We’ve all said it before, sometimes more than once. After nights of too much booze that lead to bad decisions, a hangover from hell and some wicked self-loathing, we often utter the words, “I’m never drinking again” — only to find ourselves right back at the bar shortly after.
Leading into the New Year of 2016, I didn’t have any resolutions. I had a great year of partying it up around Europe, and not that I am going to stop doing that, but I want to try and cut down (maybe even stop) my alcohol consumption; this quest begins with dry January.
First off: cutting out booze doesn’t have to sacrifice fun.
For years, I’d enjoy a few quiet beers (or a bottle of wine or two) during the week and go harder most weekends. Since moving to the UK and relinquishing my driving responsibilities, I found it more accessible to drink (drink a lot and drink all the time).
There would be a good buzz, and I’d get drunk, it was just part of being Australian (or so I thought). But, I’d often fall into destructive habits after 1 am, including cigarettes, late-night pizza and more beer, turning the rest of the weekend was a write-off.
I always told myself, “Drinking alcohol borrows joy from tomorrow.”
Over time, I started to feel just blah. I was surviving, not thriving. So, I decided to take a 30-day break from alcohol as an experiment.
Here are the things that have happened so far:
- The first seven days were tough.
My liver had a hard time flushing out the toxins from alcohol and the bad food I had consumed while drunk (late night burgers, fries and pizza).
So, I ate soups rich in greens with anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger and generally just tried to eat more veggies (as much as I could being flat out at work/just back from Christmas). Heading straight back into a stressful job, there were a few nights early on when I could have quite easily drunk a whole bottle of wine, but I stuck it out and didn’t.
- I was challenged.
Many people— were incredulous about my lifestyle choice. At first, it bothered me, which made it that much worse. In saying this, I have also been met with unequivocal support of my stopping the booze choices; my boyfriend even getting on board for a Dry January with me as well (he’s training for a marathon, so I guess that it wouldn’t hurt for him to stay off the booze as well).
- Acceptance came eventually.
When I got challenged by friends and people who I told about my decision, I eventually learned to laugh and stick to my guns about it. Once I accepted my choice and owned my response about not drinking, everyone else around me accepted it.
- I slept like a baby.
Studies show that even a small amount of alcohol messes with your sleep. I was now getting the initial REM sleep you normally miss when you drink alcohol. I woke rejuvenated, not tired and cranky like before (also have been having some super crazy dreams – but good inspiration for writing short stories I guess!).
- I lost weight.
Alcohol slows your metabolism, as the body breaks down alcohol before the fats and sugars. A pint of beer has around the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza.
The weight loss/feeling fitter I put down to making better food choices + gym. This was challenged by some late nights I have had at the office these past few weeks (and stress, coupled with some bad eating) but all in all I am on track to getting even fitter and healthier.
Weight loss from not drinking is likely due to three main things:
- Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories.
- Drinking makes you eat a lot more food, especially junk like fries and desserts (4am Kebab Kid).
- Quitting drinking gives you the energy to be more active.
- I am learning how to celebrate differently.
Before stopping drinking, I’d always celebrate a big win — like a job promotion (or Friday) — with drinks. Now, I’ll just have a nice meal or take time out from my busy schedule to go for a hike. But, I can still party like a rock star. Despite not drinking, I still manage to have wildly entertaining nights out, even with my drunken friends slurring their words around me.
- My perception shifted.
I gave up social drinking to achieve bigger goals and tap into my potential. I replaced drinking with jogging (although, in the cold I am still not a fan – not going to be running any marathons soon that is for sure, but taking positive steps to better my life (and enjoy my weekends).
This changed how I ate, worked, slept and saved money.
In “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg explains that one set of neurological patterns (old habits) can be overridden by new patterns. By focusing on one “keystone habit” (not drinking), I taught myself how to reprogram other routines in my life.
I was no longer going out with £60 in my purse and waking up with £2. I was no longer sleeping all weekend. I was naturally waking up earlier and taking charge of my life.
Interestingly enough, I was still the life of the party, and no one thought I was boring. I feel better, look better, work better, act better, am better, have more money, have better quality friends and don’t miss alcohol.
Water, ice and a piece of lime is perfect for me.
Although I took drastic measures, my story shows some of the positive benefits of quitting alcohol, even for a month. At 22 days in I am feeling great. I’m not saying that I am *completely* cutting out alcohol from my life, but neither am I going to binge a bottle of wine of the 1st of February either.
I am not sharing this experience to preach, but I think that many people (especially people around my age) have a really bad relationship with alcohol. I know this, because I know that I did too.
Knowing what we know now, cutting out alcohol for does seem worthwhile and effective.
But just because you’re skipping the drinks doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed. You can still join your friends at the club, sip lime and sodas all night — and when you’re shaking it off on the dance floor, you’ll know you’re actually burning the calories.
Feel better, look better, lose weight, save money and have better relationships.
Now, that’s a great cocktail 😉