182.5 days ago, I unintentionally gave up alcohol for good. For now, at least.
I had no intention of joining Dry January, but by the middle of the month I’d decided to give alcohol a little break. Nothing in particular triggered it, but I downloaded a copy of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and started listening.
A few interesting takeaways included:
- The author, Catherine Gray, talks about where she was on the scale of alcoholism (1–10), which is an interesting concept in and of itself
- Recognising that alcohol intake – and one’s position on that scale – often creeps up by the breaking of small, seemingly inconsequential rules. “I’ll have a dry night…ok just one…ok just two…”
- Everyone knows that alcohol is an addictive substance, but society doesn’t recognise it. There should be no shame in abstaining because drinking in moderation might be difficult due to its addictive nature.
As Gareth K Thomas put it, I’m an abstainer, not a moderator (origionally inspired by Gretchen Rubin).
Gray recommends that anyone interested in reducing their alcohol intake takes at least 90 days off. If that seems too difficult, start with 30.
So, in mid-January, I decided to take a break for 30 days and go for 90 if that went well.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Alcohol-free beers are amazing, and I wouldn’t have got this far without them. Lucky Saint, Beavertown’s Lazer Crush, Free Damm and Brooklyn’s Special Effects are all worth a look. Even Heineken’s alcohol-free beer isn’t bad.
Update: The Guinness 0.0% is incredible. I rarely drank Guinness, but this AF version is pretty close: it tastes great and has something of an ale-y quality. Easily the best AF beer I’ve tried.
A key realisation for me was that drinking alcohol-free beer gave me about 70% of the enjoyment and relaxation compared to an alcoholic beer. Of course, it’s not the same, but it’s close enough. And, for me, the downsides of drinking aren’t worth that extra 30%.
I never thought that day tracking would be for me, but I’ve found it incredibly effective.
At the beginning of my alcohol-free stint, I hit lots of mini milestones. These generally prompted one of two thoughts:
- “I don’t want to break this streak”
- “I don’t want to have to start this streak again”
It’s so helpful I’m now day counting a reduced sugar intake. As I write this, I haven’t eaten chocolate in three weeks.
I use Days Since.
About 40 days in, I realised I didn’t miss drinking at all and I was going to give up for the foreseeable future. It’s amazing not to ever wake up with a slightly hazy head, regret having that extra drink or saying something stupid while your inhibitions were suppressed.
There’s something wonderful about waking up each morning with a totally clear head. It’s not impossible that I’d drink again at some point in the future, but for now I’m enjoying life alcohol-free.
There’s no decent red wine alternative
Or not that I’ve found. The only time I ever miss alcohol is when food would traditionally be paired with a red wine – but now that feels like a taste thing rather than desiring the alcohol per se.
If you know of a decent alcohol-free red wine, I’d love to hear about it!
Alcohol is no social lubricant
Like many people, I felt that alcohol helped me in social situations. But I’ve realised I feel no more relaxed or less awkward with an alcohol-free option.
Over the past six months, my choice of alcohol-free beverage has prompted lots of discussion about giving up alcohol. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has said they want to cut down, it crept up over the pandemic, etc.
It turns out that ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ is a brilliantly accurate title for the book. I didn’t even finish it as I’d decided to give up forever when I was about halfway through.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re thinking of taking a break from alcohol for any reason. It’s honest, relatable and full of revelations on how we view alcohol and the pressures around it.