Health and Fitness

My Break From Booze – The Benefits And How I Did It

my break from booze

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On the 2nd of December 2017, whilst suffering from a massive hangover,  I decided to take a short break from booze.

My husband’s initial reaction to this was ‘but it’s Christmas!’

My response was that it wasn’t Christmas for another 3 weeks and that I was planning to have a drink on Christmas Day.  I also like to be different, so thought I would do ‘Dry December’ instead of ‘Dry January’!

The Challenge

I had signed up with a community called ‘One Year No Beer’ who run alcohol-free challenges of varying durations – 28 days, 90 days and 365 days.

My initial sign up was for 90 days but I really wasn’t sure whether I would actually make it to the end.  I thought I would try for a fortnight and see how it went.

On Christmas Day I’d made it to 3 weeks and I had a couple of glasses of wine.  I didn’t really enjoy them at all, they tasted ‘chemically’ and made me really woozy.  I was very glad when the effects wore off and I decided to just knock a day off my total and keep going.

In March 2018 I reached my 90 days and although 365 seemed like too much of a promise to make, I didn’t really want alcohol by that point so thought I would see how long I could keep going.

There is now over just over a month until the 365 and I can honestly say that I never want to drink again.  The positive change it has had on my life is simply too dramatic to undo!

Update – August 2020 – I am now almost at 1000 DAYS alcohol-free! 

I’m not saying everyone should do the same, but if you are questioning your relationship with alcohol right now (as I know many are post lockdown) then I know you will find the tips and resources in this post useful. 

Good Luck, if I can do it, anyone can!!

my break from booze the benefits and how I did it

Why Did I Take A Break From Booze?

alcohol drunk


I’d been questioning my relationship with alcohol for a number of years and was concerned about the effects it was having on my health.

I wouldn’t say that I was a ‘heavy’ drinker by a lot of people’s standards.

Yes, I was consuming double (and a bit more) of the UK government’s recommended limits, but I saw others drinking the same… and more.

Like a lot of people in the UK, I’d fallen into the ‘wind down with a glass of wine or two’ trap.

What started as a few glasses of wine at the weekend gradually morphed into the best part of a bottle of wine most evenings.  I would say I had a low-level hangover pretty much every day for about 15 years!

It took quite a long time of questioning myself (and googling ‘do I have an alcohol problem…’) before I had the courage to do something about it.

I had tried to cut down.  I would be full of good intentions but then come ‘wine ‘o’ clock’ a little voice in my head would tell me I deserved a drink.

If I’d had a good day the voice would tell me I deserved to celebrate.  If I’d had a bad day it would tell me I needed it to help me de-stress.

I hated the control it had over me and I knew the only way was to take a break from it altogether.

How Did I Discover One Year No Beer?

I’d signed up to the mailing list of an organisation called The Sober School.  They would send me weekly emails, on a Monday, at about 5pm.

I noticed that reading the email would often stop me from going to the shop and buying wine on a Monday.

An advert for One Year No Beer then popped up a few times in my Facebook feed. (I assume due to me googling ‘do I have an alcohol problem?!’)

So, on that hungover day in December, I finally decided to sign up!

One Year No Beer promised a support community and 90 days worth of emails, each and every day.  I thought that if that didn’t stop me drinking, nothing would!

What Have The Benefits Been?

fit and healthy

Where do I begin?!

The most dramatic change I noticed was the improvement in my mental health.

I’ve been an anxious person and a bit of a stress head for most of my life.  In the last few months before stopping drinking, my anxiety levels were high.  I felt tearful and unable to cope a lot of the time.

This stopped within about a fortnight and hasn’t returned!

Don’t get me wrong, I do still get stressed.  I’ve dealt with work problems, family illness and bereavement and have inevitably experienced a wide range of emotions.

I think that is perhaps the point though.

I now deal with whatever emotions come up instead of numbing them only for them to pop back up twice as fierce the next day.

William Porter covers the science behind this in his fascinating book Alcohol Explained.  Basically, alcohol produces a need for itself which then roots deeply in our subconscious mind.

Let me explain further.  Whilst taking a drink may give you a sense of relaxation, this is short-lived.  It will quickly be replaced by a feeling of anxiety.   This may be so small that you don’t really perceive it at first.

However, working behind the scenes, your subconscious learns that taking a drink can relieve this feeling of anxiety.  So you take another drink, which leads to more anxiety…So the loop continues.

Yet More Benefits

Other benefits I have found:

  • Better sleep
  • More clarity and focus
  • No more hangovers
  • No worrying about taxis or how to get back from places
  • I can remember nights out and the conversations I’ve had with people
  • More energy
  • More money
  • I started this blog
  • I’ve met some amazing people and made friends through the One Year No Beer community
  • A huge variety of things I can drink, including some fantastic alcohol-free beers
  • I can eat pudding without putting weight on!
  • My skin, hair and eyes look better

The before and after photo below shows the difference.   Half-cut at York Beer Festival in the first photo, around about 100 days alcohol-free in the second.

alcohol free before and after

What About My Social Life?

If anything, it has got better!  I still go to all the places I did before and also have the energy to try new and different things too.

In my year without alcohol I have:

  • Celebrated my Birthday sober.  (I did an ‘Escape Room’ with friends which was massive fun!)
  • Sober danced
  • Had a sober holiday
  • Been to a hen do
  • Enjoyed parties
  • Gone to the pub
  • Seen more of my local area by having more days out (I was too hungover before!)

rave dancing

How To Give This A Go

If you are reading this and are thinking  ‘well done, I would love to give it a go but I couldn’t do it’, well I say that if I can do it, anyone can!

Maybe you worry about peer pressure or feel like you would be giving too much up.  The first thing I would say is that it doesn’t have to be forever.

If you can give it a try for a few weeks, I guarantee you will feel some of the same benefits I have and then you can decide whether to stop or to keep going.  Events such as Sober For October or Dry January are brilliant opportunities to give it a go!

It is about a change in mindset.  I won’t lie and say it’s easy to do, but with the right tools and support, anyone can give it a go.  You can start small like I did (a fortnight seemed a very long time to me at the beginning).

Just to get a week under your belt is a massive achievement if you are someone who drinks most days like I did.

I would definitely recommend checking out One Year No Beer.  I couldn’t have done this without the fantastic community support I found there.

Other Things I Recommend

As well as the book Alcohol Explained by William Porter I would also wholeheartedly recommend  ‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace

William Porter talks about the subconscious mind and the power it has over us in leading us to drink.  Rewiring the sub-conscious is the basis of Annie’s book.

She explains how our subconscious is constantly assaulted with messages about how alcohol is the ‘elixir of life’.

Over the next few days, take a mental note of how many times you hear or see messages about the ‘benefits’ and ‘pleasures’ of alcohol.  They come from all directions, the media, your family, your friends, advertising.

Annie’s book examines in detail the reasons why we drink.  She then gets you to question whether alcohol is giving you what you think it is.  She makes you consider reality.

So for example, in the chapter ‘are we really drinking for the taste’ she points out that most of us have to ‘acquire’ that taste.

Think back to your first-ever sip of alcohol, did you enjoy the taste?  I remember thinking it tasted like petrol smelled!   I now know there is a reason for this as the alcohol we drink is actually the same stuff we put in our cars!!


Annie says:

“Pure alcohol tastes awful and a very small amount will kill you.  We use extensive processes and additives to make it taste good enough to drink.  Unfortunately, none of these processes reduce the harm associated with drinking fuel”.

I listened to Annie on audiobook using Amazon Audible around about wine o’clock for the first few weeks when the cravings were hitting!

This definitely did something to rewire my sub-conscious.  After the first couple of weeks, I never felt deprived or as though I was missing out.

Some More Tips

I would recommend letting people know you are taking a break from alcohol.

Perhaps there is someone you know who will egg you on to drink or call you boring?

Why not drop them an email explaining that you are off the booze for a month so you won’t be drinking on your night out next Saturday.

And finally, check out the alcohol-free beers available in most supermarkets now.  The range is growing all the time!

If you don’t like beer, there are also alcohol-free gin options, a couple of decent prosecco substitutes and a whole plethora of adult soft drinks out there!

Final Thoughts

Taking a break from alcohol can seem like a massively scary thing.

We live in a culture that sees alcohol as the thing that makes us sociable, relieves stress and gives us something to look forward to at the end of a hard week.

Making a decision to go against the grain, even if only for a little while, is hard.

That’s why it took me 5 years to make the decision to take a break from booze!   I am so glad that I finally got there.  I guarantee that if you give it a try, even if only for a few weeks, you will see benefits.

What have you got to lose??

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  1. Lavrax

    I love this post! I feel like alcohol definitely affects my mental health quite negatively, yet taking a break from it seems a little scary. I’m so glad that you found so much positivity in your life after taking a break from alcohol. I feel like it’s something to keep in mind for sure. You also look so fab in that selfie, girl! Love it xx

    1. Alison

      Thanks Lavrax, it is a scary thing to do at first, kind of like swimming against the tide! It does get easier though (and the tide is slowly turning) xx

  2. Katie

    Great post, it’s really interesting reading about how giving up alcohol has changed your life, and how you don’t even want it anymore! I did it for six weeks last year, and it was actually a lot easier than I thought. You’ve inspired me to try and be a bit more sober. I don’t think I’d want to give up completely – my friends and I have booze related traditions like days out to beer festivals which I don’t want to miss out on! But I could definitely try reducing my drinking to “special occasions only”. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

    1. Alison

      Thanks Katie! It definitely gets easier after the first week or so. I still go to booze related days out! I have a group of friends who I love who I go out with for a day out round the pubs a few times a year. I’ve done it twice so far and have had a fab time! They even brought me alcohol free beer last time 🙂🙂 I do think moderation is absolutely fine too 🙂

  3. Chloe Chats

    Really great post! I don’t drink much alcohol myself – I only drink it for occasions like birthdays/nights out etc, I usually find when I go to a pub just randomly at the weekend I don’t choose to have alcohol usually, just stick to refreshing soft drinks! As you said it’s great with how many non-alcoholic substitutes there are nowadays! I’ve had ‘cocktail’ nights before where I’ve just not felt like drinking so have chosen the non-alcoholic cocktails because they are just as tasty. Well done you though, you’re doing great! 🙂

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      I agree, some of the non-alcoholic cocktails are fabulous!! I particularly like the pretend mojito ones, yum! Much better than boring old wine 🙂

  4. Paula | The Value of a Moment

    Alison, this is amazing! I’ve been thinking about taking a break from alcohol myself, and seeing the differences it has made in your life makes me want to do it even more! Your tips on how to implement a break extremely helpful, and I think I could do it! Thank you so much for this wonderful post. XX

    1. Alison

      Do it Paula! It is so worth it! If you want to know anything else about it, give me a shout x

  5. Layna

    I used to drink quite a bit in the past too but somehow I’ve grown to dislike the taste of beer. And when I drink it, it’s only when I’m out with friends at night!
    I’m glad you made the healthy decision to totally stop drinking and seeing you reap all the benefits of it, you did a great job!


    1. Alison

      I’m glad I did too! I find that more and more people are cutting down, I think the tide is turning 🙂

  6. John Saeger

    I’ve noticed similar benefits since I decided to stop drinking. It is amazing how much energy I have every day. Sometimes I miss it, but I can’t say that I want to go back ever again. Great article and congrats on staying with your goal.

  7. Marie

    That’s an achievement definitely worth celebrating and well done for sharing with us. Mx

  8. Geraldine

    I loved reading this, there are so many benefits to it! Glad to hear you broke off from it 😊 I don’t drink and if anything I may just have a sip because I never liked wine or beer anyway! Haha

    1. Alison

      Stay that way Geraldine! I’m glad I no longer drink it but I wish I hadn’t developed a taste for it in the first place! x

  9. Charlotte

    Such a great and interesting post! We did dry January this year and are going to do it again next year!

  10. Kate Findley

    Wonderful piece! I like how you discuss both your journey and the science behind alcohol. I am lucky enough that I’ve never really enjoyed alcohol, but I’ve seen its detrimental effect on others and you’re right, it’s a viscous cycle.

  11. Natasha

    Congrats. I write on a recovery blog and achieving an entire year of sobriety is amazing. Thank you for sharing this post. It was extremely valuable. (I want to try an escape room super bad lol)

    1. Alison

      Thanks Natasha, glad you enjoyed the post. The escape room was fab, we escaped (just!) You’ve reminded me we were talking about doing another one, must look into it!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Marie! Amazingly when it came to it, I didn’t need willpower for very long. I think educating myself about alcohol was the real catalyst. My brain has somehow been rewired, just need to work out how to replicate that process with other goals now! 😀

  12. Lori

    Amazing post, Alison! You are and continue to be such an inspiration! My daughter wrote a post on my blog about her experience with Dry January, so I had to read yours. So much detail and food for thought! I really appreciate your personal story, and the lack of judgement within it. Sounds like it has been nothing but a blessing 9even when difficult) for you!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Lori, I’ll be checking out your daughter’s story 🙂 I am finding it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

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