Have a sober October – your body will thank you

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Can you stop drinking for a month? Ocsober – an annual campaign that challenges people to abstain from alcohol each October – allows you to test your belief that you can.

“It is also the perfect opportunity to discover how much better you feel without alcohol,” says addiction expert Adél Grobbelaar, who heads up SANCA Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre just outside of Johannesburg.

“Join us in taking a break from alcohol, and support a healthier lifestyle,” she urges.

Health and beauty benefits

Adel says that by abstaining, you will find that you sleep better, maintain your weight easier because of alcohol’s high-calorie content, and are more energetic. In addition, you will save money. “Put the money you would normally spend on booze at the bottle store or a restaurant or pub into a glass jar and at the end of the month, look how much more money you would have in your wallet if you gave up alcohol.

“You might even decide to donate the money to a charity or a substance abuse centre, such as Wedge Gardens.”

“People must move away from the mindset that they need alcohol to have a good time when socialising or to forget about their troubles. Meaningful friendships are not forged when you are drunk or tipsy and drinking to blot out your worries simply leads to more trouble. Rather find healthier ways to socialise or destress – try yoga, a walk, go to a movie, read a book, organise a games night and whip up some mocktails.”

If you miss out on Ocsober, you can start your month-challenge at any time. “There is no expiry date because it is never too late to slow down or stop,” says Adel.

And, if and when you do start drinking again, practice mindful drinking, she says.

“When you reach for your glass and realise it is empty, you were not living in the moment; you were not mindful. After that first sip, you forget to savour the taste and enjoy the experience.

“Mindfulness is about being fully tuned into your surroundings and your actions. It is about deciding if you want to have another drink, rather than ordering one on autopilot. You might weigh up if you are driving, what you want to do the next day, and how you would feel if you over-indulged.

“With mindful drinking, you decide what is best for you, without the pressure of friends or societal expectations,” she says.

Alcohol risks

Alcohol causes several types of cancer. It is also associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease.

“In addition, it affects your looks because it dehydrates you and causes dry skin, which in turn leads to wrinkles, a loss of elasticity, and a grey tone,” says Adel.

“Then there are the devasting consequences that heavy drinking can have on a person’s family and relationships. If left to spiral out of control, alcoholism can lead to unemployability and despair,” she adds.

Keep your spirits high

Tips to stay happy while staying ‘dry’:

Try alcohol-free drinks. As people become increasingly health conscious, zero-alcohol options are becoming popular and easily available.

Dodge boring drinks: Make mocktails; add lemon, mint or apple slices to your glass; use the good glasses; and add plenty of ice cubes.

Don’t be a party pooper: Arrange fun things to do, such as hikes, picnics, a game of cricket, or even a braai – Ocsober need not be boring.

Explore coffee spots: Still meet up with your friends, but do so at coffee shops or juice bars.

SANCA Wedge Gardens offers professional substance abuse treatment based on various pioneered psychological theories. Visit www.wedgegardens.co.za