What is Sobriety?
Sobriety, as a word, actually means a few different things. Firstly, it does not mean abstinence. Rather, it means simply not being intoxicated. It can also be a synonym for solemn, serious, thoughtful, practical/pragmatic and in these terms is linked to earnestness and truthful. Not very fun, but not exactly bad.
The practice (and sometimes preaching) of abstaining from alcohol is usually known as teetotalism, and this abstinence itself can stem from numerous factors including cultural, religious, medicinal, psychological, familial or as a result of past alcoholism.
Being teetotal and being sober does not mean the same thing. Anyone can be sober, simply by not having a measurable level of alcohol in their system. Being sober is how you are at the moment, being teetotal is how you live your life. For reference, I am teetotal.
What are the effects of drinking alcohol on your health?
The affects of drinking can be broken up into short term and long terms effects.
Short term affects includes:
- Lowered inhibitions/loss of critical judgement
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of coordination
- Mood swings
- Reduced core body temperature
- Raised blood pressure
- And, the unfortunate possibility of vomiting or passing out in the corners
Beyond these immediate effects we all know and recognise, as well as maybe belting out Shania Twain at a decimal you really wouldn’t attempt sober; drinking alcohol has numerous long terms effects on the body.
Long terms affects include:
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular disease
- Memory loss
- Diminished white and grey matter in the brain
- Increased risks of cancer
- High blood pressure
I’m not here to preach teetotalism, not at all. And there is, of course, a difference between enjoying a drink and struggling with alcoholism, and in our culture, enjoying a glass of wine or a nice cold pint is a point of community and social interaction. So much so, that in being teetotal (or sober, for simplicities sake) means that I regularly face a long list of questions as to why I’d just rather have a coke, thanks.
Why I Don’t drink: Sobriety and Anxiety
We’re getting personal, Darlings.
I struggle with my mental health. Notably, anxiety. I imagine anxiety looks like a little troll, makes it easier for me to deal with it. Not really relevant, but I’m in a sharing mood.
The reasons why I choose not to drink, (no not ever, not even at Christmas) are linked invariably to my struggles with anxiety.
First and foremost, my anxiety is triggered in crowded places that are very noisy, which generally rules out most places of drinking. I do not enjoy being in pubs, the anxiety just is not worth it for me.
Now, I hear you ask, surely a nice drink would help that?
Not for me.
Another trigger is rooted in the deep-seated need to be in control of myself and my surroundings. Alcohol, with its handy trick at lowering inhibitions, coordination, perception and concentration, raises just about every red flag I have. I like to be in control of my body, since I am so very often unable to control my brain.
Drinking sets of my anxiety with the same physiological repercussions as making a phone call, being in an interview, trying to parallel park (I avoid at all costs), and the aforementioned busy, noisy places filled with loud, busy people. Delightful, isn’t it?
For me, teetotalism and sobriety is not linked to any cultural reasons (in fact as the only sober person in my extended Irish family I’m something of a dark horse), or religion or not even dislike. I like the taste of gin and cider, but I don’t like its effect on me.
What are the benefits of being sober?
There are benefits to not drinking:
- Fewer toxins in your body
- Stabilising mood
- Improving sleep
- Mental clarity (here’s a research paper on how sobriety improves the mental well-being of women.)
And, on a less health conscious note, it’s a cheaper way of living!
But when it comes to alcohol, as it is with just about everything else we put in our bodies, it’s about balance.
It’s about looking after yourself, its about being comfortable, it’s about how you interact with your loved ones.
It’s about not making people feel bad if they want a drink or not making them feel bad if they don’t. Its about making sure you drink water as well, and maybe book a taxi. Its about seeking help if you need it.
Life is a balance, whether you’re sober or not. There are cons to the benefits and vice versa. Weighing each side and living your life healthily and happily is about as much as any one of us can do.