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Why I quit alcohol at 30 and have never looked back

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 14/07/2017 Lucy Fry

I went sober for my thirtieth birthday and have never looked back © Klaus Vedfelt / Getty I went sober for my thirtieth birthday and have never looked back 1 in 5 adults (or 1 in 3 of London folk) don't drink alcohol at all and the number of young people aged 16-25 choosing not to drink has increased by 40% over the last decade, according to the Office of National Statistics. 

So just what is a low-alcohol lifestyle offering us? It was just a few weeks before my thirtieth birthday, five and a half years ago, that I decided to stop drinking. All in all, I'd had enough. Since the age of eighteen, when I'd begun boozing in earnest at university, I'd suffered terrible hangovers. Not just the physical symptoms either, but the psychological ones: guilt, regret and a horrible feeling that I wasn't living up to my full potential.

At that age, I didn't worry so much about the health effects of this. I was more concerned about how I looked or seemed to others but, by the time I was in my late twenties, a shift had occurred. There was a new normal now, and that was for me to return home after a day spent working and polish off a bottle of wine to myself. It was ordinary for me to finish off guests' half empty wine glasses at the end of a dinner party and to lie to my partner about how much I drank.

"I'd get well and truly annihilated, often with evidence all over social media, kickstarting the whole negative cycle of guilt and shame again."

Drinking alone became my preference. And sometimes one bottle wasn't enough. As you can imagine, I didn't feel so hot in the mornings anymore. My sleep was fractured (alcohol isn't just full of toxins but also sugar, which caused me to wake, exhausted, around 4 or 5am) and my head took hours to clear. Plus, I was developing a small but definite alcohol 'tyre' around my waist, partly due to the extra meal I'd eat on nights when I'd been drinking in the pub. I was becoming unreliable, cancelling friends and work engagements at late notice because I had a 'stomach upset' (a.k.a. a hangover). There were often three, maybe four, weeks where I'd manage to go teetotal, but when I fell off the wagon - and I always did, at some point - I'd get well and truly annihilated, often with evidence all over social media, kickstarting the whole negative cycle of guilt and shame again.

One day, after a particularly bad drinking session that followed over two months of sobriety, I looked ahead at my future and recognised what a huge part of my life this on-off struggle with alcohol had become. It was a turning point. With the help of therapists, family members and some (less alcoholically-minded) friends, I made the choice to stop for good. Whether stopping or cutting down, registered psychological therapist Emma Kennedy says that I'm not alone in my decision:

""What we're seeing in research that's done on younger cohorts - under 25s - is that they're much more conservative than Generation X, because they've been brought up in a world where eyes are on them. Actions can have long term consequences if a picture or video goes up on Facebook."

Of course, I didn't know for sure at that time that my sobriety would be forever. But, given the enormous positive difference being teetotal has made to my confidence (it's amazing how you develop when you can't rely on alcohol to combat self consciousness), social life (I now only have friends I actually like, sober) and health (I'm mentally more upbeat and physically stronger, with better digestion too), I'm now hoping I'll remain so for the duration. Since stopping drinking I also sleep better and have a more balanced diet which includes far fewer late night kebabs. I stick to my arrangements more and am less likely to go awol, making me a more reliable, attentive friend, partner and family member. 

© Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) I am less of the all-singing-all-dancing (drunken) centre of a party, talking to everyone who'll listen, but more likely to have memorable conversations with just a few. I don't waste days unable to work properly, planning how I will get sober soon and turn my life around. I'm present with my partner in the evenings, rather than more interested in how full my wine glass is. Of course I still experience sadness, fear, anger, upset and a whole range of other uncomfortable emotions but I don't drown them in booze and (guess what?) eventually they pass, leaving me to wake up the next day in a better state of readiness to tackle all of life's challenges. 

Tips on moderating or quitting drinking:

Keep track of your efforts

This year, Alcohol Concern have launched an app that lets you monitor how much you regularly drink, calculates the amount you are spending and how many calories you are consuming. As well as daily motivational tips, and visual reminders that you've stayed dry, this app is a great way to motivate yourself as you can look back with those saved calories and the extra money in your pocket. 

Create a special savings fund

Just two glasses of wine a week on average will put you back £9. Drink that every night and it's £63 per week, or around £260 per month. 79% of participants who took part in Dry January reported saving money, so just imagine the savings in a year. Banking this money in a holiday or treat fund will help inspire you. 

Record the benefits you're feeling

A great way to stop you from falling off the wagon is to keep note of all the benefits you're feeling. Losing weight? Saving money? Better skin? Keep track of all these things. Next time you want to have a drink (or five) look back over your journal and imagine how you'd feel if all those benefits were taken away.

Related: New Studies Say Drinking More Coffee Leads To A Longer Life

(Provided by Wochit)

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