My teenage years were filled with hanging out with friends, meeting each other during social events, and having late-night drinking binches. The unwritten rules for a sense of ‘belonging’ were largely associated with alcohol.
I had my first drink when I was around 14 years old; a youth discotheque in my native Netherlands was one of the first of getting a taste of the nightlife, the fun and games around flirting with the opposite sex, and the chance to zip off a beer. Showing any form of ID to confirm I was old enough to drink was not needed at that time and place. The age groups ranged from 14 to 19 years old and alcohol was available in the form of beer. It was the start of an initiation process to take my rebellious younger years to the next level to ‘score’.
And alcohol was undoubtedly a primary driver to talk with the ladies, get more friends, and hit the nightclubs without being judged. It was more often “out of control” than “in control”. My social choices were those balancing more towards those including alcoholic content.
It went on.
House parties and my fabulous years as a student revolved mainly on how quickly I can get drinks in me. The name of the game was about getting pissed out of my wits. I spare the more extreme stories related to alcohol abuse (as I look at it now). Some of the most memorable years of my drinking life went on when arriving in Bangkok.
My belief that the notion not to drink resulted in becoming a socially distant person was, was deeply entrenched in my mind. A person that could not have a business meeting with clients without a drink, an evening with friends in a great pub in Bangkok. Confidence and self-belief connected this with the constant need to have a drink.
I was not considered an alcoholic. But I had mastered the consumption of alcohol to a level that would put others under the table with less than 50% of my evening consumption on a Saturday evening.
But the damage done over the years (I am talking over 25 years) slowly emerged. And it did not happen because of battling through yet another hangover. Depression, anxiety, the feeling of constantly drained after a couple of beers, low self-esteem, less productive, mood swings – it really hit a home run in just one day. The accumulation of it all, sometimes in excessive amounts, triggered something I cannot describe. Call it a calling, a revelation, another excruciating huff-and-puff after climbing a flight of stairs – whatever.
Something had to change, something must change. I slowly decreased down my consumption week by week, month by month, consciously.
2018. I took it upon myself to quit for an extended time to see what it would do. It turned into a still continuous experiment where I haven’t touched another glass, to date.
The damage alcohol can do came to the light when I changed my mind set
- Even low-calorie alcohol still has impact your mental and physical health;
- A good night of quality sleep is next to impossible with alcohol;
- Incremental food cravings and levels of feeling satisfied after a meal decrease;
- Decreased testosterone levels for men (this is scientifically proven);
- Mood swings, low energy levels, anxiety, lack of focus;
- Low self-esteem and confidence levels;
- Weight gain.
The marvellous transformations that have happened after quitting alcohol.
- Almost all my health markers were in the green;
- Weight loss. Alcohol is a form of energy but it inhibits tapping into your stored fat;
- Feeling energetic, thriving. One thing I realized is that my productivity levels are up;
- My levels of anxiety and depression have dropped;
- Confidence levels are up;
- My physical achievements are way better than 20 years ago;
- Giving up how others think of me when I kindly decline having a beer.
One very important thing here is that it is all about balance, be honest about your own alcohol intake, and accountability.
When you struggle as much as / less than I have ignored the markers, take your beer / wine / cocktail consumption under the loop and review your relationship with your drink. Forget about how society, the business world, your friends and relatives may think about you – this is your decision and your decision only. You are in control and not your environment or your beliefs.
- It may be taking a break for a week, a month or longer;
- It may be consciously decreasing your alcoholic intakes for a while and see how it feels;
- Losing some weight and get energetic again may be the reason;
- Perhaps, it may be something else you may think of;
Alcohol is legally classified as a “psychoactive drug”, a depressant on the Central Nervous System. In moderation, it may not show the effects as above, but alcohol is a drug, and a highly addictive one.
Each individual reacts and responds differently towards alcohol. We are all individuals with own preferences, wishes and desires, and this includes alcohol. My nutrition coaching takes this into account when going on a weight loss journey. And we will find a place for your glass of wine or your bottle of beer to keep this part embedded towards your goal.
Unless it becomes an inhibiting factor to get you thriving.
It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people | F. Scott Fitzgerald