I, like many people, enjoy a glass of wine of an evening. Whether weekend or weekday, I don’t discriminate, a glass of wine a few nights a week has always been my perfect way to relax after a stressful day. Or, the perfect way to bond and gossip with friends. Or discuss ideas with Ben. Or write music. Or, or, or.
My twenties are full of alcohol infused memories, as are the first half of my thirties, I won’t lie, and as an Australian, alcohol has always been part of my culture, my lifestyle, and my upbringing.
Last year however I developed a slight intolerance to alcohol meaning that my casual glasses of wine throughout the week had to be reduced to a once a week affair. It was still an enjoyable experience though, something I would look forward to.
Over the festive period I must admit I indulged just a little bit too much, and hearing of so many people doing Veganuary (something that is literally impossible for me to partake in due to my extensive list of food intolerances) I thought I would do Dry January instead.
One month alcohol free – easy!
But was it easy? Did I break? Did I learn anything new? Let’s find out…
Breaking any habit isn’t easy
When it’s part of your routine to visit the store where they know your name, and always have a bottle of your favourite wine chilled and waiting, before relaxing with a glass of wine of an evening, removing the alcohol from the situation isn’t an easy task. There were a few nights throughout that first week where I would have loved a glass of wine whilst I cooked, whilst I wrote, or sat at the pub across the road as Ben and I discussed our plans for the year.
Because habits are habits, after all.
I thought by the end of the first week the back of the habit would be broken, but it took to the end of the second week before the glass of wine was replaced with hot chocolate at the pub instead, and the glass of wine to relax after a stressful day was replaced by a cup of chamomile tea.
To break the habit it was all about finding healthier replacements or solutions.
I broke once and regretted it (but not for the reasons you think!)
On the last day of the month I met with some fellow blogging friends and decided to treat myself to a glass of wine. I had managed 30 days without alcohol so figured I would celebrate with… alcohol! I enjoyed it at the time, and had justified it to myself and in all honesty, I am not going to punish myself for that decision.
The next day though I thoroughly regretted it! Despite it being only one glass of wine and despite hydrating when I got home, I was incredibly ill the next morning with the worst hangover I have ever experienced. I was nauseated, fatigued with a splitting headache that made softly spoken voices sound as though they’d been filtered through a megaphone.
The following day I still hadn’t fully recovered from that single glass of wine, so needless to say although I don’t regret that decision to break my Dry January on its final day, I do regret drinking!
Note though, I do have a metabolic disorder and a slight intolerance to alcohol, so I think these had a large part to play in being sick the next day.
The smell, oh the smell!
Ben and I live across the road from a lovely pub that we visit every now and then for dinner or drinks. They also make a lovely cup of coffee or hot chocolate, so our usual alcoholic beverages were replaced with these.
When you remove alcohol from your life, you become more aware of something you’ve never really noticed before, and when you’re not drinking alcohol one thing that is painfully clear at 9pm on a Saturday night when sitting in a pub is… the smell of alcohol, and believe me it’s not a nice smell.
In fact the smell alone is now seared into my memory, and whenever I think to myself “oh, a glass of wine would be nice!” I remember that smell.
What about weight loss?
Given that alcohol = calories, I expected some kind of weight loss during the month given I was consuming around 1000 calories less a week. Well, sorry to say I didn’t lose any weight or notice any difference physically. My skin stayed just a glowing as usual but I put that down entirely to my dedicated skin routine, my obsession with green tea, and the excessive amounts of water I drink every day.
You win some, you lose some I guess!
Would I consider it a success, and would I do it again?
Despite breaking on the last day, I would still consider Dry January a success as I managed to replace wine in my life with healthier options. Plus, given how sick I was from one glass of wine I think I am a bit scared of alcohol for the moment so will be remaining alcohol free for the foreseeable future!
However, this is just my experience with being alcohol free for a month, and I think we will all have very different experiences with experiments or lifestyle changes such as these.
I think too much importance is placed on alcohol as a social lubricant, or as an emotional crutch, and I am guilty of using it for both.
In most scenarios, I’m not sure I believe going tee-total to be an answer to anything alcohol related. I do believe though that a re-education is needed around alcohol to remove the “alcohol = fun” or “alcohol = relaxing” tags.
Society tells us alcohol is fun and that people who don’t drink … aren’t. Peer pressure doesn’t end in high school unfortunately, and society, culture, and the media are the biggest influencers in all of our lives.
However, we should be confident to say no to a glass of wine, and feel comfortable with that choice.
Alcohol is a drug, it changes our behaviour and our perceptions, and whilst we’re using it our opinions of it are always going to be swayed by its influence.
Just because it is fun in the moment, doesn’t mean it should be used daily or as a way to self medicate or treat our problems. Plus, the anxiety the next day? Totally not worth it!
I’ve learned that alcohol doesn’t ease stress, it doesn’t make being social more fun, all it does it change my perception, momentarily. I’d rather sit with Ben and my friends over a hot chocolate or bubble tea and be able to remember those conversations clearly, and not wake up feeling sick the next day. I want to be able to work through my stress with a clear mind and find a solution to my concerns, rather than use a bandaid to make me forget them for the moment.
This post is in no way criticising those who drink either socially or dependently – in fact, drink wine and be merry (responsibly)! However for me, and for my life? Well, I think I’m having more fun without the wine!