What happens when a psychologist writes her own alcohol detox programme? ‘The champagne detox’ is my personalised approach to starting the new year with a bit of a detox.
Whilst the traditional approach to a January detox is to avoid alcohol altogether I wanted to do something that felt more sustainable. Giving up booze for a month is probably a good idea. But, changing your relationship with alcohol on a longer term basis is likely to be better.
My relationship with alcohol is long term, steady, lacks intensity, and recently it has got stuck in a bit of a rut. Alcohol has become an ever-present companion. I drink because I’ve had a hard day, I drink because I’m on holiday. I drink because I’m out, I drink because I’m having a quiet night in. I drink because I’m cooking, I drink because I’m watching a movie. I drink because it’s the weekend, I drink because I’ve been working all day. Basically – I drink without even questioning the option of, well… not drinking. Alcohol and I have got to the stage where we take each other for granted. Our relationship isn’t what it used to be and I’m increasingly becoming aware of the downsides.
With our relationship falling down around us I couldn’t help but think about how I wanted things to be different… which brought me to champagne. My relationship with champagne is very different to my relationship with everyday booze (read NZ Sauvignon Blanc). Champagne is a luxury. It’s a special treat. It’s an extravagance. It’s social. It’s part of a celebration. Champagne has never seen me in my tracksuit bottoms. We’ve never spent a quiet night on the sofa together. We dress up, we go out, and we’re always surrounded by people I love. If only my relationship with all alcohol could be like this.
If I’m going to drink alcohol for the rest of my life – which I suspect I probably am – it’s worth trying to shake things up and have the type of relationship that works best for me. Why won’t a month of abstinence achieve this? Well (here’s the psychology bit) if I want to change my relationship with alcohol I need to have a relationship with it. Deciding not to drink any alcohol at all is like putting on a psychological straightjacket. At the end of the month I’m likely to slip back into the old routine – because I’ve avoided the relationship instead of trying to change it.
So instead I’m on a champagne detox – which means the only alcohol I’ll drink this month is champagne. The champagne detox lets me maintain my relationship with alcohol in a way that also helps me change it. If I want to trot off to the supermarket, fill my trolley with the cheapest champagne I can find, and drink it at home on my own every night this month I can do so without a shred of guilt – but I’m unlikely to make that choice. If I want to go out and have a champagne-fuelled weekend of booze that’s still fine as far as the detox is concerned – but I suspect that instead I’ll choose to just have one or two drinks.
This detox plan is perfect for me. I don’t feel like I’m trying to ‘control’ myself. The detox is all about making conscious choices about the relationship I want with alcohol – and then living that choice. Hopefully this shake up will translate into a much better, more conscious relationship with alcohol going forward – but if it doesn’t I’ll need to recognise that I’ve chosen to let things slip.
This detox certainly won’t work for everyone – but if it gets you thinking about your relationship with your vices and how you might shake things up – then my work is done.
Cheers – and happy new year.