A Year Without Alcohol

Like many people, I don’t remember the exact age I was when I first tried an alcoholic beverage. There is a memory of asking a parent if I could try their cider or lager. This memory involves lots of pestering, resulting in eventual success. A tentative sniff and taste were swiftly followed by disgust, face-pulling and vocal demands as to why anyone would voluntarily put such an experience onto their poor unsuspecting palate.

As taste buds matured, born was a desire to sample less-sweet liquids and something more grown-up. There was the obligatory 14-year-old Christmas punch experience – an operation of stealth, avoiding thwarters who were spoiling my attempts to get rip-roaringly trolleyed. Then came a few 15-year-old parties, where white cider eventually resulted in excruciating hangovers on following mornings.

My first relaxed and sensible drink was at the age of 16, where one of my friends’ heroic parents openly gave us an opportunity to eat some pizza and sink a few slow ones whilst watching a ruddy good action movie. This was followed by our 16s and 17s, desperately willing ourselves to look older in order to participate in the festival of adulthood.

Before we knew it, we were 18 and wondering what all the fuss was about. A well-earned drink or two was a welcome reward after a hard day of instrument practice and academic study.

I recently visited medicaldaily.com, on which there was an interesting article about seven possible benefits to having a small amount of drink each day. Believe it or not, it apparently can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, lengthen your life, improve your libido, help prevent against the common cold, decrease one’s chances of developing dementia, reduce the risk of gallstones and lower your chance of diabetes!

There are, of course, many well documented downsides associated with drinking alcohol, in particular, heavy drinking. Here is a list of 10 listed on medicalnewstoday.com: liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers and gastrointestinal problems, immune system dysfunction, brain damage, malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis, heart disease and poor cardiovascular health, and accidents and injuries.

Like most adults in western Europe, I like to drink one or two beers most nights and have enjoyed doing so for most of my adult life. It’s part of my routine of relaxation, a sign to myself that it’s time to stop work for the day. But in recent years, I’ve been approached by a curious thought. What would it be like to stop drinking alcohol altogether? What would it be like to stop drinking for a whole year? I wonder if the goals I’m pursuing with the moderate assistance of alcohol would become more tangible, or would they drift further from my grasp, or would they become altogether irrelevant in an existence free from booze?

There’s a way to find out.

On my 39th birthday I will drink some beer. The day after I shall abstain from drinking alcohol until my 40th birthday. As a 40-year-old, in celebration of achieving one year’s abstinence, I will make a public donation to Amnesty International and will invite others to celebrate my sobriety by donating to this wonderful organisation. I will write a blog and share some of what I’ve found out.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my liver for 39 years of elite performance, thank you my friend, enjoy your well earned break.