I try each year to stop drinking alcohol for at least one month. So I decided when the end of the year was getting closer and closer that November would be my #stopvember. Because you certainly don’t want to stop drinking in December, that’s social suicide. I forgot, stupid as I am, that I already didn’t drink for almost four weeks in spring this year haha. Anyway, I wanted to tell you babies about how it’s like not to drink for a while. But first let me answer the question why I torture myself every year with this.
I’ve learned ,when I took a class in cognitive processes in my bachelor degree, that alcohol does a lot to the brain. One of those things is that alcohol increases the release op dopamine in your brains “reward center”. The reward center is a combination of brain areas that are affected by virtually all pleasurable activity, including everything from hanging out with friends, going on vacation, getting a big bonus at work, ingesting drugs (like cocaine and crystal meth), and drinking alcohol. By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult). The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression. Every time you drink you have to drink more to get the same pleasurable effect. So when you stop for a significant while you set the dopamine levels back to their natural state. This knowledge is the reason why I stop every year. Just to stop before it maybe gets to a real addiction. Not that I’m very sensitive for addiction but I don’t want to take the risk and lose it all. I do it for the right reason but that doesn’t make it easy (if you want to read more about how it works in the brain click here).
Monday till Friday isn’t that hard as long I don’t meet up with friends or any other social thing. But when its Friday evening my brain just keeps on thinking about alcohol. Just to have fun, relax and having a moment free of the hustle and fuss from the week. Having a drink is in our society so much linked to that. That makes the weekends the hardest. I went to a Italian restaurant in the first weekend of my four weeks of soberness. The waitress gave me the aperitif card full of drinks with alcohol in it. That was a bummer. So was the table next to us with the delicious wines on it. But at the end of the evening when I saw the bill I was delighted because it was so cheap and I felt proud that I made it through the evening sober. I immediately slept better in the first week of soberness. So all was going well I thought.
But when I arrived in week two of soberness (just after the weekend where I normally would have drunk alcohol) I had difficulties with motivation to study and I didn’t seem to like anything I was doing. That’s probably because my brain had to get used to the lower levels of dopamine in my brain. I think my brain was used to getting higher levels in the weekend because of the alcohol. My brain had to rearrange the dopamine flow. What also didn’t help is the weather. If the sky is all grey all day, everyday I get sort of winter-depressed. Normally I fix that with a glass of red wine. That was out of the question now.
I was really surprised that it could be that serious. I wasn’t really like emotional but more like sort of lazy and unmotivated. It lasted for week or so. I had to pull myself together. Luckily I got used to not drinking after that. I liked the fact that I got better sleep, no headaches, cheaper bills and no hangovers. I also learned that I could have a fabulous time sober. When I went to dinner with one of my best friends we laughed so hard all night that it hurt. That made me conscious that we substitute alcohol for with having fun because alcohol works on our reward center in our brain. But alcohol is not a necessity for having fun. I even made it through two long days of working at my own Elio’s Shot bar at Welcome To The Future Festival indoor without drinking a sip of alcohol. I never thought I would make it through techno and drunken crowds sober.
In the end the most difficult part when I stopped drinking alcohol was that I thought about it constantly. That’s exhausting! Not drinking for a while made me more conscious about it when it’s not really necessary to drink and when it could enhance the fun. Like when you are having a delicious and chic diner then a glass Champagne can do amazing things for the taste of it all. Or when decorating the Christmas tree. But not during a photoshoot just because everyone else is drinking or something like that.
Pictures: Dennis Bouwman
Styling : Elio Heres
Make-up & Hair: Marjan Boukes