I decided to quit alcohol over 8 years ago. It is probably the biggest and most impactful decision of my life to date. It took some time to come to this decision. I had quit alcohol twice previously. Once for 6 months and another time for 9 months but caved into peer pressure on both occasions. I would go back drinking on the condition that I would moderate…
No one ever told me that I should give up and many encouraged me (some directly & others subtly) to go back drinking. I knew myself that my relationship with alcohol wasn’t healthy, but it wasn’t much different to any of my friends or people I socialised with. I wasn’t one for going to the pub every evening or on a regular basis. But I would go sporadically, once every other week, sometimes more. This usually involved going out with the lads on the p!ss which always ended in a hangover the next day. Maybe even into the day after that too. I had the habit of smoking whilst drinking which compounded the hangovers!
I lived in New York for 2 years and even though it is a party town, it opened my eyes to how the Irish are viewed when it comes to our relationship with alcohol. One year we held a St Patrick's Day party in my apartment that I shared with 3 American guys. I invited my Irish friends and they invited their pals to the party. The ‘Americans’ were confident from the beginning and socialising with ease, whilst us Irish were keeping to ourselves. However, after a few drinks we (the Irish contingent) started to take over the party with our exuberance and love of the craic! At the time I thought it to be humorous, looking back it was clear that we needed the alcohol to have fun whilst the ‘Americans’ were comfortable in their own skin from the beginning.
It got me thinking…
I had this inner voice that kept telling me I would be better off without alcohol. It took a couple of years before I made the firm decision to quit. I found it easier to completely quit than to just have one or two when out socialising be it a night out, a wedding or some other type of social occasion. It is very difficult to literally have just one or two drinks when everyone else is consuming 7, 8, 9 or more drinks on a night out. The peer pressure has been pretty intense at times, but believe me, it is important to remain strong. As Sun Tzu says ‘burn the bridges behind you’ so there is no going back. Living a healthier lifestyle with improved sleep, diet and exercise helps to keep you strong both mentally and physically and allows you to prevail when you encounter the peer pressure!
My Alcohol-Free Experiences
I could write about how amazing living AF is (which it is) but also there are challenges. You are swimming against the tide, especially in a country like Ireland. It is like you must have been an alcoholic or had a serious problem with the drink to ‘need’ to give it up…
I am humoured these days with the expression on some peoples faces when I tell them I don’t drink. Also, I must admit that my social life has changed over the years and I don’t socialise as much on nights out or at least when I do, I am usually the first to leave. The enjoyment of socialising fades when everyone else is 4-5 drinks in, and you start to notice that you are on different wavelengths. That is usually my cue to leave. I have accepted that, and I am fine with it now. I get to hop into my car and head home for a restful night’s sleep. This might sound boring to some, but I would rather that than having a 2-day hangover! Socialising tends to take place during the day now; whether it's a game of tennis, playing tag rugby, meeting friends for coffee, lunch or dinner. I appreciate these things so much more now – there was a time when I took them for granted!
Here are some of the benefits I have experienced since becoming AF over 8 years ago:
- I have less friends but closer friendships with the ones I do have.
- I have more confidence and courage. I have done things that I thought required alcohol – asking someone of the opposite sex out on a date in the middle of the day was incomprehensible a few years ago!
- Health: I have always been pretty sporty and into health but believe I am fitter/healthier than I was 10 years ago!
- Less selfish: I am conscious of the people around me and more likely to look out for others on a night out or any social occasion.
- I have read over 100+ books over the past 8 years.
- I have started and grown a business during this time.
- I have travelled and seen many parts of the world.
- My sleep has improved, I sleep deeper than before (one of the best things about being AF).
- Public Speaking: I have given a commencement speech at my university, delivered 2 eulogies, 2 best man speeches, been on live TV and radio – all AF!
- Better introspection: I used to enjoy been life and soul of the party. I now realise that I am slightly on the introverted side and that is ok. I don’t need alcohol to make me someone I am not naturally.
- Joy: I have more joy and grateful for many wonderful gifts in my life.
The above is not to brag but to let people know that there are many benefits to living an alcohol-free lifestyle. It won’t always be easy but anything worthwhile never is.
I wish you all the best!