We know being alcohol-free has benefits for our health, productivity and bank balance, but what is the impact on families and home life?
The United Nations International Day of Families, and Mother’s Day in the USA are celebrated on the 15th and 12th May respectively. It’s a chance to acknowledge the people closest to us, and the impact that we have one one another’s lives.
The usual emotions associated with both dates seem magnified as a result of the current world situation. We’re either in lockdown with the people closest to us, or we’re not able to see them for as long as lockdown persists.
Focusing on the family unit
Society is built in units of families, in all their forms. Although the International Day of Families was conceived to promote understanding of how socio-economic factors affect families, it’s also an opportunity to focus our minds on being part of a family, and everything that means.
The idea of family varies across the world, and the structure of families and family life has changed dramatically over the last few decades. COVID-19 notwithstanding, in the UK and US, the majority of adults are employed in work or study, either inside or outside the home. The times that we come together as a family have become fewer and further between. For example, 50 years ago, families frequently ate dinner together. Now we do so less often.
We take more holidays though, and the week or two, once or twice a year that we get to spend with our loved ones, carefree with flip flops on and the alarm firmly off, are special times.
A place of safety and support
It isn’t always the case, but in general terms, family should be our safe place. It’s where we can take off the face that we sometimes have to show to the world and just be us. Modern life is often stressful. In ordinary, non-pandemic times, there’s the commute, the late nights, the office politics, the grind. Home and family is – ideally – where we throw off those things and slot into our safe, loving place to restore ourselves ready for the next day.
Of course, we also have a responsibility to make that everyone else in our family feel nurtured, supported and safe. One of the benefits of being alcohol-free is how much easier it is to do exactly that, without the spectre of booze casting its long shadow.
If one member of any family has a dysfunctional or dependent relationship with drinking, at it’s worst, it can have a catastrophic effect on family life.
“I hate the gaps in my memory more than anything. I could remember up to a certain point of the evening, drinking wine, getting more drunk, and then it’s like the lights turned off in my head. My job was stressful and several nights a week, I drank from the moment I came home until I passed out. Because it was ‘only wine’ I persuaded myself that my drinking was part of being a busy working parent, juggling God knows how many balls, and rewarding myself with a few glasses in the evening. The reality for my family is that they never got the best of me. I was either exhausted, drinking, drunk or hungover. Quitting booze transformed my family life, no question.”
Giving up drinking: Why it’s great for your family
There are so many benefits for your family life when you give up alcohol. Chances are that you’ll feel calmer and more patient. You’ll have time and energy to enjoy with the people you love. What’s really fantastic? When you catch yourself, feeling positive, having a laugh or doing something daft or rewarding with the people you love most in the world, and you realise that if alcohol was still part of your life, it wouldn’t be quite like this.
“I love that I can be present for my kids. I’m right there, in the moment with them. I don’t care if they bounce on the bed to wake me up – I’m not battling a raging hangover anymore. I’m not getting irritable, thinking that I’m ‘wasting time’ because I’m not drinking. I’m not getting stressed out about the fact that there’s no booze in the house. I’m so much happier, and I know my family is too. I can’t go back in time and fix the mistakes I made. I owe it to them to be the best person, dad and partner I can be in the future. For me, that means no booze.”
Winning at being a team
At the risk of sounding cheesy, you’re on your family team. While you don’t need to all wear matching tee shirts saying as much (although if you love the idea, don’t let us stop you), it’s a good philosophy.
Family life can be exasperating, tiring and tricky to balance. It can also be exhilarating in its warmth and embrace. We count on each other to be solid, to pull together and give each other a bit of space when we need it. We won’t get it right all the time, but we owe it to the people we love to strive to be our most reliable, compassionate, kind and life-loving selves.
And every day, hundreds of people wake up and realise that ditching alcohol is often the best place to start.