Life Beyond Booze?

For Dry January, LGBT people share their experience of life beyond booze

Two friends chatting over a coffee

What's your relationship with alcohol like? Have you ever had one of those hangovers that's made you consider giving up the booze for good?

Dry January is the perfect no-strings opportunity to explore what your life could be like without alcohol! Whether you're wanting to quit for good, or just break a pattern of heavy drinking, Dry Jan could be the thing you need.

We spoke to a range of LGBTQ+ people who are sober, or have significantly reduced their alcohol intake, to find out more. They share the experiences that led to them to change their drinking habits, the benefits of life beyond booze, and some handy hints to help you make a change.

“I decided last year that I would stop drinking for one year and just give myself time out. I was not alcohol-dependent, but simply found myself having a drink at most social events, and that was most weekends. I was kind of a socialite so you can imagine restaurants, events and living it large etc.

I had since been looking around for non-alcoholic drinks and was very surprised to discover a very different world, and to be honest I kind of liked it. I surrounded myself with non-heavy drinkers and positive, supportive people so the peer pressure was low and manageable. I have been on holidays, parties and danced the night away and all has been good.

“As a young person, conflicted about my gender and sexuality and a survivor of abuse, by 15 I could not function socially without being drunk. At social events I would finish up adults’ drinks until I had no memory of what happened next. At 18 years, I was supporting damaged children, living within the institution so that even when ‘off duty’ I was never really away from work. I quickly succumbed to the culture of drinking stress away with other staff, consuming wine and spirits by the mugful.

My issues with alcohol lasted until my early twenties when a prolonged spell of operations and residential rehabilitation forced it to stop. I had to exercise for six hours a day and live with around 100 other people with no alcohol to hide behind. It was not at all easy but finding I could do it gave me the push to go teetotal for six years. In that time, less blurred by alcohol, I worked out some of my issues and started to trust others and myself. I began to accept who I was. I also became physically fitter, found out how to recognise real friends, was able to study for a career and became a black belt in karate, teaching young people self-control, respect and determination.

I think my life could have gone down a very different path if I had not faced my alcohol issues when I had the chance.”

“Before I quit drinking, having a few glasses of wine per night had become part of my daily ritual. By extension, taking headache tablets became part of my morning routine. I didn’t realise quite how badly alcohol was affecting my ability to feel refreshed in a morning, or how much I had let my general health and fitness slide as a consequence of my nightly drinking.

After I quit drinking, I very quickly started feeling revitalised in the morning. The all-too-familiar morning headaches were gone and I was able to drive to the gym in the evening, as I was no longer over the limit soon after finishing work.

Stopping drinking improved everything in my life including my health, my finances and my personal relationships. Feeling well-rested in the morning meant I had more patience with those close to me. When I go out with friends I no longer spend large amounts of money drinking alcohol and I am able to drive my loved ones home afterwards.”

“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a survivor of multiple abusive relationships, reducing my alcohol intake has helped me to gain clarity on the traumas I’ve experienced, and created space for me to access vital support around these experiences.

Prior to reducing my alcohol intake, I was escaping rather than addressing what had happened to me. I also made bad decisions when drinking more heavily, and that added new traumas to the old. Reducing my alcohol intake has also helped me set (and stick to) boundaries with people in my life.”

“I used to drink a lot when I was younger, to cope with social anxiety, which actually turned out to be undiagnosed autism. By the time I was 30 it was giving me really bad heart palpitations, and I decided to cut right down because feeling like I was going to die was kind of taking the fun out of it.

The first thing I noticed was the absence of hangovers, which had definitely stopped being tolerable by that age. The next thing I noticed was how much less drama there was in my personal life. In particular, nights out didn’t end in me struggling to cope with and express my emotions.

I don’t think many of us are consistently at our best when we’re really drunk – I definitely wasn’t. I feel like my emotional wellbeing and relationships have improved a lot as a result.”

“I have not drank now for over 25 years, and this was a decision I came to slowly over a number of years drinking and not enjoying it. I think eventually I came to the conclusion that me and alcohol don’t agree with each other.

What was difficult at first was the social pressure to drink…people generally seem very uncomfortable with others who are choosing not to drink, so much so that, wherever I could, I would drink red/white grape juice in a wine glass just to escape the questions and the pressure of the constant ‘you can just have one can’t you. It won’t kill you’.

It has taken a long time and gradually removing myself from settings where the pressure to drink was too intense, but now I don’t drink alcohol and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to assert this for myself. It takes confidence and persistence to avoid the pressure I mentioned, but that now seems like a distant memory."

You don’t have to have a ‘problem’ or be in crisis to benefit from using our services or joining our thriving recovery community. If you want to speak with someone about your alcohol use, our Recovery team are here to help. You can email us at [email protected], or call our helpline on 0345 3 30 30 30.

Many people don’t always know how much alcohol they drink and whether their drinking could have any impact on their health. Find out your alcohol score using our interactive tool here.