Dear September 2020 me,
I know that you think 2020 has been a big year already – a global pandemic, working from home, overseas travel plans scrapped (in fact trips to locations within your own state are looking tenuous).
Now, just when you thought that you have handled as much change as you can for one year, you’re about to shake things up a bit more.
You’re planning to take a break from drinking but are very apprehensive about this decision.
On one hand you know that you’ll feel so much better – physically and mentally – by taking a break. You, like many of those around you, have seen a steady increase in the amount you’ve been drinking since COVID hit and, while at first it was something everyone joked about, it’s no longer funny.
You’re feeling sluggish, your hormones are going haywire and you’re not sleeping well.
So, yes, a break would be good for you.
However, you are asking yourself if you really want to give up the wine. After all, it provides relief when life is stressful and surely a global pandemic counts as a stressful time.
As your future (dare I say ‘wiser’) self, I’m here to tell you that you should not worry about this decision as much as you currently are. This choice will be one of the best decisions you have ever made for your wellbeing.
I know you have loads of questions so let me answer a few of them.
I’m aiming for three months alcohol free. Am I being too extreme?
No, you are not being extreme despite the look of shock that most of your friends will give you when you tell them that you’re off the booze!
Starting out with three months is a good goal. You’ll soon realise that you’re feeling much better by not drinking and, despite your concerns about giving up drinking, it actually won’t be as difficult as you anticipate.
In terms of being an extreme measure, consider all the other things people give up if it makes them feel physically or mentally under par – smoking, sugar, deep-fried foods.
People wouldn’t accuse you of being extreme if you gave up things that were having such a negative impact on your health. Instead, they would be congratulating you for making a healthy life choice.
Yet somehow choosing not to drink is seen as extreme and a bit questionable.
But what will I say to people?
This is a big concern of yours and, as it turns out, it’s one that many people who choose to give up drinking worry about. My advice to you, and to anyone else who asks me this, is to tell people whatever you feel comfortable with.
For the first couple of months you will tell people that you’re giving up for a few months because you know drinking is making your perimenopausal symptoms (hot flushes, waking up in the middle of the night, weight gain) worse.
This is true and giving up the grog takes away all these symptoms. In fact, you start to wonder if your perimenopausal symptoms were really hormone related or just side-effects from one too many glasses of white wine!
But after a while you simply tell the truth – that you feel so much healthier and you actually prefer not to drink alcohol.
I know you find this hard to believe September 2020 me, but I assure you this is true!
What about socialising and going on holidays, what will I do?
You’ll socialise and go on holidays! I know you don’t believe me now but deciding not to drink will not impact your social life. You’ll find some great alcohol-free (AF) alternatives – AF wines, bubbles and spirits as well as mocktails, kombucha and ginger beer – that you’ll love.
You will bring your favourite AF drinks when visiting other people, have a selection of options in your fridge when entertaining at home and you’ll learn to ask bartenders and waiters what alcohol-free options they serve.
You’ll actually be surprised at how many places have AF drinks and I’m not just talking about the drinks on the kids’ menu. I’ve had bartenders make me a mocktail even if it isn’t on the drinks list, so it’s worth asking.
A final word
Lastly, my advice to you, my younger self, is to embrace this change rather than fear it. You’ll feel so much better, you’ll become more curious about the impacts of alcohol, begin to realise why moderation was so hard and realise that you actually prefer life without alcohol.
Your three-month original goal will expand out to a year – and beyond. You’ll take a deep dive into the subject, begin writing a blog to help you work through this lifestyle change and support others who are worried about the impact alcohol is having on their physical and mental health. You’ll meet some amazing people who have also made the same choice, for a range of reasons, and who are all seeing the benefits of what initially seemed like such an extreme decision.
So, stop worrying younger me. Ditch the wine and get on with your life. I promise that you won’t regret it.
Yours in health, happiness and wellbeing,
Rachael is a writer, certified alcohol coach and lover of travel. Her light-bulb moment was realising that you don’t have to hit rock bottom to decide that life is far better without the booze. She loves being at the beach, discovering new mocktails and becoming engrossed in a novel – preferably all three at the same time.
Follow Rachael on Instagram here!