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The Decision to Give Up Alcohol


Until a few months ago, I was drinking heavily with my partner.

We’d been together twelve months, and pretty much every day, come mid-afternoon, he looked for that glass of red or bottle of beer.

Before hooking up with him, I was not a serious drinker. I knew, living on my own and trying to heal from the wounds of my broken marriage, etc., I could find a million and one reasons why a glass (or bottle!) of wine at the end of my lonely days was righteously justified.

But I resisted. Because I knew the last thing I needed was to lean on alcohol to get by. I’d seen it play out with friends — that slippery slope we get on and can’t get off!

Reaching for a drink or three every night would be a crutch. It wouldn’t magically help me deal with the more significant life issues I needed to sort out. Besides, I was all for getting UNstuck and, to that end, healing my attachment wounds.

That all changed when I met my partner.

The Habit of Drinking

Drinking with my new man was a habit that crept up on me unnoticed, at least in those early months together.

Before dinner, he’d reach for a drink and invite me to join him. And I did. I kept up with him, drink for drink. Before I knew it, my partner’s drinking habit was my habit.

I drank 3–4 beers daily, with a few glasses of red wine on top. Some days we polished off a few bottles of red wine between us.

I began to notice how I looked forward to our evening drinking sessions.

I have a friend who distils his own alcohol and moves it on. He sold me five pints of whiskey on a visit last year. Looking back, I was blown away by how many glasses of neat whiskey my partner and I consumed, night after night.

Drifting into a state of light drunkenness was our norm.

Some days, we’d knock over a drink right after lunch. For me, that was a red light flashing!

Weighing Up the Health Risks

I have a passion for women’s health and healing, so I knew better than most that serious health problems were associated with even moderate drinking.

The body will only process around one standard drink per hour.

Alcohol starts to affect the brain within five minutes of being consumed — the blood alcohol concentration peaks about 30 to 45 minutes after one standard drink.

The same amount of alcohol leads to a higher blood alcohol concentration in women than men because women tend to break down less alcohol in their stomachs; also, women generally have a smaller body size and a lower proportion of lean tissue than men.

As consumption increases, lifetime risk of harm increases at a faster rate for women.

Alcohol-related health issues include:

  • digestive disorders (i.e. stomach ulcers)
  • liver disease
  • dietary deficiencies and malnutrition
  • concentration and memory problems
  • sleeping difficulties
  • mental health conditions
  • suicide and suicidal behaviour
  • brain damage with mood and personality changes
  • overweight and obesity
  • sexual impotence and reduced fertility
  • high blood pressure and stroke
  • cancers
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • heart damage
  • harms to unborn and breastfeeding babies.

Our Role Models for Drinking

I challenged my partner about his drinking. He said he couldn’t stop.

Apparently, his father was a functioning, happy alcoholic. My partner conceded he was probably becoming just like his dad. His rationale was that he enjoyed drinking.

My upbringing was quite different. I never saw my mum under the influence of alcohol. She indulged in a glass of wine or two at the many gatherings we held in our home. But mostly, she enjoyed a sherry before dinner.

My dad, Jacko, well, he was another story. He had his tipsy moments, which we seven kids found hilarious to watch. We’d come home from our annual holidays by the beach to see/smell dad’s home-brewed beer had exploded everywhere in the sweltering summer heat. Jacko progressed to distilling grappa in his garage out back, most of which he gave away to mates.

Dad’s brother was a chronic alcoholic. We’d sometimes see him stumbling out of our local pub across from the train and bus station. My father financially supported his brother’s family when things got harsh.

So, you can imagine Jacko never held back on the ‘insights’ he’d share with us kids about the dark side of drinking.

We learned from mum and dad how to drink socially but we were never allowed to drink alcohol to excess.

That’s not to say I’m a saint.

At age fourteen, while my girlfriend’s folks across the road were away, we got stuck into their well-stocked liquor cabinet. Because my homelife was super controlling and strict, I itched to break free every chance.

It didn’t take but a few drinks to wipe me off. And once drunk, I sculled everything I got my hands on. I was “legless” and puking before I was dragged back across the road and thrown fully clothed into a cold shower. Being slapped around and grounded was the “least” of my problems. I vomited for a week afterwards!

Binge drinking, though, wasn’t my thing. But I did let my hair down in the right company. I had my head in a bucket multiple times. My adult daughters tell me they are (tongue in cheek!) emotionally scared by memories of their mum heaving her guts out!

Wiping myself off didn’t happen often. A mum of three kids who worked full-time, I tended to overdrink at the odd work Christmas function or when celebrating a birthday with friends.

My husband — a narcissist — refused to let go of control. I never saw him even slightly inebriated.

That is to say, my three adult kids didn’t grow up seeing their mum and dad drinking every night. We never normalised drinking.

Deciding to Go Alcohol-Free

My partner had a go at taking a break from alcohol. We pushed it out to gauge how addicted we were. You know, only imbue of a weekend.

We sampled non-alcoholic wines, which I thought were marginally ok. However, my partner needed what was missing — the alcohol!

We went back to drinking alcohol every day. And I fell into line with him. Which was an aspect of my nature I was disappointed to see and sought to change.

I suspect it was one of the factors that broke up our relationship — me turning a spotlight on his need to drink every day. And mine too when I was in his company.

Drinking Without Drinking (Alcohol)

These past two months, I’ve been single (again!) and haven’t felt the need to reach for an alcoholic drink.

I love my choices and feel empowered by them.

Yes, in raw, vulnerable moments, I’ve come close. That first month, after leaving my partner, I poured red wine into a glass to sip in a hot bath. It sat there on the ledge of the tub, tempting me. Then I quickly tipped it back into the bottle. I didn’t want to lean on alcohol as a crutch to numb my pain.

I can honestly say my need to drink alcohol isn’t there anymore. And my body feels rejuvenated every day I’m alcohol-free!

However …

I do enjoy a glass of red or sparkling wine now and then. It feels like I’m spoiling myself. And going alcohol-free shouldn’t mean I have to miss out on the fun of drinking socially with friends.

So, I went looking for alcohol-free options.

I was taken aback by the niche market of craft non-alcoholic beers, wines, bubbly, mixed drinks and spirits on sale in my local supermarket. Even my local gas/petrol station is stocked up. And many of these beverages are low-sugar so its a win-win!

The non-alcoholic sparkling wine I bought this week tasted like the real thing.

For women like me, going alcohol-free means there really doesn’t have to be a downside to enjoying a drink.

What’s Your Story?

I’d love to hear from you.

Is alcohol an issue for you? What keeps you tied to alcohol? Have you tried going without? Have you managed to quit? How long have you been alcohol-free? Do you feel pressured to drink socially? And does it have to be an alcoholic drink? Perhaps you have adult children who drink heavily?

Let’s keep the conversation going …

If this information was helpful to you, perhaps you’d consider buying me a cup of coffee.

Love, light & laughter

Catherine (Cat) Farrar



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