In what will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me reasonably well, it’s been fifty days since I last had a sip of alcohol.
I failed miserably at ‘Sober Spring’ – trying to avoid the steadying hand of booze while moving home is never a good idea – but mid-July, I felt it was time for another go.
The very TLDR of this tale is that it’s been incredibly easy and I’m not inclined to go ‘back on the beers’ any time soon. The benefits far outweigh any hassles and it’s not much of a sacrifice at all.
I’ve noticed a (probably) age-related decline in my ability to handle alcohol. I mean, just a couple of glasses of prosecco or a couple of pints of beer absolutely shred my sleep and leave me feeling awful the next day. That’s a poor showing for someone who could previously bounce back from any night’s overindulgence.
I’ve also noticed that it’s getting increasingly difficult to maintain (or reduce to!). healthy weight. Alcohol is choc-a-block with empty calories. Especially the kind of IPAs I have a tendency to glug.
My day job involves me talking about the the contributions sleep makes to our health and general wellbeing and, more and more, I felt like I was ignoring my own advice – and suffering the consequences.
Slowly and then all at once
So I’d been mulling it over quite a bit. And then, there was a moment when it all made sense.
Towards the end of July, I found myself out with some of my best friends, having beers in the sunshine. Then it suddenly hit me: I’m not enjoying these beers at all. I’m feeling bloated and tired and I’m caught up in a round of drinks at the mercy of the fastest drinker. The neer isn’t making things better. Far from it.
I didn’t even finish the beer in front of me. And I haven’t had any alcohol since.
How has it been?
As I noted above, it’s been incredibly easy. I’ve switched out alcohol for alcohol-free substitutions. Either AF beer – of which there are a pleasing number of quality options these days – or something like a tonic water or even just sparkling water. I’ve even enjoyed some alcohol-free Martini Rosso and alcohol-free Prosecco.
I did wonder, before I went to Sitges alone for the week, whether I’d find it hard to avoid the beers in the one place I associate with partying more than anything. Nope. Every single bar had quality NA beer alternatives and I had the time of my life. Getting out of bed for breakfast at my hotel was a breeze and I actually lost a little weight. Which is far from what normally happens when I spend a week over-indulging.
More on that solo trip another time.
This is also related to food. Alcohol really leads to snacking and poor food decisions. I’m not having those additional calories or the fried muck that would often accompany the drinks.
Reader, I’ve even turned down the free champagne on my British Airways flights to and from Spain. Nope. Not even a little bit interested.
Probably the most difficult thing about the whole experience has been the reactions from some others. When you say you’re doing ‘Dry January’, that seems to be okay. But when you explain that you’re just not drinking ‘at the moment’, some people can be a little weird. I’ve been determined not to lie and say I was on antibiotics or something stupid like that. I’ve told anyone who’s been interested to ask that I’ve stopped to look after my health.
Continuing strange responses from those around me have been an excellent way of identifying the people I’m not too keen on socialising with for a while. Understanding their negativity is worthy of a whole other blog post.
And it’s helpful that several of my friends don’t drink at all or are in the process of adopting a very mindful approach to their alcohol consumption.
Has it been worth it?
Overwhelming yes. My sleep has improved immeasurably. This is pretty key as it’s the bedrock of health. And not getting enough sleep is one of the triggers for my epilepsy. My general sense of ‘stress’ in the world has also receded a little. I feel better about myself and have a sort of sense of accomplishment.
Mind you, as I wasn’t addicted to alcohol in the first place, it was just about making some good decisions. Not weaning myself off a poison and doing rehab etc. I’ve no doubt that would have been a much different – and more difficult – experience.
So I don’t feel like I deserve any medals. But it’s also given me a completely different perspective on the role of alcohol in society and its all-pervasive nature. I’m not anti-alcohol, nor am I turning into a monk. But when you’re weighing up the pros and cons of beers, society seems to holler “Yes, have more drinks!” at every turn.
What about the future?
I’m definitely not saying I’ll never, ever let booze pass my lips for the rest of my life. I’m just taking it one beer opportunity at a time.
There may well be occasions when sharing some champagne to celebrate something will be just the right thing. But I can safely say I’m no longer interested in drinking for drinking’s sake, getting caught up in frantic speed-drinking of beers after work. I don’t use beer as an after-work relaxation habit. Because, really, it doesn’t work that way.
I’ve laughed just as much, I’ve enjoyed my social life just as much. When I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I’m both glad I made the change and just a little sad I didn’t do it earlier.
Anyway, here’s to good decisions and all round general adulting.