Let's Open Up On Alcohol + The Impacts On Your Wellness
Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that has been consumed in drinks for most of human history. In chemistry, the term alcohol refers to a whole class of organic compounds that include a hydroxyl group – consisting of an oxygen atom and a hydrogen atom – bonded to a carbon atom. In common parlance, however, the word alcohol usually refers to a specific chemical with the formula C2H5OH, which chemists call ethanol.
Alcohol is produced naturally when yeasts ferment sugars to generate energy, and some animals that eat a lot of fruit or nectar have evolved to metabolise it. Chemical evidence from fragments of pottery in China suggests that humans began brewing alcoholic drinks at least 9000 years ago.
Although Homer Simpson’s description of alcohol as “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems” may not be entirely accurate, it encapsulates the drug’s ability to make people feel either very good or very bad. The individual involved, the amount of alcohol consumed and the social context all play a role in determining what effects it can have.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more standard drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in about two hours. Scientific research has shown that alcohol consumption at that level can do real damage to health. It is associated with:
Attention and memory problems
Increased risk of injuries
High blood pressure
Cancer’s like, breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon
Therefore, if you engage in binge drinking—even occasionally—you may not have an alcohol use disorder, but your drinking is considered hazardous. Even a temporary break from alcohol consumption, be it a month, as promoted by the Dry January campaign, or just introducing alcohol-free days, can have huge health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes risk.
Below is a blog written by and about @Katy Mitchell's journey with alcohol and finding sobriety. Katy hopes by sharing her story she can help others enhance their wellbeing.
In my past life I was a drinker, smoker and living on cortisol and adrenaline. I felt I had no time to myself so I was up late getting ‘me time’ with a glass of wine and inevitably unhealthy snacks. Every morning waking tired and lacklustre reaching for a boost first thing. Every so often I’d want to overhaul my lifestyle and I’d overcompensate with increased high impact workouts and quick fix cleanses, that would stress my system and it would all start again. Tiring and demoralising. I knew something had to give and I didn’t want it to be my sanity. For years I was aware that alcohol had stopped being any benefit to me, but I had pushed away the thought of giving it up, it is so intrinsically woven into our lives that it seems too much to unpick it and that a big hole would be left in its place. 5 Ways to deal with being the only sober person in the room.
So I started to work on the other areas of my wellbeing, I focused on doing yoga everyday, I added in a weekly 5km run and a couple of sessions of weight training. I felt good, I looked better and I was happy with my body when I looked in the mirror. I moved onto my nutrition, transitioning to a mostly plant based diet and I took up a twice daily meditation practice. That's when I realised that not only did alcohol have no place in my life anymore it was in fact holding me back. 28 Non-alcoholic healthy mocktails.
I was doing all these wonderful things for my body and mind yet on a fairly regular basis I was sabotaging it, I was throwing a massive obstacle in my beautifully planned out wellness path. Why would I do that? Social pressure and conditioning all play a huge part in why we continue to engage in an activity that is stopping us becoming our best selves. Having just one glass of wine in the evening would negatively affect my physical performance the next day - a run would be harder, shorter or slower, a yoga session would be less calm, balanced or rewarding (headstand on a hangover anybody)?! Not to mention a well balanced meal plan easily derailed and a meditation practice riddled with unwanted anxious thoughts.
I came to the realisation of what I needed to do to enable my vision of my best self to materialise, to step out of my own way and stop drinking alcohol. Easy, right? Wrong! Initially I was battling my own mind: ‘‘you’ll feel more relaxed’, ‘just have one, you deserve a treat’ all these thoughts would pop into my head. The more I told myself these things the more I could see how reliant I had become on alcohol and how wrong I had been in the assumptions I had made about the benefits I was getting from it.
After a few false starts I was into my 6th week alcohol free, feeling the huge physical and mental difference and determined to push on, it was feeling easier. And then other people got involved, my husband would say I was being weird and to just have a glass of wine. My parents would repeatedly ask me if I was OK and how long I was going to do it for, plus friends would joke with me that it wouldn’t last, I should have one and stop being boring. Even waiters had an opinion on why I should be ordering a drink. It was shocking really. Did I get this when I stopped smoking? Did people tell me to ‘just have one’, that it wouldn’t hurt me or that I was being boring, no, they didn’t. So why do we get so much push back when we abstain from equally harmful alcohol?
Alcohol is highly addictive. It’s also carcinogenic and poisonous to our bodies. We all know this but we continue to enable each other with ‘mummy wine culture’, drunk stories and competitive hangovers, but really the joke is on us, the drinkers. Deep down everybody knows this, as soon as somebody breaks free from that cycle an awareness is sparked in others and it’s not wanted, we are holding up a mirror to everybody else too and they don’t like what they see. I can understand it, before I got to a place where I could clearly see it was holding me back I felt uncomfortable around non drinkers too.
For months I felt that I was constantly defending my decision to not drink, reaffirming to complete strangers my reasons for not wanting to poison my body and torture my mind anymore. But I had decided that I was worth it, because that's what it comes down to - are you worth it? Do you value your ability to perform at your best. From that realisation on I didn’t check my app, which I used to track the statistics of my sobriety. My sobriety is now just a habit and the only affirmation I need is the feeling I now live with everyday - freedom, health, vitality and a feeling of true calmness of mind.
Once you've cracked the alcohol equation you can soar even higher, I’ve now added biohacks and supplements to my lifestyle, I use cold water therapy, intermittent fasting, HRV monitoring and breath-work to constantly increase my wellness and I’m truly feeling the best I’ve ever felt as I head towards 50 and help guide other women towards their best selves using yoga, nutrition and biohacks.