As a London-based hypnotherapist with over a decade of experience in treating alcohol dependency, I'm aware of how destructive binge-drinking and alcohol addiction can be. According to Alcohol Concern, one in 13 of us are dependent on alcohol and one in four adults drink too much. As it's Alcohol Awareness week (16-22 November), I've compiled 10 of the top benefits my clients have reported to experience after giving up the booze.
1. No more hangover shame
Ever had that 'uh-oh' feeling after a night out, when you realise you entered into a drunken debate on Twitter or sent a declaration of love to an ex? Unfortunately for you, the alcohol had suppressed your brain's excitatory transmitter, glutamate, which is responsible for cognition, memory and learning. When you drink, you'll be less alert and more prone to making poor decisions, such as driving under the influence or sending embarrassing texts.
2. Better sex
Whilst hitting the sauce often boosts confidence and leads to more sexual hook ups, these encounters are often unfulfilling. Studies have shown that alcohol diminishes sensitivity for women and can cause erectile dysfunction in men. Ditch the booze and you will firstly ensure you're having sex with someone you're truly attracted to, and secondly that the sex is satisfying and memorable for the right reasons.
3. Free your inner confidence
It's a common belief that alcohol gives you "Dutch Courage", loosens your inhibitions and enhances enjoyment of social situations. The problem is that if you have been a drinker your entire adult life, you don't know how to socialise when sober. It may feel a little unfamiliar at first, but give yourself a few nights out without drink and you'll soon be revelling in your ability to tell jokes and be charismatic without a glass of the strong stuff propping you up.
4. Sleep well and live longer
While detoxing can impede sleep at first, once your body has adapted you will benefit from far healthier, better-quality sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life expectancy.
5. Say goodbye to colds
Alcohol weakens your immune system, making your body less capable of fighting infections and disease. Findings from a 2014 study (with mice as the test subjects) indicated that a single binge drinking session would likely increase the risk of viral infections, such as colds.
6. Become a calmer you
Because alcohol removes your inhibitions, you can be prone to outbursts of aggression and unreasonable behaviour. Some women, or indeed their partners, complain of the Jekyll-and-Hyde effect of white wine, turning them into aggressive, argumentative monsters. No-one likes a monster.
7. Ditch the junk food
A boozy night out will often spark a junk food binge. A study commissioned by Slimming World found that 51% of those surveyed consumed about 2,829 calories extra in food on a night of drinking, and an average of 2,051 extra calories the following day. They also cancelled any physical activity, favouring staying in bed and watching TV to deal with the hangover. Not healthy.
8. Save money
The average Briton is spending around £1000 a year on alcohol, according to a survey conducted by VoucherCodesPro. Add to that the cost of forking out for a taxi, late night clubs, as well as the reported £142 spent shopping online when drunk, according to a survey by Confused.com. And if you're self employed, taking time off to deal with a hangover has financial implications too.
9. Nurture your relationships
Drinking can cause relationships to break down, as it's been linked to jealousy, paranoia and affairs. But booze can also cause you to gloss over certain imperfections in your relationships. Becoming sober can be a real eye-opener, helping you to focus on who and what will make you happy. For example, if you're naturally shy, you may gravitate towards the overtly confident party animals on a night out. But sober, you will likely establish truer, genuine friendships with those whom you have shared interests and are truly compatible.
10. Sharpen your senses
Booze can alter your sense of taste, as it numbs your mouth's tactile receptors. Continued heavy drinking can also damage the memory areas of the brain that are associated with the sense of smell and flavour.
Cutting out drinking altogether is a life-changing decision, and perhaps not realistic for you, but even making small changes to your alcohol intake can bring many of the benefits that I've listed above. Talk to your GP to discuss your options, which may well include psychotherapy or hypnotherapy, or to find help and support in your local area, visit www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/help-and-advice/local-services-directory.
I welcome all thoughts so please join in the discussion and add your comments below.