How I feel after a month of not drinking alcohol

a month of not drinking alcohol

Throughout the month of May I held a Jump Start challenge on this site, with something new and thrifty to try every day. I love month-long challenges, and this year I’m undertaking quite a few of them. On top of the Jump Start I also decided to completely cut out alcohol for May.

What made me pick this particular challenge? I admit that on this occasion it was for a bet. Yes, Beau bet me I couldn’t go 31 days without having some booze, and of course I had to prove him wrong, didn’t I? I’d also like to mention that he placed this wager with me just a few days after giving me a very fancy bottle of Bathtub Gin.

Anyway, that was the challenge. So I’ve managed to go over a month without alcohol now, and it has been quite a weird experience; at no point have I actually craved or especially wanted a drink, and I suppose that’s good news on the health front, although I have felt a bit left out at times when others have been enjoying their wine and beer.

While I’m one of those people who genuinely enjoys a nice social drink or two, or perhaps three on special occasions, I don’t go over the recommended safe levels of alcohol consumption over the course of a week. Also, I don’t enjoy drinking during the day at all, and don’t like drinking alone. However, I had started to get into the habit of having a small nightcap before bed sometimes as I occasionally have insomnia, even though I know that’s not wise in the long run.

What were the real effects of not drinking? As I don’t usually drink anything close to a harmful amount of alcohol, I can’t say my health has drastically improved – but my sleep patterns are definitely better than they were before. Can’t say I feel like a new woman or super perky or anything along those lines, but it’s been good to try something a bit different and challenge and examine some behaviour patterns.

The weirdest moment was undoubtedly a couple of weeks ago when I went to a gig at the Roundhouse in Camden. We had balcony seats and when I sat down I realised that it had been maybe ten years since I’d been to see a band and not had a beer or spirits and a mixer in my hand when the music started. It felt…odd. Then I noticed I was having a wave of anxious thoughts: had I left the gas ring on at home, had I forgotten to unplug the toaster that can’t be left plugged in, and had I double locked the front door properly?

It was pretty stressful and not how you’d hope to feel at the beginning of a fun evening of live music. In context though, I did once go out to a gig and halfway through the encore remembered I’d left the gas oven on, then ran home in a panic to find two fire engines outside my house, lights flashing (actually they’d been called there for a cat stuck up a tree, and fortunately my extremely overbaked cake hadn’t quite caught fire by that point….it had only turned into a tiny piece of flour-based concrete) – so that was more like a really bad memory coming back rather than an irrational thought that came out of nowhere.

The best option seemed to be sitting with the thoughts and letting them pass by, and sure enough they faded after a couple of minutes. A very strange and slightly unexpected experience, but it all turned out okay in the end. It did make me wonder whether this happens more than I realise because a beer masks it, or whether it was simply the change to the usual routine of ‘arrive at venue, go to the bar’ that brought it on. Or maybe it was the extra coffee consumed beforehand that brought on the jitters.

When you simply cut out one activity, often another one often crops up to take its place. In my case I drank a little more water than usual, but I also found myself drinking more coffee to begin with. After all, it’s easier and much nicer to meet people for coffee than a glass of water, for example, and I got fed up of explaining to various people that I was teetotal for May and wasn’t doing my usual thing in the pub.

On the plus side with replacement activities, I also recently used some Amazon vouchers to buy a nifty personal blender in the sales and have been making all kinds of smoothies for the last few days. That’s been an especially positive experience, it’s tasty and usually healthy, and it turns out it’s very difficult to make a bad smoothie if you have a good blender.

It’s also made me consider my personal and family experiences with alcohol. Various relatives gave me spirits to drink on several occasions before the age of two, and one grandmother took the temperance pledge while the other essentially drank herself to death. Quite a few relatives in the extended family are in the brewing and hospitality trades and take advantage of every freebie and allowance. My Dad drinks and drives to such an extent that I will probably never get in a car with him again.

I suspect that becoming a moderate drinker in the face of these extremes was probably some kind of secret teenage rebellion that slips under the radar of most casual observers, and going teetotal for a month has thrown a few things into sharp relief.

Experiment over, but I still don’t want a drink. Not in a moralistic or abstemious way, more that I’m not in the mood right now.

Have you changed any of your habits recently? If so, were there any unexpected changes?

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  1. Dear Penny,
    Congratulations for this not very funny experience. But alcohol is at the very first place a huge waste of money, isn’t it ? Think about all the money you could have been putting away since then ????
    I am not a moraliser in any way. Everybody is free. I, myself only drink twice a year : for Xmas and for New Year Eve…..
    Love, Pat,

  2. Hi Patricia, I think you could potentially label any consumable product that’s not essential to life as a ‘waste of money’. Just as I have zero regrets about wearing perfume or drinking tea and eating cake, I also have no regrets about the occasional glass of wine on a night out 🙂 If I was a binge drinker, developed any level of dependency or had harmed my health then it would probably be a very different matter.

  3. Dear Penny,

    I am sorry if I offenced you. It was not my intention, though. I love your website and I am a big fan of you. I reckon that it is very honest from your part to expose your experience, like any other that you may tested during the Jump Start. But you are right about the fact that every touch of consumering can be considered as a waste of money in any way, though. This is why, we so much enjoy life.
    Love, Pat,

  4. Hi Patricia – please don’t worry, I’m not offended at all. I just have a slightly different way of looking at the situation, and I also think that you have a right to your own opinion too as you have had different experiences and will have your own way of looking at things. Besides, if I went teetotal then the crazy Baptists on one side of my family would have won 😀

    Penny xx

  5. Hi Penny,

    Love you much, have a nice day, and I am looking forward to a new article or a new challenge,
    Love, Pat,

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