I woke up with a bit of a hangover on January 1st 2014, and I can’t remember having a hangover ever since. So that’s a full year without a hangover – pretty good right? Or if you’re a party animal maybe that’s your idea of hell. Don’t get me wrong, I have had the odd drink, I remember having a few sips of champagne at a wedding in July and I had one glass of wine to celebrate getting engaged, but apart from that I’ve not had any wild nights that I can tell you about. What I can fill you in on though, is my experience of trying to cope without drinking alcohol, and all the social, mental and physical repercussions that came with that struggle. I’m not saying that everyone’s experience will be the same, and I didn’t give up alcohol because I was an alcoholic (although I did use it as a crutch at times) so if you think you have a serious problem I suggest you talk to a health professional. If you are just curious about what it would be like to give up alcohol for another reason, then read on.
I don’t remember the day I decided to give up alcohol. I was going through some personal issues and the doctor advised that I didn’t drink whilst I tried to get better, and I avoided it for a while, but before long temptation took over and I started drowning my sorrows in red wine. The people close to me could tell it wasn’t helping but most of them let me get it out of system and I think I needed to do that to see that it wasn’t helping. So for a second time I tried to avoid it and I seemed to succeed.
The first stumbling block for me was that it can make ‘going out’ extremely awkward. You’re close friends will understand your decision, but it doesn’t always stop it from being a little strange that they are all sipping cocktails and doing shots whilst you knock back your 5th Diet Coke of the evening. Some people will try to convince you to have ‘just one’ or ‘just a couple’, but to me that was a slippery slope that I wasn’t confident venturing down, and I’m certain it would have ended in tears at the end of the night. A stronger person might be able to stop after one, but not me I’m afraid!
So anyway, by the time everyone else is drunk and dancing on the table that’s when I would normally call a taxi and make a swift exit. That’s another thing no one tells you about not drinking – you WILL go home alone, earlier than everyone else and you WILL have to pay the entire taxi fare yourself as a result. But I guess you only spend a few pounds in soft drinks instead of £50 on buying rounds for the whole gang so it’s not too bad.
So yes, I will go out to bars and clubs when I am invited, although I only really go when its a special occasion and it would never be my choice. For example, I would go if it was a friend’s birthday and that’s what she really wanted to do. I personally would rather catch a movie or go to a restaurant. So I kind of stopped going out to bars and clubs altogether, and not because I’ve not been invited, but because when you meet new people you have to explain yourself all over again. All of my close friends know that I don’t drink and they don’t make a big deal about it thankfully.
However, some people will be so astonished at this fact that they will proceed to interrogate you in-depth about the reasons behind your decision, whilst you queue at the bar for yet another Diet Coke. I couldn’t handle this conversation for a very long time. I used to say I wasn’t drinking that night because I was working the next day, or had an early workout at the gym, or that I had no money. The thought of having this conversation with a stranger made me so anxious that I tried to avoid it at all costs.
Considering I gave up alcohol to help with my anxiety problems, you can see why having a drink had helped ease my nerves in the past. Have a drink and no one will pick you out as different, and it’ll give you more confidence to act normally in a social situation. Just deal with the hangover tomorrow. No, I couldn’t deal with that vicious cycle any longer so I avoided social situations where drink was involved.
Over the past year I have realised that it’s probably just me who has the problem, not everyone else. At the same time, if they make a big issue of you not drinking, maybe it says more about them and what they need to cope. And here’s where my next point proves very important – never act smug about not drinking alcohol. Yes, I feel great now that I don’t drink. But some people drink a glass of red wine everyday and they too feel great. Some people get smashed at the weekends because they work all week-long and that’s what gets them through.
I do wonder why so many people appear to be dependent on booze, but I also know that I was dependent too, and its so tempting and really enjoyable at times! Everyone is fighting their own battle everyday, with problems that we are unaware of, so if they like to drink then I say just let them be.
Have you given up alcohol?