A Year Without Booze:
Sober buddy Charles pointed out that we have no “guy stuff” on worldwithoutwine.com yet – so he sent me this interesting tale from a young man who has quit drinking – story was originally posted on “The Lean Lunchbox”- a website dedicated to “guys who like to eat food that will make them beautiful”.
Just over a year ago I decided to say goodbye to alcohol. Forever. This may terrify some people and yes – the prospect of never drinking ever again did initially make me feel slightly overwhelmed but in the year that has past I’ve not touched a drop and I feel better than I have ever done in my life so far. As the anniversary of my sobriety passed me by I thought it would be rather interesting to share with you all my experiences and thoughts on alcohol one year on.
In January 2011 I was 26 years old and I was sat on a beach, hungover, restless and trying smoking my 8th cigarette of the day so far. The sea breeze made it difficult to light another cigarette and this pissed me off. As I was sat upright attempting to light my cigarette I could feel the rolls of flab around my waist drooping over my swimwear and I did what I’d always do and turned my hideous appearance into a joke; check out my gut I’d say. People would laugh. I would laugh; it was, after all, pretty funny – even if it was my life.
Eventually I’d manage to light the cigarette and at 2pm I’d have my first beer of the day. Mmm… beer in the sun with cigarettes and mates – life couldn’t get better. Lunch meant more booze and dinner meant a few glasses of wine followed by some vodka shots at the club. I was, of course, completely fucked. And I loved every minute of it.
I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic and most people in their 20’s who drink a lot don’t. Why would I? Alcoholics are 50 year old tramps begging for money in the street with missing teeth and filthy genitals. I worked in ‘the media’ babes; I would go on lunches with clients and drink gallons of booze but this was networking, relationship building, closing a deal. This wasn’t the life of alcoholic; I had all my teeth perfectly intact and I washed myself every day even if I did stink of booze most lunch times.
But then 3 weeks after my holiday in January 2 things happened which changed my perspective: Firstly, I was dumped by my then boyfriend after 2 years with no prior warning, and secondly I had to have a tooth removed. Whilst these 2 things are seemingly separate events for me they both struck me where it hurt the most: my ego. I had never been dumped before and I was a vain bitch who attempted to take pride in my appearance. Suddenly I was this loser with a missing tooth who drank and smoke too much – to the point where it was driving people away and making me ugly. After getting dumped I drank for about a week solid, so much so that I had to call into work sick and I felt disgustingly sorry for myself. This was just as Adele’s new album was released which meant the bitch had already recorded a highly appropriate soundtrack for me to wallow in.
The wallowing lasted 1 week. I drank myself to death and smoked enough cigarettes to completely destroy my tastebuds and develop a croak in my voice similar to Joan Rivers. It wasn’t attractive. But 1 week is all it lasted. After the week passed, I dragged myself to a coffee shop with a pen and paper and began dissecting and analysing every aspect of my life – my body, my job, my relationships, my family and my aspirations. After a few hours I created my LifePlan; my document that contained all my goals, broken down into achievable steps. The LifePlan included quitting cigarettes, cutting down the booze, getting a new job, rebuilding relationships with family members and realising life-long goals and ambitions.
First up was the quitting cigarettes. I bought a copy of Allen Carr’s EasyWay to Stop Smoking and went completely cold turkey. My workmates at the time were all smokers and whilst supportive on the outside were secretly hoping I’d have a quick ciggie so that they’d feel less bad about their own vices. After a while they got used to it and not smoking was not an issue.
Next came the biggie: cutting back on alcohol. Before I decided to do this I did a bit of research on what alcohol was as up until this point I’d never really considered what I was putting into my body. What is it? What effect does it have on the body and why do so many people drink so much of it?
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is created through a process called fermentation which is where yeast or bacteria reacts with the sugars in certain types of food. Wine is created through the fermentation of fruits and beer is created through the fermentation of cereals such as barley.
Alcohol is a poison which has to be diluted in order for your body to be able to process it. From the moment you ingest alcohol your body gets to work immediately on removing the poison you’ve put inside it.
If you think back to when you had your first alcoholic drink do you remember how it tasted? Yes, it tasted disgusting! And it tasted that way because your body and more specifically your tastebuds are telling you that you should not be drinking it. Instead of listening to what our body is telling us the majority of us continue to guzzle on alcohol until it reaches a point where it becomes tolerable to the tastebuds. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to do and is in many ways very similar to what smokers do with cigarettes; the first drag is disgusting, it is suffocating and our body reacts by coughing and spluttering – attempting to rid the body of the toxic fumes you’ve inhaled. But what do smokers do? They continue to pump fumes into their body until it reaches a point where the inhaling of toxic fumes becomes tolerable. So why do we do this to our bodies? The chemical effects of alcohol on the body have a lot to do with it.
Why Do People Drink?
Alcohol increases the amount of the chemical called dopamine in your brain which creates an initial feeling of pleasure. Other highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and MDMA act directly on the dopamine system to create feelings of euphoria for the user. So essentially alcohol is just like any other drug – legal or illegal. It gives you a massive high by acting upon the same systems in the body as cocaine and ecstasy. No wonder so many of us fucking love it.
At this point I decided to write down all the pros and cons of drinking. The pros were mainly things like ‘fitting in’, ‘becoming more sociable’ and ‘having a laugh’. For me, growing up as the only faggot in the village drinking beer (and any other booze for that matter) meant fitting in with the men in the town. Finally being ‘one of the lads’ and all that shite. However, even as a comfortable gay man a few years later there was almost this expectancy for you to be a G&T swigging or wine-loving queen that’s the life and soul of the party. A queer that doesn’t drink alcohol? Never. If I wanted to continue to be the party animal, I had to continue to booze.
The cons consisted of ‘getting a fat beer gut’, ‘stained teeth from red wine’, ‘acting like an idiot’, ‘wasting a lot of money’ and ‘feeling depressed at least 3 nights a week’. Since I’d just quit smoking and I was reaping the rewards of not wasting £150 a month on lethal smoke and feeling better from that decision for me it was a no brainer: I’ll cut down on the booze and give my body a break.
Once I cut back on drinking I began to feel energized and refreshed every morning. I felt almost as though I’d awoken from a life-long coma. Some days after the night before I’d think to myself – just get through the day and you’ll be fine. Beer fear would often kick you in the face and you’d feel panicky, miserable and depressed. Now, I felt as though I was ready to take on the world and I wanted to start by focusing on myself.
With my new found energy I began to reconnect with my body. I learned that physical and mental well being are closely linked and started hitting the gym, going swimming and taking up yoga. I experienced the euphoric highs that the booze used to give but without the desperate lows that came with it.
As I continued to cut back on my drinking I decided to research the effect it was having on my attempts to build a better body.
Whilst the calorific content of alcoholic drinks should be enough to put off anyone serious about building a beautiful body, it is the other lesser known effects of alcohol on vital organs that can have the most dramatic effects on attempts to build muscle. When alcohol is passed through the liver, a by-product called acetate is produced. As your intake of alcohol increases, so do your acetate levels which you body burns as fuel – meaning fat burning takes a back seat – not ideal if you’re wanting lean gains!
In a study by Swedish scientists Valimaki, Harkonen and Eriksson the effect of alcohol on male hormones was tested. The study monitored 8 healthy adult males and observed that after boozing on alcohol, the men’s testosterone levels decreased and their cortisol levels increased. If you’re building muscle you’ll want to increase your testosterone levels in any way you can and decrease the stress hormone cortisol as its known to destroy muscle growth. What’s worse is that the study also found that this effect was heightened in men who exercised before drinking the alcohol. In short, drinking alcohol actively negates the positive effort you put in.
Needless to say, the conclusion I reached was that my friend in a bottle was doing nothing to help me reach my muscle building goals.
This was a few weeks into my decision to ‘cut back’ and it was proving difficult to know how to manage how many drinks justifies cutting back and how many proves to be too many. When you’re drunk you really don’t give a shit about how you’ll feel in the morning – it’s all about tonight, as Pixie Lott would say. Anyways, after a few weeks of feeling awesome when sober and shitty on the days after the nights before I decided to take the plunge and quit alcohol forever. It was making me feel like shit and on my days of clarity I felt 10 times better than even my highest points when drunk.
The day after the night before
I told a few close friends that I was to stop drinking completely. Their response was initially one of disbelief and that I’d ‘gone too far’ with the healthy living but after a few weeks they quickly realised that I wasn’t about to change my decision and the majority of the ones I still consider to be friends managed to get used to it.
My attempts to get used to it were a little harder though. Sobriety forces you to think rationally because your judgement is suddenly no longer clouded by the haze of alcohol. Thoughts become louder and your brain begins to work overtime. Overthinking, over-analysing and self-reflecting became a problem so I learned to calm the loudness with meditation and relaxation and focused exercises that combine a mixture of all 3 such as yoga.
Socialising used to mean going to a club or a bar, drinking it dry, dancing and trotting home with a faceful of garlic mayo and processed dog meat. Learning how to socialise in new ways took a lot of practice. Initially I just continued what I’d always done but just ditched the booze instead. I soon realised standing in a room full of pissheads gurning their tits off with loud music was no longer my cup of tea. I preferred drinking tea, eating good food, spa weekends away, travelling to exciting new places and chatting shit with friends who had something to say. Few people actually socialise in bars and clubs; it’s usually too loud to do anything other than be herded around to the bar and smoking areas and drink until the point where you’re able to tolerate your surroundings.
I’m now one year on from the decision to quit forever and since then I’ve had probably the most productive, inspiring year of my life. I’ve learned lots of new skills, revitalised my body and discovered a productive way of collecting my thoughts by writing them into long-winded, self-indulgent blog posts like this
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