Years ago, I stopped drinking for a month and was so impressed with myself that I felt like I had cracked the Da Vinci Code. Of course, when the 30 days of enjoyment were up, I immediately went back to my normal drinking pattern that was “most nights”. I didn’t think about it again until five years ago, when a combination of nagging headaches and menopausal blushing made me give up.
I’ve hardly had a drink since then, so Dry January and Sober October have passed me by. However, the latter, who raised funds for Macmillan Cancer Support by asking people to stop drinking in exchange for sponsorship, has just finished a month as fruitful as many who sign up to be mindful of drinking too much on long nights of lockdown.
Spirits company Diageo recently estimated that the UK alcohol industry will be worth £46.7 billion by the end of 2022, with an estimated 29.2 million regular consumers, most drinkers in their 30s in the professional professions. In 2020, there were 8,974 deaths from alcohol-specific causes in the UK, according to government figures; An increase of 18.6 percent compared to 2019.
Numerous studies have shown links between excessive alcohol consumption and cancers, heart failure and diabetes, among other chronic health problems.
No wonder many of us are reconsidering our drinking habits. But does a month of abstinence really make a difference to overall health – or are habitual drinkers simply covering up the problem without providing any discernible benefits?
From the Delamere rehabilitation clinic in Cheshire, Dr. Catherine Carney says a sober month may not only benefit physical health.
“Alcohol can also affect sleep quality, so you have more energy,” says Dr Carney. “Regular and excessive alcohol consumption can also have a detrimental effect on mental health. While 56 per cent of UK residents say they drink alcohol for relaxation, this is only temporary relief and can put your mental health in a worse state overall.”
When it comes to physical health, “drinking large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels,” says Dr Carney, “and can cause more health complications later on. When you stop drinking alcohol, your blood pressure will drop, which can lead to heart failure, strokes and heart attacks. It can help prevent it.”
But he warns that “proving” that you can quit for a few weeks doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy relationship with alcohol. “It encourages this negative mindset that when someone can stay alcohol-free for the duration, it means they don’t have a dangerous relationship, even though they actually have a substance problem,” he says. “Heavy drinkers can use sobriety this month as an excuse to abuse alcohol for the rest of the year.”
Still, for some, the one-month hiatus is the start of a full reset. Confidence coach Lucy Baker, 46, from Lincolnshire, gave up for a few weeks earlier this year and has completely reset her drinking habits as a result.
“I worked in advertising and for 18 years alcohol was central to my social life – it was just the norm,” he says.
Attempts to drop it halfway were met by friends who insisted “come on, just get one…”.
“I quit when I got pregnant but went back to drinking socially,” she says. Things changed when we went on vacation to Ibiza this year. “I met an old drinking buddy who told me he’s sober now. It really resonated, she. When I got home I thought, ‘Why am I still drinking?’
Lucy decided to take a break for a month. “I started to feel really good. I didn’t drink much at home, but I chose not to drink when I was out. I went to a bachelorette party and drank tonic and went to a few jobs without drinking white wine. It felt so good not to wonder if I was going to get a hangover, it surprised me.
Now, Lucy drinks very occasionally and also has more energy. “I go to the gym more. I don’t miss it, especially the hangover. I absolutely support Sober October right now – 10 years ago ‘Why are you doing this?’ I used to think.”
GP Dr Ross Perry lists the benefits of one month abstinence. “After your last drink, the liver starts working overtime and the pancreas starts producing extra insulin,” he says. “It’s important to drink plenty of water, as your body will flush out toxins through the liver and kidneys, so you go to the bathroom more.”
If you don’t feel better right away, “it takes up to 72 hours for you to feel ‘normal’ mentally and physically,” she adds.
After two weeks, she continues, “you’ll likely see a decrease in body weight, reduction in eye bags and much less general puffiness around the stomach, as well as clearer skin.” “After three weeks, blood pressure may drop. In a month, skin and eyes appear brighter and clearer – liver fat is reduced by up to 15 percent and its ability to remove toxins is increased.
Mild liver disease such as fatty liver is completely reversible [how long this takes will depend on the state the liver is in and how old the person is] over time, one concludes if he completely stops drinking alcohol. “When you have no alcohol in your blood for several months, usually liver cells can gradually be repaired and returned to normal.”
Most of us feel like we drink “moderately,” but Sean Gay, consultant and author of Sober on a Drunk Planet, realized that drinking was getting out of control and quit at age 31.
“We’ve been conditioned by society to believe that drinking and hangovers are ‘fun,'” she says. “But for many people, empty wallets, shaky mornings and anxiety are far from that.”
“Many people have spent their entire adulthood using alcohol as an emotional aid – so just taking a month off doesn’t suddenly take away all the physical, mental, emotional, and financial problems that arise when they may have been using alcohol since they’ve been alive,” Sean said. youth years”.
For himself and others, “alcohol is a sedative, so it’s no wonder hangovers and depression go hand in hand,” she adds. Alcohol also releases the stress hormone cortisol into our bodies. One big night out can leave cortisol in our bodies for seven days.”
My own anxiety improved significantly within a week of quitting alcohol. I can’t pretend I’ve lost any weight (because I replaced the calories with snacks) but I immediately slept better. Now my mood is more stable, my headaches are gone and my skin is no longer red.
“The biggest benefit of staying sober for a month is quitting a habit,” says pharmacist Abbas Kanani of Chemist Click. “It takes about 30 days to form a habit, so not drinking for four or five weeks can help you quit.” But in the long run, he warns, if you revert to previous habits, everything will be back to the beginning. “Thirty days without drinking isn’t long enough to reverse any long-term damage. If you go straight back to drinking, that’s a waste of time.
Most Sober October and Dry January attendees may not quit permanently—but for anyone concerned about their health, finances, or volatile moods, a month without drinking is the perfect opportunity to step back and reset their relationship with alcohol—perhaps forever.