A quick caveat, that this is in no way meant to be preachy. I am not becoming one of THOSE people that look down on drinkers or think that in some way it ISN’T FUN DRINKING, because 100% it is THE BEST when it is good. This is all about balance, moderation and re-setting the limits.
“Are you pregnant?”
The first words that come from all my friends when I mentioned that I am taking a sabbatical from alcohol.
“Oh… but why then?”
It is a valid question. But when people say they’re becoming vegetarian or vegan, you think – animal welfare, taste or because of the links between certain meats and bodily diseases, not to mention the planet.
But with booze, it’s a recoil. But WHY?!
Because I have been drinking consistently for around 15 years and I think it is time I gave my body a break (the negative effects are actually beyond belief. If any drug should be banned, its booze).
And after just a few days I already feel lighter, brighter, calmer and the biggest thing that dawned on me, is I do not ‘need’ booze.
(I KNOW I USED TO THINK THOSE PEOPLE WERE WANKERS TOO! BUT HEAR ME OUT)
As I write this I am on my way back from a friend’s birthday in Bristol, where we went out for a beautiful lunch, played crazy golf, went to a few pubs, then did Karaoke.
In fact I have lost my voice. GREAT NIGHT!
And I didn’t touch a drop of booze. In fact at one point I felt so elated, I got annoyed at myself for drinking, then realised I hadn’t.
I love the taste of beer, and these two are AMAZING alternatives!
It was the brilliant day and night out with people I love and care about, talking rubbish, laughing our heads off, singing ‘Mr Brightside’ (that was the final straw for my voice box) – it wasn’t alcohol that would have made the night better or worse.
In fact in addition to the realisation I could enjoy a night out booze-free, the (SMUG I AM SORRY) feeling of NOT having a hangover on a Sunday is BLOOMING MARVELLOUS.
I have always had a very strong love affair with alcohol. I’ve written a piece about the UK’s funny relationship about it here, which is well worth the pre-read.
From cider in the park, to alcopops under age in my local club, university and cruise ship daily piss-ups to sophisticated and expensive gins and wines. Two booze related tattoos (a glass of wine and the Guinness harp), and countless visits to beer festivals, not to mention my lovely local pubs.
But most of this probably strikes you as ‘normal’. And I agree.
It is when it starts to creep outside of these ‘normal’ areas that it becomes something to think about. When hangovers, anxiety or guilt for drinking become part of your weekday-waking day. When you ‘have’ to set aside non drinking days – rather than just thinking every weekend etc. ‘Oooh I fancy a drink tonight’.
When you start the (weekend) day with a drink ‘Proseakfast’ or a bottomless brunch, and it seems to carry on right through to Sunday night. And probably most-importantly, when it becomes your go-to when you’re feeling in any way stressed.
What came first? The anxiety and the need to de-stress with alcohol, or the alcohol withdrawal that leads to anxiety?
From reading up a lot on long-term alcohol… dependence? Abuse? What it does, is decrease your tolerance to normal stressful situations, meaning you feel like drink is the only solution.
Combine that with the chronic stress a lot of us are under through work and life pressures (read my blog on managing stress here) and you’ve suddenly got a situation where it has eeked its way into your life, and a lot of yours (or my) waking thoughts.
My sister said something that really struck me when I was discussing this with her. She wanted to get that balance back, she said;
“I bloody love a Chinese take-away, but I wouldn’t want or would think about having one every-day.”
Such a simple premise.
She agreed she felt similarly about drinking, and said she would almost like to ‘re-set’ her mind’s view on it.
So what can you do?
I am taking an indefinite break from alcohol. No ‘Dry January’s’ with all the pressure that goes alongside. (I tried dry Jan, whilst planning one of the biggest campaigns of my career, on top of moving house. NOT RECOMMENDED!).
This is about removing the ‘need’, and replacing all of those boozy situations with purely me, as a sober human, as I come. (I am even going raving next weekend, which is one of my favourite past-times. I’ll be wearing my Fitbit, meaning I am basically heading to a six-hour HIIT exercise class with Drum & Bass).
If suddenly a lot of your extra-curricular activities suddenly seem mundane without booze, then RE-THINK your activities!
- Walking, running, cycling, swimming or the gym
- Reading, writing, drawing or painting
- Singing, acting, dancing, playing with youngsters, or learning an instrument
- Cooking, eating out, food festivals, or picnics
- Going for coffees, looking after an elderly relative, mooching through an antique shop, or picking out vintage clothes
In fact, you’ll soon realise there is no time for booze!
I realised that my passionate, persuasive, outgoing, and quite often annoying personality has nothing to do with booze. I was born me, and I am purely me. So if I am in a pub, as I was yesterday, my voice and viewpoint is often still the loudest. With or without the microphone…
I do also concede that if social anxiety is an issue for you, then seeking help on building confidence is a good idea. My anxiety is linked purely to stress, it is a very physical feeling, so I meditate, run, eat well and try to avoid overtly stressful situations – or I pop off to have a few deep breathes and a word with myself.
In order to re-set myself, I am going to live life as me, booze free for as long as it takes for me to get to a point where it is a very casual choice, not a need.
“Yeah, you know what, I will have that glass of wine thanks” – with dinner, with friends and family, in ‘moderation’
… or maybe I won’t ever drink again.
Who knows? But what I do know, is that it is exciting. And I cannot wait to see the results on my body and brain over the next few months.
I think that is why it has to come as an epiphany, not by setting a certain date in the future. I never think that it works if you put the onus on future you. Make a CHOICE and a CHANGE right now (if that is what you want of course).
Share your thoughts and stories!