I did it! I am so pleased with myself and I feel an enormous sense of achievement. As you may have read previously, my two resolutions for this year were to:
1) start a blog
2) attempt dry January for the first time ever.
Well obviously as you’re reading this, you will know that I accomplished my decision to write a blog. What you probably will not have realised so far is whether or not I was successful with dry January. I do have a small confession to make – on 2nd January I did have a bit of a relapse. I could make excuses for this and blame the fact I was still on holiday from work, or that my Christmas tree was still up – so still holiday season, or that they were still showing Christmassy programmes/films on Tv – so still holiday (and drinking) season. Can you see I’m clutching at straws here? The long and short of it is that I just wasn’t quite in the right mind set. However 3rd January came and I picked myself up, dusted myself down and started all over again.
Over a month on I am so thankful and blessed that I have not touched a single drop of alcohol since that day. Thirty nine days may not seem that long to some people but I am completely content with this and am looking at it as just the beginning of my journey.
I started thinking about who invented alcohol in the first place, if, in fact, it was invented. Was it created deliberately as a mind altering substance or perhaps someone came across it by accident? I will only touch on this briefly but apparently the ancient Chinese made a type of wine from rice, honey and fruit 9000 years ago! Archaeologists have discovered evidence that our ancestors years and years ago deliberately created fermented drinks. This fact actually surprised me. I guess I hadn’t really thought about what civilisation was like in those days. I know wine is mentioned in the bible, when Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, so my understanding was that wine has been around for about 2000 years. I also discovered that ancient primates thousands and thousands of years ago used to sniff out and eat fermented fruit which had an intoxicating effect on them. Perhaps it’s in our genetic make-up. Maybe this explains why so many people drink it in some form or another.
Its a pity that alcohol is so socially acceptable when it can also be responsible for so many problems. I find it unbelievable that children between the age of five and sixteen can legally drink alcohol at home! It is also a shame that on the surface it appears to be the solution for many things. For example in those days in the distant past people drank it to feel closer to their friends and closer to the spiritual world. I guess because it lowers inhibitions and makes people talk more freely. People drink because they think it relieves stress. You know that feeling, it’s ‘wine o’clock’ after a busy day at work, or you’ve put your children to bed and want some reward time – adult space and time to relax. Europe, as a continent, is where people tend to drink the most, perhaps it’s a mixture of tradition and lifestyle.
My personal observation of alcohol is that it is socially ‘normal’ and in a way it is more normal for people to drink than not to drink. If someone has a party or even a barbecue it is expected that you take along some wine or beers or whatever you wish to give the host. It is polite for the host to pour the guests a glsss of wine as soon as they arrive. If someone isn’t drinking they give an excuse. “Oh no sorry I’m driving,” or “Not for me, I’m on medication,” or another excuse. Not many people (well in my experiences) just say they prefer not to drink. So as well as it being socially acceptable and normal it is socially encouraged. If you go to a restaurant for a meal, the first thing the waiter does is ask you what you would like to drink, or bring you the wine list. I’m really hoping I can break the mould for me and not make an excuse but just say that I don’t drink. The more I think about this, the more I am encouraged to stay alcohol -free.
Although this month has been difficult at times, I think it is just the habit of drinking wine many of us become accustomed to. Obviously for some people there is a physical dependency but a high percentage of us just like to drink it. Even as I’m writing this article, an advert for champagne has just been on the TV – probably because we are approaching Valentines Day. It’s all around us. People drink, among other reasons, because it lowers their inhibitions, makes them more confident and helps them temporarily forget their problems and stresses. Unfortunately the problems will still be there though.
Alcohol has many physical effects on the body, it actually changes the wiring in your brain, which is kind of scary when you think about it. It interferes with neurotransmitters, which are essential for good mental health. Also the more you drink, the more you need to drink to make you feel good, as your brain adjusts to it so needs more of it to alter your mind. I think it’s a bit of a vicious cycle, like this:
Personally I am finding that it is easier to deal with stress when completely sober. I have not found that my life has been significantly more stressful since stopping drinking. I feel a lot calmer and things that would have bothered me before don’t bother me as much now.
I hope I don’t sound patronising but this is my perception and opinion.
I wonder if some of my new sense of calmness is due to the fact I am actually sleeping like a normal person now. When drinking, I would fall asleep easily and deeply (sometimes on the settee) but then wake up and lie awake in the depths of insomnia, this is partly because your blood sugar levels dip, also you are dehydrated and probably need to go the loo.
Alcohol has many negative effects: it dehydrates your skin and deprives it of essential nutrients, it makes your face bloated and puffy, it causes a bloated stomach and cellulite from the toxins, plus bloodshot eyes and a red face. These are just what you can see on the outside, inside you have all sorts of damage going on, from your heart to your liver to your stomach and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So some of the benefits I have noticed so far include feeling calmer and definitely more rested in the morning, having better, less dry skin, saving money, feeling more alive and happy and also feeling like my life in general is much richer and more enjoyable. To me, it’s a no-brainer, I just wish I’d done it sooner…