One of the biggest lifestyle changes I’ve had to get to grips with in the last year is alcohol. I’ve always enjoyed a drink but I was already beginning to realise that I was perhaps enjoying a few too many on a far too regular basis. Blood tests showing my liver function levels were high and then an ultrasound showing a slightly fatty liver were a big wake up call.
My doctor asked me to give up alcohol for a month. As this month was dry January it was pretty good timing. I though I’d find it difficult but it was actually ok. Health can be a great motivator. In fact the only time I missed alcohol in that month was when we were out celebrating my husband’s birthday, he had a glass of red wine with his steak. It looked so good!
After the month and with my liver function levels greatly reduced, I was asked to reintroduce moderate amounts of alcohol to see how my body would cope with that. I had no more than 5 or 6 units in every given week, most weeks less than that. The liver function still went down and by March was back at a healthy level. But I knew at that point I didn’t want to go back to bad habits.
By this stage, I had started to examine what I enjoyed and disliked about drinking alcohol.
I enjoy a drink when out with friends – it’s a social thing for me.
I enjoy the taste. I’m a bit of a gin lover and a nice glass of red, particularly with food is a great pleasure. I suppose I enjoyed quality.
If I have more than a couple of glasses I don’t sleep well.
I don’t like the dehydrated feeling it gives me.
It always made my IBS symptoms worse if I had more than a couple of drinks.
I didn’t like the habit of having a drink if I felt I‘d had a bad day. I didn’t think that was a good association to have, that it would make things better.
Looking at those two lists it seemed clear that I needed to break some associations with alcohol. Good sleep and feeling well are far more important to me than drinking too much. I’d rather enjoy one or two in a social situation or celebration, and really enjoy them, than drink mindlessly because of a tough day. Alcohol never really helps to fix those things and I was finding that doing a good workout, reading a book or focusing on a hobby was far more beneficial for banishing stress.
This so far has worked well for me. I suppose it is the same as a relationship with food, banning stuff totally makes you crave it, but now I know when I have had enough and don’t feel the need to keep drinking just for the sake of it. I also always have plenty of water too on a night out and I have enjoyed plenty of non-alcoholic gin and tonics this year too. I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the taste is down to a good quality tonic water anyway.
When I did the elimination diet to help with my IBS I again didn’t drink alcohol for 3 weeks, in fact I just drank water and herbal tea. That was tough as we had a couple of social occasions where drinking fizzy water felt really boring, but I did it. I even got up and sang karaoke stone-cold sober, but I did miss not being able to have a drink to toast with.
I’m now going into the festive season feeling in control. I know I don’t need to drink but I’m also comfortable knowing my limitations. It’s been a period of adjustment as at first I felt people would find it weird me not drinking much or that relationships would change, but largely no one cares. I’ve also had to get used to my new limitations, my tolerance has really dropped, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I loosely follow a rule of not drinking in the week but feel comfortable breaking that for a social occasion or celebration. I just naturally know when I’ve had enough now.
For me it was all about breaking habits and changing my mindset around alcohol. In the end I didn’t find it that hard, in fact I found it far harder giving up coffee and chocolate for 3 weeks during my elimination diet that I ever did at any time with alcohol.
So let’s raise a glass to better habits!