Beyond Dry January - Go Slow and Steady!
From what I understand, Dry January is a time of complete alcohol detox after the binge filled festive period of Christmas and New Year. In some ways I can see the appeal of this trending detox but in other ways I struggle to understand the point. I'm someone who prefers a much more long term solution to things instead of finding a quick fix. That's why for me choosing not to drink alcohol has been a continued theme in my life for the past 4 or 5 years. Like most people I used to drink alcohol at social events and celebrations, but I also used it as a confidence booster and an antidote for nerves and anxiety in these situations. Take my first ever date for example, it came at a time when I was at university and alcohol was already playing a big part in my life with the student party kind of lifestyle. The anxiety of a first date for me was pretty intense so I chose for us to go to a bar where I downed so many drinks at such an alarming speed that my date even said he was struggling to keep up with me. I laugh and cringe slightly as I type this because it is pretty much the complete opposite of who I am today!
Fast forward a few years and I found myself in yet the same position again, on a first date, so anxious I thought I would have a heart attack and so drunk I had to rest on my date's shoulder, motionless and silent for around 45 minutes. Oh the horror. Thinking about it I'm not quite sure how that first date went on to a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and almost 2 year relationship. They do say love is blind, maybe blind drunk applies too. It was on this second round of dating though that things were different. I'd recently acknowledged that the anxiety I experienced in daily life was something I needed real help with. I'd gone for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and was on anxiety medication that I knew I shouldn't have been mixing with alcohol. There were a couple of nights of coming home drunk from a date while on my medication and laying in bed unable to sleep, with a pounding heart and anxiety induced adrenaline running through my veins. I knew I needed to take a step back and tell the guy I was dating why I could no longer drink alcohol on our dates and tell him about my anxiety, which at the time felt like a dark secret to tell. The funny thing about telling someone you struggle with anxiety is that 9 times out of 10 the other person ends up sharing their experiences of it too, and you realise you're not the only one. Also, telling someone that you're going to lay off drinking is nowhere near as big a deal as some might think. If you're telling someone who really cares about you then there's really nothing to worry about and it means you get extra support - win win!
Around that time I decided to think more about the reasons why I drunk alcohol, work on my anxiety and find different ways to feel confident at parties or social events. I didn't suddenly stop drinking altogether but it was more a slow and steady process of finding what worked for me and what didn't. The one thing I did suddenly stop was having more than 3-4 drinks at an event, so I haven't actually been drunk or hungover since then, which I feel great about! I'm still able to enjoy a social drink with friends or family on the odd occasion, but I am so much more aware now of the amounts I am happy with. I think back to my days of being a typical student, going to lots of parties and lots of nights out and I don't regret a single one, although the hangovers I definitely could have done without! Nowadays I'm older, wiser and have my sensible head screwed on, my confidence has improved and I deal with my anxiety in much more beneficial ways. At parties and celebrations I am always the sober one, 1 or 2 drinks is all I care for and that suits me fine. I'd much rather be having a great time and have the added benefit of being able to remember it all the next day. Waking up anxiety free and feeling fresh beats any amount of drunken giggles for me, not to mention the health benefits too!
For anyone who feels like they've over indulged over the festive holidays, don't beat yourself up about it and punish yourself through restrictive detoxes and gruelling regimes, concentrate more on your long term goal. Think about the slow and steady simple ways you can start to change your drinking habits, for a long term lifestyle that will benefit you better with lasting effects.