Reducing alcohol consumption has many positive benefits for our health. Lower alcohol intake reduces your risk of developing cancer, liver disease and diabetes, and helps improve mood, memory and quality of sleep.
In this blog, Mike reflects on all the benefits, both physical and personal, he has experienced since one simple question changed the way he thinks about alcohol.
The inspiration for this blog came to me while watching the film American History X. In the film, Dr Sweeney, a teacher, visits a former student, Derek, while in prison and asks, ‘Has anything you’ve done made your life better?’. Derek realises that his beliefs and choices up to this point have resulted in only pain and suffering to himself and those around him.
This got me thinking. Thinking about what alcohol was bringing to the table for me.
The belief that caused me so much pain and suffering was that alcohol added value to my life. I believed that drinking alcohol enhanced my relationships, developed my social life, gave me more confidence and made me relax. I thought it decreased my anxiety, increased the enjoyment of music and amplified watching football. The marketing of alcohol and the way it is so normalised and revered in society had led me to believe that I needed alcohol to have a good time.
The truth is I had drank pretty heavily and regularly from my late teens and through the entirety of my 20’s. In that time, I had lost my driving license due to alcohol, had intimate relationships break down and lost close friends. I disappointed my family, unfulfilled my true potential at work and let myself get in the worst physical and mental shape of my life.
So, when I began reflecting on this belief that alcohol improved my life, it hit me. Had anything to do with drinking alcohol really made my life any better? The answer astoundingly was no. I couldn’t think of a single, tangible benefit from alcohol that had improved my life.
If you had told me five years ago that I would have given up drinking alcohol by the age of 33, I would have told you that there wasn’t a chance on earth of that happening. Fast forward to the present day, I’m fully sober and can proudly say that I’m in the best physical condition of my life. I have little to no anxiety day to day, I’m the most confident I’ve ever been, enjoy social situations even more than I used to, have the deepest relationships that I’ve ever had, look forward to Monday mornings and ultimately feel more connected with the world.
The increased time that I’ve gained from not drinking and being hungover has enabled me to spend more time developing other areas of my life. I now enjoy reading, journalling, cooking, walking and having time to connect with others. Almost the entire opposite of what I thought would happen has come to pass, quite remarkably and most certainly for the better.
Giving up alcohol, for me, has been a journey that has improved with confidence, but there have been a few slips along the way. The first time attending events such as Christmas day, birthdays, concerts and summer bbqs was extremely daunting. However, it only takes one successful event to give you the confidence to tackle the rest and most importantly…enjoy them!
Now, I fundamentally believe that drinking alcohol will never make my life better in any way. It’s been a relief to break free from the idea that I needed alcohol to improve my life. I’m hopeful that by sharing my experience I can help others who might need it. I now believe that it isn’t about what you’re giving up but about what you gain.
The sober community is amazing, supportive and I’d encourage anyone who is starting out to engage as much as possible. It will really help remind you why you are doing it in the first instance and equally let you know that you’re not alone in your journey.
If, like me, you find yourself asking the question ‘has alcohol made my life any better?’ and the answer is no, an amazing journey without alcohol could just be around the corner.
Written by Mike Maher
You can follow Mike on Twitter @SoberMario123
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, there is help out there. Speak with your GP about what support might be available to you or someone you are concerned about. This is a great first step in finding help.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Calls are free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9.00am to 8.00pm, weekends 11.00am to 4.00pm).
More information about organisations which offer help and support can be found on our support page.
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.