“Do you drink?” “Of course, I just said I was a writer.” – Stephen King
Alcohol and I have a complex relationship. As a teenager, I overtook my nemesis in the last leg of the 800m, securing myself a place in the county finals… the morning after a night sampling whiskey and cigars at a house party. I have delivered some of my best pitches hungover and have found a glass (or two) to be extremely conducive to creativity. As does Stephen King, apparently.
I’ve been known to run away from my hangovers (literally), and to pop a champagne cork at the earliest opportunity, whether to celebrate a marathon or a 5k. But my hangovers are not what they used to be. Now, if I have more than three glasses of wine, I have zero interest in exercise the morning after, I crave junk food and am left riddled with emotional anxiety that can last for days. Andy and Ruari, authors of ‘The 28 day alcohol-free challenge’ (the book I am turning to in my time of need after a particularly indulgent Christmas), refer to this as the ‘triple whammy’. The knock-on effects of drinking that go way beyond the hangover.
I figured it was high time to stop making excuses for this creeping habit and to try ditching the sauce for 28 days straight. According to Andy and Ruari, here are just some of the things I can expect to experience over the coming weeks…
YOU SLEEP LIKE A BABY
Sleep is absolutely key to a healthy lifestyle, yet it is often completely underrated. Let’s not beat around the proverbial bush – alcohol has the ability to destroy sleep. Late nights deprive you of precious hours, but the real damage is caused by poor-quality sleep. Even a small amount of alcohol has been shown to break sleep patterns by not allowing you to reach deep healing sleep, so your body cannot recover sufficiently. You wake feeling tired, lethargic and often anxious. Many people then compound this problem by using alcohol to send them off to the sandman, but they fail to recognise that the quality of this sleep is so poor they are left constantly tired. It’s a false economy.
YOU HAVE MORE MOTIVATION TO EXERCISE
Ask any personal trainer and they will tell you that the number one reason why people cancel training sessions is because of a hangover. As your alcohol-free vitality soars, so will your motivation to get fit. Suddenly exercise is back on the cards in a big way. This presents a real opportunity to get a decent streak of exercising under your belt without being ruined by a stray night on the sauce – much to the delight of your gym instructor. Exercise is not all about the gym session. With the hangover out the way, you’ll have energy in abundance, build stealth and start walking or even running to work. You’ll opt for the stairs instead of the lift and discover opportunities to create exercise as you go about your daily routine.
YOU HAVE BETTER RELATIONSHIPS
When most people first consider taking a break from booze, they imagine the future and worry about their relationships. For many, drinking is a way that people connect, relaxing after a long day with a glass of wine, and is often how we meet friends – in bars, clubs or restaurants over a drink. Going alcohol-free allows you to address these fears in the real world and to discover, quite early on, that your relationships are not struggling, but in fact blossoming.
Newfound energy, vitality and clarity of mind will allow you to be present with loved ones. You’ll find it surprising how many friends are looking for an excuse to have a night off or do something different. It won’t be long until your friends go out of their way to organise social events that do not involve alcohol. This leads to more experiences, laughs and special moments that are worth so much more than a few drinks.
On the flip side, as your friendships evolve, you’ll find yourself seeing less of some people and more of others . The reality is that some friendships won’t be the same, but your alcohol-free adventure will give you the chance to discover who your true friends are. This will allow you to nurture and improve on the important relationships in your lives.
YOUR PRODUCTIVITY GOES SKY HIGH
The combination of no hangovers, quality sleep and more time will send your productivity through the roof. One of the greatest achievements in life is performing at your best. As your productivity increases, so will your chances of realising your long-held goals. In our experience, if you have a desire to get fit, run a marathon, win a promotion, learn a language, take a degree or generally achieve something productive that’s been sitting on the back burner for too long, going alcohol-free gives you a massive advantage.
YOU GET YOUR CONFIDENCE BACK
Worried what will happen to your confidence without Dutch courage? The quick answer is, it will come flooding back. The classic alcohol trick is so evident it is almost palpable. What it pretends to offer with one hand, it takes away with the other. It may be hard to mingle socially without the crutch of alcohol at first, but over time, you will feel a different confidence rising. The confidence that comes from going alcohol-free is deep and long lasting. Confidence appears in many forms and we are all guilty of making the mistake of believing that ‘confidence’ means being the larger-than-life person that alcohol created. Whereas real confidence comes from being your authentic self.
These excerpts have been taken from ‘The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge’ by Andy Ramage & Ruari Fairbanks: Buy your copy now on Amazon
Main image: Shuttershock