Sunday, October 1, 2017

1 year. 12 months. 365 days. I did it.

It's now one whole year since I gave up alcohol for what was supposed to be one month.

No one is more surprised than me to find myself here. I had absolutely no intention whatsoever in going off it for so long. 30 days was my agreed limit. A supportive gesture that surprised me with it's benefits. So much so that I decided to keep going to 365. And now here I am, pretty sure I'll never go back.

The funny thing about giving up alcohol is that everybody thinks you've got a back story. You're an alcoholic. You're sick. You're dying. Something terrible has happened. I still enjoy the fact that when you ask for a non-alcoholic beer in a bar or restaurant there's a pause ('Is she joking?'), and then a hurried, averted-eyes response - 'Of course, yes, no problem...' ('Oh my GOD she must be an alcho. Quick, act normal'). The truth of course is a lot more boring.

I stopped drinking for 30 days with my boyfriend. A challenge. A test to see what health benefits might occur. With the support of One Year No Beer this was more about the good things might come from it, rather than depriving ourselves. This mental shift was one of the most powerful things in making the experience so positive.

I became highly productive, brimming with energy. Skin, sleep and mood improved. Weekends were spent in the great outdoors instead of dragging myself around town with a faint headache and a desire for bedtime.

I painted the house, finished a diploma, completed the first draft of a book, did a triathlon, ran a sub-50-minute 10k race, hiked 120k of the camino, took to sunrise swimming, still went out, and learned a huge amount about myself while doing it.

Turns out you can accomplish lots of things when you're not drinking / hungover.

When you tell people you've stopped drinking, (and assure them that there's no tragic backstory), they always wonder whether you were a real drinker in the first place. I can assure you that I was. My typical week would be maybe half a bottle of wine midweek, a couple of beers one night of the weekend, and then a couple of beers and another half bottle of wine the next night. Of course some weekends were much heavier, though nothing 'worrying' in terms of what we all seem to consider normal these days. That will be a lot more than some of you, and a lot less than others.

I reckon I save at least €200 a month not drinking, that's about €2500 a year. Which would translate into a pretty amazing holiday if you were so inclined. Me? I started a pension plan instead. So yeah, who says not drinking makes you boring?

Do I still get stressed about things? Certainly. But I'm now more likely to reach for the running shoes rather than the bottle to relax. Do I still get cravings? Occasionally I'll eye up a glass of red wine and consider 'just one'. But really there's no such thing. A year after giving up, I no longer agonise over the decision of whether or not I will drink again. I've gained more from giving it up than anything I might have lost. This quote seems more and more apt the further down the road I go. It's just easier to not drink 100% of the time.
The weirdest thing about the whole experience is that the spell of alcohol is suddenly broken, and you see it for what it is. I'm not here to lecture anyone about the merits or dangers of drink, but a conversation with your kids about it is highly recommended. With little prompting mine came out with nuggets such as 'Grown ups are scary when they're drunk'; 'They become like different people'; 'Everyone is loud and stupid'. Hmm.

Society has normalised our drinking habits to such a degree that to not drink is considered to be weird, boring, suspicious. But it's worth breaking the spell just once in your adult life, so that you can look from the other side of the fence with a clear mind and then decide which field you want to set up camp in. You might be as surprised as I am with your choice.

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