I wasn’t happy on January 1st 2018, I had woken up to another hangover, another night of blurred flashbacks and not a lot was making sense.
To be fair , it was New Years Eve and “everybody gets trashed on New Years” but for me, I knew it was time for a change. I wasn’t happy in life; the way I treated people when I was drinking, the way I looked, my overall moods… it all had to change. I was recommended Annie Grace’s book “This Naked Mind- Control Alcohol”
I started to read it with the intention that I will be able to have one or two glasses and be satisfied, like they seem to do on the movies.
However, I read the book in one day and as soon as I finished it, I knew I was never going to drink again – which is massive coming from me.
Anyway after a whole year, I thought I’d share my learnings from a piss head to a teetotaler.
It’s Just A Habit
For me (and for many others) it was just a habit that was hard-wired in my brain. For some people it’s a chemical addiction, but for most it’s an emotional additiction/habit. I used to drink for whatever reason I could find. Here are a few (you may relate to some):
To have fun
It’s Friday night
To congratulate myself
To congratulate other people
I’m in an airport
I’m on a flight
I’m on holiday
I’m sat at home with nothing to do
I love my job
I hate my job
It’s my birthday, it’s other people’s birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Bank holiday…
It’s Sunday Funday
…The list goes on.
I didn’t used to drink every night, but as you can see I would find any reason to have a drink. The other issue I had was, I couldn’t just sip one glass, I would be downing this stuff. In other words I was a classic binge drinker.
This Naked Mind attempts to rewire the way you think about alcohol, why you drink and then debunks those reasons. I.e. drink for confidence, to socialise, it makes me happy….
Once I understood why I was drinking and how misinformed I was, it was easier to unpick my behaviour and then change the habit. I can honestly say it was like a switch going off in my head.
How I was never tempted to go back (not even on my birthday)
I was the Rosé queen! It didn’t seem possible that someone could drink a glass from Provence in front of me without me snatching the glass away!
But there are two facts that help me not to snatch that glass away;
- Alcohol is the worst drug– I say this because it’s so enticing. It looks amazing when all the bottles are lit up at the back of the bar. You look great when you have a glass in your hand, because it’s been enforced in us to look aspirational (from adverts, movies, music..etc.) However it’s an addictive drug. It effects your brain, your mental health, organs, your choices, your relationships, your face, your weight, your skin… and not only is it accepted in society but you are looked down upon if you are not taking it. A good saying I learnt this year is; alcohol is the only drug you need an excuse to not take.
2. Twenty minute rule – In a nutshell; when I’m craving a drink, the only buzz I will get is the first twenty minutes. After that you are on a treadmill trying to get that buzz back.
This really related to me, because I would drink very quickly and that’s because I wanted to have a fresh new drink in my hand. I would then change my choice of drink throughout the evening in attempts to get a high. (that’s why you will go from gin, to wine then to a cocktail)
So once I knew I was only chasing that twenty minutes, then I realise it’s not really worth it because after those minutes are up, it’s actually quite stressful.
Why going completely dry is better than having one or two.
A message that really stood out to me from the Naked Mind is, it’s too stressful to be a restrictive drinker. You feel deprived when you’re not drinking and you’re ashamed when you are drinking. The reason why many people drink is because they believe it relieves stress. But if you are constantly counting your units then how is that helping you to relax?
I have found once alcohol had no hold on me, then you are not tempted by having even the one. Treat it like a bad relationship – alcohol is the abusive partner who messes with you head. You are better off getting rid of them altogether, then meeting up with them once or twice a week.
Society is not fair.
It really isn’t. We are all being pressured to drink – everywhere you turn; TV, billboards, retail deals, restaurants, bars, Amy from HR… It’s everywhere! All with a message that makes you believe you need the drink to have fun, to live your life, to prove it’s summer, winter, to celebrate…However, if for one second you are not in control of it, then society will quickly dismiss you. Being drunk on the streets, DUIs, hungover at work, public crying, fighting, drunken one night stands…. There are so many things that could go wrong.
But the fact is, alcohol is an addictive drug with horrific side effects, yet it is constantly being shoved in your face, so can you really put the whole blame on a human-being if something goes wrong?
I’m not going to waste my life waiting for Wine’O Clock to have fun.
I used to do activities like go on a country walk or go to the beach, but would be thinking about that glass of wine at the end of the walk or the piña colada on the beach. When you don’t have that hold on you anymore, then you actually appreciate the activity you are doing. That’s why I think so many people who stop drinking say they are happier altogether, because they are more aware of the little joys in life. Everything is a lot more colourful, when you remove the whites, reds and rosé from your life.
The same goes with socialising with friends. I used to think we all had to have a drink in our hands to talk to one another. The problem is, my mind will be on ‘what’s my next drink’, than what is my friend talking about. If they are your mate, then you find them interesting sober, if you don’t – then you need a new friend.
If you can’t beat them, join them (kind of.)
You are not going to change the culture overnight, which is why non-alcoholic beer/wine and gin works for me.
I’m aware for some sober people, the non-alcoholic alternatives do more harm than good. For me however, I feel like I have the best of both worlds, I can have the taste without being wasted – (or the fizz without the dizz!)
For example, a glass of sparking represents celebration in our culture, so I can have a glass of my non-alcoholic sparkling instead, and not end up crying in a couple of hours (yes I was one of those drunks.) I like the taste of the drinks and love being part of a party, but I don’t want the drug.
There used to be a problem that any sober drinks are either sugary soft drinks, water or a very childish looking mocktail. The sober world was lacking sophistication, however we are now seeing brands like Seedlip (a Kate Moss favourite), Duchess, Pierre Chavin… who are bringing classy alcohol free alternatives to the mass market.
That being said, if there isn’t these great alternative out there, Then I’m happy with my lemon lime and bitters, sparkling apple juice or tonic and cucumber.
There is so much more…
There are loads more I can say on this, but these are my main points that keep me away from the booze. If you are doing dry January or interested in sober living – I do recomend This Naked Mind, Control Alcohol. Equally, if you have any questions feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org