#56 Quit alcohol for 10 days

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut” – Ernest Hemingway


Not drinking alcohol is a new experience for me. There. I said it. And I’d feel a lot more ashamed if I didn’t know that many people my age would also say the same thing.

Drinking alcohol is part and parcel of everyday life.  Not just in mine, but in my friends, co-workers, and…well, in the lives of pretty much everyone I know. You meet a friend in the morning, sure you meet for coffee – we aren’t heathens. But, you meet a friend at any time after 12pm, and you are meeting for a beer or a wine…and maybe some food. Maybe.

Tough day at the office? Mine’s a gin and tonic!

Need to unwind after a busy day? Pass me a beer!

Celebrating? Crack open the vino collapso!

Drinking alcohol helps you make friends, feel confident, and have fun, even in situations where no fun exists.

I’ve always viewed non-drinkers are eyed with suspicion. Are they ill? Fun-deniers? Alcoholics? Communists? All of the above? There’s something deeplly suspicious about someone who will not only see you drunk with a sober eye, but who will also remember everything about the evening.

During my visit to the UK, every friend wanted to catch up, which was lovely, but 99.9% of the time that involved some alcohol. This means that I drank every single day except three. That’s a solid 24 days straight drinking. Not just ‘a beer’, but at least three or four each night, and on a few nights you could times that quantity by three. One evening, towards the end of my trip, and following a boozing afternoon in the sun, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my mother looking back at me. It was at that point that I decided to quit drinking.

Unlike many other drunken decisions I’ve made in my life, I remembered this one. The upholding of this decision was also helped by having the hangover from hell the next day.

Two days later, I returned to NZ about 3kg heavier, with painful heartburn, feeling generally pretty ill, but determined to stick to my guns.

When I was in my early 20’s I could (and did) happily get tanked up at least four times a week with no ill effect. I took pride in my ability to drink a bottle of wine to myself (minimum), and still be able to handle a few shots at the bar. My friends and I had fun, pulling random men, dancing in the street, eating dirty kebabs on the way home. We fought and cried too, but those incidents were mainly blotted out in the drunken confusion, and anyway, it was fun calling my friends the morning after the night before to fill in the blanks about what happened the night before. And it was sort of novel counting the UDI’s (unknown drinking injuries) the next day – ‘where the hell did that bruise come from?’.

But as I edge further into my 30’s, these things stop being fun and start becoming tragic. Getting drunk and pulling men in bars starts getting a bit pathetic when you are approaching 40. Drinking injuries look terrible, and memory lapses just make me panicky. Also hangovers last for two days, I put on weight despite eating healthily and exercising, and – most troubling of all – is that alcohol now gives me gastritis and GERD.

Alcohol no longer agrees with me  

As the adult child of two alcoholic parents, I’ve always kept an eye on my drinking for fear of falling into the same patterns as my parents did. My mother wasn’t a pleasant drunk, and while she has been alcohol free for around 10 years now, sadly she can’t repair the damage she caused to her family relationships. I always vowed I would not be like either of my parents, and this is why I never drink at home, alone. Don’t misunderstand me, that’s never meant that I’m not drinking just as much…I just go out with friends so I’m not drinking alone.

For years, going out for a drink 2-3 times a week has been normal for me, but the recent month long holiday binge made me evaluate my relationship with alcohol, and made me decide that a rest was needed. When things cease to be fun,or you don’t like what you see in the mirror, to continue to do those things is just madness.

I didn’t want to post this as a ‘new thing’ until I had a good clear ten days under my belt, because I cannot remember the last time I went so long without drinking alcohol. But now, I am delighted to share the following that I have learnt from this experience, a full ten days in:

  • Not drinking is pretty easy. I say this from the point of view of someone who does not have a physical addition to alcohol, as of course if you did, you need to follow medical advice, and I’m sure the experience is a lot bloody harder. However, I found not drinking isn’t too difficult, and I’ve only had one challenging event, and that was a work function with free wine. I just stuck with water, and if anyone asked if I wanted a drink I just said I had the car with me and had a long drive ahead (I did, and I’d never drink and drive).
  • I feel so much better in myself. It may be psychosomatic, but I feel healthier. I’m sure my skin already looks more hydrated and brighter. Exercise is easier, and so is getting out of bed in the morning.
  • I’ve lost weight. Ok, so only 0.5kg in a week, but it’s still weight loss.
  • The first weekend was weird. Weekends are when I always drink, so last weekend was weird. I found myself with all this time on my hands as I got up earlier without a hangover. What do you do at the weekend without drinking? What do you talk to friends about if you aren’t a bit merry? It’s a little harder to plan activities, which is why I treated myself to a massage, took a walk to Takapuna, and visited an exhibition.
  • I’ve already saved money. Considering the average I’d spend on any drinking night is about $40 – so at least $120 per week – I’m already dollars in. Which is handy, considering I’m already broke post-holiday!

I don’t think I’ll give up alcohol for good, but I think it will do me good to keep this up for now and give my poor system a rest.  Or maybe I will give it up for good. Who knows? This experience may impress me so much I don’t want to touch another drop of booze. I’ll just keep it up for now and wait and see.

But for now, considering how much better I feel 10 days in, I’ll rate this experience – 4 out of 5 stars.

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