A clinical therapist is helping people reduce their alcohol intake with hypnosis
“You drink lots of lovely, fresh water… you can stop drinking whenever you want,” she croons.
The truth is I’m here for a group hypnosis session in a bid to curb my boozing habits.
And I’m not alone in wanting to cut back on the drink.
Whereas in the past people typically drank in pubs and clubs, recent reports have suggested a growing number of us are choosing to drink at home, meaning that as a nation we are consuming more alcohol than ever.
And having that extra bottle or two is having a big impact on our health.
The latest figures from Public Health England show alcohol-related problems are on the rise.
Booze is now the sixth most common cause of illness among people in their 50s and 60s, compared to the 16th most common in 1990.
Until recently I never thought I had a problem with how much I drink.
Of course there’s the odd night when I stumble through the door at 3am with a burger in one hand and my shoes in the other but most of the time I’m pretty sensible.
Yet lately there have been more and more nights when I’ve been tempted to open a bottle or two with my housemates after a stressful day.
The latest figures from Public Health England show alcohol-related problems are on the rise
The following night, if there is any still sloshing around in the bottle, it seems silly not to finish it.
Then one Saturday morning after a “quiet night in” with my friends, when several bottles of pinot grigio led to me dancing on the dining room table and waking up with the worst hangover of my life, I decided that enough was enough.
Although I didn’t want to stop drinking altogether, it was definitely time to rein myself in.
So when I heard about Georgia Foster, a clinical hypnotherapist who specialises in helping people reduce their alcohol intake, I was intrigued.
Most people, if they want to cut back, try to cut out alcohol altogether.
However Georgia believes it’s possible to enjoy the occasional tipple without getting utterly sloshed on a weeknight.
Booze is now the sixth most common cause of illness among people in their 50s and 60s
And the timing couldn’t be better.
While many people challenged themselves to stay off booze for the first month of the year, lots of them celebrated by cracking open a bottle at the beginning of February.
This is why Georgia doesn’t believe abstinence works.
“A lot of my clients find Dry January easy but when February comes around they go back to their old habits,” she says.
“That’s because our unconscious mind makes most of our decisions, so while making a conscious effort to drink less may work in the short term, it doesn’t affect the deeper parts of the brain.
“Hypnosis encourages the conscious mind to switch off so the therapist can speak to the unconscious mind directly.”
It sounded promising so I signed up for a group hypnosis session to see if it could work for me.
As a nation, the UK is consuming more alcohol than ever
I arrived at an anonymous-looking hotel in London and was ushered into a small conference suite.
Inside was a group of 15 people, mostly middle-aged women from all walks of life.
The session started and we spoke about some of the reasons people drink more than they want to.
While some are people-pleasers who feel pressured into drinking, others are perfectionists and abstain all week only to binge at the weekend.
The more I listened the more I identified with being a people-pleaser.
I get myself into all sorts of scrapes, not only drinking to keep friends company but in other aspects of life too, because I hate to let anyone down.
During therapy sessions, people explore the reasons why they drink alcohol
After the talk the curtains were closed, the lights dimmed and the chairs cleared to the edge of the room.
We lay down and closed our eyes.
Initially I struggled to relax my mind and wondered whether hypnosis would work for me.
But as the session wore on I found myself sinking into a half-waking, half-asleep state that felt similar to meditating.
Although I could still hear what Georgia was saying, her voice drifted further away and I let my mind wander.
My body began to feel weightless as if I was floating.
After what seemed like a long time, she counted from one to 10 and asked us to wake up.
A growing number of us are choosing to drink at home
As I came around blinking in the light, I felt as if I had been in a deep sleep.
After lunch there was a second session that I found easier to relax into – and judging by the snores I heard, I wasn’t the only one.
This time I couldn’t remember what Georgia had been saying when I came around.
Then after a break and a third session, we packed up our cushions and blankets to go home.
I felt calm and deep in thought as I stepped out into the rain.
Then came my first test.
Therapy sessions make easier to say no to wine and friends without feeling distressed
I was supposed to be meeting friends in Brighton at the pub but because of engineering work, it was going to take three hours on the train to get there instead of one.
Normally, people-pleaser Lizzie would have caught the next service, but with new resolve I rang and said I wasn’t going to come.
It felt oddly satisfying to say no.
As the week wore on my friends noticed a difference in me too.
Rather than running around trying to please everyone else, I calmly decided what I wanted to do.
It’s possible to enjoy the occasional tipple without getting utterly sloshed
I wasn’t even tempted to drink after a particularly stressful day when my flatmate brought home a bottle of wine.
Instead, I happily settled for a glass of water.
What’s interesting is that I don’t feel as if I’m having to force myself to do it; it’s easy just to say no.
While I’m sure I’ll still have the occasional night when I let my hair down, I do feel something inside me has changed.
● To order a copy of Drink Less in 7 Days by Georgia Foster (£14.99, Red Door) call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562 310 or visit expressbookshop.co.uk.