Stop drinking alcohol – mental health benefits and more

Decision to stop drinking

Nearly two years ago, I decided to stop drinking alcohol. I read about a friend who had given drinking (who I have had a few merry nights with) and the positive impact it had had on her life. From this I decided I would go a month without alcohol. I succeeded. That rolled on to another month. Then another month and another. And it still continues. 

Drinking socially and for the sake of it

I have to put my hands up. During my student years and as an aid worker, alcohol was a social part of my life. Watching Adrian Childs programme ‘Drinkers Like me’ reminded me how my own social life often circulated around drinking. Plans were made around meeting at pubs, picnics with wine, taking a bottle round to a friends. Many goods times were had. However, some times are fuzzy and some meant I did not enjoy the day after. Regrets, giving up? No. Regretting not giving up earlier? Yes. 

Reflecting on my life without alcohol has shown me that it has had a positive impact on my life, and in hindsight I wish I had not gone back to alcohol after the birth of my children. I thought I would share with you what I have learnt about myself and other things I have discovered since I gave up my relationship with alcohol.

Three main impacts of stopping drinking alcohol

  • I feel healthier. I no longer wake up to a hangover or feel not quite right. I am able to get up early and have more energy during the day. I feel less sluggish and less irritable during the day.
  • My sleep has improved. Years of having continuous sleepless nights has stopped. I now recognise that alcohol helped me get to sleep. However, I would always wake up, and struggle to get back to sleep. In the last 2 years, I have found I have deeper and less interruptive sleep. 
  • Improvement on my mental health. Looking back on my daily reflections, I notice that I have a more positive outlook on life and I have more motivation. I am able to look at issues more rationally and as a result my confidence has grown. I find myself getting less bothered about things.

Reflecting on what I have discovered

The three reasons above are good reasons for me not to pick up a glass of wind again. However, I have discovered other things. Not only about myself but also about others. I thought I would share these with you. 

Not drinking alcohol saves money. Going out with my friends is cheaper. Drinking socially is expensive. Food bills without alcohol is considerably cheaper.

Fun with drinking

I do not need to drink to have fun. Dry January –  I would hear people say that they could not go out during this month, or they could not wait until the end of January when the fun could start again. It resonated with me as I remember making similar comments. Yet here I am now. I am having same amount of fun (if not more) as before alcohol.

No hiding

I do not have to hide behind alcohol. I can be who I am. Confidence in myself has to come from me not from drinking. I am able to be myself in social or networking situations. I feel I come across as more confident and relaxed. I can be me. Being sober means I fully trust myself. I am in control of my emotions and actions.

More time

I have more time. This does not mean I am going out less. No. What I mean is my evenings at home are focused around spending time with the family or doing things for myself. Instead of sitting down with a glass of wine watching the television or hurrying bed time, I am valuing my time at home.

No drowning sorrow

Good and bad times can be felt. I do not need to drown my sorrows. I do not need celebrate my successes with a glass of champagne.  Instead feeling those strong emotions is good. There is no need to supress them. I can work through hard times by myself. I can feel happy and elated and enjoy that feeling. I can share it to. Feeling these good and bad times means I feel more alive.

Tackle problems rather than avoid them

Alcohol makes problems worse. How easy it was for me to drink to help me forget a bad day? The reason for bad day is still there tomorrow. Worse off if I was hungover, I was usually feeling irritable or tired, making the problem seem worse. Drinking does not make a problem go away. It only delays having to face it.

Enjoying sobriety

I’m enjoying sobriety. The longer I am sober, the more I want to be. I had to admit giving up drinking was not easy. The main battle was my mind. When I first gave up, I seemed to be thinking about drinking daily. However, like most habits, once I had got past the 30 days, I stopped thinking about it. My evenings are planned on what I want to do, rather whether I can drive or not. The longer sobriety lasts, the less I want a drink.

Judgement from others

Other people have problems with me giving up. Yes, it is true. People now comment on my lack of drinking (I never got comments that I drank too much!). People think I cannot walk into a pub without drinking (I can and do –  though pubs do need to improve their choice of teas though!). Giving up is my choice. I do not judge my friends or anyone else on whether they drink socially. That is there choice. I can still laugh and have fun with those who are drinking.

Enjoying more activities

I have a wider social circle and activities. Rather than arranging to go out with friends for a drink, I am discovering other things to do. Both on my own and with new friends. I am enjoying different activities. I feel some friendships have deepened. Without drinking, my conversations are meaningful and relaxed.

Where do you go?

It is hard to find a coffee/ tea shop open after the hours off 5pm (apart from the chain coffee shops). Since giving up, I have noticed there are not many non-alcoholic places to meet in the evenings in the centre of Sheffield. 

Role model for children

I am conscious on the positive role modelling I am having on my children. My children talk about not drinking when they are older. They are learning from me. They see fun can be had without alcohol. I am more even tempered so they are not seeing any cross words through alcohol or seeing me out of control. When I am with them I am just me.

In conclusion if I had to choose the one reason to stop drinking, it would be the improvement on my mental health. My mental wellbeing has improved immensely. 

Do you feel alcohol impacts your mental wellbeing? 

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Hazel Hill is a BACP Accredited counsellor and supervisor with over 20 years experience. She provides face to face counselling, as well as walk talk therapy in Sheffield to individual and couples. She also provides online counselling for aid workers and road traffic trauma. Hazel, as a qualified supervisor, also helps trainee counsellors, and supervisees applying for Accreditation. You can ring her on 07814 363855 to book an appointment now.

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