Waking up without remembering how you got home; getting into a fight; or falling over to hurt yourself; just some ‘badges of honour’ we have come to associate with drinking.
However, alcohol is one of the deadliest killers in society, with 2.5million people dying worldwide each year from booze-related causes.
That’s why today kickstarts such a monumental day, the beginning of Sober October.
Ordinarily, the entire month is dedicated to quitting the sauce to raise cash for Macmillan Cancer Support. Yet during these ongoing challenging times learning to live with a global pandemic, the campaign has launched Sober(ish) October instead.
This means people can choose to embark on a 14, 21, or 31-day challenge.
If a fortnight without reaching for your favourite tipple sounds overwhelming, then some pearls of wisdom from journalist Marcus Barnes might just change your mind.
Speaking to Uspire, Marcus revealed how he managed to shift his relationship with alcohol to a healthier place where he was in control… and not the other way around.
Marcus said: “I was dependent on alcohol to give me confidence in social situations. It was a crutch that got me where I wanted to be; confident.
“I drank socially, but also used alcohol as a means of unwinding, sometimes for creative purposes as well – occasionally I’d drink a whole bottle of wine when I had writer’s block.
“I believe the relationship was a toxic one because of my reliance on booze to take me out of my social anxiety. I was a ‘lightweight’, so would be tipsy after a couple of drinks and I knew my limits but never respected them, always getting smashed.
“My body always rejected the excessive amounts of alcohol I consumed, usually the next day when I’d have a hangover from hell and puke my guts out most of the morning.”
In England, 40% of adults drink over the maximum recommended limit of 14 units per week which is meant to be spread over three or more days.
According to the World Health Organisation, alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries, with its consumption linked to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, traffic accidents, and several types of cancer, including the colon, breast, larynx and liver.
There is also risk of poisoning which occurs when a person drinks a toxic amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time – what we now know as binge drinking.
Being poisoned by alcohol can not only damage your health but also prove fatal, with the most severe cases leading to a coma, brain damage or death.
While there was no pivotal moment that led to Marcus making the decision to go sober, he said it was a gradual realisation after becoming increasingly unhappy with his lack of self-control on nights out and the way alcohol made him feel groggy with low moods.
He then experimented with sobriety, with what he coined ‘Just-say-No-vember’, whereby for several years in a row he abstained from booze and drugs for the whole month.
It was those consecutive Novembers that seemed to plant a seed, leading Marcus to ‘just say no’ long-term and later abandoning intoxicants for life.
Marcus was lucky enough to quit the habit while at a wellness resort, with a few weeks alcohol-free before returning home and carrying on with his regular life.
However, without the safety net of the holistic community, life was challenging as he returned to work in an industry that actively encourages knocking back the shots.
Marcus said: “What was most difficult about going sober was the fact I’m a music journalist, with boozing and drug-taking intrinsic to the culture I work in; clubs, raves, festivals. It was a huge challenge to do my job while abstaining from all of that stuff.”
He continued: “I also have a complex about being boring and I suffer from social anxiety, so it was a big concern.
“When everyone is drunk and loosened up, you might seem uptight compared to them – there can be a stark contrast in the way you’re able to express yourself, initially at least.
“Over time, I’ve found the energy inside of me to be able to keep up with the drunk people, to be ‘on their level’ and that is one of the greatest gifts sobriety has given me.”
And committing to his new lifestyle not only gave Marcus mental clarity, it also boosted his self-esteem by vastly improving his confidence in social situations.
He explained: “Knowing you can be in busy environments around people who are getting smashed, and still be able to keep your energy up, fills me with confidence and I feel proud of myself every time I manage to outlast the drinkers.
“I’ve been on stag-dos in Ibiza, to Glastonbury, club events, concerts, birthday parties, weddings and so on, all without touching a drop of booze. It’s done wonders for my self-esteem and sense of self. I also feel as though I have way more self-respect because I’m giving myself this gift, for my wellbeing; physical and mental.
“I don’t have to rely on a drink to solve my problems. It’s way harder, but I wouldn’t change it for anything, there is no quick fix, healing one’s self takes a lot of work but it’s worth it.”
When quizzed about what he might say to someone who thinks they may be drinking too much but doesn’t know how to stop, Marcus says taking action will change your life.
He concluded: “I think it can be a huge challenge for people to break societal habits. Drinking is so widely accepted and enabled, it’s ingrained into most people’s way of being; a shortcut to fun, to dealing with stress and other problems, to love and sex, to friendship, to opening up, to confidence and so much more.
“But if you really want to have meaningful, long-lasting happiness without any external stimulant, then you have to be willing to stick your neck out and go against the grain.
“Ultimately, I had to think to myself, ‘What is more important; my long-term health and happiness or this short-term fix which only serves to exacerbate my issues?’
“You’ve got to be ‘selfish’ sometimes and not worry about others, what they might think and how your decisions will make them feel.
“Going sober had an adverse effect on my relationship for a good few months, which is crazy to say, but we’d partly bonded over drink, drugs and partying – without that, there was a perceived lack of connection. It was really hard, but I have to think about what’s good for me, prioritise myself, not anyone else.”
Marcus added: “If you’re unhappy and know that drinking is not doing you any good then stand up for yourself, take action, take responsibility for your own actions.
“Do the right thing for you, no one else. You won’t regret it.”
To give it a shot, click here: Sober October.