I have never really liked alcohol, I don’t buy into the myth that a little bit of alcohol every day is good for your health -the evidence is questionable at best- and I’m lucky I don’t like the taste so much. Unfortunately consuming alcohol is rarely about the taste. There’s the social aspect, legend has it you can easily tap into your artistic resources when you water them with alcohol, and it takes away your inhibitions. I sometimes wonder if I’d still be a virgin without the stress killing powers of alcohol. And it brings everybody in a loosened up state. Even if you serve non-alcoholic drinks at a party, but let people believe they are drinking alcohol, the effects are almost exactly the same. People loosen up, get chatty and hormones get to dictate our behavior a bit more. Though I suppose nobody would vomit or wake up with a hangover. Still, never underestimated the placebo effect.
I decided to stop drinking alcohol entirely after one rough night of drinking Damanovka. It’s a Slovak drink, and I bet it’s called that way because it’s the highway to the premature onset of dementia. A friend and I wanted to make funny videos and we thought it would be a great idea if we just rambled on in front of the camera, as intoxicated as we could possibly get. The results were disappointing. The videos we had made while sober far outshone the material marinated in alcohol. Too bad. An assault on her liver, sleep, stomach, brain cells, wallet, not to mention an expanding waist, all for nothing. My friend had not hangover, I had a major one. Was it worth it? Hell, no. On top of that, and you may call that a conspiracy theory if you like, I have the strong feeling alcohol is so omnipresent in our society, because it keeps people from revolting, radically changing their lives. Alcohol is just there. It’s everywhere. Had a frustrating week? Let’s all hit the bar. It’s cool, it’s what grownups do. It’s our way to protest against ‘the system’, our way to shut down, shut off, secede from everything we don’t enjoy in life. But are we really? I just think alcohol keeps the system going. Work 8 hours at a mind numbing job, come home and pass out in front of the television with a bottle of wine. It’s an incredibly powerful business. It’s a dangerous drug, ask any woman who was ever smashed around the house by a drunk husband or boyfriend, not to mention car crashes, bar fights, hooking up with the wrong person, etc. On top of all that, it seems a lot of people use alcohol as some sort of kick starter. Without it, they are introverts, but with a glass of alcohol in their hand, they become the life of a party. A pavlovian dynamic one could also get from the same associations with, say, caramel pudding. And finally, an extra reason to keep from drinking: the rebellious joy of refusing to drink when people pressure you to drink. Once you quit drinking you notice how many people put pressure on others to drink along with them. Funny, with one exception, no one has ever forced me to smoke cigarettes, no one has ever forced me to eat spaghetti when I didn’t feel like it, no one has ever forced banana’s on me just because they were in the mood to eat banana’s. With alcohol you have to join in or you seem to be labelled ‘the party pooper’. Still, I persisted. I survived Slovak New Year without a drop of alcohol. Not a small feat, I’ve met Slovak claiming their national sport is drinking beer. I have met Slovaks who refused to go out with me if they found out I didn’t drink alcohol.
The results after nine months? I sleep a hell of a lot better! I used to have a lot of trouble getting up before 9.30 am. Now I wake up at 5h10. I don’t need an alarm clock, I don’t even set an alarm clock anymore. This may also be due to the fact I also went cold turkey on coffee. I have never been addicted to alcohol, but I have been addicted to coffee. I used to drink something like 3 liters a day. I put a cup of coffee on my night stand at night, so I could guzzle it down the moment I woke up, it was that bad. I never went anywhere without a bottle of cold coffee. I thought it energized me, but the opposite is true, after six months without coffee (and nine months without alcohol) I have more focus and more energy than I ever did drinking coffee. The only time I find drinking coffee has a huge benefit is when doing very repetitive tasks, when I worked in a factory, coffee turned me into a robot. Or was that just an impression as well? As a writer I can tell you it’s a myth that coffee boosts your creativity. And coming back to alcohol: neither does alcohol. Sometimes when I was fed up with not writing for a long period of time I turned to alcohol to jump start my writing drive. It worked a couple of times. But as soon as you get used to it, it stops working, you find yourself drinking and still not writing. The only way to write on a daily basis is just to work up the discipline, get a routine, sit down and do the work. There is not painless way to do start doing creative work. Read ‘the war of art’ by Steven Pressfield if you don’t believe me.
I’ve also lost some weight. I would have lost more, but one problem I haven’t been able to tackle yet is: I eat too much, especially bread and pasta. But even so, I’ve lost weight by cutting out alcohol entirely.
Eventually my environment got used to my not drinking, has accepted it and doesn’t pressure me to drink anymore. I have also noticed that the firmer your conviction not to drink is, the more positively people respond to it. If you clearly state you don’t drink, without the odd feeling of guilt, people won’t bother you and won’t pressure you to drink.
In the end it also saves me quite a bit of money. When I got to a bar I stick to tea or water, and you don’t go binge drinking tea or water, so I spend a lot less when I go out. Plus, as we may be the average standards of the 5 people we spend the most time with: I notice that people around me have also cut back on drinking.
Bottom line: you don’t need it, you’ll lose weight if you cut, the quality of your sleep will improve drastically, people will get used to it and will adapt, you’ll save money (easily hundreds of euro a year even if you are far from being a heavy drinker right now), it helps to get rid of other bad habits (I can imagine I’d pour myself a coffee if I got drunk). And perhaps no concern to you: I have a tiny bit of Schadenfreude -pleasure in others’ misery- by boycotting an entire industry that I find to be one of the cornerstones of the one percent. If you don’t follow me on that one, fine, the other benefits of not drinking alcohol are well worth it.