Prince Harry paves the way for others to tackle problems with alcohol

In Apple TV’s The Me You Can’t See, Prince Harry said the trauma of his mother’s death in 1997 led him to use alcohol and drugs to “mask” his emotions.

The 36-year-old is co-hosting the new show with Oprah Winfrey, and discusses his experiences with anxiety and panic attacks. He said: “I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling,” admitting he would drink a week’s worth of alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night “not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something”.

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Chief executive of Drinkaware Elaine Hindal says: “There’s such a stigma [around alcohol misuse] and so I’m so glad that Prince Harry has come out and said what he’s said; it’s incredible.”

Read more: Could I be classed an alcoholic

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.

These are some of the key signs that may suggest it’s time you re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol.

You’re drinking more than you used to

Drinking every day, “and drinking earlier in the day than you would normally,” is something to watch out for, says Ms Hindal. She recommends using an online calculator to work out exactly how much you’re drinking; there are a few available online, including Drinks Calculator and Standard Drink Calculator.

Ms Hindal also asks: “Do you have to have a drink in the morning, just to face the day?”

Another aspect is secrecy. Ms Hindal says a big flag is “not feeling you can be truthful to friends, family and loved ones about your drinking” – perhaps pouring wine into a mug, so you look like you’re drinking coffee instead.

Read more: Five ways to make non-alcoholic drinks more interesting

You use alcohol to get through social activities
Hypno-psychotherapist Andrew Pearson says one sign to be aware of “is feeling, ‘I can’t be truly myself unless I’ve had a few drinks’.” This could involve having a drink before or during social events to “soothe my nerves”.

He adds: “People using it as a crutch for social anxiety [can] say, ‘I can’t go out and talk to people and be myself unless I’ve had a couple of drinks. I feel awkward, I sit there not saying anything – so I’m not myself unless I’ve had a drink’.”

You’re always thinking about alcohol
Mr Pearson says a lot of people “hide” the true nature of their drinking even from themselves. He suggests considering how much you think about alcohol.

If you have a problem, your thoughts might be “dominated by alcohol”, he says. “So that means always checking supplies, always having plenty in, planning your life around alcohol.”

You use alcohol as an emotional crutch

“A lot of people who are carrying internalised pain, such as someone who might be grieving a parent who they lost at a young age in tragic circumstances, like Prince Harry, could then be using [alcohol] as medication,” explains Mr Pearson.

Read more: Ageing and alcohol

“You could say the alcohol is an anaesthetic and an amnesiac – so it is both diluting and soothing that inner pain, but also making people forget about it because when they’re a bit drunk, they’re not really thinking so much about their pain.”

You think you ‘deserve’ a drink

Mr Pearson warns against getting into the mindset that you ‘need’ or ‘deserve’ a drink. He says people can think to themselves, “I work really hard, and at the end of the day I need something to compensate me for just how much I’ve been doing” – but this could signal a deeper problem.

If you’re worried about your drinking, contact your GP, visit DrinkWise or Lifeline.

How often do you drink each week? What are your favourite drinks to substitute alcohol for? Share your tips on how to cut down in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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