The Realities of Giving Up Booze
(or Yet Another New Year Blog About Being Booze Free)
Spurred on by crippling anxiety, lack of confidence in my career and a New Year from hell, I decided 2017 was going to be the year that I quit drinking alcohol.
I longed for clarity, freedom from anxiety and I knew I wasn’t living the life that I wanted to be living.
I wanted to share some of the realities of my year and none of these discuss how great your skin will look or how many pounds you will loose.
I engaged in weekly rituals like most of my London peers — a few lunchtime beers on a Friday, office “beer o clock”, Saturday white wine lunches with the girls and of course the Sunday roast.
“That’s a proud boast you have” my dear father would shout whenever I was overheard declaring that I never got hangovers. I always turned up to work, I didn’t drink from Monday to Thursday (mostly) and I was healthy and fit.
However, for years my sleep suffered horrendously and I was sick to the back teeth of feeling exhausted. I tried every trick in the book: vigorous exercise, hot baths before bed, night time teas, sleeping tablets, saunas. I just accepted that I would suffer sleep issues because I enjoyed a drink.
It never entered my teeny, tiny brain that I should knock the booze on the head, not even when I lost my two front teeth on my 29th birthday, resulting in £8000 of reconstructive dental surgery (as my birthday is 23rd December it meant I also ruined Christmas too). It was all chalked down to an unfortunate accident of walking with my hands in my pockets and having “one too many”.
There is nothing to give up.
Giving up the booze is full of temptations and obstacles that need manoeuvring on an almost daily basis in the early days. I figured if I was going to be successful then I would need a to understand what was actually involved.
Praemonitus praemunitus — Forewarned is forearmed
I highly recommend Kick The Drink Easily — Jason Vale. This book dispels the bullshit, glossy marketing that surrounds alcohol. We have been conditioned to accept alcohol as an acceptable substance in our society. It helps you relax, have better holidays and provides you with dutch courage. By the end of the book, my mindset changed from feelings of deprivation to feelings “WTF am I drinking for?”
For the first 6 months, I revisited this book often to keep me motivated.
You will probably break one night.
I had managed to navigate a few social events in January but the odds of long term success were stacked against me. My relationship of 2+ years finally came to an end which was extremely upsetting and the month of February consisted of 3 trips abroad.
I failed and drank during the first trip abroad and when I returned, all those feelings of failure and anxiety came flooding back. Undeterred, I put it down to a blip and tried to not give myself a hard time.
The following week, I flew home to Ireland which could be seen as a challenge even for the most mindful drinker.
“Are you in a program?” my cousin asked tentatively during my Dad’s 80th birthday party. She seemed puzzled by the lack of an alcoholic beverage in my hand.
I was so happy and proud of myself for having sidestepped that particular land mind. It was a massive jolt to my confidence. Do not stress out if you fail.
Be prepared to be emotional.
I could have filled an Olympic swimming pool with the tears I shed last year. Your senses are heightened without the anaesthetic of alcohol so you will get emotional.
I continually focused on how I wanted to feel. Write these feelings down and revisit them before every social occasion you are going to. Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
Here are some of the words I wrote down:
- Serene — peace of mind — without anxiety or worry — joyful — tranquil
- Flourish — grow or develop — move forward
- Sophrosyne — healthy state of mind characterised by self control and a deep awareness of ones true happiness — nothing in excess — know thyself
It changes your relationships.
You will question some of your relationships and wonder what you have in common with some friends.
My group of friends have been very supportive and accepted my decision. I suspect they expected me to fail and settle back into my normal drinking patterns after a few months. You will be miserable to be around as you figure out how to navigate your new ‘holier than thou’ lifestyle.
I am eternally grateful to them for their unconditional support.
You will feel isolated, lonely and awkward.
Events you once enjoyed no longer hold the same appeal. You’ll avoid certain situations and start saying no to events. While very liberating it can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. You’ll go along to some events and do your best to be your usual boisterous self but things are different. You’re different.
Everything will feel awkward to begin with.
There is only so much fizzy water you can drink so being in a pub and not clutching a pint is odd.
Dancing with complete abandon and not giving a rats ass in a club feels like a thing of the past. Now I feel self conscious and out of place.
Speaking up about large alcohol bills in a restaurant can make you feel like an asshole for asking.
All of these awkward situations will get easier in time.
Its one long journey of self discovery.
Its bloody exhausting but at least you have the energy to deal with it.
It took me six months to stop tracking my daily progress of being booze free and introduce myself as a non-drinker. I’m still figuring out how to expand my social circle and find events that do no revolve around booze.
I can honestly say that giving up the booze is one my greatest achievements and I wish everybody luck in their endeavours. You will never look back.