This is a blog I’ve toyed with writing for sometime but always felt uncomfortable doing so. Drinking is so ingrained in our society that openly ‘speaking out’ about it, still feels taboo. But this isn’t a blog about how awful alcohol is or why you should quit drinking, it’s just my personal experience since quitting the tipple and its impact on my noggin’.
The back story
Due to some family history, I was always a little wary of alcohol, at least in my younger teenage years. I still drank at parties but soon settled on smoking weed as that was ‘natural’ and could do no damage (not the case, especially if start smoking young - but that’s a whole other blog!).
Like most teenagers, it was during my first year of university I truly found my boozing stripes. I moved away from only drinking beers to discovering the sweet, heavenly flavours of cocktails - who knew getting drunk could be so delicious! I’ll be totally honest, I had the time of my life drinking in the first month or two of freshers. From drinking games like beercules, centurion and touch the cup, to bustin’ mad shapes on the dance floor, I was in my element.
It was around the two month mark where I soon realised I had become a 'blackout drunk'. I’d wake up the next morning with no clue what had transpired the previous night. I had a small digital camera I’d take out with me (god, I’m old) and I’d have to look through the pictures and the times they were taken to piece together what on earth had happened.
I did some pretty embarrassing things during this period from fracturing my knuckles whilst trying to fight a lamppost (I’m about as far from a violent person as you can be but obviously this particular lamppost rubbed me the wrong way) to consuming a whole packet of halls sweets in a nightclub (I was hungry) and well, let’s just say those cough sweets are laxatives...
But the ultimate embarrassing moment was when I mistook my housemate’s bedroom as the toilet (number 1, thank goodness). We can all look back with fond nostalgia now but I can tell you, the shame and embarrassment of pissing in your housemate’s room is no joke.
I’m not trying to say I lived a wiiiiiild university life or anything, far from it - as a house we all played monopoly and watched Mean Girls on the second night of freshers... Most teenagers and students live like this but for me all the drinking and consequential lifestyle choices, really took its toll on my mental health.
As an excuse to go down memory lane here are a few pictures that nicely represents an average week at uni.
The decision to quit
I came back from my first term at university an utter mess. Mentally I was the worst I had ever been - I was strung out by anxiety, feeling incredibly depersonalised and was the lowest I had ever felt.
Looking back now, it’s painstakingly obvious why this was the case. My daily routine was in shambles. Here’s what an average day looked like:
Wake up between 12pm-3pm (lectures be damned if they forced me to get up before then)
Either skip breakfast or have a bowl of diabetic-inducing cereal
Head off for any lectures I hadn’t slept through
Come home and choose from my selection of 99p Tesco ready meals
Go to bed at around 3am
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that’s not the healthiest way to be living, right? But that was the norm at uni so I figured I was doing just fine.
During the Christmas break I went out drinking a few times and on each occasion would wake up with crippling anxiety and feeling very, very low. It was like someone sucked the colour out of the world and replaced it with a dreary, gray haze.
It was after a night out on new year’s eve I decided I had to make a change. I was sat in a friend’s uni house pre-drinking before noticing that all my anxiety had lifted after a few beverages and that scared me more than the anxiety itself. Addiction is a huge fear of mine and am beyond thankful I had the recognition to realise I was potentially heading down a slippery road.
I told myself I was going to take 2 months off drinking for two reasons. First, to see if I felt better and more importantly, to prove to myself I could. Those 2 months have somehow now turned into 8 years - time flies when you’re not drinking, is that the saying??
The initial impact
The biggest advantage I first noticed was all the time I had gained. I was now heading off to bed at a way more reasonable time and actually getting up before the sunset.
With this new found superpower, I was able to improve several areas of my lifestyle. I first signed up to the gym after discovering this thing called ‘the morning’, I actually started to attend lectures and I paid attention to what food I was putting in my body. It was by no means a radical transformation, I look back on what I thought was a good diet or exercise regime and cringe but it was a step in the right direction.
It wasn’t all hunky dory though. I did miss getting obliterated with my friends. I first went into sober nights out with enthusiasm but that soon died out and I found myself spending several evenings a week by myself watching a film or TV series. Another downside was learning to live without my old pal, liquid courage. I’ve never been very confident when it comes to socialising/meeting new people so my new found tee-totalling made it a lot harder for me to make new friends.
The long term impact
Personally I would say I’m far better off no longer drinking. As mentioned above there are several downsides (try dating stone-cold sober!) but ultimately I have no desire to start drinking again.
There have been plenty of long term benefits since that fateful drizzly January morning where I uttered the infamous ‘I’m never drinking again’, these include:
I’ve saved a shit-tonne of money, I couldn’t tell you the price of a pint anymore but I do believe a night out requires a small loan... I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money on nights out if that’s what you enjoy, I was just never a big ‘club/out-out’ guy.
I had never been much into fitness when I was younger. Me and a friend did a 6-week pre-army training programme when we were 18 in order to get ‘shredded’ for our lads holiday to Kavos but that’s as far as my efforts went - we weren’t successful. I guess you can quite easily still be active and healthy when drinking, I just personally found it hard to balance the two of them.
The greatest benefit of them all? No longer pissing in your housemate’s room.
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