From the beginning, my relationship with alcohol has always been complicated. Which is why I’m happy to be able to say the 23rd March 2017, marks my first alcohol and nicotine free year.
Outside of becoming a father quitting drinking has probably been one of the biggest changes I’ve made to my life in recent years.
I want to share some of my experiences with you.
Why quit drinking
When having my first proper drink in a North London car park as a teenager in the mid-90s, I had no idea that I was starting a love-hate relationship with alcohol that would last for over two decades.
I should state before going further that while I was a heavy drinker, I was never what you might commonly label an alcoholic. I guess that could be debated depending on your definition of the term, but I’ve never been arrested or had serious problems in my relationships or employment due to alcohol.
That being said, for at least five years before quitting I have been uncomfortable with my relationship with alcohol. There have been too many wasted evenings pounding beers in the relative safety of my own home. There have also been nights out when it all went a bit far, and things happened or were said that to this day I still haven’t quite been able to come to terms with.
It’s not all been bad of course. There have been a handful of nights to remember (or forget depending on your standpoint) where bonds were formed and friendships built upon the shared experience of a drunken stupor, but if I’m honest I’d even begun to question how valid that experience was.
Simply put, after two decades I realised in the most basic terms that alcohol had in no way added anything to my life. I’ve had great nights drinking, but those nights were made by the company I was in, and the experience itself and would have been just as good as sober. As for relaxation? I never actually solved any significant stress inducing problem while I had a drink in my hand.
Throw on top of all that the other well publicised issues that drinkers potentially suffer from such as liver damage, and it seemed obvious to me that if I wanted to feel healthier and happier, the first thing I should do is quit drinking alcohol and stay sober.
How did I quit alcohol
Quitting drinking was both one of the toughest, and one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.
Once I made the decision – and I mean really made the decision – to stop, it just happened. In that sense, it was pretty easy.
That said, I’d decided to quit drinking around five years before that point, and had tried and failed countless times.
So I guess it would be fair to say that the last time I decided to quit drinking it was easy. Every time before that, over the course of years, was so difficult I failed.
Another big help was reading Alan Carr, Easy Way to Control Alcohol, While I was already on the verge of quitting, this book just tipped me over the edge and gave me that nudge to finally say enough was enough.
One final thing. when I quit drinking (and smoking) I made it my ONLY health priority for 12 months. I quit dieting, I quit trying to get to the gym, and I decided that if I could stop smoking and drinking alcohol for 12 months, I WOULD be in better shape regardless of body weight or any other health marker.
Reflections on quitting drinking
So as I mentioned in March 2016 and after many failed attempts to quit drinking I read Alan Carr, Easy Way to Control Alcohol and it all clicked into place. So here are my reflections on my first twelve months without alcohol.
My god the sugar cravings! Seriously, I quit drinking and started eating biscuits….lots of biscuits.
I never really had a sweet tooth. I could happily pass up cakes or any little treats but when I quit drinking that all changed. Something they leave out when talking about quitting drinking is that as well as becoming accustomed to the alcohol, you also become used to the calories that accompany it. So when you do stop drinking regularly, it’s no surprise that you may discover a previously hidden sweet tooth.
People assume you’re “iron willed”
On hearing you’ve quit drinking – particularly if you’re known to enjoy a tipple – it’s not uncommon for people to commend you on your iron willpower. While it’s quite a compliment its difficult to explain all of the failed attempts. For instance, when I finally succeeded in quitting drinking it came roughly five years after I decided it was something I wanted to do. People are only actually aware of the last time you tried and succeeded.
Sky rocketing productivity
I’ve certainly noticed quitting drinking in my productivity. My after-work hours are now filled with personal projects and activities such as blogging, reading and web design. These hobbies would have once taken a back seat to my preferred past-time of getting squiffy in front of the box.
Now they are now thoroughly enjoyable and enabling me to develop a whole new range of skills. That coupled with the fact that every day I wake up feeling the same, means the useful hours available on the weekend have massively increased.
It’s a sensitive subject
Since quitting drinking, I realise just how personal and sensitive the subject of an individuals alcohol consumption is, and how uncomfortable it can make people when someone close to them quits alcohol, particularly if they drink heavily.
I wanted to give up alcohol because I don’t see any benefit to it. However saying that often results in me having to defend my choice which ‘s hard to do without coming across as preachy or confrontational.
For instance, if someone asks me “What about a cold drink on a hot day?”. And I answer “There are other drinks more refreshing than alcohol, which basically dehydrates you. It seems to me that any feeling of refreshment comes from satisfying an addiction, more than actual refreshment. You know, the same way another addict may enjoy the feeling of a needle in their skin or smoke filling their lungs. Both of which aren’t naturally pleasant feelings.” That’s a conversation killer right there!
As a result, when asked why I’ve quit alcohol, I often tell a convenient lie. I say I wanted to give up smoking, and quitting drinking was the only way I’d ever be able to give up cigarettes. It’s far easier to go with the cigarette thing, people understand it, and no-one wants to be responsible for a friend smoking again.
I finally quit smoking
We all know smoking is bad, I don’t think any of us need convincing of that, and I’d tried for years to quit. But the fact that the cravings always felt stronger when I was drinking alcohol meant that if I’m honest, it was always going to be near impossible to quit smoking while I was a drinker. I stubbed out my last cigarette the day after I drank my last beer and I haven’t looked back. Good times!!
Cheers to a booze free life
Without overstating it, I can honestly say that the decision to quit alcohol and stop drinking is one of the best I’ve ever made. While I’m still paying the price of the sugar cravings, I’m far healthier than I have been for years. I also feel like it has brought improvements to every other aspect of my life. I’m more engaged and present as a husband and father; I’m more productive at work and on my home projects and most of all I’ve developed confidence in myself that I can facilitate real change in my life.
If you can, try a booze free year for yourself and see how you find it.
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