A perspective on life in yours 20s by yours truly, Olivia Dueser – a single, white, female just trying to navigate through life and being distinctly average.
This article is not preaching or trying to convert everybody to quit drinking. No nagging. No moralising. Just truth about why I quit alcohol and the goods things that have come from it.
It has been 1 year, 4 months and 19 days since I last drank. Often I am asked, “Do you miss drinking?” Now I would be lying if I said I didn’t, but over time I have come to accept that not everyone can drink and I am in that category– c’est la vie! It sucks (but not entirely) and my life could be worse, so I try not to complain (too much). Quitting drinking has significantly improved my life and helped me to discover who I truly am as a person. Alcohol hasn’t been an entirely negative experience for myself and even now I laugh back at some of the ridiculous moments that alcohol led me to, such as getting fake married to a crazy Scotsman at Glastonbury and using loo roll to make a ring, or throwing rocks at a boys window after a night out to get his attention, or even trying to check into hotels in London when too drunk to get home – but ultimately alcohol was bad for me and I got myself into some pretty dark and messed up situations, where I often tested the limits of those who loved me.
Drinking problems in today’s world are severely overlooked – people can have problems with alcohol without being alcoholics. I want to make it clear to society that drinking problems do not consist only of needing a drink all of the time or when you first wake up – but it’s also how your body and mind reacts to alcohol and what you do under the influence.
It took me a very long time to realise that I had a problem. Everybody has at one point or another lost control on alcohol – it’s quite the norm to wake up to photos on your phone you don’t remember taking, to some blanked memories, to waking up with your face in a pizza box and a tub of butter in your hands (yes that did actually happen). And there were many times when I went out, managed to only have a few and didn’t lose my mind – and this made it harder for me to realise I needed help. We have all taken it far but when you repeatedly take it too far, when you’re forced to question yourself as a person, when memories get blacked out, when friends have concerned talks with you multiple times, well then it’s time to quit mis amigos.
Often people only realise their negative relationship with alcohol once they stop drinking and that was moi. A huge reason I would get so ridiculously trollied was as a coping mechanism for blocking out any of my feelings and I had serious self-confidence issues, so going out was a way to escape from the madness of my life, avoid dealing them head on and feel “confident”. And what started, as a fairly subtle shift toward keeping my feelings hidden eventually became a complete shutdown of my ability to acknowledge emotions. I drank and put up walls to protect myself emotionally, which meant keeping even the people who meant the most to me at arm’s length. I would rather feel alone than tell anyone what was going on.
One important lesson I do want to highlight is that if you do wish to give up drinking for good it is no easy feat – it took me multiple tries before I managed to fully commit to the cause. I had given up for a month, few months and a few weeks but I couldn’t. This is going to sound like a cliché, but you have to be ready and willing to give up and not do it for other people.
But there are many positive attributes to come from not drinking:
You don’t get hangovers – so yes you can wake up smiling like a Cheshire cat.
You no longer wake in fear of whatever disaster you may have erupted the night before.
You get to watch your friends make fools of themselves and are able to relay it to them the next day, much to their dismay!
You discover activities that make you happy as your day is now filled with so much extra time – recently I have discovered my love of bumbling and discovering new parts of London.
Your energy levels are far higher.
You save a heck of a lot of money – though admittedly I have saved less but it’s all for the sake of fashion daaarling!
All I would say is, if you decide to stop drinking (and it doesn’t matter for what length), it’s common to try to fill up your time, to take your mind off drinking and then you just run yourself ragged and want to drink. Don’t do that. Try to take it easy. Enjoy life and remind yourself why you stopped and take pride in the fact that you have made an effort to stop – it’s a serious achievement!
When you go out it is hard to find a drink that will quench the need for alcohol and I get the frustration with the lack of choice in many public drinking places. I despise having to order soft drinks as my main option as it’s SO OBVIOUS and doesn’t feel terribly “grown up”, if you catch ma drift. But with not drinking becoming more fashionable, the choice is starting to grow. So whether you need a wild drink for a house party, or for dinner with friends, here are my top 5, “grown-up” choice of drinks for non-drinkers:
- The Spirit alternative – Seedlip Garden – The world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, this UK based brand have taken the drinking world by storm. Tastes very similar to a G&T and ideally mixed with tonic water and a slice of lemon
- The Champagne alternative – The Bees Knees Sparkling – infused with green tea, it tastes and feels like champagne without the alcohol and without the high calories as it is low in sugar.
- The Beer alternative – Erdinger Alkoholfrei – not only does it taste just like beer, but is also healthy – with its isotonic properties, vitamins B12 and plyphenols, it provides the body directly with valuable ingredients and thus satisfies thirst even faster.
- The Wine alternative – Eisberg – just like your favourite tipple, but without the calories and horrific hangover. Their range is vast and my favourite is their red wine equivalent.
- The Mocktail mix – Funkin – this UK based brand has a vast range of prepared cocktail mixers ready for you to shake. Simply add a juice or soft drink of your choice.
Your 20s are the time for finding yourself and figuring out what you want in life. They are also meant to be amongst the best time of your life, but also the hardest. I would say that my 20s has been a real rollercoaster with probably more downs than ups, but that isn’t to say that I haven’t had some incredible memories and I can safely say that my friendships have gotten stronger as a result and my friends have truly become a part of my family.
I actually don’t encourage people to stop drinking – in fact quite the opposite. Just like with food, everything, including drinking, should be enjoyed in moderation. If you don’t have a problem, you should be able to enjoy a nice glass of red wine with your perfectly cooked steak or have a pint with mates in the pub.
It’s funny, it wasn’t until recently that I realised when I quit drinking, I wasn’t just giving up alcohol – I was walking away from the emotional fire escape I’d made and ultimately facing my true self. Facing the feelings I had run away from for so long had finally come head on. For the first time in years, I was able to take a hard look at myself in the mirror and actually be ok with what I saw.
Words and illustrations Olivia Dueser