress.

overwhelmed with thoughts about alcohol consumption. Many times people will set goals to limit alcohol consumption. For example they might tell themselves, I will only have two beers after work. When they set this goal, they begin to have increased anxious thoughts about limiting their alcohol intake. Our minds become cluttered with figuring out the best time to have the two beers and wondering how we are going to feel having just the two beers. The overwhelming, anxious thoughts often lead to sabotaging the goal all together because it is downright exhausting.

We might have difficulty decreasing our alcohol consumption because alcoholism and addiction are in our genetics. We may have been predisposed to having difficulty with alcohol consumption because of our bodies make up or because of experiencing adverse childhood experiences as a child. If alcohol has helped us cope with uncomfortable feelings our entire lives, then we probably do not know how to cope with uncomfortable feelings without alcohol.

The most effective way to decrease our alcohol consumption is becoming aware of the root cause of why we are drinking. When we become aware of the root cause, we can begin to work on feeling better and we can begin to work on coping without alcohol so that we are no longer depending on it to help us.


Nj Addiction therapist Brooke Aymes climbing Mt. Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap as a form of self care

Hey, I'm Brooke --I'm a licensed anxiety and addiction therapist serving individuals, adolescents and couples in the states of New Jersey and Florida. My experience brings both a personal and professional perspective to the work that I do with my clients. If you are interested in learning more about the therapy process and would like to schedule a free consultation, I would love to chat with you!

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