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The tremendous experience of giving up alcohol for ten months

Updated on October 27, 2010

One is never enough, sadly.

Ahhh, that's better.

This hub is not a lecture, or an attempt to convert anyone to teetotalism. It is purely anecdotal and autobiographical in its nature, an observation about my choices.

Almost twelve months ago I had a terrible hangover. I did not have hangovers very often, but I was noticing that it seemed to be impossible for me to go out for an evening with friends without inflicting a severe headache upon myself the next day. Quite frankly I was starting to be disgusted with my lack of will power, my inability to resist those last two or three drinks, or to get home before 2am. Before children, it didn't really matter if I chose to spend the odd Sunday in bed with paracetomol and a bottle of coke. But with children, who have waited through a whole week at school for those two precious days with me and their dad, waited to do something fun, it's not fair.

Let me just clarify, justify, explain myself a little. We are talking here about going out less often than once a month, no drinking at home whatsoever; we are not talking about a serious problem with alcohol, just an annoying one that I wanted to deal with for my own peace of mind. The guilt associated with drinking is something that I do not enjoy living with, even though I do not think that have ever actually done anything to feel guilty about whilst drunk, but the feelings still persist. I once read AA's criteria for self diagnosis of alcoholism (I had a friend who was an alcoholic; she has it well under control now, happily) - the leaflet seemed to suggest that everyone who enjoys a few drinks, ever, is an alcoholic, which I find a little draconian. I don't consider myself to be in any way an alcoholic. But perhaps the guilt I feel when I drink is actual a physiological response to the physical damage, albeit minimal, that I do to my body through the consumption of something that is poisonous to it. It's a theory: probably a nonsense. Let's move on.

For some people, one or two drinks are not enough. There really is only one option worth considering - no alcohol at all.

I made the decision to give up alcohol in November of 2009. Some people would say that this was a silly time to choose, what with Christmas coming up, the festive season. I guess those people are not ready to make the commitment to give up the booze themselves then! I saw this particular time of year as the perfect opportunity to test myself. I only had to wait a couple of weeks for the first night out, my partner's office Christmas party. I volunteered to drive to make sure I wouldn't be able to weaken. If we had taken a taxi to the venue it's difficult to tell whether or not I would have given in and ordered a pint of beer as soon as we got to the bar. But I can say, without any attempt to deceive, that I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was very pleasantly surprised that I felt no compulsion to order a glass of wine at all. I enjoyed having a clear head for the full evening, and particularly the following morning.

Every evening out after that proved to be no challenge at all. Sometimes I took the car, sometimes we walked or took a bus. The joy I felt every time, when I woke up the next day to the knowledge that I did not have a hangover was electric, and that is no exaggeration. I would bounce out of bed - sometimes to discover that I had sore feet, because my teetotalism did not diminish my love of dancing - and embrace the day. I think that particular kind of relief can only be experienced by someone who has endured crushing hangovers.

My dry spell lasted ten months. I had agreed with myself that I would take booze breaks for my brother's Stag Weekend, and for his Barbados wedding. The booze break seems to have run on for an extra couple of weeks, and I am once again feeling alcohol's grip tightening. So it is time to put the self-imposed ban back in place. I am looking forward to it, very much. I suppose I could challenge myself to only drink two drinks whenever I go out, but I don't think I trust my will power that much. Besides, I'm interested to see if I can beat my ten month record.

I can tell you this though: alcohol is far easier to give up than chocolate. I only lasted forty days and forty nights with that one. Ugh, horrible.


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