Why I Stopped Drinking
My Experience with Alcohol
I was never the type to go grab a drink. I just didn’t care to do that. If I was going to drink, it was to get drunk and have fun and forget all of my problems. I drank for the wrong reasons. Whether it was after a big exam in college, or a stressful week at work, alcohol was the answer. Just kidding, but we all know we think alcohol will temporarily solve all of our problems.
For a long period of time, I couldn’t drink without being deathly hung-over the next day. Not just the typical headache but can still rally kind of hangover, but the puke your brains out, lay in bed wondering if you’re dying type of hangover. It started to get old. While I enjoyed going out and drinking, I wasn’t a fan of spending my early mornings curled up next the toilet. It was weird because I always drank a ton of water before and after I drank, and it still didn’t matter. I remember my mom asking me why I still drink if this keeps happening, and I was like honestly.. you’re right I have NO idea.
Unfortunately, killer hangovers and mornings spent with my dear friend, the toilet didn’t stop me from getting my drink on. You know that girl that keeps going back to the same ex boyfriend thinking things will be different? That was my relationship with alcohol. One time I drunkenly ate a banana and didn’t throw up the next day, so I thought maybe a banana was my missing key to drinking without a hangover.
Why I Stopped Drinking
I started drinking less around February 2017. I was dealing with painful cystic acne breakouts, and I kept reading to avoid alcohol. I didn’t complete eliminate alcohol, but I tried not to drink as frequently as I had been before. In April 2017, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was determined to reverse my PCOS symptoms, and started by researching the best diet and lifestyle regimen to do that. All of the books I read suggested eliminating alcohol, so desperate to feel better, I listened and I stopped drinking.
How Alcohol Impacts Hormones
Women process alcohol at a much, much slower rate than men. We retain all fluids for longer, in fact, and we metabolize the chemicals in alcohol at a slower rate. This means the physical impact of alcohol is much stronger and faster for women than for men.
Drinking alcohol forces the liver to use your store of antioxidants and vitamin C to break it down, which leaves you vitamin and mineral deficient. This is especially problematic if you know you are already dealing with a deficiency.
Alcohol raises your estrogen levels which worsens symptoms of PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis – and any estrogen-dominant hormonal health issue
Although we often reach for a drink because we want it to make us feel happy or sexy, alcohol is actually a depressant. Drinking alcohol drains the adrenals and makes you feel more tired and down.
Alcohol disrupts your blood sugar function – so if you’re dealing with blood sugar imbalance as a part of your hormonal health issues, and many women are, this is something to be aware of. Often we will find ourselves making unhealthy food choices when we drink and the day after, which further exacerbates the problem.
In June 2017, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and Adrenal Fatigue. At that point, I knew alcohol and me were just not meant to be. I continued with my alcohol free diet, and researched on alcohol and Hashimoto’s.
How Alcohol Impacts Hashimoto's
Hashimoto’s patients often develop an intolerance or increased sensitivity to alcohol. This happens because alcohol stresses out your liver, and your thyroid health is essential to the health of your liver
Alcohol is known to have a direct toxic effect on thyroid cells, which is used therapeutically in ethanol ablation therapy of thyroid nodule
Regularly drinking a lot of alcohol inhibits thyroid hormones T3 and T4 and may reduce the activity of type II 5’-deiodinase. This enzyme is used to convert storage hormone T4 into active hormone T3, and if it is not functioning optimally, you may experience reduced levels of Free T3 with ongoing symptoms.
It has also been found that excess alcohol intake blocks the release of TSH, the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Overconsumption of alcohol reduces the responsiveness of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which communicates the need for TSH.
Alcohol increases estrogen levels. This is the most significant issue, because people with Hashimoto’s tend to have higher estrogen levels.
How This Impacted Me
This definitely had a big effect on my life, more specifically my social life. To be honest, it was other people who made me feel like this was a big deal and like an inconvenience. I would say the hardest part was before I was diagnosed with anything. Some people didn’t understand and they weren’t supportive. They made comments like, “Are you going to turn up with us,” or “Why don’t you just live a little and drink.” It was annoying, and made me feel like not drinking was a bigger deal than it actually was. I went through a phase where I really didn’t even want to go out, because of how some people acted.
Of course, there were people who literally could not have cared less, and I’ll always appreciate those people. Looking back, wow what a joke. I’ve learned that if someone is actually bothered by me not drinking, then I actually don’t even want to be around them. I’ve been on both sides, so just to put it into perspective, if I don’t care if you drink in front of me, why do you care if I don’t drink?
I went so long without drinking, that I actually forgot about it. I was going through so much, that alcohol was the last thing on my mind. It was funny because, when people would ask me “When do you think you’ll be able to drink again.” I didn’t even have an answer, because it was something that didn’t even cross my mind during my doctor’s appointments.
When you’re going through what I was going through, something like getting trashed on the weekends and waking up with a hangover and regrets is literally the last thing on your mind.
Alcohol & Adrenal Fatigue
If you have Hashimoto’s or PCOS, or both then you most likely have some sort of adrenal dysfunction. For me personally, alcohol has the most negative effect on my adrenal fatigue symptoms. It messes with my sleep and I found it harder to stay in shape in college when I was drinking all the time.
1. Alcohol depresses the function of the adrenal glands, which means it lowers your cortisol. Impaired cortisol leads to poor immunity, increased inflammation and disrupts your sleep.
2. Alcohol makes your liver work harder at getting rid of excess hormones, such as adrenaline, which is often too high in people with adrenal fatigue.
3. Alcohol causes your blood sugar to rise. A rise in blood sugar makes your body product more insulin, which is also known as the “fat storing” hormone. When the liver is full to capacity, this excess energy goes straight to the fat cells to be stored there instead. Ever heard of a “beer belly”? That’s exactly what that is.
4. Alcohol disrupts sleep. Although having a couple of drinks may make you feel drowsy, it has a negative impact on the quality of your sleep.
Alcohol forces the body to go straight into deep sleep, bypassing the natural first stage of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement.) Once the alcohol begins to wear off, the body is thrown back into REM which is a much easier state to wake up from.
When you drink before bedtime, you might find yourself waking up a few hours later rather than sleeping all the way through until morning.
Don’t fall into the trap of using alcohol as a way to help you get off to sleep. If anything it’s far more likely to make you feel even more exhausted in the morning.
My Relationship with Alcohol Now
While I did enjoy drinking on the weekends, I was never a big casual drinker to begin with. I never found an alcohol that I actually enjoyed the taste of. Beer makes me gag, wine gives me a headache, & well, other than alcoholics, who actually likes the taste of vodka?
I’ve made peace with not drinking. You can still have a social life and not drink. I still go out with my friends, and have a great time. There are definitely some scenarios where it becomes awkward such as, when everyone starts taking shots, people offering to buy me a drink, or work functions.
I have nothing against people who drink. To be honest, if I could drink and feel no negative side effects, I would drink all the time. Anytime I drank I always became so tired. I was never the type to drink and stay out all night, because id literally be yawning at the bar thinking of my bed. I think I actually have it in me to stay out later now sober, compared to when I was drunk.
I no longer spend my weekends hung-over, I don’t waste any beautiful days cured up next to the toilet, and I don’t eat an entire Domino’s pizza after the bar.
My First Attempt at Drinking Again
I’m a pretty all or nothing person, so I am striving to live a more balanced life even if that includes having a drink here and there, or eating something I’m not supposed to from time to time.
One night I decided to drink. It was like five months without drinking, and I was like you know what I’m going to treat myself. I expected to have the best night ever and wakeup happy that I drank. I honestly did not have any more fun, than I usually did sober. That was whatever, but the next morning was the strangest feeling.
The Next Morning
I woke up, with no hangover! That was a shock and a step in the right direction. I thought I would for sure get sick after going so long without drinking.
While I was pretty excited about no hangover, I couldn’t get over how weird I felt. I stayed in bed until 1pm, I felt dehydrated and I felt like depressed. It was so strange. Nothing bad or negative happened, I wasn’t mad at myself for drinking, I legit just felt depressed for no reason. I decided to Google it, and I came across so many interesting articles that made complete sense. Alcohol is a depressant…. duh!
According to addictioncenter.com, “Alcohol ends up having the opposite effect. Alcohol is a depressant that slows the body down. Studies have consistently shown that alcohol use increases both the duration and the severity of depressive episodes. “
I thought it was just in my head, and then I read this and was like okay, good news I’m not crazy or depressed, it was just all of the Tito’s shots from last night.
One Year Later...
Fast-forward a year later, and I am now allowed to drink. I thought I would be more excited to hear those words, but when I found out on St. Patrick’s Day that I was allowed to drink, I really just didn’t care that much.
It’s been a few months, and I am happy that if I want to drink, I can drink. I wouldn’t consider myself as someone who completely abstains from alcohol, because I’m sure there will be a fair share of nights where I do decide that I want to drink.
My Advice to You
For those of you going through something similar to me, I hope my experience helps you. If you’re not allowed to drink, I hope it helps you make peace with it. If you can’t seem to give it up, because you worry about what will happen to your social life, I hope this gave you hope that you can still have a social life.
I won’t sugarcoat it, and tell you that it will be easy, because if you’re between the ages of 18-25 it won’t be easy. It will be awkward at first, you’ll feel like you’re missing out, people will treat you differently, people will make comments either to your face, or to your friends, and it will change your social life in some type of way. But, more importantly, you will you learn a lot about your relationships, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself, a lot more than you’d ever think.