Most of us enjoy a tipple when we’re out or even in at home snuggled up on the sofa. But when does drinking become an issue? When does it stop being a treat and start becoming a habit? How do you know when you are drinking too much alcohol?
A lot of people these days take part in Dry January – a great way to detox after the boozy Christmas break and to raise a little cash for charity too – win win. But myself, I wasn’t quite ready this January to go dry. And I’m one of those people who if you force them to do something when they’re not ready, it just doesn’t happen. So as it was set to fail right from the off, I kept my January well and truly wet.
Fast forward a couple of months and I was lying by an infinity pool in the Dominican Republic enjoying a cuba libre and the urge hit me. It was time to give up booze.
In this job there’s alcohol everywhere. We get awesome partnerships for cocktail recipes, press trips with plentiful table wine and so many events with open bars and welcome drinks it’s hard to say no. I’d got to the point where I was having a drink pretty much every day with one thing or another – a boozy press lunch, girls night, pub quizzes, beauty launches, restaurant reviews or just a stressful day in the office which resorted in a large glass of red.
I know I’m not the only one out there who turns to a tipple when life gets stressy. So many of us do it because it’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s god damn enjoyable. By the time that last sip trickles down your throat you’re already feeling more relaxed, the tribulations from the day are fading and everything seems a little, well, lighter.
But the next day we wake up with a slightly fuzzy head, we’re a little more dehydrated than usual and the smallest stresses become harder to deal with. So what happens when we get home? We need to unwind. And what’s half open in the fridge? The other two glasses of that wine we ‘need’ and ‘should probably finish so it doesn’t go bad’.
So many of us rely on alcohol to de-stress, and while it’s not necessarily a problem, it does make us lazy with our own healing, our own mindfullness, our own self-soothing. There’s got to be another way.
So I started Dry April. No booze for the whole month to break some habits, lose a bit of weight and re-connect with my own mindfulness. And I actually discovered quite a lot about myself along the way…
What Happened When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol
I Lost Weight – I actually lost half a stone (7lbs) during my dry April by cutting out the booze. I was being mindful of my food as well but losing weight is actually pretty easy when you’re not wasting a few hundred calories on wine every other night. Who knew!
I Was More Motivated – I felt more sprightly in the mornings most days. Not that I was ever hungover before, but I think the lack of dehydration and a proper night sleep really helped. Also because I knew I was making a positive step for my own well-being made me more excited and motivated for life.
I Saved Money – You don’t realise how quickly those £7 Friday and Saturday bottles of wine add up, or a couple of pints at the pub mid week. I actually ended up saving a fair bit of dosh during my dry month so I treated myself to a new dress!
I Slept Better – Falling asleep is easy when you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine, but the quality of your sleep is never good. I found myself getting really good, deep nights sleep when I was off the booze – and my dreams were less scary too!
I Ticked Off Bucket List Items – All those things you’ve wanted to do for a while but were too expensive to get to in a taxi? Guess what, when you’re designated driver the world is your oyster! You can go further afield and try loads of new stuff, find new restaurants and accomplish more with your Sunday if you’re not a hungover mess from a night out before!
I Felt More Confident – I used to think that my confidence in group situations or at parties was due to the dutch courage. But actually, it turns out I’m pretty alright on my own! I felt so confident without the old booze when walking into rooms, meeting new people and attending big events. It turns out I’m not as shy as I once thought!
I Found New Ways To Relax – This was a biggie for me, I found new ways to switch off an unwind that didn’t involve a glass of wine and a Netflix series. I smashed it out at the gym, took Toby out for a long walk, started a new book, enjoyed bubble baths with a relaxing playlist. I even tried my hand at yoga! They weren’t as fast working as a big glas of sauv blanc but they did the trick just the same and I felt a lot better for them.
Tips On How To Cut Down Drinking
Buy Yourself Other Treats – As I wasn’t drinking my calories I let myself eat some foods that are usually off the table. Pate, a bit of cheese, my favourite chocolate biscuits. Having those little treats in the house that I knew I could enjoy in place of alcohol was great for the mental side of things…even if they did defeat the object of weight loss!
Find Alcohol Substitutes – There are some great tasting alcohol free substitutes out there these days. I enjoyed a Becks Blue with a slice of lime in the pub (Brewdog Nanny State is also pretty good), and a lovely refreshing Elderflower Presse with ice and a big slice of lime makes for a nice drink in your wine glass. I also found that just enjoying slimline tonic with lime and no gin was nice and it helps trick your brain when you’re first trying to break those habits or even make yourself a mocktail!
Understand Your Triggers – For me I found a big trigger was when I was stressed at at home alone. A glass of red wine was a great way to unwind, de-stress and comfort me as well as forming something to do as I started my new boxset! Do you drink after a stressful day? Maybe get a bit too carried away when you’re out with your friends? Take a look at your triggers and try to find alternatives to help you in the more boozy times.
Talk About It – Put it out there! Tell people you’re doing a dry month and then there’s no turning back! If you say you’re doing something out loud not only does it make it more real for you, but you’ll also have the support of your mates too. They’ll know to order you a coke at the bar instead of your normal beer, or they might even join you in solidarity on girls night with that elderflower presse! Should it loud and shout it proud, you’re looking after yourself and that’s amazing.
I honestly feel amazing after my Dry April and I’ve seen a difference in so many areas of my life. I’ve gone back on the booze but I’ve broken so many habits. I use my other coping mechanisms when I need to unwind, I’m in the habit of not always ordering something alcoholic when I head to the pub quiz and I stop drinking at a certain point on nights out so I still have my Sundays to go out and do awesome stuff! Oh, and I’m still dropping lbs and feeling fantastic!
Look after yourself, be aware of those habits and most of all enjoy…responsibly!
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