When I stopped drinking I thought it would be the end of a way of life and in many ways it was. But I had no idea that it was the start of something so much better! Whether you’re doing Stoptober, Dry January or you’re knocking the demon drink on the head forever, here’s my top 10 benefits.
1. No more hangovers!
Oh the misery of opening one eye and then the other and doing a mental scan of your symptoms: a loose 10kg weight rolling round inside your skull; someone has moved into your mouth and laid carpets (shag pile); the thought of last nights poison makes you want to wretch and don’t get me started on the emotional fallout!
Will you miss that?! Hell no!
How are your mornings going to be from now on? You awake everyday feeling fresh because you slept so much better without booze in your blood. And that smug feeling of knowing your mates are all suffering while you are lacing your trainers for a run, never gets old! (Or maybe just staying in bed with a coffee, which also rocks.)
No hangovers means that you can plan stuff on weekend mornings too. No need to keep the day clear until 1pm because you know you’ll be sofa bound, binging on Bake Off. Don’t get me wrong, a Bake Off or Friends binge is a beautiful thing but it’s even better without the nausea.
2. No more memory blackouts.
The aforementioned emotional wreckage starts to clatter into your perception soon after you wake.
‘What did I say to Tara last night?! … I’m still wearing my earrings … but only one! … Shit! I think I told Tom what I thought of his hair! … Oh god, I vaguely remember shots but nothing after that…’
You pick up your phone send a breezy text to a friend.
‘Hey! Great night. Sore head today. Yikes, what time did you leave?’ (By which you mean, ‘what time did I leave and how did I get home?’)
Forget that! Alcohol effects the hypocampus, which is the area of the brain that makes memories, hence drunken memory blackouts. What’s even more fab is that within weeks of giving up drinking my overall memory was vastly improved. No more having your friends nod sympathetically as you tell them something for the 3rd time!
3. Weight loss.
Hallelujah! I went from 10 stone to just over 9 in a month. A month! And trust me I wasn’t eating well in that first month. I definitely subscribed to the ‘replace alcohol with chocolate’ recovery programme. Nonetheless it came off.
(Was I actually looking for the calories?!)
If you drink a couple of glasses of wine a night and more at weekends you could be adding around 400 calories a day to your diet. Plus alcohol slows your metabolism so it’s easy to see how when you cut that shit out, you drop the pounds. Check your alcohol calorie intake here.
But it’s not just the extra calories you get from alcohol. I had been snacking my way through the bad choice buffet for years. Whether it’s the bowls of crisps and nuts you devour with wine or the faithful fry-up hangover remedy, alcohol lowers your will power.
4. Glowing skin.
Everyone will be telling you how good you look and how bright your skin is. Alcohol really messes with your skin. The sugar creates outbreaks and the effect on the capillaries in your cheeks and nose can leave you looking distinctly ruddy. Hashtag ‘Complexion goals!’
When I came off the booze I regained an even skin tone and my face looked less puffy and round. My jaw line returned thanks to the weight loss and the overall effect was to make me look younger. If all the above benefits were guaranteed in a night cream you know you’d be front of the queue to buy it!
5. More money.
This one depends on your pattern of drinking: what you drink, where and how often. A Macmillan Cancer Support survey found that Brits spend an average of £50,000 on booze in a lifetime with 1.3 million of us spending a whopping £167,000!
I saved £60 a week when I quit because I had been in the habit of buying decent wine and always stocking up on alcohol in order to be party ready. But you know what happens to alcohol in my house? I drink it!
Now I’m alcohol free, my husband drinks less and we just buy beer or wine when we need it, probably spending around £30 a month. The savings get us an extra family holiday each year!
6. Increased confidence.
Dutch courage is a con. Yes, we all feel more chatty after a large glass of wine but the fact is that the returns diminish after your second drink. It takes 1 hour for your body to process 1 unit of alcohol. So if you drink faster than 1 unit an hour (and who doesn’t) then your body is playing catch up which makes it sluggish and your mind slow. In short, you get drunk.
The sweet spot between sober and drunk is a magical but elusive place. I never stopped at the sweet spot. I would generally speed on through to smashed, via dancing on the table and slurring loudly into people’s earlobes. I was a real treat!
Sure, we can all feel anxious in the first 30 minutes of a party.
What do I say? Am I interesting? Did I just call that person Dan? His name is Ben. Or is it Dan?
But get past that initial self questioning without the cocktail crutches you have relied on for so long and you will discover that you can walk unaided. And when you do, you’ll feel fab! If you can conquer alcohol, you can achieve anything!
7. So much more energy.
Let’s go back to the hungover morning. After the headache from hell and the waves of nausea came the yawns. A tiredness you can almost taste. Dehydration and needing the loo probably had you up a few hours after you crashed out and you couldn’t get back to sleep because your body, now pumping with the stress hormone epinephrine, is in recovery mode as it tries to fix the damage.
Your body has to work so hard to get over what it percieves to be a trauma and the price you pay is low energy levels which can last for days.
The mistake many of us make is to have a drink to perk us up. We start the evening tired and so have a drink to lift our energy. Alcohol is a depressant and diuretic. It will make you tired and dehydrate you. What’s a key symptom of dehyration? Tiredness. Downward spiral ahoy!
Because you sleep better you will have more energy. It’s that simple. Plus I found that my increased energy inspired me to do more yoga and exercise, which just begets more energy. Instead of the negative spiral of tired-drink-tired-drink, I discovered the good feedback loop of energy-energy-energy.
(You will be able to run from freezing waves when you are alcohol free!)
8. Make friends with your body.
Dear body, I am so sorry for everything I put you through!
I have said these words to my body and really meant it. I am genuinely sorry that I ignored all the signs my body sent me that it wasn’t having a good time:
Headaches, weight gain, poor complexion, bruising, spots to name a few.
I ignored my body and it just kept on working it’s socks off to process the junk I fed it. My poor liver! And it’s not like I didn’t understand the dangers of over indulgence. My father died of liver and kidney failure at 52 from alcohol. I was well aware that I was playing with fire. But I saw my body as transport for my brain.
And what about my poor brain? Binge drinking has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s and we’ve already established the effects on short term memory.
I am now so grateful to my body for being so friggin awesome! And because of that I look after it, which feels so great. Afterall, I only have one.
9. Meet ‘self control’.
Fancy staying up all night with me tonight? Chatting shit and dancing in the kitchen? Yes!! Who wouldn’t? I am a great dancer! Oh, btw, we will only be drinking Pukka Detox Tea or mocktails…. Still in?
You’d probably decline. And that’s fine. I can dance on my own thanks!
But it’s a shame because actually dancing is dancing. If the music is good (and it always is in my house) then let’s dance, let’s laugh, let’s look stupid while we’re at it. But let’s not stay up 4 hours after we meant to, let’s not break the rules we went into the evening with, which we spend all Sunday regretting. Let’s wake up tomorrow and smile at the great night and still have enough energy to have a really good day.
Welcome to self control!
10. Better sex.
It’s better because it’s real and a great connection during sex can be a beautiful thing. And because having sex with a drunk middle aged woman is no-one’s fantasy! (Actually that’s almost certainly not true but I don’t want to be that woman.)
Alcohol also causes impotence in men, effects fertility in both men and women and certainly impacts on decision making. Ever woken up to regret last night’s liaison?
If you drink a lot then over time your ability to orgasm can be reduced and your libido is lowered. Sure, a glass or 2 of wine can get you in the mood for sex but you can easily come to rely on alcohol to maintain interest in the bedroom.