Friday, 6 April 2018

Metal Nurse: Alcohol Free For The Year

On the 1st of March, I decided to take a sabbatical from alcohol. Not because I am an alcoholic, but because I don't want to become one. In the past year, I have found that my consumption of beer has gone up. I could see how easy it is to go from just having one, to JUST having two, to JUST having three. This would just start the occasional evening, slowly creeping up to every evening. Working where I work I have taken care of plenty (too many) people who are there because of alcohol. And every time I think "I don't want to end up like that".  To end up having to take medications to assist you through the withdrawals, end up having seizures because said alcohol withdrawal. Running the risk of developing Hepatic Encephalopathy. Hooked up to a vitamin drip, plus other intravenous fluids because chances are that you will also be severely hydrated because the alcohol has depleted your vitamins and electrolytes from your body and brain. Taking copious amounts of laxatives in order to prevent the build-up of ammonia in your body.

Yes, I am not an alcoholic and I didn't feel like I am becoming one. But quite frankly I didn't want to risk becoming one. It just doesn't feel worth it. There isn't just the physical health side of things to consider there is also the mental health aspect of it. For many it is a form of coping mechanism to drink excessively, to suppress their depression and hide their anxiety. Without actually being aware that it is making both of those worse. Long-term excessive drinking can and does lead to psychosis and dementia. To go from wanting a drink to needing a drink, when you feel jittery and shaking, which doesn't stop until you've had your breakfast consisting of last nights unfinished booze. If you already suffer from depression/anxiety you run the risk of making it worse, and if you don't suffer from those debilitating illnesses you run the risk of developing them. Then there is the public health implication. In the UK excessive alcohol consumption costs society as a whole a whopping £21 billion.  In the US the number is $249 billion, and that was in 2010, I can't imagine that that number has gone down since. WHO estimates that alcohol accounts for 5.1% of the total global disease burden, in 2012 over 3 million died due to alcohol-related conditions. 

I know that there is also that rumour that it helps to relax, but I am not so sure anymore. I didn't actually find that it does. If anything I feel more stressed, especially the day after, my sleep is more disrupted and I am even grumpier when I wake up. All good research also shows that. You don't get enough sleep. You don't get enough REM sleep, it disrupts your circadian rhythm because alcohol relaxes your muscles it makes you more prone to sleep apnea, etc etc. Recent research have been implicating lack of sleep as one of the causes of ill mental health, as opposed to a symptom. So it all seems a little circular. I felt it was time to smash that circle. I like my sleep, and I prefer my sleep to be undisturbed. I especially didn't want to have to wake up several times just to have to empty my bladder. I want to wait at least another 50 years until that has to be a feature in my life.

Even just looking at the health evidence of all the ill effects that alcohol does to your body and mind. Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of cancer development. At least 7 different ones, including breast cancer, bowel cancer and liver cancer. Drinking also increases your risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, which itself is a risk factor in developing cancer of the liver. There is also increased the risk of developing acute pancreatitis, which itself leads to chronic pancreatitis, which in turn increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Alcohol also adversely affects the cardiovascular system. It increases your risk of developing hypertension, coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. All of which also increase your risk of stroke and heart attacks. You run the risk of developing Wernicke's Encephalopathy, which is caused by depletion of thiamine, this condition often precedes a condition called Korsakoff Syndrome. The more I read and the more I think about it, it just doesn't feel worth it. 

Plus it's expensive. I don't particularly like the day after feeling, not just the full-blown hangover. But that 'bleurgh' feeling without a headache. Even without thinking about all the physical health issues, it just doesn't feel worth it.  But giving up the alcohol. That does feel worth it.
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