My Dry August

I decided to give up alcohol for the month of August. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I do find that unhealthy habits tend to creep in when I don’t make rules for myself. Mostly I just wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to see what I would do in the instances when I would normally have a drink, like on a Friday evening when work’s done for the week, or at the end of a particularly crap day, or in a social situation where everyone else was drinking.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t drink during the last five or so days of July, so (technically) I’ve already done a month. But I won’t break my alcohol fast until the first of September, which happens to be a Sunday, and the first day of spring – I’ll drink to that! So how’s it been going for a month without alcohol? Surprisingly easy actually. I did choose the month of August for a reason though: it’s the last month of winter here in New Zealand, so there’s not a hell of a lot going on. I’m also finishing up at a job I’ve been doing over winter, and preparing to focus my energy on being an awesome personal trainer. So I wanted to have a clear mind and a healthy body so that I could get stuff done. Coincidentally, I also started this blog.

Usually, for me, when I make a decision that involves a lifestyle change, I will have mulled it over in my mind for quite a while first. When I start acting on the decision, my resolve is already set and I’ll unwaveringly stick with it. Making the decision in the first place can be the hardest part; once the decision’s been made then there’s no turning back.

So let’s talk a little bit about the way that I drink. I don’t drink beer or wine; the one exception to this is Stone’s green ginger wine, which I love (but have watered down with ice and lemon juice). Other than that, I usually reach for the top shelf: gin and tonic in summer (Bombay Sapphire all the way), whisky and dry in winter (Jameson’s or Canadian Club).

In case you’re wondering, I made this drink for photographic purposes and refrained from adding any gin.

Now, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite because I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t eat sugar, so let’s break this down. There’s no sugar in the gin or the whisky – the sugar has become alcohol. There is some sugar in the mixer though. The tonic that I use (Schweppes – not diet) is 8.9 % sugar, and the dry ginger ale is 9.8 % sugar. As a comparison, milk is 4.7 % sugar – that’s from the naturally occurring lactose in it. As another comparison, coke and apple juice are 10.6 and 10.2 %, respectively. So I make myself a gin and tonic: I start with lots of ice, I then add the alcohol, then the juice of a lemon or a lime, a sprig of mint, then the tonic. By the time the tonic goes in the glass is already half full, so, 8.9 % of half a glass = not much really. The alcohol is doing as much harm as the sugar is, in this instance.

What kind of harm? Well, interestingly, the body metabolises alcohol in almost the same way as it metabolises sugar (the fructose part anyway, which is one of the monosaccharides that forms sucrose (table sugar); glucose is the other). The liver is responsible for breaking down both the alcohol and the fructose, and they both produce the same by-product: fat. Also, because alcohol is a toxin, the body has to prioritise the metabolism of it over and above many of its numerous other important jobs, which all have to sit on the back burner until the alcohol’s been dealt with.

So, have I felt any benefits from not drinking for a month? Yes I have. My digestive system feels clean and clear and healthy. Anyone who’s had a big night on the booze will know how corrosive and inflammatory and acidifying alcohol can be. Plus I haven’t had to deal with anything remotely resembling a hangover. Am I looking forward to having a drink tomorrow? Yes I am. I think my beloved is looking forward to it almost more than I am though. I promised I wouldn’t be boring, going sober for a month, but maybe I have been a little dull compared to my intoxicated alter ego.

I intend to make amends for that tomorrow.