Over the years I have completed various dry Januarys and 2-3 month stints without alcohol. During these periods I’d experience the benefits of giving up alcohol. I’d get more work done, feel healthier and generally be happier. However, eventually, there was always an event or circumstance that led back to drinking alcohol again.
I was never a massive drinker, but I certainly enjoyed a beer, a gin, or 5 Jagerbombs for a tenner.
I was your average fairly regular, social drinker. I have loads of decent memories of mental nights out and early mornings in kitchens discussing the meaning of life, but I used to always regret abusing my body with alcohol.
The next day I’d feel ill, tired and miserable. It’s often while in this sickly hungover state that I’d fantasise about giving up alcohol altogether… So I decided to do it.
While In the Amalfi Coast with my girlfriend, on the night before my 26th birthday I vowed not to drink for a year – Here’s the last drink I had:
An “Amalfi Spritz”
1. Social pressure
Initially, I’d hear the phrase “Why can’t you just have one beer” multiple times per month. Drinking is massively normalised in British culture, it’s how we celebrate marriage, birthdays, new years, when a baby is born (Wetting the babies head) and even death (Wake ceremonies). Sometimes I’d feel guilty for not joining in and drinking at these sort of events.
When on a night out while not drinking I’d have the feeling that everyone else was enjoying themselves more because they were drinking and that I was missing out. This lasted for the first couple of months but then I started realising that I wasn’t missing out on anything at all.
FOMO is a very powerful emotion; hence why many retailers harness the power of FOMO by running “Limited Time Only Deals” and stirring up the feeling that you’ll regret it forever if you miss the deal.
It’s almost inevitable that if you go alcohol free (even if it’s only for a month) you will probably run into both of these adversaries – But they will pass; Eventually, you’ll realise that drinking alcohol is just a habit and that you don’t need it to have fun or relax or fit in.
Christmas and New Year were particularly challenging but after a while, it began to get easier and I started reaping all the benefits of giving up drinking, which we’ll go through in more detail later in this post.
Soon I was going to festivals and weddings and barely even feeling the urge to drink (and I was waking up the next morning feeling fresh)
Longitude festival with my little bro
Eventually I stopped even thinking about drinking and just got on with life, during my alcohol free year I completed multiple half marathons, had a boxing match, lost 1.5 stone, explored some of Italy, Portugal & Monaco with my girlfriend, grew my business, spent lots of quality time with my family and took our lovely daughters to Disneyland for the first time.
Before I knew it my 27th birthday came around and my alcohol-free year was complete.. I considered celebrating this with a beer, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to give up all the benefits of not drinking!
It’s Now Been 549 Days Since I Last Drank Alcohol
Depending on how excessive your alcohol consumption is, it can have a highly negative effect on your health. Giving up alcohol have been linked to the following health benefits:
Alcohol affects the quality of your sleep. When you drink too much you spend less of the night in REM sleep which is highly restorative (1) . Better sleep comes with many benefits. You will be more productive and find that you can learn and problem solve better.
I found that cutting out alcohol all together meant that I would consistently sleep better, wake up earlier/more refreshed.
Better Absorption of vitamins and minerals:
Alcohol kills the cells in our stomach lining which facilitate the body’s absorption of nutrients, and can also inhibit the transporting of nutrients into our bloodstream.
Since alcohol itself is basically just empty calories, heavy drinking depletes the body’s store of vitamins and minerals such as iron or calcium, lack of these vitamins can cause problems such as anaemia.
When you drink alcohol, you lose around four times as much liquid as what you actually drank. Research shows that alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it affects the kidneys and makes you urinate much more than you actually take in. (This also is why you often wake up with a mouth drier than a desert after a heavy night out.)
Improved Mood and Cognitive Function
Improved Cognitive Function:
Alcohol has both short term and long term effects on memory and concentration. For occasional to moderate drinkers it can cause memory impairment, blackouts, recklessness and impaired decision making. (2)
Personally if I ever had a particularly heavy night out at the weekend I’d find that I’d be less sharp on Monday and sometimes I wouldn’t even feel 100% until Wednesday.
We hear many different things about how alcohol affects our brain, most notably that it is a depressant. Alcohol affects your brain chemistry by altering levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Alcohol increases the amount of dopamine released into your “reward centre”. The reward centre is the combination of brain areas which are affected by virtually all pleasurable activities, including everything from spending time with your friends, or going on holiday, to ingesting drugs like cocaine & meth. (3)
By increasing the levels of dopamine in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s making you feel great. The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are increasing feelings of depression. The full force of this can be felt the next morning when you wake up feeling anxious, regretful & guilty due to the withdrawal from alcohol. (4)
Although I wasn’t a huge drinker I still find that my mood is consistently better in general since giving up alcohol. I distinctly remember having a needless argument about a pizza with a takeaway restaurant once while hungover… I still feel guilty about it!
Cutting out booze will help you save money, it’s estimated that the average household in the UK spends £16 per week on alcohol (5)
It’s also estimated that the average night out clubbing in the UK will set you back £61.58. (It’s no wonder that you dread checking your online banking transactions the morning after a heavy night out)
It’s possible that giving up alcohol will not only save you money but it can also help you make more money; I may not be able to take my clients out for drinks anymore but my overall work output and ability to deal with tasks has improved due to always feeling sharp and not getting any alcohol-induced brain fog.
Not only has my work rate increased but I also no longer find myself dreading Monday early morning meetings due to having a heavy weekend.
Weight / Fat Loss
During my 1 year alcohol-free I set myself a ‘Fat Loss Challenge’ in which I lost 1.5 stone and got down to 12.8% bodyfat. I attribute giving up alcohol as one of the main reasons why I was able to complete the challenge.
I found that it wasn’t just the lack of high-calorie alcoholic drinks (Your average pint of beer has 200 calories which
Cutting out alcohol stopped me from having any mornings where I didn’t feel like running or going to the gym due to being hungover or tired.
To read more about my fat loss you can read the full blog post here.
In life you have the choice of whether to suffer from the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
It’s our choice whether to get work done or procrastinate and watch videos of cats on Facebook.
It’s also our choice whether to go to the gym or lay in bed watching Netflix.
Each time you make a positive choice you strengthen the neural pathways linked to that habit and by doing this you will improve your discipline
By choosing to give up alcohol it gave me the opportunity to build my discipline and willpower by continually not giving in.
“Willpower is what separates us from the animals. It’s the capacity to restrain our impulses, resist temptation – do what’s right and good for us in the long run, not what we want to do right now. It’s central, in fact, to civilization.” -Dr. Roy Baumeister, Ph.D.
Building discipline will mean that you can take control of your life and achieve more of your goals.
I’m only scratching the surface of the power of discipline here. There are some brilliant frameworks for cultivating discipline within the philosophy of stoicism, I’m working on some posts relating to discipline and stoicism which I’ll release soon – to subscribe to future updates click here
My Top Tips for Giving up Alcohol
Just Do It
When changing habits in your life it’s easy to put it off “until the time is right”.
If you’re quitting smoking it’s “I’ll quit after I finish this pack of cigarettes”
If you’re starting running it’s “I’ll start running in the summer”
If you’re starting a new diet it’s “I’ll start the diet after Christmas”
This is your brain’s way of procrastinating and preventing you from embracing the discomfort of changing a habit, yet you still get to feel good because you can tell people that you’re going to do it.
You don’t need to wait for the stars to align for you to make a change, just do it.
Set yourself a realistic target of a month or two and get started. My target initially wasn’t to ‘never drink again’, I started by doing Dry January and built up from there. One month is achievable yet respectable and it’s a long enough period for you to start seeing the benefits.
What’s the worst that could happen? If you fail then you simply need to start again.
Alcohol Free Drinks
While not drinking I tried a few different alcohol-free beers to fill the void. Below are the different types of “alcohol free beers”
De-alcoholised: Drinks containing less than 0.5% ABV. Not enough for you to feel and similar or less than ripe fruit. This is mainly a British term and places like the USA and Europe consider this alcohol free.
Alcohol Free: Drinks containing less than 0.05% ABV or less. Mainly a British differentiation from 0.5%. There’s no way you could notice the trace amounts in either.
I stick to “Alcohol Free” beers with less than 0.05% ABV such as Becks Blue or Cobra Zero, however, I’ve found that my favourite is Heineken Zero.
While alcohol free beer does include alcohol (0.005%) It’s practically impossible to get drunk or feel the impact of the alcohol due to the alcohol content being low enough that your body burns the alcohol as quickly as you drink it. (6)
Please note, drinking alcohol-free beers is not recommended if you’re an alcoholic.
Join an Accountability Group
Whether it’s giving up alcohol, losing weight or starting a business you are far more likely to succeed with your goals when you have people to encourage you and hold you accountable.
However, If you decide to give up alcohol don’t be offended if your mates at the pub don’t support your decision. Some may even try to convince you that what you are doing is weird or stupid but this is simply due to their lack of perspective – Don’t let it discourage you.
If you’re thinking of giving up alcohol, doing dry January or taking on any sort of challenge and would like to be held accountable then click here to join the Oshoko Tribe.
This will give you the opportunity to share your progress with other individuals from the UK who are on similar paths (and it’s free).
My goal with my content will always be to be as straightforward & informative as possible. I hope I’ve succeeded in explaining the benefits of giving up alcohol and my personal experiences with it.
The bottom line is it wasn’t easy, I did find it challenging and it still continues to be, but it is certainly worth it.
Whether It’s for a month or a whole year I would recommend giving up alcohol to any regular drinkers that want to force themselves out of their comfort zone, increase their discipline, improve their mental/physical health and get more stuff done.
If you want to take on your own alcohol-free challenge then let me emphasise some final points:
1. Your body is an incredibly complicated biological machine, if you are or expect that you may be an alcoholic then you need to talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes.
2. If you want to be held accountable to your alcohol-free challenge then click here.
3. If you found this blog helpful then leave a comment at the bottom of this page to let me know.
4. If you would like to read my future blog posts click here to subscribe.
5. If you have any questions please submit them in the form in the next section or email me at Elliott@oshoko.co.uk
6. If you set yourself an alcohol-free challenge there may be moments when it gets tough, but embrace the struggle, push on and don’t let your dreams be dreams.
The Next Blog
- I’ll show you the exercises I focused on to put on strength and muscle fast.
- I’ll explain the difference between weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting.
- I’ll tell you what changes I made to my diet and which supplements I used.
Have I missed anything or do you have any questions about my experience with quitting alcohol?
Submit your question below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible 😊