I tried to ditch the booze several times before without success. A monster hangover in August was the tipping point – and finally I gave up alcohol.
“I swear I’ll never drink again!” How often have we bargained with the booze gods, stricken in bed with another monster hangover? Just let me out of this torture and I’ll never do this again! Yet there will be a next time – and we know it.
Because people are very forgetful. And people like drinking alcohol. And so very soon, it comes to pass once again that you end up taking that last drink even though you know it is too much. Because you’re having fun and it’s a decent price to pay for making memories with friends. Right?
Well, that was what I kept telling myself over the past 5 or 6 years when I knew that I’d had enough drink but didn’t want to call it a night yet. When I was younger, I could stay out all night. I could sink 5 Cosmos, stumble home at 3am, get up at 6am and cycle 70km. I was made of metal.
Hello 30s, bye-bye alcohol tolerance
It was in my mid-30s when my alcohol tolerance dropped off a cliff. I couldn’t take as much as I used to – but I couldn’t imagine stopping drinking altogether. My partner and I loved craft beer and were keen to try out the local brews whenever we travelled. And an Aperol spritz with a pizza? It’s an indispensable part of summer!
I’d just have to monitor how I was feeling and stop when I started to feel “fuzzy” in my head – a sure sign that a hangover would pounce in the night. Well – that was the plan. Except it didn’t work out that way most of the time. Either I kept drinking past the safe point or missed the safe point altogether and then it was too late. Too often, I’d know I was in trouble and – knowing water alone wouldn’t solve my problem – swallow a couple of painkillers before I went to bed to try and head the headache off at the pass. And that didn’t always work – I’d still spend half of the next day in bed or attempting to work while feeling dreadful.
The last straw
The final straw came when we went out for a beer after the cinema. Having seen a Bavarian film, it had to be a Bavarian beer. A large, big label beer – brewed according to the German purity laws. Absolutely nothing daring or dodgy.
I was sick for two days.
At that point, there was no way around it – drinking just wasn’t fun anymore. When even small amounts make me ill then even ordering a drink is a stressful experience. Any enjoyment which I might have got from it was cancelled out by the spectre of another banging headache and a lost half day. I’m forty now – probably around halfway through my life. Why would I spend any of the precious time I have left in bed with a hangover?
So right then and there, I gave up alcohol. That was now two months ago. Here are some of the things I have found out over the past 2 months since I ditched the drink.
1. I gave up alcohol – and I don’t miss it (much)
Whenever I considered giving up drinking in the past, I always made excuses. Like: “going out won’t be fun anymore”, or “non-alcoholic drinks are just as expensive as alcoholic ones and they’re boring too…you may as well just take the booze”.
Well, that has turned out not to be true. I have quite fancied an Aperol Spritz once or twice (I just like them, OK?) but there is almost always another, exciting, non-boozy option on the menu. Lemonades with interesting taste combinations. A new sort of cola. A tea I’ve never tried before (yuzu & honey, anyone?). Turns out novelty can trump the pull of booze any day. Who’d have thought it?
2. Nothing beats knowing that – barring sudden illness – you are going to get up feeling fine tomorrow
Just before I gave up alcohol, things had become absurd. I still ordered a drink but would get so stressed about the effect it might or might not have on me that any enjoyment I might have got from consuming it went completely out the window. And because drinking isn’t cheap where I live then I get a steep bill for it too. In what crazy world does this equation make sense? It’s an odd sort of logic to say the least.
Now I gave up alcohol, I can more or less rely on the fact that I am going to wake up feeling tickety-boo the next morning and be able to get on with my day. I won’t be spending half of it trying to find a position on the pillow where my head doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode.
3. You realise (with shock) just how much of your social life depended on alcohol consumption
As I mentioned, my partner and I discovered craft beer in about 2015 and quickly became fans. As well as trying out all the new bars and beers around town – any trip abroad had an accompanying “craft beer plan” so we could explore the matter on an international level as well.
We drank some amazing beers and had some great afternoons with friends who were on the same wavelength.
Good times, all of which I look back on with genuine fondness. But, at the same time, that does not take away anything from the shock of realising just how much of your social life revolved around ingesting toxin.
Expensive invitations to birthday champagne tastings? I’m giving that a miss now. Craft beer afternoons – well, only if there is a decent non-alcoholic menu on offer. Craft beer festivals – those times have gone! Throwing dinner parties also presents a few questions – we don’t dictate to our guests whether they should drink or not and put on a number of options. Yes, I gave up alcohol, but they should have what they want.
4. You save a pile of cash
I’ve been keeping a budget for many years, so I know how much money I have, how much I’ve spent and how much I have left over. I have a daily budget Excel sheet where everything I spend on regular day-to-day costs such as groceries, going out, clothes and cosmetics is recorded. When I look at certain categories (“going out”), I can more or less assume that at least a part of that expenditure was on alcohol.
Now that activity has been taken out of the repertoire, my expenditures have dropped and suddenly I have noticeably more cash left over. I can’t have been spending SO much on booze – can I?
5. I feel sharper in my head
It goes without saying that being able to rely on waking up the next day without a hangover is a big win in terms of mental acuity and capacity to get stuff done on the following day.
But it is quite a surprise to realise just how much the regular consumption of alcohol had dulled and blunted my mind in general. Now that I’ve given it the heave-ho completely, I’m feeling sharper, more alert and generally quicker in my thinking.
It wasn’t my age after all!
6. My skin looks better…I think
Since I am now 40 and my body generally needs longer to regenerate these days, I am not sure if 2 months is enough to really see a difference in my complexion. But it is known that alcohol has negative effects on your skin and so ditching it, combined with a healthy diet and skincare regime might just have a beneficial effect.
There’s no turning back the clock and my first wrinkles have made themselves apparent. But my skin does appear brighter and clearer than it did when I was constantly knocking back the bevvies.
The photo above shows a non-alcoholic “Negroni Bambini” cocktail at the Apoteka Bar in Vilnius, Lithuania – a fabulous bar! For more stories about Lithuania, read this article about our visit to Kaunas in August 2022.