Alcohol stopped being part of my life approximately 11 years ago. Initially, it was a temporary step for a few months to keep my drinking in check and after a few months, I realised I preferred life without it.
I have consumed alcohol fewer than 10 times since and have little interest in it at this stage. I am part of the just over one in 5 adults in Ireland who don't drink alcohol.
While a moderate amount of alcohol (up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger) is shown to be beneficial for health and wellbeing, excessive or binge drinking which is quite common in Ireland is not.
The book the Blue Zones champions the communities around the world where there are maximum number of healthy centenarians. Alcohol is part of their daily life in many places. The key is that they keep it to one a day which not all of us can.
Alcohol consumption in Ireland almost trebled between 1960 and 2001, increasing from an average of 4.9 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15 and over to 14.3 litres. 2017 levels were 11.15 litres. It is not just the average that is of concern. It is how and why you drink. Drinking to get drunk is common in Ireland and we have the second highest rates of binge drinking in the world after Austria.
A recent survey on alcohol consumption patterns shows that more than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers. 1.35 million are harmful drinkers, and 30% of people interviewed admit to experiencing some form of harm as a result of their alcohol consumption. 75% of alcohol consumed in Ireland is done as part of binge drinking and we underestimate what we drink by about 60%. (Health Research Board)
Harmful use of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 diseases and injury conditions, including liver cirrhosis, heart disease and cancer (WHO). It is responsible for 88 deaths every month in Ireland. One in four deaths of men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol. It is a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland and in over a third of cases of deliberate self-harm. Drink-driving is also a factor in 40 percent of all deaths on Irish roads; 1 in 2 pedestrians killed on roads had consumed alcohol. Alcohol misuse also leads to significant social and economic losses as it affects relationships, family life, public safety, healthcare costs and productivity.
The article today is to get you to look at your own consumption. Are your consumption patterns healthy and is it enhancing your wellbeing, quality of life and relationships or taking from them.
While alcohol has a lot of positives, few of us use it to its optimum outcome.
While it can feel strange to not drink or drink less at social occasions, after a few events, you become used to it. Over the years I have met many people who have cut back or cut out alcohol. I have never met anyone that regrets doing so. For some it is an easier thing to do and others significantly more difficult.
There are many organisations and people that can help. Doing it brings confidence and many other good feelings. It can also solve or prevent other problems harmful drinking creates and free you to focus on what is important in life - which is living it.