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Giving up alcohol: 16 things I learnt from being sober for 3 months

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So, I’m not sure if you heard or not (it’s been a busy few months) but I gave up drinking for a quarter of the year.
The pic above was snapped on the recent retreat with Anna Marsh Nutrition – which was when I had decided to end my three-month-sober-stint.

GIVING UP ALCOHOL:
What is is like giving up alcohol completely for 3 months?

Of course, at ones ripe age of 30, post three years of marriage, the first assumption people make is that one simply MUST be pregnant. There is no alternative to this scenario: If you are married, 30, and decline a drink, you WILL be asked if a baby is on the way. Sometimes I think it’s actually just easier to go along with it and say, “yep”. Than delve into the list of reasons why you aren’t choosing to slam a tequila down your face.

And in any case I think that people are generally (and honestly) more satisfied with the response, “because I’m growing a creature inside me for the next 9 months, that will radically change the course of my entire life” than the response, “because I just don’t feel like it.”

Alcohol is a funny thing. It’s one of those rare things that people like to Spanish Inquisition you on. It doesn’t happen with many things (except perhaps with the choice of eating less meat). For example the following scenario would never play out the way it does with drinking:
Sally and Sue go out to movies.
Sally orders popcorn and Sue opens her handbag and pulls out a bag of dried fruit.
Sally is shocked. This is an outrage! Something must definitely be wrong.
“Sue! Why aren’t you eating popcorn?” Says Sally.
“I just don’t feel like it” says Sue.
(We have already established this is not a satisfactory answer, so Sally persists.)
“But WHY? We are at the movies! It’s popcorn. At the movies. Are you feeling ill? Do you have a fever? Are you coming down with something. You must be pregnant. Are you? You’re pregnant, aren’t you? Have you had an allergic reaction? Are you on medication?”
“No” says Sue.
“But then WHY don’t you want to eat the popcorn?! You ate popcorn last time we came to the movies?! I just don’t understand!! You’re leaving me to eat popcorn all alone! You’ve changed.”

Sue does not feel like eating popcorn and THAT IS OK.

Sally can eat all the popcorn she wants. Sue not eating the popcorn does not affect Sally in any way possible. Sue is happy to not eat the popcorn. It is her choice. Yet, Sally must now definitely figure out for sure the reason why Sue is not eating the popcorn because to be honest, it is making Sally rather upset and irritable and she feels awkward eating popcorn alone.

Let me tell you a bit about my story:

Why did I decide to give up drinking?

At the beginning of April I decided to stop drinking. (Full disclaimer: I also decided that I wanted to celebrate my 3rd year wedding anniversary with my husband on 6 April. So that was my one day of grace.)

From April 7th until Thursday 30th June (the day we arrived in Tuscany for The yoga retreat with Anna Marsh) I intentionally cut out all alcohol. I have hired a business coach (Jen Carrington) over this time, I had big plans to get my yoga E-Course up and running (coming soon!), and I was intending to invest a little bit more time into my general health and fitness- adding in a little bit more weight training and cardio to supplement my yoga practice. With these three main goals, it just seemed like alcohol was a little bit of a hindrance. And to be honest, I was quite interested in the challenge of “can I actually do this?”

Before I paint myself into the picture of a raging alcoholic, I’d like to share my average drinking habits prior to this:

During the week, generally no alcohol consumption. On the odd occasion (“hooray, the sun is out!”) maybe a drink (or two) mid-week, although that would probably only happen once every 2-3 weeks.

Drinking over the weekends was generally more frequent- any social gathering that “required” drinking, I’d drink a glass or two (or three). Social events including: friends lunches, birthday dinners, engagement dinners, catch ups, farewells, reunions, house warmings, summer parties, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, Hen’s parties, weddings, Easter parties, barbecues, baby showers. There are a lot of social events ya know. (Sometimes these if these events occur during the week that would mean a drink on a school night). Sometimes on the weekend, if it was just a lovely day and Warr and I had taken an afternoon walk in the sunshine, we’d somehow end up at a pub with spot in the sun and a glass of wine in hand.

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I absolutely don’t believe that drinking socially like this is too bad for you, but I think it’s very interesting to see what a difference NOT drinking can have for you.

Here are 16 things I have learnt from giving up alcohol for 3 months

1. Alcohol is completely unnecessary.
You don’t need alcohol to have fun. I promise. You think you do, but you really, truly don’t. You’ll have to take my word on that if you aren’t willing to give it up. (See point 3)

2. Alcohol is also a lot of fun.
Although, after this little self-experiment I think alcohol is completely unnecessary, I have also come to learn that a (small) smattering of wine can be good fun between friends.

3. We rely WAY too much on alcohol as social lubricant.
When was the last time someone invited you out for a walk in the park? We have become so conditioned to lump socialising and drinking into the very same box that it can actually be quite difficult trying to separate them. Socialising is not the same as drinking. Drinking is not the same as socialising.

4. People are WAY more concerned with your decision to not drink than they should be.
This is such an interesting thing that came up for me. For the most part, I think people were very curious about my decision not to drink. And probably some people are still waiting for me to make a big baby announcement – (No, for the 17th time I’m not pregnant). People have a hard time dealing with someone who has made an active decision against (let’s face it) a rather big social norm. The fact that drinking is the social norm is largely part of the problem for people to wrap their heads around.

5. You may feel weird for not drinking in a social setting – it will VERY quickly pass.
In a social setting (birthday party/ wedding/ dinner/ farewell etc), where you may be the only one not drinking, you may likely feel a bit awkward at first ordering your soda and lime hanging out at the bar trying to be cool. Particularly when everyone is asking you for the 15th time why you are not drinking (see above). After your second “drink” (woohoo hydration!), when everyone else is also on drink number 2, everyone else has just reached that point when they no longer care that you are not drinking. They are headed to possibly a night of fun, possibly a night ending in tears and drama, but definitely waking up groggy to a headache, for sure. You on the other hand are more likely headed to a night of fun (since you still have full awareness and control of all your emotions) and you are definitely waking up feeling fresh and full of vitality. See below. The first weekend of April when I had decided to give up drinking was a friends birthday party out in a club and a hens night the following night (threw myself right in here), I probably felt a bit weird to start and then the more events I went to not drinking the less and less it bothered me, or the less and less awkward I felt. In fact, feeling comfortable with not drinking strangely made other (drinking) people more awkward about themselves drinking. (“What, she’s still not drinking? What is she doing? Why is she doing this? How is she enjoying herself with no alcohol? It can’t be that fun. Not drinking on a hens night for NO reason? Why?! That doesn’t make any sense”). Warren decided to give up drinking for about a month and a half while I was mid way through this – (of his own accord), if I’m honest I think he found it slightly more tricky in social settings to be the guy not drinking. I think maybe I had just already reached the level, I don’t really care what my not drinking brings up in other people. That’s their thing, not mine.

6. Your levels of energy without alcohol will be through the roof.
You’ll have to take my word for it – once you’ve caught me coming down from my hill sprints, obviously.

7. Your sleep will improve. Definitely.
We have already established how I am SO not a morning person. (see here). On an average weekend, prior to giving up drinking Warren and I would probably get up lazily mid morning around 9 or 10 and eventually make our way out of bed around 10 or 11 unless we specifically had somewhere to be. When we were both alcohol free, we just magically woke up around 7 or 8am on the weekends, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to CARPE THE SHIT OUT OF THIS DIEM.

8. You will have infinite more focus.
Productivity x 100!!!

9. You will feel less inclined to stay out until 2am swinging from the rafters.
Every birthday/ party/ wedding/ farewell/ engagement etc that we were invited to during this time – that we could attend – we attended. We had an awesome time with the special guest, we jammed, we chatted with them, laughed with them, socialised with other guests, we partied, we danced. Yes, we probably left the party around midnight rather than staying out until 3am, but to be fair most people around midnight with 5 or 6 (or ten) drinks in, are very unlikely to notice you leaving. And in any case – if I’m staying out until 2am drinking to “bond with you”, there is the very strong possibility that I’m not really going to remember much from 12 – 2am anyway. Just sayin.

10. Snapchats are more hilarious with alcohol.
On the other hand – if I’m honest, snapchatting is more hilarious with alcohol, so there’s that. Too bad you’ve missed the “I blame my mother” speech on snap chat last weekend. (Add me for future drunken escapades (maybe): che_dyer)

11. We create strong habits around alcohol.
These habits are often strongly linked with socialising and how social events often (unfortunately) tend to revolve around drinking. But we can also create these habits unconsciously for ourselves. Get home from work, have a glass of wine. The sun is out – (hooray!) walk to the pub for a glass of wine. The habit of drinking becomes ingrained. And when we ingrain a habit that anyway has an addictive slant, it’s a double edged sword.
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12. At some point you will probably feel like a strong drink.
Probably around the 2 month mark for me (when Warren had also given it up for some time) I had the VERY strong urge to just quit and have a glass of wine. Possibly coupled with a stressful week and a bad case of the PMS’s. I didn’t. Although looking back now, I think the fact that Warren was also not drinking suddenly made it feel like it was this entirely forbidden thing that we could NEVER EVER HAVE, EVER. Which obviously made me feel like I DEFINITELY NEED IT RIGHT NOW. I don’t really need it. That was probably the PMS talking.

13. Generally it is more difficult for others to come to terms with your not drinking than it is to actually give up drinking.
Man, this was the overriding thing that keeps coming back to me. After chatting about my experience with Warren after getting back from the retreat, he asked if I would continue drinking or not. My initial response was I think yes – I will continue drinking, but on the occasions that I want to. Not just because it is a birthday/hen’s party/ wedding/engagement. If by chance it is one of those occasions and i DO feel like drinking then I will! But otherwise, I won’t.

He replied with, “I think that might upset some people. As in – ‘why are you drinking on her birthday, but you’re not drinking on my hen’s night?'” – And THAT my friends, is EXACTLY the problem. We have come to use alcohol as a token of solidarity. What I choose to put in my body has such a strange effect on everyone else – who also have the same free choices. It somehow makes people rather edgy when you are standing confidently at a bar with your lime and soda having a great time whilst they are on their 3rd drink.  Your not drinking does not affect others one tiny bit, although strangely it really does affect everyone else. Why? What is it about my actions that makes you edgy about your own?

In fact during my “non-drinking stint” I had a lot of conversation directed at me (particularly when out with friends for dinners/parties etc) with, “We’ll have to come back here when you are drinking again”. Why? I’m here right now, having a good time! Making choices that I want to make for myself. I am perfectly capable of enjoying myself to the max without booze. Difficult to explain this to people who haven’t tried it for an extended period of time but alcohol-free-living-is-a-high-vibe-life!

14. You will at some point forget that alcohol makes you think you feel awesome, because you will just FEEL awesome.
Read that sentence again.

15. Alcohol is the gateway to bad eating.
When you feel good about yourself, you fuel yourself with amazing nourishing foods. Removing alcohol makes you feel really good: physically, emotionally, mentally. (#depressant) When you feel crap about yourself, you eat rubbish. Plus, nothing says hangover cure like half a pizza, a plate of greasy chips and a litre of coke. Am I right? Also as an aside, if you’re into calorie counting – take a google for “wine cals”. Holy Cannoli. (Side Note: you are likely better off eating three trays of cannolis than an average glass of wine)

16. At some point you will reach a deep knowing that you absolutely 100% don’t need alcohol and you feel so much better for it.
After two months of not drinking, I honestly felt amazing and really truly knew that I’m SO much better off without it. But I also don’t want to become too restrictive with myself because fek, I do enjoy myself a glass of wine (and the odd drunken snapchat).

Going forward…
This was such an interesting experiment for me. It taught me so much about myself, about my level of focus and energy and the way my body can feel when functioning optimally. I know what it’s like to wake up early on a Saturday with loads of energy and vitality and the weekends just got SO much longer when there isn’t a huge chunk of it spent lazing in a pub (or sleeping it off under the covers).

Going forward, yes I will still drink when I feel like it. And it’s not something I feel the need to restrict myself on. I will however be very cautious about creating habits with alcohol. Just because I’m at a social gathering will not automatically (habitually) qualify me to drink. If I want to have a drink, I will. If I don’t want to – I won’t. This may be tricky for people to understand – and it certainly won’t be a favouritism thing of “drinking at this event and not that event” but it will just be about me making conscious choices for myself to get the most out of this one little life we have!

What are your thoughts on drinking? How much would you drink usually? Have you ever given up drinking for an extended period of time? Would you try it? Could you do it?
(Since starting drinking ‘regularly’ around 18 – this is the longest period (1/4 of a year!) I have been without alcohol for 12 years and it was really enlightening!) I’m really interested to hear any/ all of your thoughts on this! Leave a comment or post something on my facebook page!

Can’t wait to share more about the retreat!

  1. Rhianne on July 6, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Thomas and I didn’t drink for a month after we got back from our honeymoon as he was so sick (he was off work for three weeks poor love) – and It was so good for my anxiety to not be drinking – I didn’t realise how much it affected it but it definitely is a depressant and destroys any good habits I have for my mental health. I didn’t think we were drinking much before but now I just don’t fancy it as much after feeling so much better for not drinking. I’m trying to stick with a one drink policy of just having the one drink I really enjoy and then having water or soft drinks afterwards, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t 🙂

    • Ché Dyer on July 6, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Yes completely! I think that’s the whole thing I learnt – we don’t realise how much alcohol is affecting us until we remove it completely and see the differences it makes! It completely throws off good habits – I agree! xx Good luck on the one drink rule! hehe! x

  2. Joanne on July 6, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Excellant blog Che. Just in time for me as I have given up the wine for 6 weeks. I have a very bad habit and use wine to de stress. I am just beginning to realise it causes more issues than it solves and if anything contributes to issues especially around your emotional state. I will now be using my new skill of breathing and yoga to de stress. Here’s to hoping this will be my new good habit of the future xx

  3. Julie on July 6, 2016 at 9:26 am

    On my recent trip to Greece I didn’t have a drop of alcohol due to doctor’s orders (I was on meds).. except for the occasional taste of someone else’s drink. I experienced most of the things you did. The worst part, as you mentioned – was everyone ELSE’S reaction to it. I tend to have a LOT of fun on the dance floor though, so after one night out I was vaguely ‘forgiven’, because it was clear I could still have a good time without alcohol. I annoyed my friends though by being (real quote): “WAY too energetic at breakfast”. Haha.

    Another massive benefit of not drinking is: You save a ton of money. My total on the bill was always less because it didn’t include two glasses of wine or shots. Virgin cocktails are also cheaper. I really enjoyed my break from alcohol (not that I was a big drinker before) and didn’t miss it at all. My liver and my bank balance are thanking me.

    • Ché Dyer on July 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Oh Wow! I didn’t even MENTION the savings!! that is a HUGE one! Especially in London where drinking out is so expensive! One fancy cocktail could cost you £11 in some places! A night out which would easily usually have cost over £200 becomes next to nothing! It’s insane! Yes I think once you realise that you can have fun without alcohol you really learn that you don’t need it! (AND double win to not wake up with a throbbing head and millions less in your bank account! haha) xx Hope you had an awesome time in Greece! (Ouzo is disgusting anyway)

  4. Kelly on July 6, 2016 at 10:22 am

    I’m two months into giving up alcohol, not too sure how long I’ll give it up for. Your points are SO spot on, I was surprised how much other people are bothered by it and me not drinking is such a “thing”. I’ve surprised myself actually by having great nights out without it, surprising because I think of myself more as an introverted person. The only thing that spoils my night out actually is my friends, as they become drunker, giving me more and more grief about not drinking. Also noticed how people wear their love of wine as some kind of badge of honour, I’ve just noticed so many memes dedicated to loving wine and not being able to be without it.

  5. Jessica on July 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Totally agree with you!! I maybe have 1 drink every couple months & it’s mostly because I just don’t care. I have 3 kiddos now, so I don’t get out too much to social drink, but even before kids, I would always be the DD. I would so much rather do other activities with friends than have to worry about people asking me why I don’t want a drink. I really don’t know why, I just don’t. ?

    • Ché Dyer on July 7, 2016 at 11:10 am

      It’s such a strange culture we live in! And agree that there are way better ways to socialise with friends than with drinking. This experiment of mine has really given me a whole new perspective on not drinking! And I respect people even more who choose not to drink at all – because it’s SO ingrained in our culture which makes it quite socially difficult to say no! Well done for reaching the point of not being bothered by other’s reactions! x

  6. Liv on July 6, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I love everything about this Ché! It’s like suddenly someone understands. I’m not a big drinker, I’ve never given it up entirely but I’ve never felt the need to as I drink quite lightly/infrequently. I am perfectly happy with my own decisions to do this but I feel so victimised by others for making this decision! I’m ‘boring’ or ‘uptight’ purely because I opt for a soft drink? I love how you stressed the point that drinking and socialising are two different things, and it’s such a shame how that distinction has been lost. Thanks for giving me that little bit of extra confidence that’s there’s nothing wrong with my decision at all xx

  7. Erin wilkinson on July 6, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Che, lovely to read this post! I have been struggling with gastritis for 2 years now and I have had to cut out alcohol. I have had the same struggles as you and sadly not as much discipline even though drinking made me feel so ill I just couldn’t say no in some instances as I felt like I was missing out or felt so pressured into it. It’s so ridiculous that our social lives are controlled by drinking! I did experience all the positives side effects of not drinking but still feel like I needed a bigger excuse for not drinking than being ill! Like I need to say I’m pregnant or training for the olympics to justify my not drinking! Anyway I am going to take some strength from you and be strict so I can get better! X

    • Ché Dyer on July 7, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Ah Erin! So sorry to hear about your struggles! I will agree that it isn’t always easy to say no to a glass of wine – especially when everyone else around you is having fun drinking (and especially when the wine is delicious!! haha) but through doing this I have really learnt how great is feels to be functioning optimally and I don’t think it’s something we really realise – (or attribute to alcohol even) unless we completely cut it out and then notice how we feel! It IS sad how we need to feel like we are training for the Olympics (lol) in order to justify not having a drink – but I think the more you get used to being in social situations without it (and realise that it totally can be done! (and is really not that difficult after the first 2 drinks!) it will get easier and easier! Your health is more important than a hangover for sure! good luck! x

  8. Katie on July 7, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Ché, this is all so true! I’ve never been a huge drinker but after not drinking while pregnant I just no longer feel the need to drink, other than a glass of wine every now and then. But this really upsets people, especially when the shooters come around- “C’mon have a shooter!” “Why aren’t you having a shooter?!” It is so strange how everyone wants to force you to drink when it makes no difference to them, they can’t feel the effects the shooter would have on me so why does it matter? The best thing is waking up hangover free in the morning and cheerily greeting all the tired, hungover people 🙂 x x

    • Ché Dyer on July 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Yes agree! It’s SO bizarre – exactly what you’ve said – the effects of this shooter will do NOTHING to you – so why is it so important for you that I drink it?! I think people’s insistence on other’s drinking says more about their own choices than it does about yours! hangover free mornings are definitely the way forward! As I said, I don’t think i will ever give up drinking entirely (although never say never, right?!) but it will be more of a conscious decision on my part as to whether or not I drink or not! x

  9. Catherine on July 15, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I have never been a big drinker – though I do enjoy my wine etc. I completely agree that it’s so frustrating that drinking and socialising has become blurred, and all the other things you listed above.
    Often when I’m out, I don’t feel like having alcohol, however the alternatives are nearly always depressingly non-existent or full or sugar. (Or perhaps I need to find some good non-alcoholic alternatives that most places would have available !)
    My husband drinks even less than I do, and finds it even more difficult – having a beer seems to be so deeply ingrained in male culture, that ordering something else almost seems to be banned.

    • Ché Dyer on July 24, 2016 at 11:29 am

      I completely agree! And also about the fact that non-alcoholic drinks are just loaded with sugar! I found that a good alternative for me was soda water with fresh lime! It is sad that socialising and drinking have become so blurred! I can imagine it being even more difficult for men!

  10. Tracey Rohan Irwin on July 22, 2016 at 8:42 am

    This is the exact information that I was looking for. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    • Ché Dyer on July 24, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Glad it was helpful for you! Thanks for reading! x

  11. Caitlin Jean on July 26, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    As part of my 30 before 30 list, I decide not to drink / consume any alcohol for 12 months, yep one whole year. Starting from 29th birthday and ending on my 30th (wow what a crazy night that was!!) I can totally related to all of the above. The main reason why I did it was because I felt a bit out of control when intoxicated and I was making poor decisions. Basically I did not like the person I was when drunk. Yes 12 months was tough and yes there were times where I really wanted a drink but I chose not to. I did it for me and I am eternally grateful for the experience. Now I am in a better place and state of mind to enjoy the benefits of sipping my favourite cocktail.

    • Ché Dyer on August 3, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Wow that’s awesome! A whole year is amazing! Since my 3 months of not drinking, I have gone back to having a few drinks here and there on the weekend and I can already notice a huge difference in my energy levels, vitality and motivation! I’m itching to have another few sober months again! You’ve inspired me! x

  12. Suze on September 20, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I’ve just reached 9 months no booze for no reason other than I wanted ( / needed) to give it a rest for the first time in 25-odd years, and I couldn’t agree more with every point you make! I was a fairly heavy drinker and enjoyed a wild ol’ time, and found justifying the change to others the hardest part. Now it’s (finally) just accepted, and apparently I’m still just as much fun to be out with – so I’m going to keep going a bit longer! It’s not forever, but I love the abundance of energy and feeling this great all the time – especially the improved mornings! A year ago I would have been a total skeptic, but now I wish everyone could experience first hand how good it feels to be on the other side of the (initial) struggle ?

    • Ché Dyer on September 20, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Yes I completely agree – I think one of the hardest things is to try and justify your decision to other people! (which is really absurd because it honestly does not affect anyone else!) I have gone back to having a few drinks and I have really been reflecting a lot lately on how amazing, focused and full of energy I felt. I think I may be heading towards another period of giving up! Will keep you posted! Keep going – you are doing great and by the sounds of it – feeling amazing too! xxx

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