Giving up alcohol was the best decision of my life

Last weekend marked an important milestone for myself and Brian, it was the one-year anniversary of a life changing decision.

The decision was to completely cut alcohol out of our lives. *GASP!!

Fast forward to today, and I can say, wholeheartedly, that it is the best choice either of us has ever made. Normally I don’t write anything too personal about my other half, but I wouldn’t have done it without him – and vice versa, so it’s as much his story as it is mine.

Leading up to ‘THE DECISION’, we were two young, Irish people who liked to go out and enjoy themselves.

That sounds pretty reasonable, right? But the sad reality is that drinking is a very big part of our culture here, and that a lot of young (and old) Irish people drink too much. It would be a lie for me to say that alcohol didn’t play a regular role in both our lives.

You know how it is, how easily nights out and drinking can sneak up on you any given week: a glass of wine or a pint here or there, a work thing on Thursday night, TGIF-drinks on a Friday, so & so’s birthday on Saturday, the cure on Sunday. None of us need to look very far to find a reason or opportunity to drink.

The start of a relationship is another one of those opportunities. When myself and Brian first met, we went out all the time. We enjoyed gorgeous meals, we travelled together, we spent time meeting each other’s friends. We made amazing memories, right from day one, and all of these great occasions went comfortably, hand in hand, with having a few drinks.

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Going for dinner? Well of course I’ll have a glass of red (or two!) with my food.

Travelling? Oh my god, I couldn’t imagine being on holiday without enjoying a cocktail or a beer by the beach.

As for meeting friends? Where better to meet them, than the pub?

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A social life that revolves around the next session is so normal for so many of us.

I wish I knew where my love for a good night out came from. (She ponders..) There was never much (if any) alcohol around the house when I was growing up and we were never brought to the pub. Yet, once I was old enough to party, I relished in it. And yes, I had fun and I have some wild stories to tell the grandkids, but I also had some bad experiences that I wish I had avoided.

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I began to really wonder if there was more to life last year. I was getting tired of repeating the same nights, over and over again – as well as the same hangover. What would things be like if I never drank? Can I be a better version of myself? Could I be doing even more with my life?

I never said this stuff out loud. I guess I wasn’t sure if giving up alcohol was a realistic goal. After all, I only knew two or three other people my age who didn’t drink. One of whom is a friend I met through Brian. He gave it up about three years ago and I remember the first time I met him, I was just blown away by the fact he didn’t drink (and that it was voluntary!). I recognised the achievement and he really inspired something in me, but deep down I never believed that it was something I could do.

So, you can imagine how I felt when Brian turned around one day and said he was thinking about going ‘off the beer’ for a while.

I jumped at the chance to join him.

Initially, we said we would just give it a ‘break’ and have a little detox. I figured we would only make it to our next trip. I couldn’t imagine travelling and not going for drinks at some point. I had never done that before.

Those first few weeks we had to make real adjustments. It was a whole new way of life, not to mention a new way of thinking and it wasn’t easy.

The FOMO (and sometimes boredom) on the weekends was excruciating. In the early days, the idea of going out and NOT drinking was inconceivable, so there was a constant feeling of missing out.

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By the time our trip to Paris rolled around, we were five weeks in (oh yes, we counted it by the weeks in the beginning!). We were starting to feel something. Good, maybe? At that stage we weren’t even sure ourselves, but we knew we wanted to see where this path could lead us. So, we decided to keep going.

That was our first alcohol-free trip and it was a major learning curve. I found it tough, but it was even tougher for Brian. He was, shall we say, UNENTHUSED by Paris.

It didn’t help that we were staying in the middle of a busy pub district (I made that decision before we gave up, obviously), and it was torture. Every evening there was an unspoken air of disappointment between us, as we walked around killing time. Time that we otherwise would have spent in some cool bar, getting to know the locals.

We just didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

I questioned our decision a lot during that trip – what are we doing this for? Is it worth it? Are we missing the best side of visiting a new place? Can we have fun and not drink? Can we have fun TOGETHER and not drink? Will we still have DMC’s?!

Looking back now I giggle at my naivety. The world has opened up to me in so many new ways this past year. The simple things in life can be pure bliss when you are open to them.

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Throughout the year we faced lots of alcohol-free firsts, and one by one they got a little easier. First night out. First Christmas. First party. First HEN PARTY (soon to be first wedding!). First holiday. First birthday. First concert. First fight!! (Just kidding – he never quite drove me to drink!). As time passed, the ‘firsts’ became less and the fact that we didn’t drink wasn’t such a big deal anymore, it just became our new normal. Eventually we stopped counting the weeks and started counting our blessings. Our lives started to change and with them, so did we.

If I had to pick just one word to sum it all up, on every level, it would be clarity. Clarity of mind and body. Clarity around our goals and clarity of life.

Obviously, you can think clearer when you’re not hungover, but I mean clarity of mind on a deeper level. A sense of freedom from the worries that co-exist with alcohol.

For starters, ‘the fear’ is gone – that next day anxiety of what you might have said or done, as well as the dreaded bank balance check!

For some it means no more worries of drama or any of the other ugly things that happen when you mix alcohol with a strained relationship.

I’m not talking about me and Brian here, thankfully. We were lucky enough to be able to go out and just have fun together when we drank, but who knows if it would have always stayed that way? There are lots of relationships that suffer under the pressure of alcohol – it can bring out the worst in people.

When you don’t drink, you don’t have to worry about any of those things creeping up and causing problems.

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I sat down with Brian before writing this blog and we talked about everything that has changed and improved since we made this decision. One of the things he said, in typical Brian frankness, was “you do everything better”.

What he means by that is that we are both so much more focused. From doing our best at work to really making the effort to get the most out of life.

The ‘doing things better’ idea, also applies to our relationships with other people. These days when we spend time with friends and family it feels like we are getting such value for our time. We get to spend REAL time with the people we love.

 

 

*I couldn’t fit everyone I love in here, but hopfully you know who you are.. x

It also means we get to be with the people who actually want to see us, not just because it’s convenient or because we are someone to go out with. Have we lost anyone along the way? Sure. We don’t hear from a lot of the people who we used to only see on a night out, but that’s ok. It has taught us a lot about the depth of friendships.

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I could sit here all day and talk about the many, many benefits that giving up drinking has had for us, but I am going to finish up on these last few takings from the past 12 months.

Your time and your health are two of your most important assets. When we took alcohol out of our equation we gave ourselves a gift of both these things.

You would be surprised how much time you get back. When you think about it, Friday to Sunday makes up 42% of your week, that’s valuable time when you have goals and ambitions you need to achieve.

As far as health, it feels so good to wake up fresh and know I am being kind to my body every day. I recently had a full check-up and it was amazing to get to see, in black and white, that my lifestyle choices are having a positive impact on my health. That applies to my mental health too. Personally, I am a total worrier by nature, but these past 12 months have been the most relaxed and enjoyable of my life.

Last, but not least, I couldn’t talk about this journey without mentioning the financial gains too. It has made saving and planning for our future so much easier. Brian has been able to really invest in himself and his passions. He is checking things off his bucket list all the time, and it’s so much fun to be part of that.

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As for my bucket list? We have the trip of a life time to South East Asia, coming up in a couple of weeks and that still hasn’t really sunk in. A life long dream of mine is about to become a reality! That’s not even something I can put a price on.

Would we have planned or achieved all of these things, had we not cut alcohol out? I really don’t believe we would. Some of them, maybe, but I don’t think we would be enjoying the lives we are today, if we hadn’t decided to take a chance on a new way of living.

So, to sum it all up, let me answer my own earlier questions –

What are we doing this for? To live our lives to the absolute full and be the best we can be.

Is it worth it? 100% yes – happier, healthier and zero regrets.

Are we missing the best side of visiting a new place? Hell no. You get to see and do so much more – and with better energy levels too.

Can we have fun and not drink? Absolutely. We’ve found new things that are fun and enjoy them even more.

 

 

Can we have fun TOGETHER and not drink? Lol. One of my favourite things about my relationship with Brian is that even the little things, like going for coffee together, is fun. When you are with the right person, you don’t need anything to enhance your life together.

Will we still have DMCs?! Always. Only now they are worth even more.

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So that’s it. One year no beer! It feels good to have fully lived every single minute of the past 12 months, to know that nothing else got in the way or blurred the lines of life. To have pushed myself to be better and do better. To #livemybestlife, as the say!

Who knows what the future holds? Our intentions are to continue on this road indefinitely. To see where it takes us and what else can come of it.

How could we turn back now? It is a true gift, and it keeps on giving.

Written with love,

Rachael

x

Ps. Just incase anyone isn’t sure of some of the abbreviations I used:

FOMO = Fear of missing out

DMC = Deep meaningful conversation (Usually associated with deep chats after a few too many!)

Follow the Lovely To Meet Me Instagram journey HERE

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