How Taking A Break From Drinking Can Help Heal Your Relationship
For some relationships, alcohol can be poison.
One minute you’re gazing lovingly into your partner’s eyes, the next, after a few drinks and a snide comment, it’s all-out war. Loving looks are replaced by daggers; nasty comments take the place of kind words.
This was a weekly occurrence for Amy and Noel*. Whether out at a bar with friends or alone at home on the PlayStation, if drinks were involved, bam, all it took was one slight ‘off’ remark or an unusual glance and they were dragged into a destructive argument.
As their friend, it was awkward to be around. The dirty laundry was there for everyone to see. It was hard to watch and even harder to remember they loved each other.
Out of the blue Amy told me they realised something needed to change and they were doing a month sober.
I was dubious, but four weeks later I saw how refreshed they were – and how much stronger their relationship became.
Here’s what they learned from four weeks booze free.
#1 They’d used alcohol to cover up their issues
My friends told me they subconsciously knew the impact of drinking on their relationship. Drinking had become a tool to get difficult situations out on the table. Sober communication was their real problem.
Laura Bajurny from The Alcohol and Drug Foundation says alcohol is known to lower inhibitions and reduce our ability to regulate emotions, so issues are more likely to come out when intoxicated.
“Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows down all of the signalling in your body. You become physically and mentally slower as well as unable to think long term and consider consequences. This is called ‘alcohol myopia’, it’s like taking your foot off the brakes; where someone may say something they usually wouldn’t, or act on things they can usually control,” she says.
My friends knew they had to confront their issues without using alcohol to do it for them. The result of four weeks wine-free? Four weeks without fights. Not one.
#2 They had weekends that lasted forever
The presence of alcohol in their relationship shortened their weekends in a few ways. There was the arguing, the hangovers, the getting up late and being constantly tired. Amy said she never felt like she even had a weekend.
Laura explains, “The day after drinking you’re likely to be tired and dehydrated. Even if you’ve passed out and had eight hours sleep, it’s not restful sleep as your body’s been actively metabolising the alcohol.”
Then there’s the depression, sadness, regret and embarrassment, or as Laura calls it, “the booze blues”, which can all impact negatively on the relationship.
Without the alcohol, Amy and Noel got some great sleep – which is pivotal to mood and thought processes – and were able to get up off the couch and spend quality time together instead.
#3 They got into extra-curricular activities!
Amy tells me cutting booze reignited her sex drive. They weren’t having drunken sex or make up sex after an argument but real, intimate sex. This strengthened their bond further in the process. She says because of her improved moods and feeling healthier weight-wise, she felt more confident to initiate sex too.
They also did a lot of those activities you always say you should do, but never get round to doing. Amy loves cultural stuff; museums, markets, art galleries, comedy, theatre, you name it. She finally did all those things and Noel joined her for a shared experience, even when he had to be dragged kicking and screaming.
#4 They got healthy
“Drinking is often connected to poor nutritional choices. Reduced inhibitions can also lead you straight to the kebab shop at 3am – hands up who feel like a salad when you’re hungover?!” Laura says.
My mates didn’t just lose weight through canning the beers and binning burgers – but also by taking up exercise, the result of having more energy. They also say they slept more soundly and had greater mental clarity.
As Laura explains, “there are many preventable diseases like liver damage and high blood pressure linked to alcohol but if one or the other suffers with mental health issues, alcohol can make these worse as it affects your neurochemistry; the chemical reactions in your brain that regulate mood and pleasure.”
#5 They bonded
It was a tough month, but they spurred each other on and worked as a team to get through all the BBQs and friend’s birthdays. Together, they identified which events might be tricky for them and made some good joint decisions. They explained to me it wasn’t as hard as they thought it would be: they filled their time with other things, they were in it together and the benefits were outweighing the costs the whole time.
And after the month? They aren’t saints, but they definitely didn’t go back to their old ways. They were far more aware of the ways alcohol affected them as a couple and didn’t want the experience they shared to be for nothing.
They’ve set boundaries, drink it less often and continually work on their relationship – with each other, and with alcohol.
*Name has been changed.
A published freelance writer from print to online, Katy’s passion is honest authentic writing. From the mundane experience to a sensational observation, Katy always finds a way to voice what she sees. Relatable and quirky, she writes with warmth and familiarity. She also loves lists, matching socks and edamame beans.