Starting Out - 1st of October

One of the main reasons why I’ve decided to “Go Sober for October” – also known as Stoptober – is to improve my mental health. Giving up alcohol for Stoptober a few years ago had a positive effect in my life. I found that drinking had such a negative impact on my mental health the day after I did so. Now, I love going out, dancing the night away and enjoying a couple of drinks, and when I’ve had a drink, I sometimes do feel more confident and less anxious about going and being out.

However, even after a couple of drinks I can still feel nervous that people are watching me dance or are making me fun of me. I realised that if I still feel self-conscious, then the confidence I feel isn’t something magically given to me from alcohol, and it must come from some part of me…

That said, when I wake up the day after drinking, I have often experienced low moods. So many unanswered questions come flooding into my head. Questions like, “Did I say anything stupid last night?” or, “Did I embarrass myself?” and even, “I wonder if anyone hates me”. I feel something in the pit of my stomach when I go to check my phone: I am so worried about what my notifications might reveal… There have been times where my mental health has resulted in negative thoughts – something that is fast being referred to as “hangxiety”. I have felt unmotivated to get out of bed and I’ve stressed about the little things.

So, a couple of years ago, I decided to do try Stoptober to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and resolved to not drink alcohol for the month. Waking up hangover free, I felt less anxious, full of energy and I enjoyed waking up with a clear and fresh head. I could spend my weekends out of my bed and instead creating memories. I still went on nights out dancing, and I found I could enjoy myself without the effects of alcoholic. I was surrounded by people who also were having a good time, and yet being sober I became more aware of how drunk people were. It didn’t always go swimmingly: sometimes people who have had a drink can be rude or confrontational, in which case I would tend to feel anxious and want to leave the situation immediately.

Going teetotal offers opportunities to do other activities. I can use money that I would spend on drinking and going out to instead join the gym, go for a meal, and of course to donate to Macmillan Cancer Support. Teetotalism can also have health benefits: from reducing the risk of heart problems to improving liver function, and to having more hydrated-looking skin. You look and feel better!

So, as I begin this month, I need to focus on the reasons why I am doing this. I hope that I will join the gym and spend my time losing weight and improving my well-being. It’s also vitally important to understand the triggers that prompt you to have a drink, (such as a stressful day) so you can stay in control and avoid old habits. This time around, after having experience of doing it before a few years ago, one of the things I would like to do differently is to stand up for myself more when people try to peer pressure me into having an alcoholic drink…

 

Luke’s blog will continue at the middle of the month, for a ‘midway’ reflection, and then again at the end of October to share his final thoughts on how abstinence has effected his mental and physical health, social life and productivity.


Luke Etherington, 25, is is a mental health advocate who is passionate about tackling the stigma attached to mental health.

Follow him on Twitter: @lukejamesether

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