More and more these days I meet people who have made the conscious decision to stop drinking alcohol. Although not common, it´s not unusual to hear that someone is off the booze.
It would be easy to assume that people give up alcohol in order to lead healthier lives as we´ve all seen what a hangover looks like and it´s not exactly pretty.
Science is constantly changing its mind about the health effects of alcohol and it´s hard to know who to trust. It´s well-known that alcohol in large quantities can cause a plethora of diseases and long-term health conditions and have immediate effects in the form of a hangover, the colloquial word that makes alcohol poisoning seem less dangerous.
However, some studies argue that a glass of red wine a day is good for you and that whisky can help with a cold. That a little bit of alcohol can relieve stress and help you relax.
Nevertheless, most studies categorically state that the risks outweigh the benefits for all amounts of alcohol. Also, 70 years ago we were receiving scientific studies promoting cigarettes for their health benefits and who paid for those studies? Cigarette companies. So, I would be careful about believing anything that says alcohol can be good for you.
But let´s be real. Only very few of us are giving up alcohol for the physical health benefits.
Another potential reason that more and more people are choosing to ditch alcohol is the rise in knowledge and acceptance of mental health disorders which has given people the tools and awareness to be able to understand if their alcohol consumption has crossed the line into addiction. Additionally, there´s much more help available to those who seek it. Also, people are more aware that drinking can worsen other mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Lastly, and I think this specifically applies to me, is that certain cultures promote a toxic drinking culture. I didn´t learn how to sip wine at dinner, I learnt to down vodka before seeing my friends. I didn´t experiment with alcohol to see what I liked and didn´t like, I bought the cheapest bottle that would get me the drunkest and swallowed big gulpfuls with my nose pinched. I never learnt how to drink in moderation.
I used alcohol as an anti-anxiety tablet. I used alcohol to cauterise my wounds. I used alcohol to change my personality. And although alcohol did all these things, they were the calm before the storm that would inevitably hit. I felt relaxed for a while before wave after wave of anxiety and depression hit. I temporarily forgot about what was bothering me until it was all I could think about. I was friendlier, funnier, until I started shouting.
I´ve ended up in hospital twice, I´ve blacked out more times than I can count, I´ve been taken advantage of, I´ve been lost, I´ve worried my family sick, I´ve made decisions I regret, I´ve been extremely ill, I´ve suffered for days and days, I´ve missed work and school, I´ve been robbed, I´ve been threatened, I´ve thrown my own shoes in a rage, I´ve walked through clubs with mascara smeared across my face, I´ve shouted at people that I love, I kicked someone once, I´ve slept on roads, I´ve cried and cried and cried.
And then I woke up the next day in such a state of physical and emotional agony that I had to pause my life. Sometimes for days.
I exchanged my nights for my days and I begun to realise that I wasn´t actually gaining anything.
The frequency I drank changed throughout my life. I started drinking heavily at 14 which increased until it reached its crescendo when I was around 19. My record was 13 days in a row, binge drinking litres and litres of wine a night. It started decreasing again and by the age of 22 I was drinking heavily maybe one night a week.
When I was 23 I decided that enough was enough. The reasons I had been using alcohol before were less relevant to me now. I was taking actual anti-depressants which genuinely made me feel better. I was a lot better with dealing with my emotional wounds in a mindful and nurturing way. And I was a lot more comfortable with my personality and had learnt how to surround myself with people that like me for who I am.
Yet I still hadn´t learnt how to drink in moderation. Every time I drank would be to black out and the hangovers were just getting worse. I reached a point where alcohol only had a couple of points left in its pro column, where the cons were getting ridiculously long.
So, I decided to stop. Just like that. The decision had been getting more defined in my mind for a few years and the day after my sisters birthday I woke up and thought, no more alcohol.
It´s been 18 months now and I don´t see myself starting to drink again anytime soon. I´m not an addict, I don´t think so anyway, so the option to go back to alcohol is always open for me if I want to. But my life is a lot better for not drinking. I don´t get hangovers, I wake up with a clear head every day, I don´t lose whole nights from my memory, make bad decisions or put myself in dangerous situations, I write more, I create more, I choose activities that I really enjoy and I have time for them, I have more money to spend on other things, I don´t throw up, I´m much more in tune with myself, my friends are 100% real, I get enough sleep, I deal with my emotions in a healthier way, I trust myself more, I feel less shame, I understand myself better, I feel better.
I don´t think it´s right for everyone. I know that for a lot of people, alcohol is a part of their healthy and balanced lives, and that´s great. I know it can bring real joy to people and even be an art form, a creative outlet, a hobby, and hold real value.
But stopping drinking was right for me and continues to be right for me and I´m happy with that.
What is your relationship with alcohol?
Has anyone stopped drinking recently or is thinking of stopping? What are your reasons??