Giving up alcohol. Why & what's it like?

Giving up alcohol.  Why & what's it like?

By no means am I an alcoholic, nor do I drink over the recommended limit for women of 14 units a week. But since I’ve had children and turned 40, my ability to drink alcohol without grim side effects has all but vanished. I grew up in Spain in the late 80s and there wasn’t a huge drinking culture so I didn’t really drink at all until I moved back to the UK to go to University. I remember being utterly horrified at the amount of booze my fellow students could put away, especially the rugby players (who used to like putting their private parts into their pints once they’d had a few – classy).

Over time I decided I needed to join in as it was no fun being the only sober person. So I got into drinking and this carried on through my twenties during my career in advertising in London. In fact, drinking heavily was pretty much part of the job spec. I could start at lunch time, carry on all night and make it to work the next day – surviving on cans of Coke and lots of carbs. If I did that now I’d be hospitalised.

Now, if I have more than two small glasses of wine I feel shocking the next day. And it’s not just the hangover, I feel utterly depressed. A depression that lasts several days and which is accompanied by self loathing. I reach for the bread, biscuits and vast amounts of caffeine to get me through. I’m grumpy, unproductive and sullen.

So I’ve been toying for some time with the idea of becoming teetotal. I don’t want to become permanently teetotal because I love fine wine and my husband is a collector, so it would genuinely have an impact on our relationship. There’s a delicious ceremony to opening a bottle of wine on a Friday night, kicking back and having a proper chat with your partner. We enjoy ‘aperitivo’ in our house at the weekends. Spanish for a few nibbles and drinks before dinner (a killer if you’re on a diet). And it’s just not the same with a sparkling water. There’s no joy. But, there’s no joy in feeling rubbish and miserable the next day either.

people having dinner with drinks outside

Image by Dave Lastovskiy

I hosted a dinner for some fellow business owners a few months ago and the man sat next to me was on month 3 of no booze, he said it had pretty much transformed his life. I can believe it. He said he enjoys socialising way more now that he doesn’t drink. It got me thinking again about doing the same.

A crunch moment came for me earlier this summer after a very sad bereavement in my family. I found that even one glass of wine made me ten times more depressed the next day and unable to cope with the loss. So, 16 days ago I decided to try a month off completely.

I’ve had a few moments where I felt quite stressed about not being able to drink. At the wake after a funeral and at my favourite cousin’s wedding. But once I got over that initial desire for that first drink (always the nicest one and then it goes downhill), it’s totally fine. You also start to feel really smug a few hours later when everyone else is slurring their speech, smudging their mascara, eating too much bread to soak up the wine and generally becoming rather tedious. You feel smug and superior, who doesn’t love feeling like that?! Safe in the knowledge that they will wake up tomorrow feeling rancid and you will wake up feeling clear headed and, well, smug.

Just seven standard sized glasses of wine add up to the fourteen units limit for women.  It's surprisingly easy to drink seven over the course of a week.

Do I feel any better or different? Well, apart from the obvious absence of any hangovers, one thing I’ve noticed is how clear my skin is and how sparkly my eyes have become. I also go out for dinner or to parties and I don’t start the evening worrying about the hangover I’ll have the next day. It’s quite liberating. I used to say no to social events during the week because I didn’t want to drink on a school night, but now I can say yes and I don’t worry.

I know I’ll drink again at some point, but I’ve become strangely scared of how it will make me feel. I’ll let you know what happens…

Main image courtesy of Unsplash.  Mallory Johndrow.
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