I’m just back from a winter-sun holiday in Lanzarote. I swam in the sea, visited the volcanic vineyards, whooshed around the island on the back of a motorbike and ate some great tapas. It was fantastic – everything a holiday should be. And I did it all stone cold sober.
A few years ago, a holiday without alcohol would have been unthinkable. There’s the pints at the airport to get you in the holiday mood. A cheeky glass of wine on the plane. Cocktails by the beach and of course, every meal must be accompanied by a bottle of wine. How would you properly enjoy your food? And surely it would be rude not to accept the restaurants’ free nightcap of Bailey’s or limoncello…
But I have spent the last 500 days without alcohol and this meant a different kind of holiday. And, dare I say it, a better one.
I can honestly say that no aspect of the holiday would have been improved by the addition of alcohol.
Everyone’s reasons for quitting are different, but mine were that lockdown had shone a light on my slightly unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I was making more and more excuses to drink and was probably drinking one or two drinks, five days a week. And on the other two days I was thinking about when I’d be able to drink again.
In essence, I gave up because I found moderating my drinking quite exhausting. And so I decided that the 12th September 2021 would be my last drink.
It’s pretty hard to give up alcohol if you feel you are always going to be missing out or end up living an incomplete life. So here are four things you gain from being teetotal:
A fantastic nights’ sleep: when I drank I often woke in the night and felt pretty hazy in the morning. Now I sleep like a baby, every single night.
Being 100% present: Your kids, loved ones and friends will thank you for it. And if you need to drive to the restaurant, or collect a teenager late at night, it’s never an issue.
A healthier body: alcohol is a poison, highly calorific and gives no health benefits whatsoever. Don’t believe the articles put out by the drinks companies that tell you a glass of wine a day helps you live longer!
Money savings: I’ve saved over £1,000 since stopping drinking. I can think of loads of better things to do with my hard-earned cash than piss it away down a toilet. Alcohol-free drinks are improving all the time and are much cheaper.
Let’s take a minute to examine the lies we are fed about alcohol. Opening my eyes to the deceit that the drinks industry pushes (and society buys into) around drink made a big difference to me.
Every advert we see tells us a variant of this narrative: we need alcohol to relax, enjoy life, have a holiday, celebrate a birthday, a wedding, a funeral, a promotion, a Friday, a weekend or The Big Game. We need alcohol to lower our inhibitions and have a good time. Everybody drinks alcohol so if you don’t, you’re weird. Even Jesus turned water into wine so it must be great!
But what if these are lies perpetuated by drinks companies? And what if we are helping them because we’ve all been sucked in?
Alcohol is expensive. It is bad for your health. It ruins thousands of lives through its misuse. It damages relationships, ruins livelihoods and causes untold accidents. Just go an A&E in any hospital on a weekend evening and tell me alcohol is good for society.
The drinks industry spends millions to provide a counter-narrative and it works. We swallow the lies they lace our drinks with.
In our heads
In addition, we need to remember that alcohol is a chemically addictive substance. It’s not easy to give up.
As well as our livers, it gets into our heads. We think we need it to relax or to have a good time. This dependency is worth examining even if you don’t consider you have anywhere near ‘an addiction’. For many, drinking has become a signpost or gateway for transitioning between work and leisure.
For some, the suggestion of giving up alcohol makes them feel angry. Perhaps you are feeling like this now reading this? It is worth exploring that feeling. Why the defence? What buttons does this push in you?
Questioning the relationship
The purpose of this article isn’t to bring guilt. But I wanted to share my experiences of going against the cultural norm and the good things it had led to. I want to pique the interest of the growing number of people who are sober-curious and might want to try it out for size.
I believe it is worth questioning our relationship with alcohol. I am one of many people who have done so and have found a more fulfilling and improved life by giving it up.
Curious? With the season of Lent coming up, why not give alcohol a break and see what benefits you experience?
Jo Bega is a charity CEO and can be found on twitter @jozijozi
8 thoughts on “The lies we swallow about alcohol – by Jo Bega”
This is a positive and challenging article. We could perhaps extend our critique of the lies we are fed to include those from the fossil fuel industry and the forces relying on and driving ever increasing consumption that hang off the back of it?
Sounds like you want to write a guest post on this issue Mike?
thanks for this article Jo. I found it challenging – especially as someone who likes a few beers.
What I have found over the last 10 years or so is that going dry for Lent really helps me. It is hard, especially when a good mate’s birthday is during this time or some other celebration (or the ‘Beer Club’ I am a member of) but these are the times when your points really come home to roost. Do I need it? What anxiety does it provoke that I am better to engage with rather than smother?
I think a lot about people’s relationship with alcohol because a) I have seen and worked with so many people who misuse alcohol but also b) because I see it as a comfort blanket for so many. Some groups of blokes don’t seem comfortable in each other’s presence without the intermediating pint between them. It needs talking and thinking about because there is so much vulnerability being masked.
thanks again for your wisdom and bravery to share your journey.
Thanks Jon – it was good to share the thoughts that I’d been mulling over for a while. Hope it sparks debate and some mulling over in others….
I think it will – but it is also something of a taboo to talk about. It has certainly been read a lot so I think it will have some hidden impact with those less keen to ‘like’ it on social media! thanks Jo!
Really great article Jo. I think our addiction to stress (or the prevalence of stress in our lives) causes so many unhealthy numbing activities, like too much TV, alcohol, social media etc. I am interested in how we can reduce that driving sense of stress in out lives and be more balanced. I think alcohol reduction/elimination plays a key part in that. Very important to raise the issues around dependance and health. A number of my friends have gone completely alcohol free and I am very interested in their journeys. I am a moderate drinker, but will think about what you’ve said carefully.
Hi Jo – this really resonates with me as I gave up alcohol on 1st January 2020 for much the same reasons and I am so much happier for it. I thought I was going to give up for a year but I have never looked back. Why did I feel I needed a drink after a hard day (wind down) or after a good day (celebration)? And the alcohol free drinks are now so good!