We Brits love a drink. We drink to celebrate, to sympathize, to bond, to relax, to capture courage and to relieve boredom. Whether your team wins, loses or draws, it’s a chance to sink the pint. We add alcohol to just about every event, from mini golf lessons and BYOB pottery, to weekend brunches and “baby head hydration.” Even Business Events in Downing Street Apparently Comes with wine leather.
For 15 years, I’ve been drinking as much as I needed to save the alcohol industry on its own from collapsing. Then it stopped. There wasn’t a devastating moment when I realized I had gone too far. There have been many and it has happened regularly over the years, but I have always found a way to excuse my drinking.
I guess I’ve always known my relationship with alcohol was problematic, but since many of my peers and people I looked up to did the same things, I saw my behavior as “acceptably unhealthy”. Like many, I started drinking long before I could legally buy a bottle of WKD Blue at the corner store. Part of it was the desire to adapt and appear “fun,” and part of it was a response to trauma.
Separating these two intertwined threads has been one of the hardest parts of my journey towards better health. As a highly anxious person, alcohol has been my crutch in social situations. As someone with PTSD symptoms, it was a short escape.
The pandemic has had such an impact that I – like many – have found myself stuck indoors for long periods of time. Drinking at home has become something that happens every day. It is no longer a social activity and I did not enjoy it; It was just the thing to numb bad memories, the low-level noise of unhappiness and the self-hating voice in my head.
Covid restrictions eventually forced me to grapple with some of the things I was avoiding simply because I couldn’t stay in a vicious cycle of “going out to get food regularly” that was making me semi-distracted the whole time. Big life changes, like moving home and work, gave me more impetus to actually sort out my behavior.
I no longer wanted to be the person paralyzed by hangovers and anxiety, or the person who doesn’t remember a night out. I didn’t want to continue to be the one who was hopelessly self-absorbed, destroying his health and his relationships with others. I needed to realize that my worst professional and personal mistakes were related to alcohol. None of this was actually “fun”, nor did it make good stories – only sad, pathetic ones.
I told myself I was drinking to relax and enjoy myself, but only giving up the booze finally allowed me to do these things. Mine Non-alcoholic Relaxing time in the evenings and on holidays makes me feel fresh and energetic. I am more present with my friends and family and I can give more to them. Without the veil of sugar and its consequences, I can be the person I truly want for those I love and care about.
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The little things like better sleep and diet, clearer skin and increased motivation have been a blessing, but the big things are the positive impact on my career and how this change has revolutionized my life. Psychological health. I still have bad days feeling sad and confused, but I handle it differently now.
At first, I experienced a loss of identity, just as I did while recovering from anorexia, but I took this opportunity to reawaken the parts of myself that had been stifled by alcohol—my deep love for reading, being a good listener, my logical and orderly side and my interest in the natural world. I have more energy to be active and am able to set healthy boundaries.
I was fortunate to have escaped my physical withdrawal symptoms when I stopped drinking. The hardest part was the defensive or dismissive reactions of other people. But most of them offered support and I found special encouragement from those who started this journey before me, who recommended 0.0 percent beer to me and sent cards and flowers to celebrate the completion of my first 100 days. Unfortunately, there were less pleasant moments in which I felt excluded, but I see this more as a product of a society steeped in drinking culture.
I’m not here to tell anyone that they should ditch the booze, just to share the possibilities that opened up my alcohol-free life. I was so resistant to the idea that alcohol had been negatively affecting me for so long that I never thought about what I would do for myself and those around me by stopping drinking. It has proven to be a gift, not a loss, and I am grateful for that.