Giving Up Alcohol

Everyone makes choices in life. Every moment there are choices of what to do or not. In Western cultures, drinking alcohol is a large part of what is considered a social activity. When choosing not to drink alcohol often there is a strong response as though not drinking must be excused, validated or in some way justified for not being ‘normal’.


Reasons to Give up Alcohol

I have to admit that I did not give up easy. For someone who loves Martinis, whiskey and wine tastings to leave the world of booze was a loss of flavours in my life. I had migraines from the age of 10 years old, so I cannot claim that my migraines are the sole reason for not drinking anymore.  

In reality, I was bored of the near instant instability of my mood, physical pains and then near instant sleepiness. The unreliable ability for me to giggle or not before I passed out after a drink or two, made drinking anywhere other than in the confines of my own home too stressful. This was an active choice that I made and continue to make each time I choose not to drink alcohol.

Some benefits of not drinking include:

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  1. Less hangovers

  2. Less carb-tastic meals to ‘soak up’ the booze

  3. Better weight management  

  4. More cash

  5. Earlier nights with better sleep

  6. Less ‘debating’ with people and more listening to what they say

  7. More relaxed and open through choice rather than using alcohol to relax me

  8. Time and energy to discover other things I enjoy in life.

  9. Reduced feelings of anxiety, especially in hangovers

  10. More meaningful connections and shared experiences with others, leading to less loneliness.

There are plenty of studies that show the detrimental effects of alcohol. However, as with smoking cigarettes it is clear that the health benefits of giving something up do not work in persuading people to do something that is good for them. It is about social change and that each individual’s choice can change society for the better.

Your self-work is:

  • What other benefits might you feel if you give up drinking alcohol?

  • There are many health conditions related to alcohol that a reduction can really aid health and wellbeing, is this something for you to consider?


 Reactions to Not Drinking Booze

Often the reaction to choosing not to drink might be:

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  • Are you driving?

  • Are you sick? Like taking antibiotics?

  • Are you pregnant (for females)?

  • What’s wrong with you?

  • You’re not joining us?

     

Consider how these reactions make you feel. Ask:

  • Do you say these things when someone does not drink?

  • Why do you say or think these things?

The reactions are about feelings of being connected to others. That in order to connect with others we must each behave in conforming manners. To behave appropriately means that there is more chance to be accepted into the group and not be cast an ‘outsider’.

Beliefs around alcohol and social bonding are very strong in certain cultures. Historically, wine and beer were developed to provide safe drinking where water was unsafe. The connection of alcohol to safety, community and connection are fundamental to human need.

Your self-work is:

1.     Know your own reactions to these questions.

2.     Consider your own answers to why you are not drinking and how it makes you feel.

3.     Perhaps if there is no connection without alcohol, then the connections are not ones to invest in further?  Maybe it’s time for new friends.

Remember:

The reaction is someone else’s beliefs, issues and social attitudes. You do not have to agree with them but can ask questions about why they say these things. It can create interesting conversation.


The Process

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To be the first of a social group to move away from drinking alcohol is scary. The first outcast of the group is not a role to be taken lightly. A client who enjoyed not drinking asked on a retreat how could he introduce this to his friends back home. To avoid being an outcast there are two approaches:

  1. Lead the change, or

  2. Do not force your change and be non-judgmental of those continuing as before.

It may be that by adopting (2) it leads to (1) but there is no need to change others. However, being an outcast might also be a positive result because it creates space to attract those people that you truly belong to be a part of their tribe.

It is possible that standing alone as a non-alcohol drinker is sufficient to inspire others, when they are ready. By doing what is best for you there is a shift in focus to create a life that will support you and enhance the sense of wellbeing.


Rules to keep No Alcohol:

  1. Each moment is always a choice not to drink.

  2. When someone else pressures you, say “Thank you for your concern but I am happy with my choice at this time.”

  3. Never preach or tell others what to do. If asked, share only why it is your choice and the benefits you enjoy.

  4. Don’t match drink for drink or join rounds, unless you want to buy 1 for every 8.  

  5. Bring your own soft drink to social events and it does not have to be a mixer drink.

  6. Be kind to yourself if you have a drink.

Take steps towards a no drinking approach might be incremental or cold turkey style. I have found that recognising that not drinking is a constant choice is easier than a categorical ‘never again’ approach.


Fancy a go?

Perhaps start with a 4 or 6 week fundraiser to motivate you to stick to it and raise money for a good cause.  

If you want support on making life changes then contact Nid who’s Transformation Program is designed to empower you along your own journey of change for a fulfilling and joyful ride.

Studies on alcohol effects:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174525/

https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/effects/

http://www.aicr.org/assets/docs/pdf/reports/Second_Expert_Report.pdf

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/101/5/296/913713

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/10report/intro.pdf