A year without alcohol

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Glass of red wine
My glass of red wine on Easter Sunday

Friends who’ve known me a long time would say that I was the least likely person to stop drinking for an evening, never mind the best part of a year.

In fact I can hardly believe that 12 months have gone by since I decided to not drink alcohol.

Last Easter we spent a lovely day lunching with friends and along with that lunch there was plenty of wine.  I felt happy as we headed for home and bed.  But by 4am I was wide awake, my senses alert, heart racing and feeling like adrenaline was whizzing around my system.

Aside from the health cost of drinking a bottle (and often more than that) of wine, the immediate and noticeable cost for me was the broken sleep.  I spent Easter Monday so tired.  I wasted the whole day stuffing rounds of toast down my neck and generally not achieving anything.

So I decided then on the spur of the moment to see what it would be like to not drink for a bit.  I didn’t commit to not drinking for 12 months, but instead to take it a day at a time. And I didn’t tell anyone either.  I just quietly decided to see where it would take me.

My birthday was the following day – so that was the first test.  I faltered as I ordered an apple juice.  A glistening glass of Pinot Grigio seems a far more fitting drink to celebrate my birthday.  It’s not just the taste or the mellowing effect as the alcohol hits my senses, but the way the light cuts through the yellow hues casting golden lights on the table top, the tiny drops of condensation on the glass and the coolness and weight of that glass in my hand .

I missed that first glass of unordered wine and probably the second and third too.  But I enjoyed the feeling of clarity and wakefulness later on that evening and the next day.

It was weird going to parties and social occasions.  Without alcohol I felt like I was only partly engaged, like a spectator rather than a particapator and I felt an overwhelming need to apologise for my sobriety.

But after a while the not drinking becomes the norm and I successfully navigated my way around my parents’ golden wedding celebrations, holidays to Center Parcs and France along with other events.

I sleep better without alcohol. There’s none of that remorse either: “I said what?”, those sinking moments when you remember that tact and sense don’t usually go hand in hand with a few drinks.  And I don’t get hangovers.  Hangovers just get in the way of life.  I never want to exercise if I’ve got one so not drinking has helped my fitness increase.

And best of all I wake up raring to go, wanting to pack as much as I can into every 24 hours.

It wasn’t a year without alcohol though.  I decided that Christmas was a good time to make an exception to the rule and drank Baileys and the occasional glass of wine to help the festivities along.

But along with a few other glasses of wine for Mother’s Day and a couple of other occasions this year I’ve had, over the course of a year, less alcohol than I previously drank in a fortnight.

So it’s been a success but now I’m wondering where to go from here. I had a few drinks over this Easter – nothing wild, just a glass or two with dinner.  And that’s how I’d like to keep it.  The occasional drink.

It seems like the healthy way to go.

I’m hoping the habits I’ve developed over the last year will stay firmly etched into my way of life. I don’t day-dream about that first glass of wine in the evening as a marker between the stresses of the day and that moment of relaxation as the day comes to its close – for me a peppermint tea does that – hard to believe, but true.

I’ve learned some lessons too that will help me…

1. No one else really cares whether I drink or not.  They did at first: “What, not drinking? Are you feeling all right?” but that was only because it was a change from the norm.  Once the new norm was established it became: “I guess you don’t want a drink?” or just “Fancy a tea?”

2. Drinking or not drinking doesn’t really change an evening out.  Ok so I probably won’t be dancing on the table tops at 2am if I’ve been sipping mineral water but I will still enjoy myself.

3. If I drink on an empty stomach ie. as I’m preparing dinner it affects me very quickly and I will end up not caring how much I drink – and I will almost certainly drink too much.

4. Whereas if I only drink once I’ve eaten some dinner I will probably stop at one drink.

5. A little alcohol doesn’t seem to affect my sleep as long as I have a) drunk plenty of water during the day, b) drunk water alongside any alcohol and c) drank the alcohol early in the evening rather than shortly before bedtime.

Whereas I used to find drinking addictive I now find feeling healthy and full of vitality is equally addictive.

If a doctor told me I had to give up alcohol completely tomorrow I would. But on the other hand I think its nice to have an occasional glass once in a while.

So I will.


4 thoughts on “A year without alcohol”

  1. Well done

    You have a perfect no nonsence attitude towards this topic.
    I drink much less than I used to, but I went all the way through a coma and nine months in a hospital to achieve the same.(Not drink related). The bonus is my husband has given up drinking completely, so it means there is no wine at home and I haven’t had a Heineken for years (literally).
    I am NOT going to give up drinking but it doesn’t rule my life either.
    The other coma-related bonus is that I stopped biting my nails, and am writing a book.

    1. Thank you Yolanda and wow…your story is quite amazing. I’m glad I achieved my period of non-drinking in a less dramatic way. I think a period away from drink can reset our drinking habits. Not always, I’ve read of people giving up for a year and then getting straight back into where they were. For me it’s about being healthy so I’m much happier with how I am now than how I was. Well done on the nail biting and good luck with the book – is it about your experience?

      1. It’s mostly about my “process” as I call it, although I include a bit about my past, but not much, so people know who i am , where I come from, and what I was doing before the thing started. I also mean to accompany the book with a recording of the English side, (using my voice and that of my brother, although mine is a bit crappy right now). Although initially I was writing it as a aort of “purge” without much of an intention of getting it published, now I would like it to be read especially because of the acknowledgements and the fact that it might be helpful to other people. We’ll see…

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