I never really drank, until I moved to the UK. There were lots of wonderful drinks to be found all around me, and many great pubs too. For the first time in my life, I started going out. However, about a year ago I decided to step away from this lifestyle again and quit alcohol. Here’s why.
I used to not drink before
Before I made my move the the UK, I didn’t really drink alcohol either. I never fancied going out much, most of my friends didn’t drink, and I was put off by the alcoholic taste of most drinks. I simply wasn’t interested for a long time.
How I started liking drinks later
When I moved to the UK, I had so many great pubs at hand, so going out for a drink became much more common. I also started to enjoy going out to clubs for the first time. I was taking part in student life a lot more than I did back in the Netherlands, and I didn’t mind unwinding with a drink and letting loose a bit.
Although I faced the occasional hangover, I never got sick, and most of the time it was the fatigue from a long night out that really got to me. I never drank on my own. It was always a social pleasure for me. On top of that, it helped me relax in crowded environments where I would usually feel anxious. So for a good part of my three years in the UK, I enjoyed a drink here and there very much.
Issues with alcohol
Some people have issues with alcohol because it alters their behaviour or they find it hard to keep it to just one drink. That was never the case for me. Overall, the reasons I quit alcohol were more about preventing myself from further mental difficulty. Here’s a brief summary of what I encountered.
For a while now I have dealt with increasing IBS symptoms, meaning I am overly sensitive to a lot of ingredients. And let’s face it, there’s really no fun in having a cider if you’re always struck with diarrhoea afterwards.
On top of that, my tolerance decreased because I wasn’t going out as much. My social life in Sheffield dried up a bit after a while, so I was drinking much less as well. Of course the less I drank, the more sensitive I became. Just a sip would have me swaying and slurring within no time.
One evening I sat down for post-rehearsal drinks with the Singers’ Society, at which I ordered half a cider for myself. This seemingly innocent glass of alcohol was then followed by a night of severe nightmares. It was actual hell. I was so shocked from the effect, I didn’t have a drop of alcohol for months after that.
In addition to the nightmares, alcohol also noticeably disrupted my sleep cycle. A couple of months after the nightmare incident, I decided to have a drink with two friends in London, and subsequently didn’t sleep for a full 48 hours.
As you may understand, this had a large effect on my energy levels. The heavy fatigue I was faced with from a simple glass of alcohol always took a toll on my capacity to deal with life the next day. All in all, I no longer had the mental strength to deal with the implications of a long night out or a few “innocent” drinks.
Alcohol, especially because it is greatly normalised and easily accessible, can be an easy method of escapism. Considering I have a wide range of mental health issues, I felt I could easily be subjected to an alcohol problem or possible addiction. I didn’t want to fall for that.
I think there have been times where long nights out in good company were a great distraction from my mental state, but it also deferred from how badly I was actually doing. Although it was never my intention, I do think I let myself get distracted too much at times. I think I was quite capable of denying my symptoms in that way. Unfortunately, issues like these always bounce back to you like a boomerang in the face.
Pet peeves about alcohol
I generally don’t think we take alcohol as seriously as any other drug, even though it can have large effects on people, and it is also easily accessible. I think much of the problematic (behavioural) effects of alcohol are normalised, which has led to many people not taking me seriously when I say I don’t drink.
That makes it tough, because there have been many times where I too was tempted to “just have one drink, I would probably be fine!”, even though I know very well it can throw me off completely.
I hope as a society we can move to a more accepting and positive attitude towards people who don’t drink, so I (and many others) will no longer have to hear “come on, just one drink won’t hurt! Let’s just have fun! You can let go a bit for once.”
What are your experiences with alcohol?
Do you think we take the implications of alcohol seriously enough? Have you experienced any issues yourself? I’m curious to hear your perspectives. Leave a comment down below or get in touch on Twitter.