Quitting alcohol is a priority for many of us at the start of the year, as we resolve to give up unhealthy habits and embrace healthier ones. Called the Dry January challenge, it’s a good opportunity for anyone who’s determined to get sober to try it for 31 days before making it a permanent part of their lifestyle.
Of course, if you’re a heavy drinker, a binge drinker, or someone who must have a few rounds of drinks when he’s out with friends, quitting alcohol completely might feel a little harder compared to someone who only drinks occasionally. Nevertheless, kicking the habit is not impossible, and once you start reaping the benefits of sobriety, you’ll find it easier to keep going.
What you’ll notice when you stop drinking
Saving money is one obvious benefit of quitting alcohol, but the longer you remain sober, the better you’ll feel, too. Here are several ways your body will thank you once you’ve gotten the booze out of your system:
Reduced risk of liver disease: People who drink in excess over long periods of time are more susceptible to developing liver disease, or cirrhosis of the liver – this disease can be life-threatening if severe. Our liver metabolises alcohol, but when it’s overloaded its function becomes impaired. After you stop drinking, however, the organ will begin to repair itself within weeks and start focusing on its other jobs, such as breaking down toxins and metabolising fats.
Decreased risk of heart disease: Heavy drinking is associated with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. It can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.
While the odd drink probably won’t cause too much damage, many experts still say that no amount is safe. According to the World Health Organization, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.
Once you stop drinking, you’ll notice improved cardiovascular health – your blood pressure reading may improve and your cholesterol levels may decrease.
And, because alcohol is high in calories, quitting may also translate to weight loss over the long term – this is good news for your heart since obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Lower risk of cancer: Alcohol consumption is associated with increased rates of various types of cancer – head and neck, oesophagus, liver, breast, and colon, for example. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen – this is the highest risk group, which also includes tobacco, radiation and asbestos.
When you quit drinking, your risk of developing these cancers will reduce over time.
Improved brain function: Alcohol is a neurotoxin, meaning that it can harm brain cells and cause issues like headaches, memory loss, slowed thinking, slurred speech, and trouble with balance and coordination; it can also affect your nervous system, increasing your risk of dementia.
When you quit alcohol, you’ll be able to think and focus more clearly and also notice an improvement in your memory and overall cognition.
Better mood: Having a tipple may make you feel uninhibited and relaxed for a little while, but alcohol is a depressant and it can increase your risk of developing depression and anxiety as well as make you irritable and moody. Going without alcohol, on the other hand, will leave you feeling calmer, happier, less irritable and more pleasant to be around.
More restful sleep: Drinking alcohol before bedtime is disruptive to sleep and can interfere with your sleep quality. When you quit, your quality of sleep will improve and you’ll feel more refreshed and alert when you wake up in the morning.
Weight loss: Cutting out alcohol may lead to weight loss, especially if you drink several alcoholic drinks per week, since you will be eliminating those excess empty calories from your diet.
Tips to make it easier to quit
Quitting can feel daunting but these five tips will make the process a little smoother:
Remind yourself why you’re quitting: Make a list of why you want to stop drinking and refer to it when you need extra motivation.
Don’t keep alcohol in your house: If you don’t have any at home you won’t be tempted to pour yourself a glass.
Ask for support: Let your friends and family know that you’re trying to quit and ask them to support you. If you need extra help to control your cravings, seek advice from a professional therapist or counsellor.
Take note of the benefits: Write down all the ways you feel better as the days and weeks progress. This may help you stay on track to quit permanently after Dry January.
Have alcohol-free social gatherings: If seeing your friends drink triggers you to want to drink, too, then organise get-togethers where alcohol isn’t present. Instead of catching up at a bar, for instance, meet at a café or go walking or hiking together. If you do find yourself in a situation where alcohol is present and you’re offered a drink, don’t give in to peer pressure and ask for a non-alcoholic beverage instead.
Where to go for the best alcohol-free drinks
With more people shunning alcohol these days, bars and restaurants are stepping up their non-alcoholic drink offerings. Here are a few places that are worth checking out for their mocktails and alcohol-free “booze”.
Café Football Singapore
With two locations at Woodleigh Park and Genting Hotel Jurong, this football-themed cafe is part-owned by Manchester United greats, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. The extensive menu features mocktails like Red Devil Jr, made with strawberry puree and lemon and cranberry juices; Virgin Mojito, containing mint leaves, lime, brown sugar and soda water; and Back Pass, a blend of lychee, mint leaves and lemonade.
SAFRA members get 10% off their total bill and 11B holders enjoy 5% off their total bill. Visit safra.sg/promotions/CafeFootball for more details.
Hard Rock Café Orchard
This popular spot for American food and live music is also the perfect hangout if you want to go booze-free. It offers three delicious and refreshing mocktails: Strawberry Basil Lemonade (strawberries and basil muddled together with house-made lemonade); Mango Tango (Red Bull, Finest Call mango purée and orange juice); and Mango-Berry Cooler (mango, strawberries, pineapple juice, orange juice and house-made sour mix topped with Sprite).
SAFRA members and 11B holders can claim 20% off the subtotal bill on a la carte food and beverages. Click on safra.sg/promotions/HardRockCafe for more information.
Located in a colonial building at Seletar Aerospace Park, Cinder is known for its amazing steaks and communal dining. The drinks menu features six mocktails, among them, Purple Rain, with cranberry juice, mint leaves and lychee syrup; Honey Sour, with honey, calamansi lime and soda water; and the classic Shirley Temple, with lime juice, grenadine syrup and Sprite.
SAFRA members and 11B holders, enjoy 10% off with a minimum spend of $120. Go to safra.sg/promotions/cinder-steakhouse for further details.
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