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What I learned from going for a month without any booze

Thinking about doing Dry January or already thinking about giving it up one week in? Here's what to expect from the days ahead, says Katie Wright

'Until I gave up my beloved sauvignon blanc, I'd never noticed the way wine is moreish, whereas soft drinks aren't'
'Until I gave up my beloved sauvignon blanc, I'd never noticed the way wine is moreish, whereas soft drinks aren't'

By Katie Wright

Finding myself too late for Sober October and too early for Dry January, I decided to invent my own alcohol-free event: No Booze November.

Why did I want 30 days off the sauce? The final straw came at the end of a week-long holiday to Dubai. After indulging in a four-hour, all you can eat and drink brunch, my friends and I then took advantage of the 'ladies drink free until 1am' policy at a night club.

The next morning I woke up in bed fully clothed with a raging hangover and no memory of how I got there.

This kind of behaviour was funny in my uni days, but I'm 35 years old now. It had to stop.

So I challenged myself to a month of teetotalism, figuring it would be easier to do in November than when the festive season kicked in properly.

If you're considering doing Dry January, let me tell you now, I highly recommend it.

Without doubt, 30 days booze-free had a positive effect on my relationship with alcohol - but it wasn't all plain sailing.

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Here are six things I discovered when I quit drinking for a month...

1. I slept better

My first booze-free night was a Friday and I awoke the next morning astonished to find I'd had a full eight hours of sleep - this almost never happens.

Even on weekends I'm usually awake well before 8am, which proves what experts say: that even though alcohol helps you nod off faster, it reduces the amount of quality sleep you get during the night, which is why we wake up feeling groggy even if we haven't got a full-blown hangover.

Sadly, my improved sleep didn't last and I suffered a bout of insomnia the following week. But I found I did get more sleep throughout the month overall, because when I was sober, I didn't spend as much time procrastinating, making snacks and trying to drink water before I went to bed, which was a real bonus.

2. Soft drinks are boring

Good cheer: Katie Wright has her last drink before a month’s sobriety
Good cheer: Katie Wright has her last drink before a month’s sobriety

Until I gave up my beloved sauvignon blanc, I'd never noticed the way wine is moreish, whereas soft drinks aren't, because once you've quenched your thirst, you don't really want any more.

Also, because I don't like to drink fizzy pop (too much sugar and it makes me bloated) my options were limited. I got bored very quickly.

3. Sober dating is better

This was the most surprising discovery. I was worried dates would be difficult without a bit of 'Dutch courage', but on the contrary, being sober made it easier to figure out if I actually liked someone.

We've all been there, when you get drunk on a date and think you've met the love of your life, only to realise on the second date (or the morning after) that you have very little in common and that 'spark' was just the tequila talking.

Plus, it's cheaper buying soft drinks, so if a date doesn't go well, you don't feel annoyed that you wasted loads of money on it.

4. Not having a hangover is great

As someone who suffers truly horrendous hangovers, meaning I vomit all day and can't eat or drink anything for 24 hours (seriously, not even water), this was the biggest benefit of not drinking.

Going sober meant I didn't waste entire days in bed, so I got more done, nor did I have a cloud of 'hangxiety' hovering over me, which often happens after I've overindulged.

My advice? Don't underestimate how Dry January could improve your mental health.

5. Some social events are harder than others when you're not drinking

A sober weekend away with two of my best friends? Not a problem. A black tie fashion event where I knew no one? Here, on day 23, I must admit, I fell off the proverbial wagon.

A few glasses of bubbly were what I needed to relax and wash away my social anxiety, and honestly I don't regret it.

In fact, it was a good reminder of how quickly my alcohol tolerance had gone down and when the hangxiety was in full flow the next day, it strengthened my resolve to continue with No Booze November.

6. It's made me drink less now

That one slip-up aside, I actually managed 31 days without alcohol (because I started before the end of October) and since then I've noticed I'm drinking less in general.

Forcing myself to give up booze has made me realise that even when I only have one or two glasses of wine, it negatively affects my sleep and my mood, so I'm now more likely to stick to non-alcoholic drinks if, say, I'm going out for dinner during the week.

I definitely still enjoy a few sauv blancs on a night out, but I've realised it's better to stick to a sensible limit in order to prevent killer hangovers (and memory loss).

Ultimately, my (mostly) sober month has been a timely reminder that I don't need alcohol to have fun, and that's the best lesson of all.

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