With Ash Wednesday just around the corner, it’s likely that someone you know is considering giving up alcohol for Lent. Whether that’s you, a friend, or a family member, it's useful to know what to expect and how you can prepare for challenges that might arise along the way.
What Can Be Expected in the Early Days of No Alcohol
This is an obvious one, but something to remember is that giving up alcohol means saying goodbye to hangovers. That means no more days wasted hanging your head over the toilet bowl praying for the nausea to pass. Yippee!
Improved mental health
Alcohol is a depressant and withdrawal from alcohol (aka a hangover) is famous for increasing anxiety levels. Overall, alcohol likely makes mental health issues much worse. Having a break from it gives you a chance to show your mind some TLC.
Higher energy levels and better sleep
A lot of people use alcohol to assist with sleep, but in reality, dozing off after boozing doesn’t lead to the deep and yummy sleep that helps us feel rejuvenated. Whilst it might be tricky to nod off in the early days if you’re used to a nightcap, you’ll soon be snoozing better than you ever did before.
Nicer skin and hair
Many people report an improvement in their hair and skin after having a break from drinking. It’s almost like all the toxins in alcohol aren’t good for shiny hair and glowing skin! Who’d have thought it.
Improved physical health
With all this newfound energy and time on your hands, you might find yourself more drawn to exercise. On top of that, you won’t be ingesting the huge amount of sugar present in many alcoholic drinks.
Useful Tools for Early Sobriety
Whilst you might enjoy these unexpected pleasures found in the first days of giving up beer, it won’t all be sunshine and rainbows. If you’ve learned to go through life with alcohol at your side, suddenly not having it might not be easy. Here’s a list of useful tools that could help you make the most of your new hangover-free life.
· A Positive Attitude
What makes alcohol-free life a lot easier is changing the way you think about it. If you see going alcohol-free as LOSING something, you will struggle. If, instead, you view your booze break as GAINING something, you will glide through it with more ease.
· Books and Blogs
One way in which you can begin to shift your perception of alcohol is through reading what is known as ‘quit-lit’. Basically, this means books, blogs etc. that talk about giving up alcohol – people get really into it, and it certainly seems to help.
· Food & Drink
Just because you are giving up alcohol, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy things you used to enjoy. You might crave sugar, so having snacks or fruit around could help curb those alcohol cravings. Also, having some alcohol-free alternatives around never hurt; whether you’re into kombucha, ginger beer, or soda water, having something to sip on can act as a great substitute.
Similar to written content, podcasts spread the pro-sobriety message and help you feel less alone in your journey. There are a variety of different sobriety-based podcasts, so there’ll likely be something that piques your interest.
· Social Media
If you like using social media, it can be helpful to follow sober Instagram and Facebook accounts to meet other people doing what you’re doing. Additionally, you can set up an account to track your alcohol-free Lent progress, which will help you stay accountable.
· Sober Days Tracker
Tracking how long you’ve been sober can be a great motivator and allows you to look back on the progress you’ve made so far. You should feel proud!
Sometimes it’s easier for us to understand our emotions when we take time to reflect on them, and journaling can be a great way to do this. You can write about difficulties you’ve had on your journey and work towards ways you can get through future challenges.
Being into nature isn’t everyone’s thing, but getting more in tune with the outdoors has been proven to help us feel more calm and fulfilled. Take a walk, climb a hill, go open water swimming, or whatever you fancy. You might even meet some creatures along the way!
· New Music
Music can soothe the soul, and with all this spare time on your hands, you could spend a minute getting to know some new songs or making new playlists. You don’t have to be drunk to dance or sing, you just have to be brave!
In the busy modern world, it’s rare that we find time to be in the present moment, unless we intentionally carve it out for ourselves. Being still, focusing on the breath, and noticing emotions and thoughts as they arise can help us get to know ourselves and the nature of our consciousness. In turn, practising meditation can help us feel calmer and respond reasonably in a variety of tough situations.
· Creative Time
Creating something can be both healing and fun. It can also help fill the time you previously used to get drunk! Whether it’s painting, knitting, or writing a short story, making something brings us a sense of achievement and can give us direction when we otherwise feel a little lost.
· Activities Instead of Just Drinking
Why not try suggesting activities to your friends that aren’t entirely focused on alcohol. You could host a poker night, book a night-time tour, play minigolf, catch a movie, or get the old board games out! Moving the focus away from the alcohol itself means you are likely to still have fun and feel invested in the event.