Ever had a dog rough hangover where the words “I’m never drinking again!” escape your dry, acid breathed mouth?
What about feeling shame after learning about something regretful you done or said last night?
Or that time waking up with a dead squirrel in your room? (Surely that’s not just me…?🐿)
Anyway, after consistently infusing my body with snake bite in the 90’s, lager in the noughties and then ridiculously overpriced micro brewery IPA for the last few years. I decided to stop.
As much as I liked to deny it, alcohol, whilst not being an addiction was still causing problems for me, both personally and in my relationships. So, in November 2021 I declared to my wife that I wanted to do something about it. And I quit.
Until Xmas eve. Picking up a take away curry and being offered the obligatorym ‘quick pint of kingfisher, boss?’ Caught me off guard and I decided on the moment not to refuse. To turn it down wouldn’t have been in the Xmas spirit after all. But, I didn’t drink anything else alcoholic than evening, and on Xmas day I gave up for good. And I meant it this time.
Until New Year’s Eve. Having a bottle of beer thrust into my hand at a party followed swiftly by the person clinking bottles and shouting ‘bottoms up and good riddance to 2021!’ was enough for me to join in.
On New Year’s Day that familiar aspiration came up. Except this time it felt different. This time I REALLY meant it, and stayed fully committed to the challenge and hit the milestone of 365 days alcohol free on Jan 1st 2023.
Here’s 10 things I learnt on the journey:
1. There’s some bloody brilliant alcohol free lagers on the market. Erdinger even claims to be an isotonic recovery drink, with added vitamins! I’ve been able to find plenty of options, everywhere from independent local off-licences to large chain supermarkets. Because of this…
2. You can still satisfy your cravings. A key part of breaking old habits and forming new ones is to be aware of the cues that lead to your cravings (Atomic Habits - James Clear). So if cracking open a cold one from the fridge after a hard days work (because I’ve deserve it) is an existing habit, you can still do this whilst simply exchanging the content to an alcohol free version. This is an easier step to simply trying to ignore well established patterns of behaviour.
4. There are many excellent books about this topic. The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley was the one that resonated the most for me.
5. Mornings are better. Being able to get up at a consistent time and to feel human within 10 mins is a great way to start the day. Not experiencing a mouth drier than an Arabs sandal is also an added bonus 🩴. Maybe it’s because…
6. Sleep is deeper. Not being disturbed in the middle of the night with; cramp in my calves; having to prop myself up to avoid acid reflux; multiple visits to the 🚽
7. Weight loss is easier. It’s still not easy btw, but there’s definitely reduced consumption of unnecessary calories.
8. It’s better for the planet - OK I know this one is a stretch, but there’s definitely less empty popcorn packets, chocolate wrappers and ice cream tubs going into the recycling these days… (and less dead squirrels!)
9. My wife likes me more. Less snoring. Less farting. Less confrontation (in a general argumentative way not in a physical way).
But, perhaps most importantly of all - 10. I like myself more. I have less guilt about being a grumpy bum in the evenings. I feel like I’m being kinder to myself and those around me. I have more time and patience for my children and dogs. I feel calm the majority of the time.
Without alcohol, my life is better.
I hold no judgement for anyone who drinks, but I encourage people to experiment, and try going for a short period without drinking and to see what effect it has on you.
What helped me most was to approach this as a challenge - could I reach one year with no beer? Yes. And so can you if you choose.
If anyone wants to reach out to me to discus this topic in confidence, just let me know.
NB. No squirrels were harmed in the writing of this post.