Alcohol is pervasive and prevalent in our lives, consumed by billions of people worldwide. But most of us don’t ever consider or understand the immediate and long-term consequences of drinking.
Why we drink
There’s a social pressure to drink alcohol. Its something most of us take up in early adolescence without much thought or reflection.
Those who continue to drink alcohol in adulthood typically do so for several reasons:
● To ‘have a good time,’ relax and release inhibitions
● To ‘fit in’ and bond with people
● To blow off some steam and take their mind off the stressful week they’ve just had.
It’s the done thing, something you’re brought up to accept is normal (‘in moderation’) and commonplace. It is ubiquitous in the professional sphere also, for example:
● To welcome / say goodbye to a colleague
● Celebrating success on a new project
● Team bonding and ‘social’ activities.
Alcohol is often proposed as the solution and answer to all these scenarios, and many more.
There have also been several times in my life where I have gone for many weeks without drinking.
I have even done a few dry Januaries before with relative ease.
After these periods I have found myself in a place of optimism, focus and concentration, peace and relaxation and crucially, in succeeding with whatever I had set my mind to.
A quick point here on terminology. ‘Teetotal’ means absolute, complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. It means indefinite sobriety and outright rejection of intoxication.
In April this year I decided to end my dubious relationship with alcohol.
For several years I’ve fantasized about being teetotal, and realised it would only be a matter of when, and not if I would decide to make the jump.
Ultimately it was a particularly exhausting work week, followed by a series of extremely awkward, tiresome and uncomfortable social experiences over that weekend which led me to say to myself:
Periods of sobriety
In my final year at university I struggled severely with social anxiety and a deep depression, so much so that I consistently contemplated whether I should bother continuing to live.
I fell out with my three best friends and became isolated, sinking into melancholic thinking patterns and a vortex of negativity of my own making.
Alcohol was a relatively regular fixture in my life in this adolescent period when I was socialising.
Going on a two or three-day bender would seriously detriment my mental state.
I would binge on an absolute cocktail of drinks to mask my own sadness, so my own company was just about bearable for others, and sometimes vice versa.
I turned this around when I resolved to meet the dissertation deadline that had been given to me in that final year.
This was the only thing I was focused on for a month in the summer of 2011 — as the US government was shut down in the debt-ceiling crisis, and England experienced its worst riots for decades.
In this period my alcohol consumption was low to negligible. My only task was going to the library six days a week for 10+ hours — stopping only to eat meals, wash, sleep and listen to the Test Match Special podcast as England hammered India 4–0 in the cricket.
The next long period of nominal alcohol drinking was the following summer, when I was resolutely focused on securing my first full-time paid job after graduating.
My internship at a think-tank in the City of London was coming to an end and I was calmly and persistently applying for jobs and preparing for interviews.
It seemed the whole country was bordering on hysteria with the London Olympic Games. Like with the drama the previous summer, I paid it all cursory glances of my attention, but never to extent that it interfered with my goals of getting a foot-hold in politics and kicking on with fulfilling my potential.
I also politely turned down the opportunity to join my friends on a lads holiday in Turkey that summer. I decided reluctantly but firmly that I could not justify splashing out on such a boozy endeavour when I hadn’t even secured full-time salaried employment.
The result of making this decision meant I was able to progress my career and earning potential unapologetically at a very important point in my professional life.
The final occasion where I experienced wonderful benefits from alcohol abstention was when I was training for my first ‘white collar’ boxing match last year.
For a nine week period from August to November I didn’t consume a single drop of alcohol. I concluded that there was no advantage whatsoever in that boxing scenario for me continuing to drink alcohol.
This enabled me to think more clearly, strategically and with more optimism than I could from weeks and weeks of indulging in red wine, whiskey and beer.
Operating from a peak state: Boxing in east London last year
I’ve given up alcohol because:
I feel better without it.
I feel like I’m a better person – more focused, patient, and mature.
I have more energy.
I behave more responsibly, and act like a fool less.
I keep better company.
I sleep better.
I am more peaceful in my mind and soul. I can think properly, without over-analysing or catastrophising.
Stephen Lynch is a coach who helps individuals and organisations to speak with confidence and clarity. A repenting former lobbyist and spin doctor, he now also writes about his experiences of personal development and operating from a peak state.Read More stories by Stephen Lynch