A Funny Thing Happens When you Stop Drinking…

Credit Justine Nienebar @Punkystarfish

Around five months ago, I decided to stop drinking. The decision, although brewing under the surface for years (pun intended 😛 ), seemed to arrive suddenly, and sporadically, forcing itself to the forefront of my consciousness. It was the day after Valentine’s day, a Monday morning. I woke up to go to work, and felt the familiar twang of a hangover from a weekend of festivities, blurry memories, and a horrible gash on my leg from an unidentified drunken injury (or UDI as it is conveniently termed).

Just another weekend right?

But for some reason, this was not just another weekend, and something inside me felt different. I knew this was not the life I wanted to lead – wasting my weekends away, dealing with brutal hangovers, forgetting conversations and connections, drunken injuries and watching another weekend go by doing the same things, and ending the same way.

Enough was enough and I was bored.

I would have never have thought this was something I could have done, giving up the drink. I remember meeting a young guy around 2 years ago who didn’t drink by choice, and I remember feeling fascinated by this. I mean, everyone drinks right? Only alcoholics don’t drink.

Funny that… how you only have a problem with alcohol when you choose not to drink it. I mean, when you stop taking other drugs like coke or heroin, for example, society doesn’t say you have a problem; they say that when you start taking the stuff.

So what is the deal with alcohol, one of the most addictive drugs in the world, which makes it so socially tolerable? In fact society seems to encourage drinking, not just tolerate it!

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Memes be like…

If you think you do not have a dependency on alcohol, think again. Even just the occasional drink comes with a certain ‘need’ or ‘desire’, or social conditioning to accompany it. Ever wanted to celebrate with champagne, have a glass of wine after a hectic day or a beer when you are watching the sports? Don’t get me wrong – everything in moderation right? I mean substances like sugar and caffeine aren’t good for you either?

My issue is that not only is moderate drinking tricky, and often a slippery slope for drinking too much, but that society actually normalises and encourages excessive drinking. Weekend hangover ‘comradery’ on the couch with friends, hangover ‘cure’ meals and smoothies, endless memes about (mostly women) consuming ALL the wine, getting trashed at a bachelors/ bachelorettes and of course a billion songs dedicated to being drunk (here’s but a few of them).

Don’t you think this is just strange? The fact that we are consuming a chemical (and toxic) substance regularly to try and ‘achieve’ feelings of happiness, to relieve sadness, to numb ourselves, to fit in, to relieve anxiety, to get the courage to dance or to talk to a boy or girl, to be ‘patriotic’ when watching sports. To encourage men to buy women drinks to get them drunk, so they will like you?

Not only does this getting a whole lot of media time, the negative effects of alcohol are hardly to be spoken about.

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Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising

Did you know alcohol has been linked directly with a myriad of cancers such as Head and Neck Cancer, Esophagal Cancer, Liver Cancer, Breast Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, and more. I sure as hell didn’t. But the studies are becoming more and more convincing. Read here  and here. Remember the time when doctors used to promote smoking cigarettes? Remember what came next?

And while we seem to be getting ‘greener’ by the year, buying more organic products, eating less meat, smoking less, meditatating in obscure places and yoga-ing the shit out of life, it’s still totally fine to knock a few back a few times a week. Hell, its even healthy to drink red wine right? (sorry to burst your bubble but…). With a host of health, mindful blogs and sites out there, the topic of alcohol is hardly touched on.

While I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, or tell anyone to stop drinking, all I am asking is that we call a spade a spade.

Let’s stop lacing alcohol with the meanings attached to it. It is not happiness, courage, love, pride, joy, culture, comradery, passion, reward – WE are all those things.

If you ask me how my life has changed without alcohol, apart from all the obvious positive aspects of having guilt and hangover-free weekends filled with activities (not drinking requires you need to get a little more creative with your time), saving a lot of money, remembering people and connections, life has remained incredibly NORMAL.

I still go partying with friends, I still go to festivals, for dinners, I still go on dates. Life goes on!

I don’t even think about drinking anymore. It just doesn’t seem necessary. And while I am not sure if this lifestyle change is permanent or if one day I’ll do that ‘moderation’ thing, in the meantime, I feel proud of myself for rediscovering the awesomeness that is life, just as it is.

Just as I am.

Header image credit: Justine Nienaber @Punkystarfish  Instagram/Twitter. 

Stanford Image source. 

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