The scientific jury is still out on whether a month’s trial separation from Old Mother Alcohol does you any good or not – but if you’re planning to give your organs an extended vacation while the lab technicians squabble, here are some things to think about.
The NHS says there's “limited evidence about whether taking part in the challenge could lead to long-term changes in patterns of drinking”. However, a recent study by the University of Sussex and Alcohol Concern suggests that a month of abstinence might improve your ability to cut down on booze in the future.
“Compared with those who failed to abstain, those who were successful were more likely to drink less, have lower dependence scores, and be more able to refuse alcohol to start with,” reports the NHS Choices website. “Both successful abstainers and those who did not succeed in the challenge also had increased powers of abstinence and reduced consumption patterns up to six months later, albeit to a slightly lesser extent in those who did not succeed.”
So, if you’re currently seven days into a booze-free month, keep it up. We took to the streets and asked Coach readers how they do it...
1. “Don’t try to keep pace with the boozers”
“By the end of December I usually feel pretty tired and unhealthy, and you’re just drinking to go through the motions, so it’s a welcome relief to abstain for a bit. I take a month off the sauce to get healthy and to also rediscover what I enjoyed about drinking in the first place. If you can get through the first weekend, you’re fine, but my advice would be ‘Don’t attempt to keep pace with the boozers’. Drinking the equivalent amount of Coke or orange juice is pretty disgusting and you’ll be pissing like a horse.” Rory, 31
2. “You realise how much big weekends take out of you”
“I’d given up smoking already and I used to do that every day, so in my mind knocking the booze on the head for a few weeks would be a walk in the park. I was right, it was really easy – especially if you’re working on getting fitter, because you suddenly realise how much your big weekends were taking out of you.” Sam, 41
3. “Every time I wanted a pint, I’d imagine it sloshing around inside me while running”
“I was totally sick of the sight of booze after Christmas – all of that Baileys and Tia Maria at home had taken its toll, so in a fit of insanity, I decided to run a marathon a few months later. So I basically gave up drinking and ran, ran and ran some more, and every time I fancied a pint, I just thought about it sloshing around inside me for 26.2 miles – that was enough to put me off. That said, I immediately went for a Guinness after the run and it was the best pint I have ever had in my life. Worth the wait.” Mike, 26
4. “Don't hold it against your friends when they act stupidly after a few drinks”
“I’ve actually not had a drink for four years! Prepare for boredom, for a dry paper bag existence, for watching people shrivel beneath your self-righteous drivel… unless sober you is FUN, that is. In which case prepare to be well-liked, but treated like a friendly member of the clergy. Don’t hold it against your friends when they act stupidly after a few drinks, and try not to smile too insanely in the mornings. It’s unbecoming.” Dan, 39
5. “Don’t ram your sobriety down people’s throats”
“I found myself having a much clearer head and being able to make better decisions. I also found myself having tons more energy, which meant I could go on a night out and actually have a good time, and even talk about real stuff, not just have slurry pissed conversations. I’d leave the masses wanting more, rather than being the last one staggering round the bar suggesting we go on somewhere else. Even so, it’s important not to ram your sobriety down people’s throats – no-one likes a smug teetotaller.” Greg, 40
6. “Go home a bit earlier than usual”
“I thought that loads of people would try to trip me up, but literally only one of my mates got a bit funny about it, and even that passed pretty quickly. You still have a good time, but you might be wise to go home a little bit earlier than usual, because pissed people do start to get a bit annoying towards the end of the evening.” Han, 39
7. “Don’t tell anyone”
“Don’t tell anyone! That’s the best way to get away with not drinking. On a night out, just buy clear drinks like lemonade or soda water so that people think you’re on the spirits.” Tish, 28
8. “Go somewhere instead of the pub”
“Rather than going to the pub, go to the odd gallery, the cinema, even the theatre.” Mark, 28
9. “Treat yourself with the money you save”
“Treat yourself to something nice that equates to the amount of money you would have spent on booze that month!” Kelly, 38
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