Freeing the spirit by ditching the booze

It’s a time of year when many us of decide to quit alcohol. Here, Suzanne Harrington reveals the 12 things she’s learned in 12 years of not drinking.

There are many reasons why people stop drinking. You might be a bit bored of alcohol, or bored of the drinking culture.

Or you might have been told by your doctor that one more drink and your pancreas will implode, or been ordered by a judge to sober up or go to jail.

Whatever your reasons, here are some things that may happen once you’ve stopped:

1. People like you more

Let’s face it, drunk people are annoying. That’s why drinkers seek each other out and stick together — drunk people tend to annoy non-drinkers, with their slurring and their repetitive stories, a lot more than they annoy other drunk people.

This truth will reveal itself when you move camps. When you stop drinking, you’ll probably stop telling the same hilarious anecdotes over and over, and stop telling people you love them, unless you actually do love them, and not just because you have eight gins inside you.

Nor will you punch anyone unless they genuinely deserve it. Being compos mentis on a regular basis will make you more attractive to non-drinkers, who will invite you for lunch and dinner because you are good company, and breakfast, because you’ll remember their name in the morning.

2. You feel better, look better, sleep better

Your liver’s tears of relief will hydrate your skin and make it all glowy, and your lost internal glitter will waft to your eyes so that they shine and sparkle.

Looking in the mirror will no longer makes you wince, and there will be no more hungover dry heaving into the nearest wastepaper bin. You’ll feel springy and light as a Victoria sponge, and sleep and awaken naturally, rather than passing out and coming to with a jolt only to wonder what day it is and whose curtains are those.

3. Your social life changes, but not the way you think it will

After a period of readjustment involving Hobnobs and Netflix, you will re-emerge into the world, and discover it considerably larger than the triangle between your three favourite pubs. Mornings will be a thing of wonder. Physical activity will no longer frighten you. You might even take up running, yoga, or base jumping.

What’s more, you may get hooked on it. You’ll be in bed by midnight, and it will feel heavenly.

4. Sex is better

Your senses are no longer dulled, which makes everything more vivid and sensual, and the removal of beer goggles means no more mingers.

Also, if you are treading water in a dead relationship, stopping drinking can spur you into
moving on; there’s nothing like clear-eyed sobriety to shine a light on what needs spring cleaning.

5. Your productivity and creativity increase and you get stuff done

Going to the pub, being in the pub, and recovering from the pub takes up quite a lot of time.

Remove alcohol and you will have tons of extra energy, vision and drive, as well as a lot more actual hours in the day.

This may unnerve you and make you want to get drunk, or it might inspire you to take up sculpture or open a chain of coffee shops.

6. You’ll become a coffee fiend

You’ll be spending a lot of time in coffee shops. The bigger your reliance on booze, the stronger your new coffee habit will be.

It will replace any latent wine snobbery, so that you’ll know your Grumpy Mule from your Monsooned Malabar, and the only shakes you’ll ever get will be from double espressos.

Wanting to try that fancy coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a wild animal begins to sound interesting rather than clinically insane.

7. There may be haters

Even if you’ve narrowly avoided a prison sentence by stopping drinking, there’s always be someone who’ll undermine your decision.

They’ll go Mrs Doyle on you — go on, go on, go on, go on — while waving booze under your nose.

Your polite but firm refusals may lead to disbelief / disappointment / disgust and accusations of holier than thouness.

Prepare to be labelled po-faced, boring, no fun, or all of the above.

You can properly annoy the Mr and Mrs Doyles by asking for a pot of tea.

8. Your friendship group may shift a bit

Pub mates tend to be just that, so when you stop spending so much time in the pub, they fade away. Harder to shift are the offended old friends who don’t want to look at their own drinking, and therefore regard you as a massive party pooper.

Give it a while. Your real friends will adjust. Also, you’ll make loads of new ones when you’re out sky diving and shark wrestling.

9. You have more money

This may come as a surprise, because while you always had enough money for a big night out, you were always a bit short by Tuesday.

No more.

Without making the slightest effort, you’ll be quids in.

Which is great, because your new hobbies — sky diving, shark wrestling — may require investment.

Also, be aware that like your caffeine intake and sugar consumption, your spending habits may go a bit haywire post-drinking. Nature abhors a vacuum.

10. You go a bit spiritual, but nothing too nauseating

By spiritual, I mean somewhere between feeling your feelings and the full Russell Brand.

Alcohol and other drugs are excellent for maintaining emotional numbness, and as we are encouraged to drink on virtually every emotion — happiness, sadness, boredom, celebration, commiseration — we can go through life not having any idea what a feeling actually feels like.

Remove the alcohol and watch yourself defrost in front of your very eyes.

This emotional thaw may result in being besieged with existential curiosity — why am I here, what is my purpose, is reincarnation a thing, etc.

Try not to bore people with your quest for meaning.

11. You stop being ruled by fear

Yes, you. You, the fearless dancer of 3am tables, the vodka-fuelled dare devil, the uninhibited party animal who’d do anything for a laugh, for a dare, who’d shimmy up lamp posts for the hell of it.

What’s it like to be fearless without a vat of booze coursing through your bloodstream?

What’s it like to walk into a room of strangers, and feel at ease without a barrel of wine propping you up?

What does a first date feel like without a stiff drink first? Scary is how it feels. And then amazing. And then entirely normal. Keep your nerve.

12. You realise that most people don’t care if you drink or not

You’ll have all the excuses to hand — driving, pregnancy, antibiotics — until you realise that people don’t care. Apart from the occasional Mrs Doyle, people are generally too self-interested to notice what other people are up to, so long as it doesn’t negatively impact on them.

Whether they think you’re a massive alcoholic or training for a marathon, it really doesn’t matter.

The people who do care tend to be the ones who have been on the rough end of your annoying drunkenness, your filthy hangovers, or your boring stories — these people will notice that you have stopped drinking.

They’ll be bloody delighted, believe me.

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