Well this year, because I did not want to feel left out for another year, my company is having a Christmas party… Yes indeed, my vast multinational empire, with its mass of employees means that Keith, Gary, Rob and I are going out to celebrate Christmas together… 😉

Over the years, all my friends, family and everyone else I know goes out on lavish company organised events — such is the corporate way… SO this year, we are doing so too… I am looking forward to it.

It seems that I am not the only one interested in this topic today.Two of the main national newspapers in the UK have just added articles on how journalists have been investigating the use of hypnotherapy for Christmas drinking… The party really can be helped ith the use of hypnosis… Let me tell you much more on this…

Well, Georgia Foster’s PR team are working wonders for her because both articles featured here today focus on her work… The newspapers in question must be delighted that they are writing the same things! 😉

This hypnosis article in the Guardian Newspaper states:  

In 2005 Sarah saw a hypnotherapist for 12 one-hour sessions which, she says, helped re-programme her mind, and convince her that she has control over her actions. It also helped her deal with other issues which were causing her stress and exacerbating her binge drinking. She now finds it easy to stop at two or three units. (She has also stopped smoking.) “I am at a point where I will happily say during an evening’s drinking, ‘Shall we just have a cup of tea?’ instead of, ‘Come on, let’s do some shots’.”

Since her successful hypnotherapy sessions, Sarah still follows some tried and tested practical steps to help control her drinking. And I can vouch for the fact that these tips work even if you haven’t been hypnotised (I’ve always found hypnotism a bit freaky). “Always order a glass of water with every alcoholic drink,” says Sarah, “and drink them simultaneously. Stick to small drinks: be firm if someone insists on you having a large glass. If they complain, tell them you prefer small glasses because the drink stays colder.” Be prepared for hostility, she adds: “A few people I used to work with did not respond to it well because they felt it was a judgment on them. I would just say: ‘Get lost.'”

The article also states:

The other advice I have assiduously followed over the past six months is screamingly obvious, but it works. “It’s all common sense really — eat before going out,” says Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern. “And don’t drink in rounds,” he adds, “because you feel obliged to have another drink even if you don’t really want one.” That sounds a bit Scrooge-like to me. My advice is: buy rounds if you can afford it, just exclude yourself if you want to.

I must admit, I have fallen foul of this notion on several occasions before! It continues on the office party theme:

“There is a real attitude of, ‘If it’s free, we are obliged to consume it’,” says Glyde. “It seems rude not to swipe as much free alcohol as possible.” Plus, alcohol is not called a social lubricant for nothing: “Work-related parties can be so intimidating,” she says. “Especially if you are supposed to be networking. Everyone is looking over their shoulders, gimlet-eyed. The pressure of having to act like someone you’re not brings out the child in all of us. I can remember spitting wine over a company director once and thinking, ‘Aren’t I clever? I’m really pissed, but I don’t care.'” If you are aware of all these factors, have admitted to yourself that you are nervous or intimidated, then you don’t have to get caught up in them.

Shenker’s key party survival suggestion is to avoid top-ups from waiters: “Finish your glass and pick up a fresh one so you know exactly how much you’ve had. Decide in advance how much you are going to drink and stick to it.”

Now lots of the advice and ideas are echoed in this hypnosis article in the Independent newspaper. The examples are different. The article starts:

I gave up drinking for January and felt fantastic. But no wine at all was hard, and at times boring. I made up for it on 1 February, and by mid-month I was back to my nightly wines. By mid-March, I was beginning to wonder if life with no alcohol at all might be best, as I seemed unable to stick to the safe limit of a couple of glasses two or three nights a week.

Serendipity intervened when I was invited for a session with the hypnotherapist Georgia Foster, who runs a programme called The Drink Less Mind. She doesn’t promote abstinence, but helps people to drink less. “Most who come here aren’t alcoholic,” she said. “But they are drinking emotionally, using it as a crutch. I help people to drink differently, to enjoy alcohol rather than relying on it, helping them control it rather than the other way around. It is perfectly possible, as long as someone isn’t seriously, physically reliant on alcohol, to cut drinking down to enjoyable levels. Few people choose to give it up altogether. The good news is, you don’t have to.”

Foster believes we drink to get away from ourselves, that we all have an “inner critic” and we drink to silence the voice that tells us we are useless or that we or our lives aren’t good enough. She encourages the development of our “healthy, confident part” that can still enjoy a drink but won’t need it to feel good — to see alcohol as pleasure, and not necessity.

Some of Foster’s clients lose the ability to communicate without having had a bottle of wine, convinced that they can’t “let go” without it. Others drink to make themselves interesting or popular. She described me as a “pleaser” personality, someone who worries they might not be liked unless they are the life and soul of the party. Her perception resonated with me. I sometimes feel I might be a bit of a dry old stick without a glass in my hand. Did I really need wine to be liked? It felt pathetic. Then I remembered all the people I’d met stone cold sober in January who were drinking and very boring.

Foster wouldn’t accept that I drink “to relax”. She firmly believes that all “overdrinking” — that is, anything over the safe limits — is about escaping the pain of some sort of discontent or unhappiness. She says: “It works momentarily and we feel good, but we need more and more to get us there as our drinking progresses. Alcohol fosters more unhappiness and anxiety as we become reliant on its sedative effects, which dents our self-confidence. This really isn’t a good way to drink.”

I didn’t “go under” during the hypnosis, but I felt very relaxed and enjoyed listening to her calming voice. I dozed off and woke when Foster asked me to. She advised drinking lots of water when I drink wine, to put the glass down between sips to promote slower drinking, and to work towards two alcohol-free days (AFDs) a week. I was advised to drink good wine but less of it to promote the idea of wine as a treat rather than a regular item on my shopping list.

I’d expected some kind of magical feeling on leaving, of the kind smokers talk of when they attend one of Allen Carr’s quit-smoking clinics. This was nothing of the kind. She’d made sense, but I wasn’t convinced.

I went out that night to my jazz class end-of-term party, which usually ends up in the pub with lots of wine sloshing around. This night was no exception, but I didn’t drink as much as I usually do. Part of me fought against what Foster had said, and I think the rebel in me had a final glass which I didn’t really want or need.

I know many of the hypnotherapists — like me — out there are fighting with themselves to not blurt out how annoying lots of what she is saying is… Why do people think lightning bolts are going to fire out of the sky when they get hypnotised? Anyway, she got a CD from her hypnotherapist and carried on with her progress report…

Four days later…

I don’t really understand it, but I am drinking much less. I haven’t made an effort or felt determined in any way; I have just naturally found that I haven’t wanted that third glass, or sometimes even a second. I’ve refused sub-standard wine and instead had sparkling water, something I’m developing a taste for.

Last night, I did something I’ve never done in my life — I left a half-glass of wine in a restaurant. It was acidic, but if it was remotely drinkable that wouldn’t normally have stopped me.

I’ve always regarded my slightly downbeat mood as just my “morning” mood. I woke this morning feeling different, and then I identified the feeling. I felt happy. I am full of energy and my lethargy is gone. I was up by 7am and I got a lot done by 10am, including a swim at my health club, which I normally only manage later in the day. Usually, by 9.30am I’m only just having breakfast. My skin has a bloom to it, and my eyes look brighter and clearer.

One week later…

I left for a few days’ holiday in Austria. I told my companion about my plan to drink less, so we went to a health spa. I had wine with meals but drank far less than I normally would on holiday.

I came home feeling amazing, glowing with health. My face looked thinner. A friend who gave up alcohol completely a few years back said that when alcohol is reduced or cut out, the body loses “bloat”; that is, water retention. I weighed myself and I’d lost four pounds. This couldn’t be attributed to the walks and exercise at the spa, because I ate like a pig. I never lose weight on holiday usually.

Two weeks later…

I am listening to the CD most days now, at 6pm or so. It unwinds me. I had my first AFD — I haven’t had one in ages. Everyone knows that two AFDs a week are recommended, but before I would wake up full of resolve and then by 7pm I’d convince myself that I deserved some wine. On nights in, I’d usually watch TV and make a few calls, lazing on the sofa. Without wine, I have more energy and I’m getting things done, like paperwork that normally hangs over me like a black cloud. I’ve got into this fizzy water thing — I’m drinking loads now and I like it with food, whether I’m having wine or not.

My overall mood is so vastly improved that I am actually shocked by the change. My problems are still there, but I seem to be dwelling on them less and they don’t seem so overwhelming. I feel far more positive and I don’t feel I want to drink win to escape from anything, including myself. This is very weird, but I even feel I am walking differently. My friend Cathy, who drinks quite a bit, remarked the other day that I have such a spring in my step that I must have met a new man. When I told her that I’m just drinking less and feeling happier, she looked a bit put out; threatened, even.

Three weeks later…

A friend and I met in a bar at 6.30pm for pre-dinner drinks, during which time I’d normally have had two glasses of wine. She drank three, while I stayed on the water. We went out so that she could smoke and, without realising it, she repeatedly flicked her ash over a man next to her. He asked her to stop and she became, not rude, but sarcastic. He was totally justified in his request, but she couldn’t see it because the wine had clouded her judgement and she became mildly aggressive. Would I have behaved similarly after three wines? Possibly. The thought repelled me.

My concentration is improving. When people talked of “having a clear head” I never thought I didn’t have one, but with less alcohol I feel far more together and lucid. The speed I’m doing things at is surprising to me. I am a lot more efficient. Christ knows how many brain cells I killed off. I feel as if they are growing back, but I know this can’t be possible. I haven’t shouted at anyone in a call centre in a while.

Four weeks later…

I’m doing Foster’s 23-day liver flush detox. It’s citrus juice with olive oil, garlic, ginger and lime first thing in the morning for 20 days, with a three-day break in the middle. I’m on day six and I feel amazing. I don’t know if it’s because I have more energy and am more active, but I’ve lost half a stone. People keep saying how well I look. Yesterday, someone asked me if I’d had a facelift.

I look forward to having some wine when the flush is over, but I don’t think I will drink beyond the limit again. It’s not worth it. I thought I needed alcohol to relax, to make life more interesting, to make me more interesting. It’s not true.

I have two female friends with whom I used to drink a lot, but I have avoided them since I began the programme. I saw one this week, and I stayed sober while she got drunk. I was very bored. Without wine, there wasn’t much there. Alcohol should be an enhancer of social situations, food, friendships and fun, not a necessity. And if it starts to become a necessity, then it’s time to ask why.

A great couple of thoroughly interesting articles, eh?

So this Christmas, keep the option of hypnotic help open if you are going to prevent going crazy at the office party… I know ours will be full of fun — but no embarassment will emerge… Which will be a rare occurence for me 😉