As January comes to an end it’s likely that those students who took part in Dry January will be feeling good for it, benefiting from the positive affects of alcoholic abstinence on their bodies and minds. If you took part, it’s worth reflecting on how you found not being able to drink and what your thoughts are about your drinking behaviour moving forward.
If you were a ‘sensible’ drinker beforehand, things may not change too much. However, if you have a tendency to be the last one at a party still with drink in hand, or drinking to the point that you have memory blanks the next day, maybe this will prove to be the start of lasting change for a smarter and healthier relationship with alcohol.
I speak from personal experience, historically having been in states of drunkenness where I could have and at times did put myself at risk and where being hung-over was a common state on weekends. I rarely drank at home and I didn’t drink most days, but when I did drink I made up for the sober days.
It wasn’t as a result of partaking in dry January (although I am feeling the benefits of having taking part this year!), but more a series of triggers several years ago that revealed I had an uncomfortable dependency on alcohol. I became conscious that when I went to the pub I needed to have an alcoholic drink and if I was on a night out I didn’t know my limits and would often drink far in excess of what was good for me.
I started to wake up to the darker side of what I had previously seen as fun and needed to understand where this dependency that was influencing my drinking habits came from. I knew things had to change for both my emotional and physical wellbeing.
This need for change and greater self-awareness took me on a silent ten-day Vipassana meditation course, I didn’t drink for a year and a half and I did a lot of personal development work on my self-esteem and confidence. I am pleased to say my efforts weren’t in vain and I am I now very grateful to be enjoying life with a kinder and healthier relationship with alcohol.
I still enjoy the occasional glass or two of wine with friends or celebrating a special occasion with some Prosecco or a nice cocktail. I appreciate a cold beer in the summer. More importantly, I am more in control of what I drink, how much I drink and when I drink and I am saving money in the process. I also feel much better in myself for it and generally get more done.
Even though binge drinking is engrained in British culture and for many it is synonymous with being a student, it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing and I got caught up in the normalisation of it all to my detriment….
Universities don’t want to see their students getting into damaging situations that could have been avoided because of binge drinking and they worry about the effects on student’s mental health, and the impact all this can have on a student’s grades. It might be obvious to state that being thrown out of a club, ending up in hospital or sleeping with someone because your drunk aren’t the best ways to end a night out, but they are common and because of this many students don’t question their behaviour.
If you find yourself at the end of January having not had a drink, firstly, well done! It may have easy, but it may also have been harder than you thought it would be. If you found it challenging it may be worth trying to understand why and if there are any warning signs that you need to listen to. Do you drink to get drunk? Do you find that when you drink you often do things that you regret? Do you think that binge drinking could be having an effect on your mental health?
It’s only when we become conscious that our behaviour isn’t as good for us as we first thought and accept that to be the case, that we can do something about it. Admittedly, my approach to intervention was pretty extreme and it won’t be for everyone, but if you are reflecting on your own drinking behaviour and thinking you want to take steps to change there are some simple things you can do the next time you go out:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach
- Don’t mix drinks
- Stay clear of shots
- Have water in between alcoholic drinks
- If you feel under pressure to drink, get a soda and lime and pretend it’s got alcohol in it!
- Use this app from Drinkaware to monitor your drinking
Having a few drinks with friends can be fun; it’s about being aware of when the line is crossed from fun to detrimental.
If you want more information on binge drinking or feel you would benefit from talking to someone about your drinking or someone else’s there are a number of services and websites listed below.
Remember you don’t need to get drunk to have a good time and your body will thank you for drinking sensibly!
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline, which is free and confidential. 0300 123 1110.
Rehab4Alcoholism gives free impartial and independent advice on alcohol addiction. 0800 111 4108
Drinkaware presents the facts about binge drinking and its effects.
This Wikihow gives guidance on how to stop binge drinking.