By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club editor
I can’t quite believe it, but I’m about to celebrate 100 days without a single drop of alcohol passing my lips. Shortly before my birthday in June 2022, I decided enough was enough. My body deserved a break from the booze.
I’d listened to a podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee with Andy Ramage, co-founder of One Year No Beer. There was one phrase that he used, that really stood out for me. He’s a former financial trader and I used to work in the financial world also. Perhaps that’s why this phrase particularly resonated with me. It was: the trade is no longer worth it. What he meant was that what he got from alcohol was no longer worth what he suffered as a result of it.
I’m always talking about how as women go through menopause and our hormones change, alcohol is no longer our friend (here’s a podcast about that). I’ve talked about how when I came off HRT, having been on it for my early menopause diagnosis, there were two things that caused me to have an immediate hot flash, chocolate and alcohol. These became less of an issue as my body settled down after the HRT, but if I had a few glasses of wine of an evening, the following morning I’d wake up in a big hot flash. not to mention having very disturbed sleep too.
I had long been aware that I was drinking too much. I don’t do moderation very well. One drink becomes two becomes three. I rarely if ever go beyond three but as I get older, the impact the following day is just not worth it. I won’t sleep well, I’ll wake up groggy, I need more time to get going the following day, and I just feel pretty rubbish. I’ve got lots of things I want to do and I don’t have time to cope with the hangovers that come when I drink.
Another issue has been my mental health. The last couple of years, with the Covid pandemic, have been very tough for everyone. Anxiety and depression raised their ugly heads for me and I became aware that I was using alcohol to self medicate. The problem was, the alcohol was actually making things worse. So that was another reason for taking a break.
Thirdly, with my favourite tipple being white wine, I was consuming a ridiculous amount of my daily calories in alcohol. I was running and doing exercise, and gradually I became aware that I was doing those things so that I could drink. If I had drunk and not done the exercise, I would be much heavier than I currently am.
Even just one glass of wine would impact my ability to do yoga the following morning. I like to do a vigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga and if I have any alcohol, I cannot do that yoga the following day without feeling sick. Eventually I started to listen to my body in this area of my life as much as I have learnt to in every other. So that was a third reason for having a break.
I’ve tried to have a break from alcohol in the past. I’ve done dry January and Sober October. But at the end of each month I’ve always gone back to drinking, sometimes more than I did before I stopped. It was this one phrase, the trade is no longer worth it, that has enabled me to keep going to 100 days this time.
I want to look after myself. I want to invest in me. There are so many things I want to do with my life, I don’t have time to drink! The recovery takes too long. I’ve avoided occasions where alcohol is prevalent to help me stay on track. But as time has gone on, I’ve been super impressed with how easy I’ve found it to just not want a drink.
Historically for me, long plane journeys have been a chance to try out free and quite expensive alcohol. I’m recently back from a 3 week trip to Peru and I didn’t have any alcohol on any of the plane journeys, and, something that truly amazes me, I had no desire to try the national Peruvian drink, a Pisco Sour. I just didn’t want it. I’ve also been to receptions where there’s been free booze on offer and I’ve reached for tonic water instead.
One thing that was more difficult while we were in Peru was that, while there were a lot of sugar heavy fruit juices, and an amazing maize drink called Chicha Morada, there were no alcohol free drinks. (Although I had some lovely juice drinks that often looked a bit like the image above!) Alcohol free drinks have been my savior here in the UK. I’ve long preferred alcohol free beer to the real thing and have stocks of it at home. Gordon’s does an excellent zero alcohol gin which I now make with tonic water so I have my own version of gin and tonic without the hangover the following day. I think it tastes great.
I’m also a fan of alcohol free wines. I joke that I’ve always had a cheap palate when it comes to wine, so the alcohol free ones don’t bother me at all. The Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s alcohol free bubblies are also pretty good from my perspective. It’s enough for a celebration!
But it really is the alcohol free beer and alcohol free gin and tonic which have enabled me to keep moving forward. I definitely saw alcohol as a reward early evening, as a treat at the end of the day. Now I’m happy to have a cup of tea, but if I do feel the need for something a bit more, to mark the end of the day, I can reach for my alcohol free drinks.
So I hope you’ll join me in celebrating my 100 days without alcohol. I’m not saying I’ll never drink again, but currently I have absolutely no desire to drink, something which is completely new to me. I feel fitter, happier, less stressed, more focused and I believe my relationships have improved also. I think my skin is better and my eye bags are definitely less pronounced. I’m not damaging my liver and my bones on a daily basis. I’ve likely reduced my risk of breast cancer. I’m slimmer too, despite my efforts to replace booze with dark chocolate. My husband says he’s got a new wife and he prefers this iteration. He said that after menopause too, so I guess I just keep reinventing myself!
As I hit publish on this post, we’re about to start Sober October. Club Soda is a brilliant community if you’d like some support changing your relationship with alcohol. Why not take this opportunity to take a break from the booze too? You never know where it might lead you!
Top tips for taking a break from alcohol
Here are my six top tips for making a success of a break from alcohol:
- Listen to this Feel Better, Live More podcast with Andy Ramage on taking a tactical break from alcohol.
- When you want a drink, consider whether the trade is worth it. How will you feel the following day? What will you be unable to do as well as you could later/tomorrow if you’ve drunk today?
- Read some ‘quit lit’ from the list below to understand better your relationship with alcohol – I recommend This Naked Mind, The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober and Drinking: A Love Story.
- Buy some alcohol free drinks. I really like Lidl’s Perlenbacher 0.0. I drink Stowford Press Low Alcohol Cider (it says low but it’s almost zero), Gordon’s Zero Gin is very good and I buy alcohol free rosé, white, red and sparkling wine from Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s.
- When you’re out with friends who’re drinking booze and you don’t want to, think about what you’re going to drink in advance – tonic water perhaps or alcohol free beer which many pubs now stock, if not restaurants yet. Don’t be afraid to explain that you don’t want to drink – you don’t need to give a reason and if they complain that you’re boring not drinking, that’s their problem not yours.
- Give yourself a huge pat on the back each day that you don’t drink. It’s another day where you’ve given your body a head start in the health stakes.
You may also like: Alcoholism and hiking the PCT with Person Irresponsible and Alcohol and menopause
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.
Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Editorial Staff