Growing up in Australia where “getting drunk” with your mates always felt like a treasured national pastime, alcohol has always been a constant and pervasive aspect of my life. When I was in my teens I often felt a bubble of excitement and anticipation when discussions of potential gatherings with alcohol took place, and even the smell of liquor conjured up a thrilling feeling of enthusiastic anticipation. Important milestones, such as 18ths, 21sts, engagement parties and hens parties all took place with the assumption that there would be an unlimited supply of alcohol and everyone would be inebriated to the point of passing out or throwing up.
Now, in my mid-twenties, i’m growing a little weary of it all. Alcohol is still an important part of my life, and I enjoy many nights out with friends, dancing whimsically and laughing hysterically in unbridled joy. My usual anxiety and discomfort abated with every drink I consume, and I begin to feel like I am indeed a relaxed and confident person.
But then I drink too much. I become emotional. I say things I regret, and my judgement is clouded. I spend too much money, I embarrass myself. And then I end up with a hideous hangover, groaning in my pillow at the ridiculous things I said did the night before. This, of course, is a common phenomenon and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it constantly, but when my behaviour is having a negative impact on my life overall, something needs to change. Here are four reasons why it might be time for you to also consider giving up alcohol, or at least restricting yourself to a couple of glasses on a night out.
- You aren’t as awkward as you think you are
This reason for giving up alcohol is pretty unique but it might hit home for some of you who have lacked confidence for what seems to be the entirety of your life and feel like a ball of anxiety in social situations. I know I have used alcohol as a way to help me overcome my nerves and anxiety when conversing with other people, often causing me to drink too much in a short space of time and then making a fool of myself. The more uncomfortable I am, the more I try and drink to overcome my stress and anxiety. In hindsight, rather than appearing relaxed and confident after i’ve had too much to drink, I’ve probably seemed arrogant and inappropriately rude in an attempt to be funny and liked.
Instead of slugging down vodka’s, it might be better to take a deep breath, realise it’s normal to feel anxious in social situations, and assure yourself that you are not as awkward as you think you are. Although you might think that you are extremely important and at the forefront of everyones mind, most people don’t really notice you a great deal, or at least don’t critically analyse you in the way that you think. It’s certainly normal to worry about what other people think of you, but if it impacts adversely on your behaviour, i.e. by causing you to drink unhealthy amounts of vodka, then you may need to examine your thoughts closely. Ask yourself why you care so much about what these people think of you. We all have a desire to be liked and respected, but unless you’re a psychopath or a narcissistic wanker, most people will like your natural personality without the need for it to be altered by alcohol.
If you do feel like you need to drink more around certain groups of people before you can feel relaxed and normal, it might be that you’re hanging around the wrong people. Let’s face it, some personalities will inevitably clash. It’s also worth noting that some people might actually just be rude and uninviting to other people that aren’t directly in their friendship circle. Rather than drinking to impress them or to feel remotely comfortable in their presence, it’s time to focus on the friendships that you have in your life where you feel valued, respected and comfortable. Either way if you’re anything like me, you tend to scrutinise most social interactions that you’re involved in, which might cause you to misinterpret things and become unnecessarily sensitive. It might be worth reminding yourself to just relax, and reinforce the point that your mental interpretations of external events are not concrete facts, but rather subjective perceptions conceived in your mind.
2. If you value health and fitness, drinking alcohol is a set-back
We’ve all been in the situation where it’s Friday afternoon and you’ve had a busy week at work or uni. You’re unequivocally determined to have a healthy weekend consisting of jogs along the beach, yoga classes, and kale smoothies. On Friday night, you plan to watch a movie in bed and calmly divulge in a small portion of unsalted popcorn before drifting off peacefully to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then you get a message from your best mate at 5pm asking if you’re interested in drinks. You think of all the cons to drinking (there’s quite a few) and the one pro is pretty much “yolo”. You go out with your friends, drink excessively and stay out until 3am. The next day, you wake up at 11am almost certain you’ve been hit by a bus and your throat is so dry from dehydration that you can barely utter the word “water” out loud.
The rest of the weekend is pretty predictable. The fact that you’re hungover and feel like absolute rubbish means that you are completely apathetic about the nutritional value of the Maccas that you wolf down, and there’s no chance at all that you will muster up the effort or motivation to go to the gym. Whilst the sun is shining outside, you spend your Saturday napping on and off in the confines of your cool and dark room. You might watch a movie, order Uber eats and then probably reward yourself with another nap. After all, you feel like crap so what’s the point?
The hangover continues in to Sunday, which is only slightly more productive than Saturday. You might go to the shops or visit your grandparents for a bit, but you still eat poor foods (i.e. fast foods and things that make you feel like crap). The vigorous gym session that you planned is definitely not on the horizon, and by Sunday evening you feel as though you have lost another precious weekend to a hangover. Rather than eating healthy and nutritious foods and going to the gym – activities that make you feel great – you’ve done practically no exercise and you’ve eaten foods that make your stomach hurt and leave you feeling lethargic. The worst part is that the effects of this hangover often carries into the early part of the week, and you continue to feel lazy and unmotivated. When you realise that alcohol is having such a significant impact on your health and exercise regime, something you value significantly, then it might be time to give up alcohol.
3. It’s not good for your mental health
For me, the worst part of drinking alcohol is the impact that it has on my mental health. As you can probably gauge by now, I am someone that thinks too much and analyses situations unnecessarily. Although I am a lot better than what I used to be, I also tend to care too much about what other people might think of me. When i’ve had too much to drink, I might engage in embarrassing or cringe-worthy behaviour, or worse, I might misinterpret a situation and become unreasonably upset.
When I reflect on the events of the night before, I feel ashamed and generally just miserable about how I behaved or what happened. When I consider how other people would have perceived my behaviour, or how they probably viewed me as ridiculous, annoying or angry, I feel terrible. I often enter a depressed slumber where I just want to lay in bed and do nothing but scroll endlessly through instagram. I seem to exacerbate my gloominess by ruminating on the previous nights events, and I enter a dark mental state of low self-esteem and self-hatred.
Whilst I might feel slightly better the next day, the low mood continues and I feel unmotivated and almost apathetic about the important things in my life. Even on Monday when I have almost forgotten the embarrassing behaviour of my drunken self, I still feel despondent. Going to work or the gym is a monumental effort, even though I feel physically fine. I used to think this dejected state could be attributed to “Mondayitis”, and was just a normal feeling of resentment towards Mondays, however now I believe the uncannily miserable feeling is directly attributable to the copious amount I drank on the weekend. Whilst the Monday’s following a sober weekend are certainly not my favourite day of the week, I realise that I don’t get that horrible low feeling and existential sadness that I do after a weekend of drinking.
If this is all far too relatable, then you might decide that being happy, and having those around you happy, is the most important thing in your life. If drinking alcohol makes you feel miserable and is an impediment to long-lasting happiness, then it definitely might be time to give up drinking excessively.
4. It’s time to start saving money
This reason for giving up alcohol is pretty obvious but necessary to discuss. Throughout university, I spent a LOT of money on partying and going out with my friends. Whilst I don’t regret most of it because of the friends and memories that I made, I still wish I had been more frugal so I could have saved some money. Even saving $50 a week would have been better than nothing. But despite living with my parents and having no major financial responsibilities, I didn’t manage to save anything. I recall spending unnecessary amounts on alcohol, a notably expensive purchase in Australia. I continued to do this throughout my later years at university, even when many others had began to settle down on their spending and focus more on their studies.
In my current financial position, it is more important than ever that I be more economical and improve my ability to save money . I live out of home now and have just finished up at my full-time job at a law firm. I still work casually, but am yet to apply for other full-time jobs as I am in the process of working out what exactly I want to do with my life. If I continue to spend frivolously on alcohol (and then fast food subsequently) then my hard-earned savings will dwindle away rapidly. It’s also important to consider the long-term desires and goals when deciding how to spend money. Like most 25 year olds, I want to save up enough money to travel. Rather than spending another $100 on a night out, that money could more appropriately be put towards a fulfilling trip to Europe which will serve your long-term goals better than a night out would.
There are undeniably positive aspects of drinking alcohol, such as creating hilarious memories with your friends, meeting new people, and abating social anxieties. However, if you think it’s having an adverse impact on your life, in particular your mental health, it might be time to give it up altogether. If you’re the type of person that can have two or three drinks on a night out and stop there, perhaps you could start by cutting down your alcohol in-take and consistently only drinking a small amount. If you are struggling with your mental health, it might be worth journaling your behaviours and thoughts in order to ascertain what might be causing you to feel down. If you see a pattern of drinking alcohol, even a small amount, and consequently feeling like crap, it might be time to give it up altogether and focus on living a happy and fulfilling life away from harmful substances. And just remember, your sober self is just a witty and charming as your drunk self, and probably a lot more likeable.