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In doing my best to live more intentionally, I’ve reevaluated my relationship with just about everything I choose to consume. I say ‘just about everything’, because one thing it took me longer to address was my relationship with alcohol.

I’d already significantly reduced my alcohol intake to the point where I could probably count the number of times I had a drink in the past year on both hands. But come January, I began to reflect on my casual relationship with alcohol and whether it still belonged in my life. After brief contemplation, the resounding answer was a big fat ‘no’.

Maybe I’m just the kind of person who can’t do things by halves. But why would I be a part-time drinker when all the evidence shows I’m better off without it?

Just like going vegan, choosing not to drink is a counter-cultural choice which provokes mixed reactions in people. So I thought it might be helpful to discuss this decision openly and honestly, in the hope of shining a light on the issue.

'Sober Curious': A Shift in Generational Attitudes

It turns out I’ve been living under a rock, because I’ll admit that I’d never even heard of this phrase until recently. I was talking to a friend about my decision to go alcohol-free, and she said ‘Oh, so you’re joining the sober curious? Very trendy!’

After some investigation, I now realise that I’m definitely not alone. The number of people cutting back on alcohol or else stopping drinking entirely has been quietly on the rise.

The ‘sober curious’ movement, a term popularised by Ruby Warrington, represents a significant shift in generational attitudes towards alcohol consumption. With Gen Z at the forefront of this trend, it involves actively questioning the role of alcohol in our lives. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean abstinence, mindfulness and informed decision-making are key.

The recent explosion of kombucha bars may be dismissed as the realm of the ultra-hipster London elite, but any growing trend which attempts to redefine ingrained societal norms is likely to prompt a defensive response. If the general thrust is a cultural shift towards health consciousness and self-care – I’m all aboard that train.

Kombucha home brew

Rewriting My Own Beliefs Around Alcohol

I was brought up with a damning view of smoking and drugs. As such, I’ve never touched the stuff. But drinking is always something that’s been celebrated – even worn like a badge of honour – in my close circles. If you can hold your drink, it’s lauded as though it’s something to be proud of.

Whilst no one in my family has ever had an alcohol problem, my parents always enjoyed wine at the weekend, so I naturally began to associate it with relaxation and having a good time.

It was only when I was buying a bottle of wine most weekends ‘to relax’ and my partner wasn’t drinking with me that I started to question the role of alcohol in my life. I realised it wasn’t necessarily the thing itself I loved, but all the positive associations I’d built up around it.

And, once I curiously and compassionately looked past these, I quickly began to realise that the bad definitely outweighed the good.

7 Reasons Why I’m Choosing To Give Up Alcohol

#1 It’s a known carcinogen

Alcohol is a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance and has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer decades ago – this is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco… Although it is well established that alcohol can cause cancer, this fact is still not widely known to the public in most countries.

World Health Organisation

Contrary to this must-read article from the WHO, it’s regularly peddled that moderate alcohol intake can actually be good for you, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. However, much of the research into the health effects of alcohol has been funded by the alcohol industry (who might just have a vested interest).

Researchers in Britain found that out of around 400,000 people, alcohol intake was associated with increased risk of disease. In men, alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of head, neck, and gastrointestinal cancers. And in women, it’s closely linked to breast cancer, where it appears to cause more than 100,000 cases each year. Crucially, this isn’t just among heavy drinkers – it occurs even at low levels of consumption, too.

I mean, this may as well be the only point on this list. If the World Health Organisation is saying no level of alcohol consumption is safe, then no matter how much I like the taste of wine, I’d rather not put myself at risk.

#2 There’s plenty more health risks

From sleeping better and losing weight, to improving brain function and lowering blood pressure, there are plenty of convincing reasons to consider reducing your intake of alcohol or giving it up completely.

BBC

Cancer risks aside, I think we all probably have some level of awareness that a substance which pummels our liver and makes us feel like crap the next day can’t be good for us on any level. And yet even the most health-conscious will eat carefully, go to yoga retreats, use non-toxic cleaning products, then proceed to drink themselves under the table on a weekend. It makes zero sense when you think about it.

The truth is, I care about myself and want to do the right things every day to ensure I’m fit and healthy. This involves self-discipline around junk food and other distractions, so it’s only fair that alcohol gets subjected to the same scrutiny.

#3 It gives me horrible acid reflux

For quite a while, I suffered from heartburn and acid reflux, which made my throat inflamed and sore after eating. I’d also get a tight chest and a phlegmy cough. I vaguely became aware that this was getting more and more frequent, until it was something I was getting used to dealing with most evenings.

The only obvious consistent? I could always link the worst instances to drinking wine. Whilst the link between alcohol and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) still needs more investigation, I can only go off my own experiences.

Since I’ve gone alcohol-free, I haven’t experienced one single instance of acid reflux. So I can only gather, at least in my case, that alcohol was doing me no favours.

#4 It ruins my sleep (& the next day)

I go to bed at 9pm and get up at 5am. I absolutely love having a consistent morning routine, so this is a top priority for me. The first few hours of the day are entirely my own, without interruption or distraction.

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of health alongside diet and exercise, so drinking and stumbling home late isn’t setting me up for success in any way. Not only does this mean I’ll be groggy in the morning (or else completely sleep through my alarm) – even moderate alcohol consumption also crucially disrupts the quality of your sleep.

That’s not even getting started on hangovers. I want to live every day to its fullest, so I certainly don’t want to waste whole days recovering from self-inflicted sickness.

A row of shots on a bar

#5 I want to challenge peer pressure

Since I’ve got into the habit of politely declining alcohol, I’ve found that I’m routinely made to feel bad about not drinking. But it’s important to question unchallenged social norms.

It’s made me realise how deeply ingrained drinking is in our cultural psyche. You only have to acknowledge that, particularly in the evening, non-alcoholic places to get together and socialise don’t even really exist yet (at least, not outside of larger cities).

It should go without saying that it’s entirely your choice what you do or don’t decide to put inside your body. So when anyone tries to manipulate you or takes offence if you don’t want a drink, it’s likely more indicative of their own issues around alcohol.

#6 I don’t need it to ‘have a good time’

Following on from this is the societal belief that you can only have fun if you’re drinking alcohol. And it’s unsurprising that if all social narratives point to drinking as a necessary way of ‘letting your hair down’, there’s not much room for anything which suggests otherwise.

When you’ve grown up in a culture where the majority of recreational activities and big celebratory events are based around alcohol – whether it’s an afternoon watching the football, a wedding afterparty, or the obligatory night out on the town – it’s difficult to see past this.

If alcohol plays a significant role in your life outside of work, you run the risk of falling into the trap of The Comfort Seeker (Profile #3). Personally, I’d rather build a life that fulfills me rather than one I continually need to escape from.

Cheers-ing with cocktails

#7 I’d rather embrace my authentic self

Why is alcohol so appealing? Well, I know it makes me more confident and extroverted than I would be without it. I’m naturally a fairly reserved character, so having a drink can help me lower my inhibitions and connect more freely with people – something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to.

However, being unashamedly my authentic self is something that’s become much more important to me as I’ve grown out of my twenties. I want to feel comfortable enough in my own skin that I don’t need the mask of alcohol to make me into someone I’m not.

By choosing to go alcohol-free, just like wearing less makeup or not keeping up with the latest designer trends, it’s uncomfortable but necessary growth that helps me to be at peace with myself.

Reassessing Your Relationship With Alcohol

Smoking? Drugs? They’re unquestionably bad things. But there seems to be a lot of eye-rolling when it comes to conscious movements like plant-based diets and abstaining from alcohol, as though health and wellness has gone a step too far.

Whether it’s a perceived holier-than-thou attitude or being mocked for not knowing how to have fun, there is a dangerous assumption that if you’re tee-total, you must have suffered with some form of alcohol dependency or abuse in the past.

But this isn’t the case for me at all – it’s simply a healthy lifestyle choice that is backed up by multiple health organisations and studies.

Please note that this article isn’t meant to shame or judge anyone for their choices. And, if you do have an alcohol problem, then don’t hesitate to reach out for help. At the very least, I’d recommend curiously examining your own relationship with alcohol so that you can make more informed and conscious choices. You may also find it helpful to assess your relationship with some of these other modern-day addictions, too.

In the meantime, you’ll find me ordering a kombucha. 🍹

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