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Giving up alcohol in 2021 - what lock-down has taught me

It came to me suddenly. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a drink. Even more surprisingly, I found I didn't miss it at all.

I was slow to the drinking world. Having tried the odd titbit of alcohol when I was younger, I wasn't really impressed. It tasted pretty disgusting. Of course, this all changed when I went to university. Not instantly. For my first year I didn't really drink at all. Then I discovered the miracle of mixers so that I could actually mask the taste of alcohol. There was no going back after that.

There started the habit of binge drinking most weeks. I didn't consume obscene amounts. Helped by the fact that my tolerance is embarrassingly low! But I would regularly get drunk. As with most students, I enjoyed it. Although I was fairly confident, I still had a certain shyness coming from a small Scottish Island to suddenly within a university heaving with students. The alcohol gave me an extra boost. It also proved a good talking point as I could bond with fellow students over funny drunk or bad hangover stories. Drinking alcohol meant I could fit in. At this point of my life, this was important to me.

Me in my early 20's with my girls

But this was coming at a cost. By regularly poisoning my body, my health was starting to deteriorate. Having a sensitive stomach at the best of times, this over-indulgence meant that I was regularly sick and having to spend whole days in bed to recover. This was followed by over-eating junk food to make up for these lost hours of eating. An unhealthy cycle to say the least. It also started to affect my mental health. I'd awaken and be anxious when I couldn't recall every moment of the evening before. I had lost time. Alcohol had robbed this from me.

Despite this, I don't regret my student days. I still managed to come away with a good degree and some fantastic friends. However, as I'm now in my late 20's, I've found that my relationship with alcohol has changed. I am a very different person from my student self. I am no longer frivolous with my health as I have created a life where I nurture my mind and body. Since going vegan a few years ago, my diet has improved dramatically. I have a far healthier relationship with food and thoroughly enjoy creating nourishing plant-based meals. Although still indulging in the odd doughnut or punnet of ice cream here and there of course! I also exercise regularly with pilates and yoga being some of my favourite ways to move my body. I ensure that I get good quality sleep with early nights to allow me to have productive mornings. Mornings, that used to be slept away, have now become my most precious time of day.

So I have grown, but alcohol has still remained part of my life. Its intertwined with many social occasions, making it almost a habit. A reflex when with friends. However, without really noticing, I've found that I've been turning down alcohol more and more. I remember one of the first occasions when I did this. I was meeting friends for dinner. An occasion where I would have deemed alcohol almost compulsory. However, knowing that I had an early morning the next day, I decided to say no. Its ridiculous that I felt rather embarrassed by this decision as I tried to subtly order a mocktail. My old habit of fitting in was creeping up on me. It didn't work of course. The cat was out of the bag. I braced for the response but there was none. No backlash. No funny looks or sarcastic comments. Its as if they didn't even care...

This evening was a gamechanger for me. More often than not, I choose the soft drink option now. It helps that I live in a caravan out in the sticks. My eyes water when I think about the cost of a taxi home. And I am far too old to be crashing on peoples sofas. Not drinking just seems the simplest option. I can leave whenever I want, having had my fill of socialising for the evening, so I can return for cuddles with my cat.

My cuddle buddy

So giving up drinking won't be a dramatic change for me. As I am only a social drinker, and live alone, 2020 has been a particularly dry year. A couple of cans of cider have been gathering dust at the back of my cupboard. I just didn't see the point of drinking them. Even on Christmas day, my partner and I opted for a soft drink. I'm fully expecting New Year will be the same.

I thought I would miss it. The buzz of alcohol on a night out. I have missed the socialising, but not the drinking. Not once. I could give it up all together but I have decided to give myself a year's grace. As there may be more social opportunities (hopefully!) in 2021 I will really have the chance to test this. This decision will make my excuses far simpler. No more lame 'I've got an early morning' excuse now. I simply don't drink. People will just have to accept that. As I've previously written (here), as a vegan and a minimalist, I am pretty used to being the odd one out. Once I've set my mind on something, it always sticks. I am lucky that I know my friends will support me with this. It helps that many of my friends also drink very little if not at all. Many of us well past our student days.

I have been surprised by the feeling of relief after making this decision. For someone who drinks very little, alcohol had clearly been sitting as a weight on my mind. Its tiring trying to persuade yourself that you enjoy something when, in reality, it no longer brings you joy. It hasn't for a long time. As I shed another of society's expectations I am unburned and excited to live 2021 on my own terms.


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