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I'm stressed at work and developing a drinking habit - I hate myself for it - please help.

heart to heart
At present I have worked for the same Company for nearly 8 years and I believe it is time to move on. I am at present studying to enable me to start a new career in a field I have always been interested in. I try to stay positive but my job is so stressful that as soon as I know I am coming to work I dread it.

My father was an alcoholic and a gambler and I had a very unfortunate childhood. My father used to threaten to kill me when he was drunk and my mother never took me out of that environment until I was 9. I am now a mature adult and have been married to the same man for 23 years. Now I have actually started drinking (wine every night with dinner) and I hate myself for it. This has been happening for the last 2 years.

I have tried convincing myself it is no good for me but my husband never says no to me. He does not drink. This has now become a pattern. I justify my drinking saying to myself that I have such a stressful job. Weird eh! When drinking makes me feel like I am failing. None of my friends see any change in me, but I know I have to change. As far as my studies are going I am getting very good marks because I love what I am studying. Do you have any suggestions to get my life back in order?

Wallace's reply
Wallace Just because you have started drinking does not mean you will follow in your father's footsteps. You don't seem like someone with an addiction to alcohol problem, you seem like someone who is stuck and a little overstressed who has started to use alcohol to relax and de-stress.

Lets deal with the stress first. As long as you hate your work you will feel the stress it engenders all the more severely. I understand that this is not your ideal occupation but I want you to understand that it is still an important job and worth doing. I want you to focus on the positives in your job. Therefore I am asking you to take some quiet time and, perhaps with the support of your husband, write down all the positive benefits you get from your work. Then type this list out neatly and put it up in your place of work as a reminder. When you do this you may still feel stress at work but you will be better able to deal with it. Never hate anything - always look for the positives.

Now let's deal with your alcohol habit. I agree that drinking in this way is not good. Alcohol is a depressant and whereas it my make you feel momentarily relaxed, it reduces your ability to become master of your situation. I want to encourage you to look at what drinking the alcohol gives you, temporary relaxation and freedom from stress, and ask yourself how you can achieve these results from something healthy and life enhancing. I have a few suggestions, physical exercise e.g. swimming, meditation, relaxation tapes, a craft based night class. You may have ideas of your own. Then I want you to explore some of the options that you find appealing. Take small steps in nurturing your new interest at first and ask your husband to reward you with a special treat every time you achieve a particular step. (I suggest you share what you wish to do with your husband and ask for his support.)

As you gradually develop your new interest and feel the benefits from engaging in it, like improved relaxation, reduced stress and improved sleep patterns, slowly and gradually cut back on your alcohol habit. During this changeover always remain kind to yourself, especially if you slip a little or your progress faulters.

By appreciating what you gain from your job, acknowledging that alcohol has benefits that you need, taking steps to find these benefits from something truly healthy and life enhancing and seeking the support of your husband in this transition, you will return to a much more balanced and life affirming place in yourself.

Further Help and Resources
If you want help with learning meditation, my book Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off has an excellent section on this subject - see 'Your calling is elevated through meditation' p.50.

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