Aaarggghhh! Those words! It feels like a punishment doesn’t it? A penance for being a naughty boy over the Christmas period, or even the whole year. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that is? Why are we made to feel so shit about stopping drinking? Even if it’s only going to be a temporary thing?
Many of you may well have already done a Dry January in the past. Or a Sober October perhaps. And maybe you found it to be a massive struggle, swimming against the current, the societal tide of booze sloshing against you as you paddled against it upstream. There would no doubt have been some people encouraging you on your brave task, but I would hazard a guess that there would also have been a fair few friends and family saying,
“Fuck THAT! Are you insane?!” *whilst helpfully attaching a selfie with a pint and a big smile.
The facts of the matter are that alcohol companies are powerful. The alcohol industry as a whole is worth around £40 billion to the UK economy, while tax revenues from the sale of alcohol are roughly £11 billion in England alone. That’s a decent chunk of money going into the public coffers so lobbyists have a decent bargaining chip when it comes to government decision making around booze and public messaging. The fact that estimates of the total cost of alcohol to the economy when taking into account healthcare and crime costs, on top of productivity and hours lost in the workplace because of sore heads, run in at anywhere between £21-£52 billion, is kind of lost in all the noise of popping champagne corks, chinking of glasses and sirens of emergency vehicles. *Figures obtained from The Institute of Alcohol Studies. Any time there are protests about its wider effect on society, those running the show provide us with helpful statements to keep us in check…
PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY
The WHO have recently recommended that there is no safe level of drinking at all, but to placate the industry the UK Government is sticking with its advice of 14 units of alcohol per week, for both men and women. With a caveat of not exceeding this “on a regular basis”. Oh and to also spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you are at that limit to avoid binge drinking. And binge drinking is classified as 4 drinks or more for women and 5 or more for men, in one sitting. Then you have to learn what is classified as a single drink and a single unit. Fucking hell, it all gets a bit much doesn’t it? Anyone would think that they are making it deliberately confusing so people just end up saying “Fuckit. I’ll just be careful”
The problem with that is that alcohol is a drug. An addictive drug given half a chance. Over time your one drink a night may turn into two. Then over more time it may turn into three. And then you’ve nearly finished the bottle so you may as well have another. You become more tolerant of it so, again, over time, you need a little bit more to get the same kind of effect. Which increases your dependency as your brain struggles to regulate the disruption these chemicals are having on its normal balance so it asks you to drink more. Before you know it you’ve slipped into nightly drinking, breaking all the rules you may have set yourself when you watched that advert for whiskey and it told you to ‘Drink responsibly’.
So you decide to try to stop and do Dry January but everyone else has been programmed in the same way that you have, that drinking is acceptable, as long as you’re ‘careful’. That drinking is normal. That we all have a drink and anyone that doesn’t is just a bit weird. Or boring. Or weirdly boring. It seems such an alien concept to us as a society. We say we get it, but really we don’t. Why should we stop fucking drinking?! We don’t have a problem!
But maybe we do. Maybe, secretly so no one hears us, we say we’re a bit worried about it. We’re not quite sure how it’s happened but compared to a few years ago we find ourselves thinking about drinking a little more than we feel comfortable with. We are drinking in the week now, when we said we’d NEVER do that. Or maybe we just feel like we need a break, that it isn’t really doing anything for us anymore.
Here’s the thing though. We, personally, don’t have to have a perceived problem with alcohol to be given permission to stop. No matter what anyone says. We have the power to just stop. Just like if we’re a social smoker, not a twenty a day kind of guy but someone that has a smoke when they’re out with friends, we still know that it would be ok to stop if we want to. But, unlike with alcohol, society doesn’t think us weird if we stop that social smoking habit. However, we need to be absolutely on our arses, homeless and destitute for it to be acceptable to stop drinking, on a societal level. And that is fucked up.
Alcohol causes cancer, linked to seven types in fact. It destroys families, friendships and loving relationships. It is a massive burden on our health and emergency services. So why the hell should we be made to feel so shit if we want to stop drinking? Because that’s how the majority of people have been conditioned to feel. And the majority rule right? Wrong! We can still be rebellious. Stopping drinking is a rebellious act. It’s a big FU to society, who think they can tell us how we feel and what we should do with our lives. So if you’re planning on giving society the middle finger and stopping drinking in January, or now even, then here are a few tips to get you started:
1: Own it! Be proud of your decision, don’t be afraid of it. You’re a rebel remember?!
2: Join a group. There are loads of groups online where you can find like-minded people doing exactly the same as you. Community is really important so as not to feel alone in a world of drinkers.
3. Read books and blogs all about alcohol and stopping drinking. Like this one! There are thousands out there. Learn about your enemy, learn to look at it as a pain in your arse and not the friend it keeps telling you it is.
4. Alcohol free substitutes. There are countless AF options out there now and some are absolutely incredible. Especially the beers. Give them a go to satisfy your habit of having a grown up drink after work or on a Friday night.
5. Be honest. To your loved ones but most importantly to yourself. Don’t bullshit. If you’ve thought that maybe you’re drinking a bit too much then I can guarantee that you are drinking too much. For you that is. Not everyone else. You. (See below…)
6. Don’t compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter for shit what others drink or how much. Or whether they think you’re being over dramatic by thinking about your consumption. The fact of the matter is that you aren’t comfortable with it. And that is ALL that matters.
7. Ask for help. Tell your GP if you’re worried. They should offer support. Message a friend who you know can help too, we all know some weirdo who’s stopped drinking right?
8. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about it. What’s done is done. Just look forward. The best apology if things have gone bosoms north is changed behaviour.
9. Practice self-care. An extension of being kind. Eat well. Drink lots of water. Rest well but don’t be surprised if your sleep is all fucked for the first few nights. Just stick at it and keep looking forwards.
10. Enjoy it! Don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. You’re not. You’re just made to feel like that because everyone else is drinking. Fuck everyone else. You know how that road looks for you. And you have no idea what everyone is thinking anyway. They may well be looking at you and wishing above all else that they had the balls to do something so brave and radical. Stopping drinking is quite possibly the best thing you will ever do. Every single person I’ve encountered since I’ve stopped (of which there are hundreds, if not thousands) say it is the best thing they’ve ever done. It is incredibly empowering and it will change your life if you let it.
Good luck if you’re re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol. And well done for making such a fantastic decision. The only regret I have about stopping drinking is that I didn’t decide to do it earlier. Like any abusive relationship, it will try and tell you that you need it, that you’re nothing without it. But like any abuser, it lies. Don’t listen to it and just wave it goodbye!
Thank you for reading and please share if you know someone that may need to read these words. And subscribe for more content!