I didn’t stop drinking because I have a problem, trust me I did look into this possibility before I stopped as I wanted to know for sure. I am what is called a “Social Drinker” – One who drinks when they are in social settings and only in moderate quantities. I don’t drink until I pass out or black out or even vomit, I almost never drink shots or shooters and don’t even drink much in the way of spirits, and I most certainly never feel I NEED alcohol or that only alcohol could make me feel better. I have also never woken up and thought “I’d quite like a drink right now”. Never. Yet still, even for the “Social Drinker” or Social Butterfly or whatever other endearing name you choose for yourself, giving up alcohol is not for the faint of heart. If you’re not what is classically defined as an alcoholic, but rather a social drinker it is actually still very, very difficult. Let me explain.
Quitting Drinking is so Hard
When I was drinking I did not think about alcohol very much. Seriously. Drinking wasn’t planned, I didn’t give it much thought at all and I certainly didn’t spend much of my time with my head in my hands thinking “THIS IS SO HARD”. I certainly posted memes on Facebook about it more than I’d indulge in it. Previously (prior to this last week) I’d just turn up to see my friends and ordered a drink. Simples! Now, I have to go through all my prior engagements, determine the location (e.g. a meeting in a Brewery is probably not wise), the level of temptation and start to generate various excuses and reasons why I’m not drinking while also fielding questions about the state of tenancy of my womb. It is very tempting to just tell people I am an alcoholic, but that diminishes a very difficult disease and the struggles that people go through.
In the last week, I have spent many, many hours debating with myself over the virtues of my self-inflicted sobriety experiment and then of course wrestling with the “just have one demon” who seems to think it is not possible to have fun without alcohol. It is definitely possible to have fun without alcohol, if you think it is not, then perhaps we should have a talk offline. In fact, if you NEED alcohol (or any other substance) to have fun, then you either are the problem or you have a problem. Perhaps it all returns to the fear of being vulnerable or the fear of the ridicule which might come with showing your vulnerability, and therefore requiring alcohol to give you the courage to talk about difficult or unpleasant things. Or perhaps there is a real dependency on substances to alter or mask reality for a while.
Why give up at all?
I have stopped drinking alcohol because I am experimenting with my body. My weightloss has stagnated over the years, despite “eating clean” and regularly burning 3,000 calories a day, granted I have in that time, had surgeries which have kept off my feet for extended periods, but still the plateau still feels like an extremely hurtful betrayal by my body. And then it dawned on me, I was a bit slow here I admit – maybe I am the one betraying my body, not the other way around. Alcohol is known to be inflammatory and inflammation is the number one enemy of weight loss (other than the obvious too many calories in, not enough out), combine inflammation with stress and you are a fat generating machine. That is not the type of machine I wish to be. I need to remove the inflammation and the unnecessary stress, which means having plenty of difficult conversations and making difficult choices but it will all be worth it in the end. It means a good few months of finding more healthy outlets for my time and venting my frustrations or indeed, dealing with stress. It’s about implenting that Self-care I’m so notoriously bad at.
Also, there are a number of extremely heavy drinkers, both living and deceased, in my extended family and alcohol has always been a part of family celebrations, commiserations and a relaxant after “a long, tough day”. I have always been aware of its presence, even though my father never drank alcohol (I don’t know with certainty if he never even tried it or tried it and didn’t like it) there has always been alcohol around. This recently circled back into my awareness and made me question its usefulness and I am now pretty clear that alcohol is not an ally. I have seen alcohol ruin lives, ruin special days and events, ruin friendships and relationships and even put careers, at the very least in jeopardy, if not bring them to an end completely. And it most certainly causes irrational mood swings and violent tendencies in some, including saying things they would never, ever say if alcohol wasn’t involved and you just cannot take the hurt that is caused back because you “didn’t mean it”. Being sober while others are not, gives you so much more insight into behaviours and that can only help my people-based career. So onward and upward it is for me and my sober experiment.
Since this is a Fitness Blog, here are some health related alcohol stats, because informed is always better:
- Unit guidelines have recently been adjusted and are now the same for Women AND Men at 14 Units per Week.
- That is: 6 pints of beer 1092 calories; 6 x175ml glasses of Wine 954 calories; 9 x 125ml glasses of champagne 774 calories; 6 pints of cider 1250 calories; 14 Single Shots of Spirits 854 calories (excludes mixers); 12 x 275ml bottles of alcopop e.g. WKD 2040 calories – over the course of one whole week, not just one night.
- For me, drinking on weekends ONLY, I was still drinking close to 1.5 times my weekly unit limit. Or taking onboard, an additional 2220-2270 calories every single week.
- To create 1lb of fat, the body only requires only 3,500 excess calories. Add to your drinking, the excess carby snacks and you’ll find yourself quickly adding a pound a week to your body.
I have combined this “no drinking experiment” with a “selfie project”, which involves taking one selfie every day at the same time and always after a shower, and comparing them in a collage after 30, 60 and 90 days to determine if there is a visible difference to my face during this experiment. Stay tuned to see the results. Next week, I will start to capture my workouts, I have been focusing on one thing at a time.
P.S. If you are looking to make positive changes in any area of your life, sign up for a free 45-minute Discovery Session here.