How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol

January is a month like no other. For those who follow the Gregorian calendar, it signifies the beginning of a new year. It's a chance for a clean slate and a fresh start. It’s during this time that we are most captivated by feelings of hope and optimism. 

We think to ourselves, “this is the year I will meet X goal.” Goals like eliminating the beer belly, eating more veg, getting more sleep, learning a new instrument or language can be far too easy to commit to at the beginning of a year. 

Reaching those goals, however, is not always so simple. Many fail, but with a new year around the corner, there is always a chance to try again. 

Each of us has our own ideas of perfection. But it goes without saying, most of us could and would like to be healthier: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And as brewers and craft beer lovers, it is no stretch of the imagination to suggest our relationship with beer (and alcohol) are directly tied to our well-being.  

Why We Enjoy Craft Beer and Alcohol

Let’s be clear, we don’t drink beer because we need it. We drink beer because we enjoy it. Beer enthusiasts like ourselves take pleasure in brewing, sharing, and drinking it. But the vast majority of us also pursue at least the mild effects of alcohol on the body and mind. 

Humans have been making and drinking alcohol in some form for thousands and thousands of years. As part of religious and ceremonial rites, festive celebrations, and respite for the workers, beer has always been a social lubricant. In certain cultures and periods, it has also been a primary form of sustenance.

And as a depressant, alcohol can help us slow down after a busy and stressful day. It enables us to unwind and relax when our minds don’t want to quit cycling through the day’s events.

Not many people actually enjoy the taste of ethanol neat. Luckily, human ingenuity has come up with endless possibilities of sugary, sour, savory, bitter, and even solvent-like vehicles to make downing booze painless (well, mostly).

You wouldn’t be here reading this blog if you didn’t enjoy the complete experience of drinking a well-crafted beverage. When it comes to beer, people in our industry dive head-on into full sensory experience. The sight, smell, and taste of a beer all contribute to a unique and complex journey. For many of us, pairing beers with proper food only heightens the experience. 

We all have similar and different reasons for drinking alcoholic beverages. There are plenty of benefits to drinking beer. But in the end, we all do it for one reason, we believe the positives outweigh the negatives. But let’s not kid ourselves, drinking alcohol comes with a LOT of negatives.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship with Alcohol

Alcohol is a drug. And like most drugs, alcohol can take over your life with unintended consequences. Here are some signs that your relationship with alcohol has gone toxic:

You use Alcohol to deal with Daily Stressors and Anxiety

Alcohol is not a substitute for therapy with medical professionals. It is not a long-term solution or coping mechanism. Self-medicating with alcohol daily or weekly indicates a likely drinking problem.

You prefer to Drink Alone

Alcohol helps us lower our guard and better connect with others. Preferring only the company of your drink is a dangerous road to travel.

You Hide your Drinking

If you find yourself sneaking your drinks, you should dig deeper. Why do you feel the need to hide your drinking?

You Feel Guilty or Judged about your Drinking

Whether you feel the need to hide your drinking or not, does your habit make you feel guilty or judged by others? Is it because of how you behave while drinking or something else?

Your Drinking affects your Relationships

Anytime a substance gets in the way of those you love, it is a signal that things have gone off the map. 

Your Drinking affects your Daily Life

Frequently drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages can affect your ability to perform your job or other duties. These issues mean it’s time to stop and take a look in the mirror.

You Lose Control

If you constantly tell yourself, “just the one” and later find yourself in 4-5 drink sessions, you may have a drinking problem. Alcohol does affect our judgement, but a total loss of self-control can lead to frequent binge drinking and alcoholism.  

You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms

There is no clearer evidence of drug and alcohol addiction than symptoms of withdrawal. Fever, nausea, headaches, tremors, hallucinations and other effects mean it’s time to re-evaluate your vices. With addiction, it is always best to seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible. 

Tips for a Better Relationship with Alcohol

This article might seem like a bit of a downer up to this point. We do think it’s important that people in our industry discuss the risks and dangers associated with drinking alcohol transparently. 

But let’s embrace some positivity! For most of us without predisposing risk factors, it is entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with craft beer and alcohol.

Drink with Food

Here on our lonely island, drinking on an empty stomach may seem a national pastime. It is a good way to get wankered on a budget but we don’t recommend it! When alcohol enters an empty stomach, approximately 20% or more is absorbed immediately. 

Peak BAC (blood alcohol content) can be reached in 30 minutes to two hours. But with food, this number changes to between 1 and 6 hours. It has been discovered that a fatty meal can reduce peak BAC by half. 

The good news is that with beer, alcohol is absorbed at much lower rates than the equivalent amount in beverages with 20-30% ABV.

Slow Down, Taste, and Enjoy!

Depending on the environment, many of us may feel the need to “catch up” or “get there” as quickly as possible. When you chug a tasty beverage like a juicy IPA, what are you really tasting? These beers were brewed to be sipped and savoured!

Slow your ass down and take some time to smell the roses. What does the beer look like? Get your nose in that glass. What do the aromas remind you of? Take note of the glassware, branding and your surroundings. Now take a small sip and let it wash over your palate. Do you like it or not? And why?

When dialling things down to one, you can take a deep dive into what is in your glass. These beers are made with lots of attention. So you should do likewise while drinking them.

Don’t drink alone

There are lots of reasons for drinking alone, but not very many of them are good ones. Alcohol should be enjoyed with others. It’s a social enabler after all, even for beer nerds, hipsters and neckbeards alike! If you only drink with others, you will likely find yourself drinking less often.

Cut the Connection

For those of us who love footie, it can be hard to remember the last time we played or watch a match when drinking wasn’t involved. For others, this may be the same with things like gigs, the cinema, going out to eat or other activities. 

Rather than tie the experiences together as one, make a clean break. Once you remove alcohol from many activities you can enjoy them in a different light. And you can make drinking beer, wine or cocktails more of an occasion and a treat.

If you find yourself unable to enjoy certain activities (like hanging with the in-laws) without the sweet succour of alcohol, we’ve got bad news for you. You probably don’t really like those people or activities in the first place! 

Take a Break

Nothing demonstrates self-control and discipline like going cold-turkey. We do this with toxic people, workplaces, and other environments in our daily lives. So why not try it with something as potentially harmful as alcohol? 

Try a month or two off the booze and see how it goes. If anything, you will likely lose weight, have more energy, sleep better, and save a boatload of money. When and if you come back to alcohol, you can ease yourself into a routine of moderation.

Drink Less

Not everyone should completely stop drinking. You only live once, and life should be enjoyed. But only one life we should take care of ourselves. Try cutting back on your alcohol intake and feel the difference it makes in your daily life.  

Set and Know your Limit

Government bodies like the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care have set definitions for “moderate drinking” and what is one “unit” of alcohol. The guidelines for adults are to drink 14 units per week or less spread over at least 3 days. For reference, on a pint of 5.2% lager counts as 2.3 units. Fourteen units add up to about six pints a week.

We’re not here to tell you how much to drink. Everyone should know and set their own limit. Whether you come up with “no drinking on work nights” or something like “no more than 3 drinks in a night” stick to those limits. By exercising a semblance of control over your drinking, you will find yourself more able to drink in moderation. 

Make it a Treat

The craft beer universe and all it entails is as diverse as the stars in the Milky Way. The companies, the people, the beers–each and every one of them is a unique and important part of the industry. And many of the beers are just so damn… GOOD! 

So it makes sense to want them all the time if not daily. We also love a thick cut Txuleta or Fiorentina steak. But could you imagine what would happen to our arteries if we had one every day? (Not to mention the mammoth-like carbon footprint we would produce).

Craft beers can be delicious and super tasty. As such, opening one should be an occasion. Don’t make enjoying one so regular that it doesn't feel like a treat anymore.

Understand Beer Styles and Other Drinks

Not all of us are intermediate or advanced beer fans. For novices, it can help to educate themselves about the beer styles available today. This can help you know about the flavours associated with a particular beer as well as the approximate alcohol content. 

Having a foundation in beer styles will help you enjoy beer more responsibly. Maybe you won’t accidentally order a pint of double IPA or buy a 750ml of Belgian Quad if you are on your 4th drink of the evening. Also, having more beer knowledge makes the experience more stimulating and complete.

Drink Water and Soft Drinks

You might be stopping, cutting back, or just slowing down. Drinking water, soft drinks, and other non-alcoholic beverages can help you accomplish any of these purposes. Alcohol is diuretic and one drink is enough to break the seal. 

So water is always the best choice. But any beverage without alcohol will give your body a chance to metabolize, rest or normalize. Not good enough? For beer lovers like ourselves, non-alcoholic or de-alcoholised craft beers are a great substitute for the real thing!

NA and Low Alcohol Beers are the way forward

We may be a bit biased, but we think one of the best and easiest ways to moderate your alcohol intake is to drink more non-alcoholic and low alcohol beers! Beer enthusiasts today have more choices than ever. And with things like the sober curious movement, drinking can only expect to have more and more low and no alcohol alternatives. 

We have a vision: in the not so distant future, every pub, hotel, music venue, off-license or anywhere alcohol is served, drinkers will be able to get their hands on tasty low and no-alcohol craft beers like those crafted by Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing. If you haven’t had a look around lately, you would miss the fact that vision is becoming reality. 

Beers made by breweries like those in our no-alcohol range are a perfect substitute any time you want to socialize and keep a clear head the following morning. And of course, they pair well with food! 

For those of you looking to cut back and achieve a healthier lifestyle, our low alcohol range gives you the great taste of craft beer but with roughly half of the alcohol. This means fewer calories and less experiencing the negative effects of drinking. 

The craft beer industry is exciting and full of passion. But it’s time for the industry to mature. It’s time we all take look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. Our community is only sustainable if we can encourage responsible drinking based on moderation and a healthy lifestyle.







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