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My 12 weeks without booze

Tuesday 20 May, 2014 by Julieanne

With 2014 quickly approaching, my friends and I were sitting around discussing our resolutions for the new year. The usual 'join a gym', 'cut down on sugar' and 'give up the ciggies' were thrown around. At the time, I didn’t suggest anything but later that evening I quietly sat alone and reflected on the conversation.

I felt tired; my brain was foggy and I generally felt unhealthy. Then it came to me what exactly I would do. I would set myself a challenge: no booze for 12 weeks.

The following week, I declared my challenge to my friends. They were horrified. Their wide eyed expression and inability to string together a cohesive sentence spoke volumes of their shock.

My social life centred around drinking but my ageing body was telling me I needed knock the binge drinking on the head. I was having a glass or two of wine every other night with dinner and a lot more on weekends. Something had to give. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I was going to try.

As December drew to a close I removed all the booze from my apartment to rid me of temptation and researched the effects of booze on the body. It’s well documented that there is a strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer, especially cancers of the upper digestive tract. How did I not know this?

New Year’s Eve arrived and at the stroke of midnight, I hugged my friends then put down my half-full glass of champagne. The group encouraged me to keep drinking, stating I could start in the morning but I didn’t want to fold so easily to peer pressure.

The first four weeks were the hardest. I found myself becoming somewhat of a recluse and declining social invitations. Then as I became more confident, I would go to bars and restaurants and order a soda water with a wedge of fresh lime served in a wine glass. No one knew the difference and surprisingly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. As the evenings progressed, my friends would get more and more intoxicated and I would simply excuse myself and go home. I loved waking up refreshed and I’d secretly smirk to myself while reading through my friends’ social media posts whinging about their sore heads.

I found myself being extremely proactive on weekends. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you don’t have a hangover to battle with. Sunday morning brunches were my new go-to treat. On Sunday nights, I wouldn’t have that sense of dread of the upcoming working week. I was more positive and upbeat.

Around the nine-week mark, I had a somewhat crappy day and my first reaction was to buy a bottle of wine to cope with the stress and relax. The thoughts consumed me and I justified them by congratulating myself on coming so far. But on my way home as I drove past a liquor store I found the strength not to stop and I just kept driving.

Before I knew it, my 12 weeks was up. I did it! It’s hard to admit this, but that was probably the longest I have gone without a drink since I was 18. That realisation was the wakeup call I needed. My body thanked me by giving me clearer skin, thicker hair and dropping almost 4kg.

Since my alcohol hiatus, I’ve had a few glasses of wine here and there, but nowhere near what I would’ve had in the past. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me to have a glass with dinner and I now limit my drinking to special occasions.

Did you know?

  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer (larynx and pharynx), oesophageal cancer, bowel cancer (colon and rectum), liver cancer and female breast cancer.
  • Even small amounts of alcohol increases risk, but the more you drink, the greater the risk.
  • To reduce the risk of cancer, you should limit your intake of alcohol or, better still, avoid it all together.

Some tips for drinking less:

  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones like sparkling or plain water (soda, lime and bitters is a great alternative to alcohol).
  • Eat some food when you drink alcohol. Think of a glass of wine or beer as something to have with a meal rather than on its own.
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks, for example, try a shandy (beer and lemonade) or white wine and mineral water.
  • Choose a low-alcohol (or no-alcohol) beer and/or wine.
  • Use water to quench your thirst and sip alcoholic drinks slowly.
  • Offer to be the designated driver when you go out so you drink less, but make sure you stay under .05.
  • Avoid binge drinking (a single occasion of heavy drinking over a short period of time).
  • Have at least one or two alcohol-free days each week.

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