I have a confession: alcohol doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t just mean the usual hangover – though my hangovers these days are killer – the joys of growing older! I mean that alcohol makes me feel exhausted, anxious and sad.
So this month, I’ve made a decision. For the sake of my mental health, productivity and happiness, I’m cutting down on my drinking.
I know lots of people doing Dry January. I’ll be honest, I don’t intend to sign up to this, mostly because I don’t believe in telling myself I can’t have something. I want this to be a positive change, not a test of my willpower. But this month I’ve decided to cut right back – no wild nights out til 5am, no bottles of spirits. In January I want to focus on what makes me feel good, and I’ve learned the hard way that it is not alcohol.
I should point out now – for someone of my age, I am not a big drinker. Going out twice a week for a heavy one just isn’t my style. But, like any young person looking to socialise with friends, when I do go out I tend to go hard. It doesn’t feel like it at the time, does it? But waking up the next morning to see half a bottle of gin gone, and totalling up the number of doubles drank in bars throughout the night always makes me feel guilty at best, and downright miserable at worst.
I started my 2018 with a bit of a crash. Correction: I started my 2018 with a major crash. While my new year was AMAZING, spent boogying with people who mean the world to me, I woke up on the second January in the grips of a panic attack. I tossed and turned all night, fretting about not being prepared for work, and when my alarm went off I was struggling to breathe. I attempted to drag myself into the shower, but instead I ended up sobbing into my duvet. The little voice in my head told me repeatedly, “you can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this…”
I’ve always had issues with anxiety and self doubt. But this time was different. I knew I had nothing to be worried about, yet my body was still struggling under the strain of all the toxins I’d put into it two nights before. This time alcohol left me feeling not like myself, and anything that affects my mental health in this way I don’t need in my life.
The most frustrating thing is this isn’t the first time I’ve had my plans ruined this year by the effects of alcohol. Everyone needs a duvet day, but with my goals for 2018 I can’t afford to miss out on opportunities because I’m suffering from drink-fuelled anxiety.
So, what does this mean for my drinking habits in 2018? Don’t worry, I’m not going teetotal (though despite what society tells us, is giving up alcohol for good really a bad thing?) but I do intend to cut my drinking right back. A bottle of wine shared with a friend? Sounds fab. A bottle of gin on a Saturday night? Not for this girl, thank you.
Of course, there will always be exceptions. I’m passionate about making memories and sometimes that does mean going a little crazy with friends. But this year I am putting my mental health first.
Have you managed to cut back on your drinking? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.