Stopping drinking inadvertently changed my life

Exactly two years ago I had to give up alcohol owing to its reaction with a chemotherapy drug that I take.

At first, this seemed unthinkable as I loved to drink almost every day. A few glasses of wine after work, some beers at the weekend and the obligatory bottle of wine when we went for a meal. Apart from this, there were the wine holidays in Spain where we visited bodegas, tasted wine and bought some to take back with us to impress friends and some to lay down.

I was also a member of the Wine Society and loved tasting new wines from all over the world. I had just found the secret German wines that they don’t export to us and was working my way through the wine alphabet thinking that I was a bit of a connoisseur.

Giving up drinking was a big blow but without an alternative, it had to be done.

My wife also came out in sympathy and stopped drinking too, which was a bit of a boost.

However, as we started down the path of sobriety one or two friends dropped off the scene as if we were lepers. Others didn’t drink when they came for a meal and even started not drinking when we went to them which was quite interesting to see. Some, however, got as merrily pissed as usual which didn’t affect either my wife or I as we did not suddenly frown on those that drank.

From not drinking, I became more alert, able to think more clearly and get fitter, beating friends that often thrashed me at sport easily and also beating much younger participants at games which before I had struggled to be fit enough to play.

As well as this I found the quest of finding the great non-alcoholic beer. The UK is pretty crap at providing non-alcoholic beers and buying in the lowest common denominator of Becks Blue just does not cut it.

Many of the pubs that sell non-alcoholic beverages just don’t cut it, going for quantity rather than quality as ‘who actually cares if people don’t drink’. Well, we do.

It is clear that there is a huge market out there for the 1 in 5 who now no longer drink. There is a real killing to be made. Go to any pub in Germany and they sell non, or low alcohol Weisbier almost the same as a decent pint of lager that you can buy in any British pub and everyone sells it.

In the UK going into some supermarkets to find a decent alcohol-free beer is not worth the effort. The only one that I have found that sells a range of great alternatives is Salisbury’s and it has my vote for buying; not just my German Weisbier but also all of my foodstuffs there as they also do an excellent free from range as well. I visited Switzerland in the summer and they have my vote for the best non-alcoholic beer.

Not drinking also throws up some amusing situations.

When my friends get drunk they slobber all over me, talk in incoherent voices and put their arms around me. I look at them and think God, I used to be like this.

My wife says that I am a better person, spend more time with the family and don’t get angry with her when she makes slight comments when we are out.

Apart from not being able to understand what pissed friends say it has had a remarkable effect on my habits. I used to go to football or rugby games at least once every two weeks, support my teams fervently and get lost in oblivion after a game.

Now I don’t watch any sport really, not even match of the day, hardly look at the results and have so much more time. I’m no knocking drinking but not doing it has quite drastically changed my life for the better.

Time is everything and we have it all around us but sometimes we waste it.

Four months ago, we decided to stop watching TV as we found it so numbingly boring and now I have so much more time to see the children, grandchildren, and friends that I just didn’t have before.

Professor Chris Kemp is CEO of Mind over Matter Consultancy and works with world leaders in their fields running programmes for leaders and managers.

We deliver a range of interactive, highly- pressurised programmes for high performers in companies across the world, underpinned by applied leadership and management theory.

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