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20 Things I learnt after quitting alcohol for 95 days

On January the 1st 2017, I quit alcohol for 7 weeks with the initial idea of quitting indefinitely. The desire to quit was born from a bad year (2016 - remember that corker?) in which booze was a real 'crutch'. I say 'crutch', did it help? Did it f*ck. 

I've had a love/hate relationship with alcohol since I was 18 and had recently been using the Drink Aware app for over a year and keeping track of all the drinks I've consumed. The data is shocking. In December 2016 I consumed 20,000 calories in drink alone. It's an amazing figure but I wasn't waking up drinking whiskey. No. Just a social drinker. I know a lot of people who drank the same or even more than me. But we have such little awareness and only by honestly tracking each drink and facing up to what the hell was going on did I get the push I needed and the stark reality of January with the extra long period 'til payday helps, doesn't it?

However, in March, complacency soon crept in with  "You can quit anytime, you've done 7 weeks, that's fine, have a beer. A half won't hurt, it's all under control now" 

So, I had a few drinks, in moderation, here and there and felt like one of those people I'd always wanted to be who could just have a few drinks and then go home and it didn't f*** with them too much. But it spirals.

 And, come June, after a particularly shit night in which things happened that did not align with how I want my life to be and waking up with cuts, bruises, a lot of regret, shame, huge blackout periods and feelings of complete shit both physically and mentally and many tears, I decided enough was enough and quit. June 18th 2017. Yes, I quit for a whole summer. Also an apt Father's Day present to my lovely dad who was teetotal. I know he'd be so proud of me now.

Booze is a hindrance not a help. 

I guess if you're reading this you are intrigued at what a booze-free period is really like. Maybe you think you drink too much?

So if you're looking for a little nudge towards a cleaner existence, here's 20 reasons why going booze-free is so amazing for your life:

1. Your emotions are real. Everything is more REAL. You can't assign them to a hangover. This is a good thing! It makes you more aware of how you are actually feeling as opposed to just classing it as a hangover and subsequently ignoring it.

2. Weight loss is EASY! Cut out booze totally and it will fall off! That is so long as you don't replace it with sugar or something like that. Drunk eating and boozing go hand in hand so all the additional empty calories you invite through booze into your body then requires a second dinner or two to compliment it and you end up piling on pounds before you can say Pina Colada.

3. Sleep is EASY. You'll get tired earlier but again, it's real tiredness. You're not tired because you smashed 4 pints earlier and your body is working overtime processing them. You're tired because you've done loads of stuff in the day and your body is telling you it's time for some real nice rejuvenating sleep. Yes you can look forward to some easy sleeping where you wake up feeling FRESH and often before your alarm. Which leads me on to...

4. There is so much more TIME in the day. Alcohol seems to speed time up. Nights pass in an instant, and then hangovers are spent waiting for a nicer feeling to arrive with decreased ability to do lots of tasks that require focus. As someone who works more than the normal hours per week and is studying for a Masters, time is very precious and valuable. I just don't know how I would have time for drinking and hangovers now.

5. No guilt/shame/embarrassment/regrets to even think about, let alone replay and keep cringing over

6. More money. So much more money. Money not spent on drinks as well as money saved not eating a double dinner, buying those unnecessary extra drinks to take home (cans) after a night out (we've all done it) that you don't even drink. Money saved on getting taxis. Money saved not buying cigarettes.

7. The desire to drink decreases day by day. It gets easier when you see what life is like without. 

8. There are actually lots of people who don't drink. Hello! Their lives aren't any less interesting/rich/fulfilling/fun than yours.

9. Feelings of elation. Actual feelings of elation. I think this has to do with your brain being allowed to function on a higher percentage than normal. On booze/hangovers, we are functioning on about 40% which is why we feel ratty, can't think of words aka have brain fog, are tired, are just kinda counting down to the next drink (oh yeah it's addictive) but booze-free, there are more frequent feelings of elation, effortlessly! 

10. Exercise programmes are effective and easy to maintain. That momentum of going to the gym, regularly combined with seeing the results (see weight loss above) as well as feeling good from the endorphins exercise releases keeps you in a cycle of just getting fitter. Also you're not fighting empty calories from booze all the time. 

11. You are a better friend/colleague/person - How? Because you remember more about other people. What they have said in conversations with you. Nothing is lost or forgotten in the haze of booze. You can also spend more (time and money) on your friends and family because you've got more of it.

12. No fear. When you surprise yourself with how you've managed to stay off the booze you start realising that everything is less scary/intimidating as you imagined. This allows you to dream big. With all that extra time, money and brain power you can start making very exciting plans to do things YOU want to do with your life. That links closely with...

13. Less anxiety in general about everything. You're more aware of the present moment because you feel good because you're more rested and well exercised and have no bad dramas or a lack of money to worry about. Maybe you also are able to do...

14. More meditation. If you meditate you will know that it's almost impossible to do when you're hungover because you're too fatigued to stay awake. Not a problem if you don't drink. Build it into your daily routine and when you tally up those consecutive sessions day by day you're just in a zen-state, permanently. Stoic, like a tree.

15. More confidence. It's a bold decision and to shun alcohol in Booze Britain, or anywhere really, is to go against the norm, at any age. Even more when all your friends are still doing it weekly and plan their weekends around it. So you're making a stand. You're going out on a limb. You're standing up for what you believe in and this is brilliant for your self-esteem because it means you're putting yourself and your health and happiness first, you're not a people pleaser. You're a motherf**king leader now. Inspiring to others. Empowered by you.

16. More respect. Yes you get more respect because you're not regularly acting like a tit and because of your promise to prioritise your own well being. People are impressed. People think you are incredibly strong because they can't comprehend a life without it. 

17. It's a socially constructed need, not an inherent human need. Look around at all these humans drinking this liquid. We are immersed in the culture of drinking and it dates way back and all the different alcohols are glamorised in some way. The craft beer for the guys who want something with a cool story. The wine that goes with that food. The posh whiskey that's really 'special' but really it's just old. The gin that makes you feel patriotic. The prosecco that is just THE drink if you're a young woman. The 'fun' shots. The Vodka from Eastern Europe. They're all just costumes for a poison that keeps us depressed and addicted. You may want to argue that it's natural to drink as it is made from fermented fruit and yeast, which is natural, right? Yes so is bread but look how many people that fucks over. That's the same as saying heroin is natural because it's made from poppy seeds. We tell ourselves whatever is in the glass is a cultural speciality so we don't have to face the 'difficulty' of quitting. Also it's the classic delayed vs instant gratification. Familiar with this? Delayed gratification means something better happens if you work for it. Instant gratification is a quick, short lived high. Like saving money vs spending. Having a drink vs quitting. We don't actually need it at all. We don't 'need' it for confidence. You actually think you need it for confidence because you've lost your real confidence through all the anxiety alcohol generates. You think you need it to have fun because every time you plan fun stuff, alcohol is always there. 

It's not the alcohol that's the fun, it's the fun stuff that's the fun. Take it away and it's still fun. Think how much fun you had as a child with mates. No booze. Many many lols right? And with your mates now. The capacity is there. It's actually way more fun to have jokes without alcohol because they're real.

18. It's the ultimate distraction. Thinking about drinking. How much time do you spend thinking about drinking? What to drink, if you'll drink, will so and so be drinking, if they're not drinking I wont drink, when you can next organise drinks, have you had too many drinks, can you have another drink, do you spend too much on drinks, will you do a drink free month, what shops are open at this time to get more drinks, what drinks are less fattening, what drinks are on offer, what can you do to cure a hangover, why do you drink, why you cant stop drinking when you want to, why you did the thing you did when drunk, which pubs are nice, pre-drinks, drinks to impress people, drinking and driving, drinking and being a parent, drinking and problems in relationships, drinking and travelling, drinking and work, work drinks, is drinking on your lunch break OK, drinking games, why do you spend so much on drinking but won't justify eating out or buying a new pair of shoes, where your lost phone/keys/wallet is, how you got that bruise, whether or not you used protection etc etc etc etc etc

Thoughts better spent maybe?

It's also a distraction from the pursuit of your ultimate goals. Drinking is often catching onto other people's agendas. Be aware of this. 

19. Moderation is a paradox - "Can't you just have a couple?" that's the funniest one because alcohol is addictive which is why you always want another drink unless you're superhuman. It's like this, though. If you have one or two you're counting and aware and fighting the physical urge to get another one. How is that relaxing?
If you're not counting or aware you're having one after the other after the other to the point of black out and that's rarely cool.

20. It tastes like shit. Actually. Just actually taste it properly. It's all rank. You know shots that make you wince because they burn so much? They are inside you. That's not a very kind thing to be doing to your insides either. Your insides are you! You wouldn't stab your hand with a pen because it would hurt, right? Well it still hurts inside but you just can't feel it. 

A couple more things:

- People start defending their own alcohol intake to you as soon as you say you don't drink. Guaranteed. It goes like this:
"I'm not drinking/I don't drink"
"Well I don't drink THAT much... I mean, I could take or leave it really"
"Go on then"

And they won't. Because they can't. Because we are all addicted. 

Which is why I think it's a blessing to get to rock bottom because it spurs you into complete abstinence and only when you do complete abstinence do you really benefit from all the above. When you drink in moderation you can achieve some of that but have more of an underlying sense of negativity because, ultimately alcohol is a depressive. It's not just the next day that you feel shit, it actually extends over a way longer period than that but in a more subtle way which can lead you to attribute that feeling to other things in your life, such as your relationship perhaps or your job. 

Basically it generates FEAR and we have enough of that flying around thanks to the media. So choose love. Respect your body and be kind to yourself. 

A German lady I met over the summer, when I was 8 days into my sobriety, told me she quit drinking at 27 years old and has now been sober 35 years. She told me she'd been working in prison with women who were inside for reasons which they can't even remember as they'd been so plastered when they'd committed crimes such as murder. She said to "put your energy into your life instead of a bottle" Was it coincidence to meet her at that time? I think not.

Since those 95 days, I've had a few drinks here and there and a few big nights out - but no blackouts. Yes, I've "got away with it"

But I can feel the good voice in my head saying "Now go back to sobriety" and with my impending big trip to America 2 weeks away, I know it's time to hang up the drinking shoes again. I know from experience it is a slippery slope and to have knowledge from experience and not learn from it is a fools game. I've had many brushes with the dark side and put myself in many dangerous positions and knowing that one is one drink too many away is daunting. In this world, we can only control our thoughts and our actions and there's enough extraneous shit going on without compromising our own abilities. 

Wisdom is knowledge put into practice. Einstein's words "insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting different results" spring to mind.

 If you're going to drink, pick your battles, do it in safe, familiar company with people you know who know how you can be and will take care of you or just be so aware of your limits that you can save yourself. 

It's both important and nice to own whichever decision you make - I've learned to take responsibility - and feel fully aware of the choice we all have. 

This shit is quite nice as far as energy drinks go

Thanks for reading and I hope I can help just one person with this post because I know how shit alcohol can make you feel. If you decide to quit you have  my full support and respect, and you'll have a lot of others' too.  Reach out on social media if you like:

 InstagramTwitter and Facebook 

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