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Take a break from alcohol and change your life

photo of Liz Barker
by
Liz Barker
on
June 2, 2020
contributing author:
a group of people around a campfire laughing

Our friends at One Year No Beer have written this great guest article for us about taking a break from drinking. Having worked with many recovering alcoholics it’s something that is close to us. We also see so many of our clients who above all diet and training struggle with drinking and as these guys will explain it spirals on a down hill into all aspects of our daily life. If you stop it just think what you might achieve and how you might feel.

Take a Break From Alcohol and Change Your Life

Taking a break from drinking is the one thing that you can do right now that has the potential to transform every aspect of your life.

We’re not even exaggerating. Imagine your life neatly divided up in a pie chart. What’s in there? Work, relationships, health, sense of wellbeing, money, friendships…there’s not one slice of that pie that can’t be improved by taking a break from the booze.

So where to start?

How about this: maybe you’ve already started. You might have already had your last alcoholic drink. The point being, giving up the booze can be pretty much immediate – and so are some of the benefits both in the short and long term.

Your Body Will Thank You

Chances are that if we could see the impact that alcohol has on the liver alone, we’d all jump at the chance to take a break from drinking.

Liver function is crucial. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of your liver being happy and reducing your alcohol intake is one of the very best ways to take care of this powerhouse organ.

Within hours, your industrious liver will be working to remove any alcoholic residue from your bloodstream and your blood sugar will be normalising. Over the next few days, you’ll start to feel more energetic, both physically and mentally. Your skin will look better and your sleep will be deeper and more refreshing.

Three weeks in, you’ve lessened the risk of stroke and heart problems. After 4 weeks, pat yourself on the back – you’ve reduced any liver fat by up to 15 percent. Once you’ve celebrated a whole year of being booze-free, you’ll have increased your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals and reduced the risk of developing certain cancers, diabetes and liver disease.

Even if you decide to return to drinking alcohol after your alcohol-free period, you are less likely to drink as much as you did before as you have changed your relationship with alcohol and have the information you need to make controlled decisions about when to consume it.

Improved Mental Health

Alcohol has dined out on its reputation for being a relaxant for too long. Some myths are there to be exploded and booze-to-soothe is one of them.

That sense of tension draining from your mind and body as you take your first sip of wine in the evening is nothing more than a convincing placebo. Rethink your relationship with booze and a sip of chilled elderflower and soda will have the same effect. What’s more, the harsh reality is that when we drink too much, it creates its own stress.

By turning to alcohol, you are effectively numbing yourself from the stress and whatever has caused it – rather than dealing with the stressor. Additionally, alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down the central nervous system, causing a decrease in motor coordination, reaction time and intellectual performance. Alcohol lowers our heart rate and breathing, which can help us to feel more relaxed but over time it can exacerbate anxious feelings and cause more stress than it relieves.

How many times have you woken up the next morning and groaned at something you might have said or done whilst under the influence of alcohol? Imagine never needing to cringe at a half-remembered, drunken memory again.

It won’t take long after committing to a break from alcohol for the anxiety caused by drinking to lift. That’s huge. Any meaningful boost to a positive mindset, self-esteem and sense of self-worth cannot help spilling out into other areas of our lives: work, relationships and all the other things that make us tick.

You’ll be getting more sleep and enjoying the kind of mental focus and renewed energy for work that wins promotions or helps to push you into a new, awesome direction.

Here’s the thing: when you feel calm, focused and empowered, you make better choices and decisions for yourself.

Relationships: Can You Relate?

Depending on how much you previously drank, taking a break from the booze might be the key to happier, more rewarding relationships. Heavy drinking can be destructive and stressful for the people in your life.

Even if you’re a moderate drinker, alcohol can cause barriers between two people connecting on a genuine level. The clarity of being alcohol-free has so many benefits – not only will you begin be more in tune with you, what you want from a relationship and your lifestyle choices, but you’ll also be spending quality time with your significant other.

By taking a break from drinking and finding a new sense of energy and a genuine feeling of positivity, you can transform your life and how you respond and relate to the people you love.

Get Rich Quick

Most people give up booze for health reasons. A few months later they find that the amount of money they’ve saved by not drinking is a welcome bonus.

Depending on your drinking habits, it can stack up – the average drinker spends around £1000 a year on booze. If you frequent wine bars and cocktail haunts or do most of your socialising in pubs, then you’re probably spending twice that amount. And that is before you factor in the peripheral costs of a night out. The taxi to and from the bar and the take-out food you pick up on the way home to soak up the alcohol in your stomach (and again the following day as you can’t face cooking). Not to mention those late-night drunk purchases that you forgot you ordered. Nearly 1 in 5 admit to having purchased items online whilst drunk, with a quarter of these having spent between £100 and £200, ouch! Alcohol is famous for causing people to lose their restraint in all kinds of ways. Wasting money is just another casualty of that dubious influence.

What else could you do with £2000? That dream holiday? A decent sum towards a house deposit? Maybe visiting family on the other side of the world. The choice is yours.

Goodbye to Booze, Not Your Social Life

Quitting alcohol doesn’t mean trips to the pub to meet up with friends have to go, or you need to turn down every social invitation that comes your way. You can still socialise – you’re just not drinking alcohol while you do it.

Chances are that your colleagues or friends will try to press a drink on you: our booze culture is so ingrained that many people find the idea of not drinking alcohol more of a challenge than the person giving up. Being prepared with some responses to inquisitive questioning is important to allow people to understand your decision.

Get Started With Stopping

Are you in? If you want to stop drinking, we’ve rounded up the best tips to get started:

  1. Buy some alcohol-free drinks that you really enjoy. As well as ready-made ones, try whizzing together fresh juices, flavoured soda waters, fruit and herbs to invent some fabulous mocktails. There is no reason why you can’t still cheers with something lovely in a special glass.
  2. Write down your goals. What are you aiming for? Do you want to stop drinking because you want to be healthier? Happier? Whatever is driving you forward, set it down in writing and be clear with yourself what you want to achieve. Even better, leave your list somewhere you can see it every day to be reminded why you made this decision for yourself.
  3. Practice dealing with peer pressure. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our society and how engrained alcohol has become in it, it is more than likely that you will face some kind of peer pressure at some stage. It’s odd that we have to fight for the right not to drink, but that’s how things can seem sometimes. Having a comical response can be a good way to disarm any probing and show you are comfortable with your choice.
  4. Get a hobby. Or get three hobbies. You’ll have more money, energy and drive to try new things, so make the most of it!
  5. Support. If you’d like some support from family and friends, explain to them why you have decided to take on an alcohol-free challenge and ask them for their support. Having an accountability buddy can be very helpful and who better to trust than your close family and friends. Alternatively, there are online communities you can join to share the trials and triumphs of taking a break from alcohol and receive support.
  6. Persist. If you have a wobble – or a drink – don’t panic. You haven’t failed. You’re doing brilliantly! Just put it behind you and keep moving forward, taking note of any triggers and how best you can avoid them next time around.

About the author: One Year, No Beer

OYNB is a behavioural change and lifestyle organisation aiming to transform the world’s relationship with alcohol through alcohol-free challenges. We believe that by re-addressing alcohol’s position in your life, you can unlock so much potential for positive change. Put yourself back in the driver’s seat and give yourself the control to choose when you’d like to drink, and when you’d prefer not to. Try one of our 28, 90 or 365-Day Challenges!