Alcohol and Menopause. How I cut down drinking at midlife & saw my life and health improve!

My Top Tips for Successfully Beating the Booze During Menopause

Alcohol and Menopause. How to cut down drinking at midlife
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I hope it can help you too x. Please read the disclaimer for more info.

Alcohol and Menopause. How To Cut Down Drinking at Midlife. Beat Alcohol & Improve your Health & Menopause Symptoms. My Story

Alcohol and Menopause can be a volatile mix and can lead us to question how much we are drinking as we enter our midlife stage. I was no different. Alcohol has always been a big part of my life ever since being a teenager. I was shy and socially awkward and found that a drink gave me the dutch courage to socialise. Fast forward to middle age and I found I was relying on alcohol just a little too much for comfort. I began to think that it might be a wise idea to look at how to cut down drinking at midlife, especially as I knew that alcohol and Menopause don’t mix. The “Crates of Shame”, glass recycling bins outside my house were also getting too big to ignore.

I wasn’t alone. Recent research by the Drinkaware campaign found that one in five adults wants to cut down drinking. Its an easy slippery slope to find yourself in and to suddenly find you are drinking more than you would like.

I wanted to chart what worked for me in the hope that it may inspire some of you to have a go at cutting back too. I promise you won’t regret it.

The problem with the label “Alcoholic”

Drinking can become the crutch that helps us through life and the reward at the end of a hard working day. I certainly saw a nice glass of wine as a way to relax. It’s very easy to rely too much on alcohol to smooth the hassles of life away. 

But although I relied a little too heavily on wine I didn’t see myself as an alcoholic.

This has been one of the problems people have found if they wanted to quit or cut back. Most of the help up to now has been aimed at extremely heavy drinkers.

Alcoholics Anonymous can seem that it is for “other people” “who have a serious addiction” The issue was defined in a very black and white way. You were either an alcoholic or you weren’t and were just fine to carry on drinking.

It’s easy to think that if you haven’t hit the rock bottom of drinking multiple bottles of vodka a day and losing your family that there’s nothing you can do and everything can continue as normal. But if alcohol is having an impact on your life it’s time to look at making a change. 

Thankfully I found that there has been a sea change in helping to cut down on drinking in recent years. It’s not all about AA and rock bottom any more.  

Are You A Gray Area Drinker?

There’s a new term, “Gray Area Drinker” which I found to fit me perfectly. 

Jolene Park, Functional Nutritionist and Health coach describes Grey Area Drinking as:

“The space between the extremes of rock bottom and every-now-and-again drinking: this is the gray area which can negatively impact lives.” 

I felt relieved to embrace this definition and this helped me move forward positively with making changes to my drinking habits.

{I highly recommend you watch Jolene’s great TED talk on Gray Area Drinking if you have 5 minutes}

Alcohol and Menopause. A Volatile Mix

A big reason for me wanting to decrease the amount I drank was to help with my Menopause symptoms. Alcohol can make some of the symptoms of Menopause much worse. Its an absolute fact that Alcohol and Menopause aren’t a great combination. The whole body inflammation caused by regular alcohol consumption can make hot flashes much more severe. I found I was so much more likely to have an extreme night sweat if I had had a drink the night before.

I had also started suffering from migraines when Menopause hit. By tracking my symptoms I discovered that they were closely linked to red wine consumption. As soon as I cut this right down my migraines pretty much disappeared. Result!.

How much did I drink?

Although I had gradually cut down over the years from my student days I still felt I was drinking too much.

I would drink alcohol most nights, seeing it as my after-work reward. Most evenings would involve a bottle of wine with dinner. Often I would share it with my husband, but if he was out or didn’t fancy it I may have finished the whole bottle myself!.

Weekends tended to involve socialising which could involve 4 or 5 large wines in the pub or beers round at friends. Sunday meant a meal with a nice bottle of wine. There weren’t many if any days which didn’t involve a drink of some sort {and if there was I felt deprived}.

I constantly felt tired and under the weather as my poor liver never got a chance to clear the alcohol out fully.

I would have semi-regular occurrences of waking up not quite remembering what happened the night before. Some days I would crawl through the day feeling exhausted and rough, just waiting to get back into bed and sleep. 

All in all, my habit wasn’t bad enough to lose my house or end in jail, but it did have a significant impact on my life and health.

Why I wanted to cut down. My Top 10 Reasons.

It was easy to work out my reasons for cutting down on drinking. Some of the main ones were;

  1. I wanted to be a better mother and wife. Not one who was hungover and grumpy.
  2. I felt tired and sluggish all the time. I wanted more energy to put into my life
  3. Anxiety – I found that drinking increased my anxiety levels. I wanted to feel calmer and happier. 
  4. I wanted to put an end to stupid drunken arguments with my husband over nothing.
  5. I felt under par all the time. I wanted to feel well and healthy instead of slightly ill.
  6. I didn’t want to waste my time. Alcohol was getting in the way of things I wanted to achieve, like growing my business. Hangovers were reducing my productivity.
  7. To control weight gain. As I went through menopause I gained weight and I realised a lot of this was due to the empty calories in wine and beer.
  8. To improve my appearance. Alcohol made me look tired and gave me a puffy red face!. Search for before and after photos of giving up alcohol to see the affect alcohol has on your appearance. It’s not good!
  9. To aid my Menopause Transition. I instinctively felt that alcohol and Menopause don’t mix. This is backed up by the research. I felt that cutting back on alcohol would help with menopause symptoms.
  10. To save money – I worked out that drinking from 18 to 48 had cost me very approximately 40K!. I wanted to stop wasting money
  11. I wanted to feel that alcohol didn’t control me.

My Health Concerns about alcohol. More reasons to drink less

My health was a big concern for me. I battled cancer in 2017 so I wanted to do the best thing for my body in its recovery. My main worries were;

  • Alcohol and Breast Cancer are closely linked.
    According to breastcancer.org

    “Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.”

    I wanted to do anything I could to avoid Breast Cancer or a recurrence of my own cancer {Thyroid Cancer}

  • Alcohol and Menopause are not a good mix as I found out. Alcohol makes the symptoms of menopause much worse. This on its own is a good enough reason to cut down.
  • I wanted to look after my body as I got closer to 50. Having cancer made me appreciate my body and all it had done for me over the years. I didn’t want to keep making it struggle to detox from alcohol all the time.
  • The last health reason was a bit of vanity, but I was getting a little Beer Belly or paunch around my tum. This hung over the front of my pants in an unsightly and uncomfortable way so I dearly wanted this gone asap!.

My Aims – Cutting Down Alcohol

I found it helpful to set myself a realistic goal to aim towards. The thought of completely stopping drinking made me feel daunted. I could feel that this would have a counter-intuitive effect. If I felt I could never do something again that would make it much more alluring.

I set myself realistic goals of cutting down…

  • The amount of alcohol that I drank.
  • The frequency with which I drank alcohol.

I didn’t want to keep drinking every night as this never gave my body time to recover. I wanted to make alcohol an infrequent and non-regular event for my body to spend most of its time without the burden of detoxing.

I also wanted to be able to be happy with one or two drinks in a normal setting such as a restaurant. I wanted to reset my off-switch and be able to stop when I wanted.

I am not a doctor…

This is a good point to state the obvious. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I am merely sharing what worked for me. You do need to speak to your practitioner to make sure anything you do is safe.

It is also VERY IMPORTANT at this point to point out that if you are physically reliant on alcohol you MUST NOT STOP DRINKING without medical help and support. To stop suddenly is incredibly dangerous and can result in seizures and death so cutting down on alcohol is not something to be taken lightly. If you are any doubt at all please talk to your doctor and get support.

The steps I took to cut down on alcohol at midlife

The areas outlined below are the things that helped me most in my quest to drink less. I hope some of these will guide you if you want to do the same. 

It is possible to feel effortlessly and happily in control of your drinking.

It happened for Annie, and for thousands of others all around the world.

I know it sounds hard to believe, because we live in a society that is soaked with alcohol. Drinking becomes ingrained in who we are, how we celebrate and cope, even how we live day in and day out.

I know it can be hard to imagine cutting back on alcohol or even living a life without it. Some might say it’s even impossible to picture.

Let Annie Grace help! Click here to watch her FREE webinar.

I read loads of “QUIT LIT” first before I did anything.

“Quit Lit” is the descriptive euphemism for books on quitting alcohol, drugs or any addiction.

Before I even stopped drinking I devoured a huge amount of these books, as well as podcasts, youtube videos and websites. 

The books were brilliant for getting me into the right mindset to WANT to drink less. This is the key. To want to quit or cut back before you even start. 

The following books are the ones that resonated with me the most. I spent a good month devouring these titles. You need to find voices which speak to you and get you into the right headspace to succeed.

I recommend you start with Alan Carr and Annie Grace and move on from there…

The Easy Way To Control Alcohol

Alan Carr

I loved this book as it truly changes your thoughts and approach to alcohol. Alan Carr is the Grandaddy of quitting addictions.

Carr was a pioneer in helping people to stop smoking. In this book he applies his revolutionary method to alcohol. His method works without willpower and removes the feeling of deprivation associated with cutting back or quitting. He helps you escape “The Alcohol Trap”

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This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life

Annie Grace

This was the book that helped me the most on my quest to cut down. Annie writes in a friendly and clear way and this book felt like amazing advice from a friend. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

Annie’s amazing book opens your eyes to the physiological and neurological side of alcohol use. She explains the social and cultural elements that support alcohol dependence and the problems with the stigma of alcoholism when trying to cut down or quit. The book helps you see through the psychological dependance allowing you to quit or drink less.

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Alcohol Explained

William Porter

This book explains, in clear and easy to understand language, exactly how alcohol affects your body.

It looks at how alcohol affects the human body on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, from the first drink up to chronic alcoholism.

I found this fascinating as I’m a bit of a geek about these things so was intrigued by the scientific explanation. William Porter himself suffered with alcohol issues at one stage in his life so writes from a personal perspective.

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The Sober Diaries: How one woman stopped drinking and started living.

Clare Pooley

“A bravely honest and brilliantly comic account of how one mother gave up drinking and started living. This is Bridget Jones Dries Out.” Amazon Review

Clare Pooley described herself as an overweight, depressed middle-aged mother who was drinking more than a bottle of wine a day and constantly googling “Am I an Alcoholic?”

This a funny and real account of Clare’s battle to turn things around interspersed with frank and factual advice. Clare writes from the trenches of Alcohol and Menopause in a highly readable and entertaining way. Highly recomended.

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The Cure for Alcoholism: The Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction

by Roy Eskapa

This is an amazing book which explains The Sinclair Method. The Sinclair Method is a scientifically proven way to deal with alcohol addiction by using the pharmaceutical Naltrexone. This method is backed by 82 clinical trials.

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I realised and accepted that alcohol is addictive.

This may sound obvious. However, alcohol marketing is so clever at glossing over the truth with a lovely fun party image that often the addictive qualities of alcohol aren’t at the forefront of our thoughts when we have a glass of wine.

Alcohol is actually a very addictive drug. 

According to rehab4 addiction and various sources Alcohol is the 5th most addictive substance coming in right behind Heroin, Cocaine, Nicotine and Barbiturates.

We all know how hard they are to kick but we somehow feel we should be easily able to cut back on drinking. 

Once I understood fully that alcohol was addictive, and a lot of the craving for a glass of wine the next day is caused by withdrawals, it became much easier to control.

I realised that relying on willpower was doomed to failure

Willpower eventually always fails. You can “muscle through” and “white knuckle” but when you hit difficulties or you are tired your willpower will collapse.

Relying on willpower is no fun. I have seen people who have quit drinking but live a miserable life because they are constantly on guard. They can’t go out and socialise with friends for the constant fear that their willpower will fail.

The trick is to get to the point where you don’t see alcohol as a good thing or a treat anymore.

Once you see it in the cold hard light of day, as a toxin which doesn’t do your body or mind any favours, you no longer have to rely on willpower. You just don’t want to drink it.

I recommend reading William Porters book mentioned above, The Truth About Alcohol

This awesome book explains exactly how alcohol affects your body and how toxic it is. It reframes your brain to think about alcohol differently.

I found that once I reframed my ideas about alcohol, that it wasn’t something that was helping me, I needed less willpower to cut down.

I looked closely at my nutrition.

My “witching hour” to crave a drink was about 6-7 pm after I had finished work. Once I analysed this I realised that I had been dashing around all day and not eating properly. By 6 pm my body was desperate for some energy. It realised it could easily get a carbohydrate hit from sugary wine or beer so cravings were rolled out [the body is a very clever system – never underestimate it.]

Once I realised this I ensured that I was eating properly during the day to make sure that my body had what it needed. This helped cravings subside.

I highly recommend that you look closely at your nutritional state. If you can get a blood test to check if you are low in any vitamins or minerals even better. Ensure that you are eating a well-balanced diet and are not going hungry or having blood sugar swings.

Nutrients that are easily depleted by drinking are Magnesium and Niacin or Vitamin B3. B Vitamins are best taken as a B Vitamin Complex which contains all the B Vitamins in balanced amounts.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are extremely vulnerable to alcohol use. Their depletion can result in anxiety, insomnia, tremors, dizziness, and depression. It’s a good idea to take a good B Vitamin Supplement to ensure levels are replenished.

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Magnesium

If Magnesium is depleted it can result in insomnia, confusion, apathy and weakness.

A lack of Magnesium is also associated with depression and anxiety so it really is worth ensuring that you have adequate levels as it can be so easily depleted by alcohol.

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I took a 30 day NO ALCOHOL challenge with Annie Grace

30 days I felt I could just about manage. Maybe!

Once I had prepared myself with the Quit Lit, I ended up enrolling on Annie Grace’s THE ALCOHOL EXPERIMENT 30 day challenge. I wanted to see how I felt after 30 days of not drinking. I felt it was important to fully clear alcohol out of my system and see how I felt without it. 

I took a photo of myself at the beginning so that I could compare it to the end after 21 days. I highly recommend you do this if you take on your own challenge. It’s amazing to see the difference and will give you the motivation to keep going.

The ALCOHOL EXPERIMENT is a brilliant way to work through the issues around alcohol whilst being in a supportive Facebook group. There are daily live sessions and lots of information to help you. I found it amazing and will write a proper review of it soon.

FREE COURSE – Change your relationship with Alcohol

Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment, recently had over 5,500 people from all over the globe join her for a 5-day video training series. It was so amazing that she is now offering it -direct to your inbox – FREE -over the next five days.

These were people who had been asking themselves:

•What is wrong with me?

•Why can’t I just drink less? Or stop?

•Why do I feel so upset -miserable and deprived -when I succeed in stopping?

And the same dreaded questions Annie used to ask herself: ‘Do I have a problem? Or, even worse, ‘Am I an alcoholic?’Are you asking the same questions? Yes? Then please join TNM here.

The first video is waiting for you right there. You can watch it and then sign up to receive the rest -delivered to your inbox for the next five days.

This 5-day program is so powerful.

When you watch it you will walk away with an entirely new perspective on your relationship with alcohol. 

If you need a little extra help, click above to find out more about Annie Grace’s Alcohol Support Programs

I stocked up on nice “grown-up” Alcohol-Free Drinks.

Alcohol-free drinks have improved MASSIVELY over the last few years. No longer the sickly sweet sugary confections of the past, there are some seriously nice drinks out there.

I loved to experiment and try out new products. It opened up a whole new world for me.

I found if I could just have a nice drink in my hand I was happy, regardless if it contained alcohol or not. It’s nice to be able to have a fancy looking cocktail too that doesn’t contain booze.

Alcohol-free drinks were enough to head off any cravings I might have had and I found them MASSIVELY useful.

Top tip. Most bars and pubs will have at least a couple of decent no or low alcohol beers or spirits behind the bar and are happy to make a non-alcoholic Mocktail. You don’t have to drink a flat coke or orange juice.

The Best Alcohol-free or Low Alcohol drinks that I found.

Sadly I haven’t found a good wine substitute yet, but the drinks below are wonderful and my alcohol free go-to’s…

Caleño | Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit, Infused with Juniper and Inca Berry

“A DISTILLED TROPICAL, NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRIT – Caleño’s ‘Juniper & Inca berry’ is a distilled tropical infusion of juniper, citrus and spice botanicals.”

Out of all the spirit substitutes this is definitely the nicest I tried. Feels like a real treat.

The best alcohol free Gin & Tonic Substitute.

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SEEDLIP | Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit (Spice 94)

Woody and citrus alcohol free spirit. Lovely with tonic for a G&T substitute.

My favourite is the Spice version but Seedlip also comes in Garden and Grove flavours. However I haven’t tried these so can’t comment but they sound equally nice.

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GINSIN | 12 Botanics Non-Alcoholic Gin Alternative 

Aromatic blend of botanicals such as coriander, cinnamon, lavender, lemon, hibiscus, orange blossoms and more. Vibrant citrus flavor with a slightly bitter finish.

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Non-Alcoholic & Low Alcohol Craft & Belgian Style Beers

The best non or low-alcohol beers are the Belgian or Craft Style Beers. They have lots of flavour and you don’t miss the alcohol. This selection includes a lot of my favourites, including the gorgeous Erdinger and Einbecker.

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Kombucha 

Kombucha is a wonderful refreshing probiotic drink. Its available in a crazy amount of fabulous flavours. I have got pretty addicted to it.

Its also really easy to brew your own and save money whilst experimenting with your own flavours.

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Home Kombucha Brewing Kit

I brew all my own Kombucha. It’s easy to do. You just need the Scoby {the weird probiotic entity which creates the fermentation – provided here}, some sugar and tea.

You can experiment with flavours and save a lot of money. Kombucha is wonderful, refreshing and a great alcohol alternative that is so good for your gut.

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Shrub Syrups

Shrubs are vinegar based fruit syrups which were popular during Prohibition and earlier.

They come in a wide range of flavours and are refreshing mixed with sparkling water to create Mocktails and refreshing drinks. The vinegar flavour gives them a wonderfully adult tang rather than cloying syrups that are too sweet.

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Alcohol and Menopause. How to cut down drinking at midlife

Alcohol and Menopause. How to cut down drinking at midlife

I practised socialising without alcohol, and it got easier every time

This part was HARD for me. I had relied on alcohol for relaxing socially since I was a teenager. I didn’t think that I could go out and talk to people without having a glass of wine in my hand as a prop.

However, whilst I was doing my 21-day challenge I had to go out and mix socially whilst stone-cold sober. It would have been easy to make an excuse and stay at home but I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and just do it. And amazingly, I found that every time I went out sober I got a little more relaxed and a little more confident.

I realised that I actually didn’t need the alcohol. The confidence was within me all along. 

Once you realise this, everything becomes so much easier. 

I became aware of alcohol marketing and how pervasive it is.

Alcohol Marketing is extremely powerful. Booze is portrayed as fun, sexy, and the gateway to happiness. Think of ads showing the happy group in the pub drinking beer with jolly camaraderie. The mums relaxing at the end of the day with a well earned Prosecco. 

A soon as you enter a supermarket you are bombarded by the glitzily marketed alcohol. Glamorous bottles, beautiful design promising the allure of sophistication. There are no images of the drunken man in the jail cell or the mum who passes out on the sofa and doesn’t feed her kids. Any issues are glossed over. Nothing to see here.

Once I became aware of the glamorous lie that alcohol advertising sells it became easier to see through it and to ignore it.

Other services that I found helpful.

There were a few outside services that did help me a lot. However, I don’t think they are totally necessary but you may find them helpful.

Hypnotherapy

I went for a few sessions with a local hypnotherapist to get my subconscious mind in line with my goals. I had three sessions in total which focussed on my reasons for drinking and then empowering my mind to not need or rely on alcohol any more. I did feel like it made a difference and I certainly lost any desire to drink afterwards.

Sober Apps

There are so many “quit drinking” apps out there that it’s hard to recommend any specific one. I tried a few until I found one that worked for me. 

The features that I most liked was the ability to enter the amount normally spent on booze per day. You can then check your app a later date and see how much money you have saved by not drinking. I then tried to save that amount of money into a “treats” fund.

How much do I drink now?

I actually continued my 21-day challenge for 2 months. I do still have a drink but it is MASSIVELY reduced from what I used to drink before.

My aim was not to stop completely but to regain control and change my relationship with alcohol. I wanted to still be able to enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or on a special occasion. I feel happy that I have achieved that. 

I don’t drink though the week at all. I will have a couple of glasses of wine if I go out on Saturday, and probably one with Sunday lunch. If I go out for a special occasion, a meal in a restaurant, I will enjoy one or two glasses of wine and stop there.

I am no longer wondering where my next glass of wine is coming from and am well within the weekly alcohol guidelines, {something which I never thought I would say}. I am happy to have a couple of drinks and then stop. This is new for me and a great improvement.

Alcohol no longer has control of me. I am in control and not the booze. I do feel like I have found my off switch.

Alcohol and Menopause. The Benefits of cutting down – What I found improved with less booze

  • No more red face. – The flushing in my face subsided and I am now back to my usual pale colour. My face also looks a lot less puffy and tired looking.
  • Fewer Menopause Symptoms. Alcohol and Menopause are definitely a bad combination and I have found a great improvement in many of my menopause symptoms since cutting down significantly.
  • Menopause Migraines improved. My menopause migraines seemed to be linked to red wine. After cutting down alcohol they went from one very few days to once a month, if that.
  • Less anxiety & better Mental Health. Alcohol has a huge effect on your mental state. I feel a lot more stable and less worried about the small things after cutting back on alcohol.
  • No more feelings of tiredness. Until I cut back I didn’t realise just how tired I felt all the time. I now have a lot more energy on an everyday basis.
  • More Time to spend on things I care about. Until I did my 21-day challenge I didn’t realise how much time I wasted on alcohol. After a drink, you don’t feel like doing much. Avoiding this freed up a lot of spare time spend on my hobbies and things that interest me. I estimate I have got back a good 24 hours of productive time a week which is shocking!.
  • A more alert and fresh brain after a few days – After the alcohol had cleared out of my system during my 21-day challenge, my brain felt so much more alert. The brain fog cleared and I could think better. Appreciating this feeling makes me steer clear of too much alcohol as I don’t want to make my brain fuzzy. It’s a great incentive.
  • Weight loss – I didn’t lose the massive amounts of weight I expected. I have lost around 5 lbs. However, as I am only 5 foot 1 and quite petite this is still a decent amount for me. However, I feel much less wobbly as I feel I have lost a lot of bloating and inflammation which made me feel unpleasant. The weight loss also seemed to mostly go from my belly area so my spare tyre got a lot smaller and more toned which was brilliant. My face looks thinner and less bloated and my clothes fit better so I’m happy about all this.
  • A feeling of freedom. I love the feeling that alcohol no longer controls me. I really do feel that I have gained freedom from no longer thinking about or planning to drink all the time. This is a wonderful benefit of cutting down.
  • More money – last but not least I have saved a decent amount of money by cutting back. So far I have saved close to £1000, some of which I have put aside into a treats fund. It’s a very satisfying feeling to know you aren’t wasting your hard-earned money.

I hope my journey can help you with a little inspiration to cut down on the alcohol in your life. It truly does help with health, especially menopause symptoms. I feel so much better and healthier since changing my relationship with drinking. 

Cutting down drinking gives you the best chance of sailing through Menopause and beyond with vibrant mental and physical health.

PS – If you have found this post helpful, sign up below to receive a FREE ebook “Cutting Down Alcohol – Finding Your Off-Switch”. In this book I outline the precise steps I took to regain control of Alcohol in more detail.

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Helen

Menopause and Perimenopause can be a tricky time to pass through. I certainly had a turbulent journey. I learnt a lot from my intense battle. I rediscovered my Menopause Mojo and you can too. I truly believe that Menopause can be the start of the best part of your life. I am an Artist, Certified Transformation Life Coach, Holistic Health Coach, Hypnosis practitioner and woman's health researcher. NB. I am not a doctor or qualified to give medical advice. I merely share what has worked for me. I hope it can help you too. x
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