I wrote the below in August 2019 but it’s been in draft until now. I thought about it again now I’m basically dry until the baby arrives.
I’ve never done a period off booze. Not that I’m a heavy drinker or ever have been. I’ve enjoyed social drinking and good binge session for more than 2 decades now and never felt the need to do a dry January.
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed boozing less and less. I still love the taste of craft beer and good wine, but my hangovers are getting longer and longer. Sometimes they last until the third day.
It isn’t always throbbing headaches. It’s also a feeling of not being too sharp and slightly foggy-headed. I’ve toyed with the idea of would my life improve greatly if I just gave it up.
At the end of July, I went to a craft beer place with one of my best mates and some of his mates from Sussex, and one or three turned into 6 or 7 strong ones, and before I knew it, I couldn’t remember how I got home. I haven’t been like this for a long, long time.
I decided to stop drinking any alcohol for the month of August. I’ve heard about One Year No Beer, where you sign up for a year-long challenge to not drink any alcohol. Testimonials rave as to the benefits of clarity and clear-headedness. A year was a bit too long for me and my Dad was surprisingly sceptical about me giving up booze. His main reason was that he didn’t want me to beat myself up if I ended up having a drink. Surely, it isn’t that hard to give up drinking? I’m not an addict. I don’t drink on weekdays and I generally steer clear of getting drunk these days.
People who give up alcohol generally report vague words like: “more clarity”, “more energy”. It’s all very vague. For me, the thing I’ve noticed the most is that I feel like I have a To-Do list that I just want to keep adding to and I have this urge to consistently smash my to list. I suddenly want to get things done that I would normally put off such as emptying the vacuum cleaner. I get up early on Saturdays and Sundays and go swimming. I just feel ‘on it’. Sharper and more mentally agile. My aggression levels are up a bit (not that I’m shouting at people) but more that I push harder in the gym and better shrug off things that would normally give me anxiety.
I’m also sleeping better. I’m starting to feel tired around 10pm and actively yawning. My eyes start to feel heavy and the pillow on my face is a welcome relief. I don’t sleep all the way through unbroken but this is a serious improvement on my normal sleeping patterns.
Could this be down to something other than not drinking? Quite possibly. I’ve also been exercising a lot. Lots of cardio and lots of weights. That could be raising my testosterone levels. But it could be down to no alcohol. Alcohol increases oestrogen, so it makes sense for the opposite to reduce oestrogen and therefore increase testosterone. My sleep is also better quality and for longer which also has a direct positive effect on testosterone.
I also like the feeling of exerting self-discipline. Not cracking when I would normally fancy a beer, particularly on weekends or at social events. It’s been fortunate to coincide the dry month with a month where I have very little in the calendar in terms of socials. If it had been a month full of 40th birthday celebrations, then it might have been a bit more of a struggle. Peer group pressure is a powerful thing even if wielded with subtlety. I find that there’s even self-peer group pressure, as you don’t want to be the party-pooper.
Do I miss alcohol? Not for the first weekends. I still love the taste of craft beer and good wine. And I still like feeling tipsy and drunk (but not too drunk). That first drink after the break will be interesting. I wonder what I’ll like and dislike about it.
So back to today! How did the rest of August go? By the end of the month, I was gagging for a beer or three. Particularly on some of the blazingly hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekends, when all I wanted to do was have an ice-cold beer. The last weekend fell on the 31st Aug, and it would have been easy to capitulate but I resisted, just to get the full calendar month.
I’m doing it again at the moment as the due date for baby Chan is Boxing Day, and I don’t want to be a bit pissed if suddenly labour comes on. It’s been two weeks without a beer (bar a couple of afternoon glasses of wine last Saturday in the pub). And I’m starting to feel similar effects to what I felt in August: feeling more ‘on it’ and more ‘getting shit done’ and it’s probably no coincidence that I went swimming this morning and about to go for a run.
Give it a go. Commit to a month without booze and see what the effects are. If you’re a social drinker, I’m sure you’ll feel the positive effects!