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My Twenty Reasons Not To Drink Alcohol

In a couple of months, I will have been alcohol-free for a year.

I don't regret my alcohol use. It brought me many joyful moments. Turning fifty though... that called for lifestyle adjustments!

Today, I came across a letter I wrote to myself a couple of months before I quit using alcohol. Reading it back, a year later, it strikes me as quite a powerful document, worth sharing.

My Twenty Reasons Not To Drink Alcohol


1)      People my age have been dying around me. Heart failure. Liver disease. Serious stuff. Do you want to be there too? Drinking is now riskier than ever.

2)      Minor health troubles, skin etc. May or may not be connected but my system appears to struggle. By avoiding booze you get to know that you are a) giving your body the best chance of health b) avoiding the stress of worrying that inflammation IS connected to drinking and knowing that you are willingly putting your system under strain. That feels like a self-betrayal and that feeling permeates your experience subtly.

3)      Night sweats – caused an actual cancer scare for you.

4)      The longer you don’t do it, the less abstinence will bother you. New patterns of relating will establish themselves and only laziness or complacency will cause a return to usual business. In the presence of complacency go to point one and re-read!

5)      Hangovers - To get a buzz that’s worth having, especially with tolerance, the required amount of alcohol is toxic. It feels great going in (and that’s what you remember and lust for), but it feels like poison coming out. Because it is. Alcohol has converted to acetaldehyde, a carcinogenic poison that can damage DNA. It feels like it too. We get used to it but it’s still repeated poisoning.

6)      Personality Change – I am slowly realising that this is insidious. And that your friends won’t tell you that they see it happening. How does somebody end up being “that” person in the pub? The slurring annoyance. The jerk. Do people judge? Yes. You could end up with friends who don’t want to hang out if you don’t remain awake to this.

7)      Brain Decline – Because of the slow burn of decline in cognitive function, it would be almost unnoticeable. We have a self-image and that usually includes a component of ourselves at our best. We think we are kind, generous, likeable, mindful, smart etc and that image is the one we keep of ourselves even as we are well into decline. We can, potentially, become a mess and not notice because we are only seeing our inner template rather than the outward truth. I suspect that minor irregular drinking may not cause this type of decline but it seems evident that heavy regular use can and will. Scary thought. Alzheimer’s is also a consideration here.

8)      Angsty moments of guilt, shame, and regret whether deserved or not. It’s still felt. There have been too many now. I learned that when I thought I was being reasonable and measured, I was not. This always results in shame and regret. It’s a low risk for me but not drinking reduces the risk to almost zero. I have sometimes been an uglier version of myself. I’m done with that.

9)      System strain – Brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, bowels. ALL are negatively affected by alcohol use. Why do that when you don’t have to?

10)   Hangxiety – That screwed-up feeling that everything is all screwed up, with relentless guilt that you’re self-harming and letting yourself down. This experience is doable and usually lasts 8-16 hours but I could do without it!

11)   Depression Levels – The next day is sometimes low. On a bad day, it’s truly miserable and must be endured for a good twenty-four hours. It may be one to two weeks of abstinence before brain health is mostly restored. Even weekly drinking continues to have a cumulative depressive effect. I suspect that this is quite subtle. A slow decline, barely registered.

12)   Fat – FFS. The final insult. It makes you fat! Drinking 4 bottles of wine a month adds up to a yearly consumption of around 27,000kcal, which is equivalent to eating 48 Big Macs per year. Drinking 5 pints of lager each week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts. This is why I am overweight.

13)   Exercise and motivation – The next day is meh! Decreased motivation to exercise because the body feels strained and tired from drinking, for 24-48 hours.

14)   Aches, pains and physical decline. Things are different now. I made it to my fifties before the body started to hurt but now that it does, I need to rule out alcohol as a cause. All that inflammation won’t be helping. Being alcohol-free will increase my motivation to continue to strengthen my ageing body.

15)   Sugar Highs – I largely stay away from sugar. Unless I’m drinking. It must be hell on my pancreas. It’s only my diligence with sugar that allows me to get away with it. I may not get away with it indefinitely. A faulty pancreas is not good. Diabetes is nearby.

16)   Food – Yep… it makes you want to eat stodge and grease—extra calories and hard on the body.

17)   Money – SEVEN QUID a pint now in places. Five pints = £45 Home drinking = £20 per week = £80 per month = £960 per year. That’s a week’s holiday!

18)   Whole week hangovers. My gut flora takes a hit and the sense of nausea and queasiness remain, sometimes for days. The guts aren’t in crisis but they feel sluggish and irritable, with occasional cramps, too farty or not farty enough. Chemistry is off, battles are taking place in there. I can feel it. It stands to reason that if my guts are that irritated, it’s asking for cancer trouble at some point. The healthy body takes those pre-cancerous cells out before they have a chance to make babies. Not if they’re knocked out they don’t. Gotta think about these things. 

19)   Liver strain… if not failure. I’m coming to recognise the feeling of having a liver under strain. The queasiness and dizziness are also a liver under strain. It’s a wearing sensation – subtle – and all the more worrying for that.  

20)   My Marriage: The potential to soar to new heights remains in view. Booze steals the motivation, focus, mental health, weight loss, self-confidence and time for us to realise the vision. It’s not the only obstacle but its removal is imperative to success. Quitting or reducing together brings new problems but I hope that the relationship can fill some of the space and be as ace as we know it can be.

I also left myself this note: -

At 11 days, with lots of stress in life generally, this is hard to believe. Only now, with the stress, do I start WANTING to drink. It’s why I’m reading this. I think I am forgetting the negatives!

One year on, I am a healthy weight with a healthy liver and completely hangover-free.

My reasons to abstain won't be your reasons but if you're thinking of quitting, I hope that I have added a few points to consider to help you on your way.

John Crawford - Author - January 2024


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