The things you learn after three months without booze

I blogged a few weeks ago, from the halfway point of my first ever ‘HSM Challenge’ – a three-month period completely off the booze. I’ve now reached the end, and here’s a brief summary of what I discovered:

The first couple of days were disorienting, and I received unsolicited feedback from my spouse that I was a grumpy bugger who had better watch his step.

After the first week, the clouds parted, the sun shone through, and the benefits became very obvious:

  • Sleep was wonderful: deep, unbroken and revitalising. Dreams were a little weird, but in a good way.
  • Mental acuity was noticeably improved. At times during the three months that followed I felt I’d gained a bonus 10 IQ points.
  • A general feeling of wellbeing ran over me like a warm mink glove from morning to night.
  • My background level of anxiety reduced steeply and stayed low for the whole three months.

Not drinking for three months: a timeline

After the first month, my old habits started to fade away and it didn’t feel odd to spend a weekend without a drink. (I was also slightly disturbed by how surprised my kids were when they saw I wasn’t drinking wine in the evenings.)

After the first six weeks, my usual pre-dinner conversations with my wife started to feel normal again and I didn’t miss the tongue-loosener.

After the first two months, I began to take the new benefits for granted – they became the new normal, and I began to feel I’d hit ‘peak benefit’.

By three months I’d read more books than usual and painted a couple of rooms in the house in the evenings after work, but apart from that there was no noticeable change to domestic productivity.

Other observations

I didn’t lose any weight, but I wasn’t particularly aiming to, and I probably compensated for the lost alcohol calories with ice-cream and chocolate.

We seemed to be invited to other peoples’ places less often over the three-month period than is normal. One friend wondered aloud whether HSM was a cult that I’d been caught up in, and some others asked if I was responding to a booze-induced medical crisis.

I discovered that zero-alcohol wines are pretty awful, and best avoided. Zero alcohol ‘spirits’ and botanicals are either insipid or medicinal-tasting when you first try them, but they do start to grow on you, and they are worth the effort. On the other hand, zero-alcohol beers are surprisingly good, and I’ll keep drinking them even though the three months is up.

Oddly for someone who only occasionally drinks spirits, the real craving during this period was for scotch, not my usual tipple, red wine.

What’s next after three months without alcohol?

I thought a lot about extending the HSM Challenge out to six months. In the end I decided not to, but instead I’m going to do three more random dry months during the rest of this year. I’ve also decided to use the dry spell as a way of resetting how I drink, so I’ll stick to a few new rules: never more than 3 days in a row, even during holidays; stay under 14 standard drinks a week, and no more knee-jerk drinking without thinking about it.

Overall, the three dry months have been a useful experience. Would I recommend it for everyone? Actually, I would: I’ve learned some unexpected things about myself and have developed a more cautious view about habitual, casual drinking. I have no ambitions to become a complete abstainer, but I want to maintain a more mindful relationship with alcohol and be aware of some of the more subtle effects that can creep up on you, unnoticed.

Roger, Marketing Manger, Hello Sunday Morning.

 

Five AF drinks we love

“Nothing for me please.”

Don’t let your decision to cut back or quit drinking make you feel like you can’t join in and enjoy a nice drink with someone special, to celebrate an occasion or to indulge in after a long day.

Thankfully, we are living during a time in history where there are some excellent non-alcoholic beverage choices, and we’re not just talking about ordering a Coke or an OJ.

There are some equally good booze-free spirits, beers and wines available on the market and here are some of our favs:

Seedlip

Seedlip offers a drink that is just as attractive as a nice, stylish bottle of gin. For those who want an alternative to alcohol and who still want to sip on something high quality, this is the drink for you. The beautiful graphics decorating the bottle make Seedlip feel like the real deal. They started in London and are now well-stocked in bars and restaurants globally offering three different blends: Spice 94, Garden 108 & Grove 42.

The Australian representative came to the Hello Sunday Morning HQ one day to explain their whole ethos and we all tried a few non-alcoholic cocktails at work. Happy to say we loved them and still had a productive afternoon!

Cost: The bottles retail for $50AUD

Recipe idea: Seedlip Garden is made with peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary, and thyme. Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Seedlip Garden 108 and 4 ounces of a high-quality tonic like Fever Tree. Give a quick stir, then garnish with a few lime wheels.

Altina

Created for people to enjoy delicious drinks and not wake up with a hangover, the Australian team behind Altina Drinks are passionate about reducing the stigma about alcoholic drinks being the only choice when socialising.

“People should be able to drink on their terms, without being judged.”

The idea for Altina was born when one of the creators, Christina DeLay, started realising her drinking habits were starting to impact her health. “It just became such a big part of life and I found that I really wasn’t mindful of it at all.”

The Altina range is made from Australian native plant ingredients including bark, spices, flowers and herbs. Altina has started a crowdfunding campaign to build up their sustainable social enterprise.

Brunswick Aces

These guys are based out of Melbourne, producing a non-alcoholic gin to provide a tasty alternative for those who choose to go sans booze. Created from locally grown ingredients, there’s a couple of blends to choose from.

Hearts is closer to your classic gin notes: a spicy mix of juniper, wattleseed, cloves, star anise, ginger, sage and pink grapefruit.

Spades has more of a citrus kick, forgoing juniper all together in favour of lime, grapefruit, cardamom, parsley and lemon myrtle.

Cost: $50 for a 700ml bottle

Best recipe: Hearts at the Beach
70ml Brunswick Aces Hearts Blend
70ml CAPI Yuzu
35ml Coconut Water
Served in a martini glass with a desiccated coconut “sugar” rim and a charred coconut ribbon

Carlton Zero

For the beer lovers who don’t want to pass up a ‘cold one’ with mates on a hot Friday afternoon.

“It’s crafted with the same quality ingredients as our other beers.”

Carlton Zero is slightly hoppy with a fruity aroma and is a full-flavoured classic beer. Demand for non-alcoholic beer continues to grow in Australia and internationally as people are becoming more health conscious. Low and mid-strength beers now represent 20% of CUB sales as consumers increasingly moderate their alcohol intake. Changing your relationship with alcohol just got easier as there are more and more social drinking options available for those who choose to be sober!

Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon

It is hard to pass up a rich red wine on a chilly night in, or while enjoying a delicious meal with company. You don’t have to rule out wine just because you may be thinking of cutting back or quitting drinking.

This wine is made in a sustainable winery in Paso Robles, California. After fermenting in stainless steel it’s aged in oak barrels, and just before bottling, the alcohol is “gently removed by cold filtration.” Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon offers aromas of black currants, cherry, blueberries and chocolate, with soft tannins and a dry finish.

Cost: $21.99

Recommendation: Best served with Italian food and rich tomato sauces.