Sober October, Dry January… there are many checkpoints in autumn and winter to reassess how much you’re drinking.
But really, any time of year is a good opportunity to take stock and, potentially, a break.
It might only be for a number of weeks, or you may decide to part ways with alcohol longer-term, but either way, it’s good to act on signs that might suggest you need a pause from booze.
Many Brits will be taking part in this month’s Sober October, an initiative that was started to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
So is it time to ditch alcohol?
Dr Ross Perry, GP and medical director of Cosmedics, tells Metro.co.uk there are many signs that could indicate you should.
‘Drinking alcohol frequently leads to lack of good quality sleep, so if you’re feeling groggy and jittery the following day it’s a sure sign your alcohol intake was too high and you need to have a break,’ he says.
But there’s a difference between one bad hangover and constantly overdoing it on the booze.
‘Frequent and almost daily niggling headaches as a result of drinking is a common sign you should go sober,’ Ross adds.
‘On average it takes 24 hours for headaches and grogginess to subside, so if you have a constant muzzy head you need to stop drinking.’
Alcohol is a depressant and can ‘exacerbate mental illness’. If you’re feeling constant self-doubt, a lack of confidence, anxiety, or low mood, it’s worth checking in with how much you’re drinking.
A lack of clear thinking
Along with the poor sleep and lowered wellbeing, feeling groggy and confused can kick in when you’re drinking too much.
‘Being unable to think clearly is another common sign, you may be feeling groggy and unable to make simple decisions,’ says Ross.
‘Although alcohol doesn’t actually kill brain cells, it can negatively impact them long term.
‘Too much alcohol can interfere with neurogenesis, which essentially is your body’s ability to make new brain cells.
‘Even moderate drinking can lead to shrinking in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain associated with memory and reasoning.
‘The amount of shrinkage appears to be directly related to how much a person drinking can be serious, but if you stop drinking it can be reversed.
‘Brain atrophy (the loss of brain cells) will start to reverse after a few weeks of not consuming alcohol.’
Drinking can cause your stomach to produce more acid than normal, which could lead to stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and gastritis.
If you have frequent pain and discomfort after drinking, Dr Perry says it’s a sign you need to stop or lower your intake.
‘Weight gain and bloating is another sign you should try going sober,’ he adds, as this is another way too much drinking can physically manifest.
‘After a week of abstaining, you’ll notice a change in your food choices and appetite.
‘When we’ve been drinking alcohol the hormone that makes you feel hungry go up which often leads to bingeing on food.’
He adds that it can show on your skin too.
‘Congested, lacklustre skin and premature lines is another sure sign you’re drinking too much.
‘Alcohol is known to dehydrate the skin, depriving it of the moisture and nutrients it needs to keep our complexion looking youthful, fresh and radiant.’
Is it time to go sober?
Alex Walker, who works in alcohol recovery and is the founder of Bee Sober, tells us there are key signs to look out for that suggest you need a break:
- You are preoccupied in the week as you’re thinking about drinking at the weekend
- You rush through bathtime/bed time routine with the kids so you can relax downstairs with a glass of wine
- Rules change – the odd glass of wine very quickly turns into a several and then a bottle and if you’re drinking with a partner that then becomes two
- Drinking more frequently in the week and finding excuses to have a drink which you didn’t have before, such as a stressful day, pressures at work, kids playing up, and so on
- When drinking used to be only on social occasions and now it’s become something you do most nights or more frequently throughout the week
- Heading out to meet one friend for ‘a glass of wine’ and before you know it you’ve shared a bottle and then more, so being in denial of what you set out to do but quickly changes
- Secretive drinking and lying to yourself, friends and partners about how often and how much you drink