New Year's Resolution: How I (Almost) Gave Up Booze In 2018

"If it’s what you want to do, don’t feel the expectation to drink from others."
HuffPost UK

In this week-long series, we’re talking to HuffPost UK readers who set themselves a new year’s resolution last year that you may be considering for 2019 – and stuck to it. Their motivation could be your inspiration. Here, Dan Burns, 21 from Northumberland, who lives in Sheffield, shares his story

I was struggling with my mental health last Christmas. I had PTSD, my girlfriend had just moved away for her year abroad and on days when I was feeling quite fragile, drinking would make me feel worse. I tried not to drink in December but ended up failing. It’s hard when it’s “just one glass of wine” or “just one Prosecco”, and the added “go on, it’s Christmas” comments are harder to ignore than you think.

So in January 2018 I made it my New Year’s resolution to quit alcohol. And I was largely successful, going until June without and only drinking on a couple of occasions since when I’ve felt obliged to.

When I decided to stop drinking I was going into my last semester of my final year of university, so I had my dissertation and exams to focus on. I now work in a bar full-time and people love the irony of me serving alcohol but not actually drinking it.

Dan Burns, 21
Dan Burns
Dan Burns, 21

I’ve never really been a big drinker, so it wasn’t a massive deal for me to give up. For a while I hadn’t really wanted to drink anyway, but if I was at the pub, I’d get one just because everyone else was, rather than because I wanted one. Eventually I thought if I’m not enjoying the drinking part, and I’m also not enjoying the hangover part, what’s the point?

My girlfriend, friends, mum and dad were all really supportive, and without drinking I found that I was dealing with everything a lot better mental health-wise. I didn’t get better, but I wasn’t feeling as bad as often as I was when I was drinking.

At first I didn’t really notice any difference with my physical health, but then I saw some pictures of myself six months prior to quitting and realised I’d lost some weight since then and my skin was so much better.

Dan Burns

Although socialising without alcohol has been fine, it’s the times when you can’t be bothered to hang around drunk people, but feel you have to that can be tough.

The first alcohol I touched in 2018 was when I finished university in June. I was doing that classic thing where you finish uni and you have no idea what you want you’re going to do with your life. I’d finished my exams and all of my friends were leaving Sheffield, so when we went out I ended up having a few, even though I wasn’t planning on drinking.

I wouldn’t say I got drunk faster than I used to or that anything was particularly different, and I ended up having a good time. But I questioned whether I was actually enjoying the alcohol or whether I was just enjoying socialising again – I hadn’t gone out that much in the run-up to the summer so it was confusing.

I carried on drinking for a couple of months, never drinking to get drunk. It was always just one or two drinks at a BBQ, things like that. But in the end it fizzled out and I lost all interest. I decided to stop drinking again at the end of August and since then I’ve drunk only twice, and that’s because it was special occasions and I felt obliged to – it’s so ingrained in the way we socialise.

When I have drunk this year, I’ve noticed I don’t sleep as well. I wake up in the night or early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep. Then I sleep during the day as well because I’m hungover.

Dan Burns

I’m pleased with how much I cut down on booze in 2018, but next year I’d quite like to quit completely. I had a lot more money last year after cutting down to do other things, like going to visit my girlfriend abroad. I’m supposed to be starting a Masters in September in Paris, so I need to save as much money as possible before that.

To anyone trying to quit or cut down next year, I’d say that, without being harsh, you need to be a bit selfish. If it’s what you want to do, don’t feel that the expectation to drink from others should stop you from doing what you want to do. If you don’t want to drink, don’t. There’s no shame in saying “no”.

As told to Rachel Moss.

Check out our tips on ditching alcohol for Dry January or visit Alcohol Change UK for more advice on cutting down.