I’ve always had a love/ hate relationship with alcohol; I love alcohol, but alcohol hates me, unfortunately. Nine times out of ten I would be fine, but there would always be that one time I lost control. Only trouble is I didn’t know when that one time would be – similar to playing Russian Roulette!
I’ve heard other people say they feel ‘amazing’ after taking a break from alcohol. However, I didn’t – I felt frustrated and deprived that I couldn’t ‘come out to play’ anymore – I realised my whole social life revolved around alcohol.
It seems the difference lies in the intention for giving up alcohol. There is a difference between a healthy break and choosing to eradicate alcohol from your life permanently. I decided to take control of my life and if that meant making sacrifices, then so be it. Half-hearted attempts were futile – I was either in or out. Of course, it’s fine to have a few vices; providing they don’t bring pain and distress or interfere with your day to day well being.
1) Overcoming shyness and social anxiety.
I’m happy to say I can have a great night out without drinking – I never thought I’d say that. If I laugh it’s a genuine laugh, instead of laughing to appease people, in a drunken stupor.
I’m not putting myself in vulnerable situations by floundering the night away never knowing where the next drink will take me. Letting your hair down is fun; putting yourself at risk is not.
I’m strengthening my interpersonal skills by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and making genuine connections, without repeatedly asking what their name is every 10 minutes. I also have the comfort of knowing I didn’t make an idiot out of myself the night before – of course, you can do this sober, but the chances of this happening skyrocket when intoxicated.
2) No hangovers or consequences from the night before.
As much as I enjoyed drinking, the prospect of never having a hangover again is very appealing. I don’t miss the heavy headaches, nausea and regret that follows a night of indulgence. Waking up early on a Saturday morning feeling fresh as a daisy is a wonderful feeling not to mention how productive I am.
I also like knowing that I didn’t lose control; I’m able to take full responsibility for my actions instead of cringing at what seemed like such a good idea at the time. There is nothing worse than having a shame attack the next day; whilst you indulge in Netflix and pizza trying to forget what you did, because everyone else remembers.
When you stop drinking you see people repeating the same cycle: Drinking – Hangover – A pledge to never drink again – Craving– Drinking… Without sounding too sadistic, when I see my friends suffering from a hangover, it’s a good reminder that I’m not missing out on anything too exciting.
3) Exploring new activities, I’m good at or enjoy.
Adulting is difficult. The older we become the more responsibilities we have, and the less time we have to enjoy ourselves. And when we do treat ourselves to some ‘me’ time, we are so burnout from an extensive ‘to do’ list, that we usually belly flop onto the couch with an alcoholic beverage indulging in a Netflix marathon ignoring the void in our lives that continues to expand.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed us to some of our most convincing excuses of why we can’t make changes in our lives – we have much more time now, so what’s stopping us?
I would argue it’s less about laziness or business and more about fear. Fear of trying something new, fear of going outside our comfort zone, fear of uncovering what we are trying to escape. It doesn’t have to be extreme change, some of my new hobbies include going for a walk in the forest, or watching you tube videos on how to ride a motorbike.
Now more than ever we have an abundance of time and opportunity to try new things and consider what changes we can make to our lives. And yet figures from the global data analytics company Nielsen show sales in alcohol during the pandemic increased by around 291%. I understand we all need something to get us through, but this is shocking. Maybe places like South Africa had the right idea when they banned alcohol during the peak of the pandemic.
Which leads onto my next point….
4) Able to handle real life in a healthy way.
A lot of us have been guilty of using alcohol as a crutch – whether it’s to unwind after a stressful day, steadying our nerves before a date, boredom, heartbreak etc… But problems occur when we start using this crutch too often and the dependence boarders onto alcoholism.
Relying on alcohol can really inhibit our ability to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, we become stuck because we run away from opportunities to grow. If we are consistently stunted, then how will we ever know if it’s possible to tackle problems head on and overcome them? Life repeats lessons until we learn and grow, otherwise we will never progress to the next level.
It seems adults drink alcohol much like children drink warm milk – to self soothe. But unlike warm milk alcohol makes things a whole lot worse. Not only does it mess up the serotonin levels (feel good chemicals) in our brains, but it also acts as a depressant, which is like pouring petrol on a fire if you already suffer from mental health issues.
Side note: Drinking alcohol on anti-depressants can seriously disrupt it’s effects.
5) Consistently feeling better mentally and physically.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing – it seems insane to think about how I used to drink, and I wasn’t even a particularly heavy drinker. In all honesty, most of the time I drank to get drunk, it’s the way I was shown how to drink from a young age. I’m also half English and half South African; two nations that are known for their love of booze!
But I can’t blame culture on my drinking anymore; it was becoming too much of an identity.
Most people turn a blind eye to the source of their problems by binge watching TV, social media, stuffing our faces with low quality food and, of course, alcohol. How much are we looking after our needs and our well being? The years pass quickly when we are not paying attention. I can honestly say I’m reconnecting with myself in a way I have not been able to do before as an adult.
A lot of people fear looking inside; which is why yoga and meditation can be difficult – it’s uncomfortable to sit still with a mind fueled by obsession and ego – but it’s often the things we don’t want to face that need the most attention.
My body feels cleaner, healthier and younger. I have boundless energy which has come in handy for my daily run – I choose endorphins over alcohol any day!
Another advantage of becoming teetotal is that my skin is much clearer, which is a wish come true for someone who suffers from chronic eczema flare ups!
The cravings are still there, though they are less disruptive than they used to be. If you are considering giving up alcohol or even just taking a break, in my personal experience, it takes about a month to overcome the worst of it, three months to settle in, and six months to start experiencing the life changing advantages.
One of the biggest advantages of being sober is that you get to choose your own path in life; and not succumb to past family conditioning and expectations.