Why would someone consider living an alcohol-free life? There are many benefits of living alcohol-free, both mentally and physically. But is living alcohol-free right for you?
Why Karolina became alcohol-free
Alcohol is an awkward subject in our society. Most people don’t speak of or address alcohol until there is a significant problem with it. Karolina, however, has worked with so many women who have been drinking very normally with the society around them. This was the same for Karolina, drinking a lot in college and into her twenties. As she got older, she was very healthy from Monday to Thursday, and then on the weekends, alcohol came into play and she always overdrank. By Monday she felt emotionally drained and didn’t have the stamina to face the week. She would make healthy progress and then bulldoze it over the weekend. She lived this pattern for years.
Until she heard of dry January. Dry January was the permission she needed to try life without alcohol without fear of judgment from her peers. This gave her the freedom to do and try other things. By the time February arrived, she was enjoying this new lifestyle, but she drank a few times and learned that she didn’t like how she felt when she drank.
She noticed a significant difference in her physical and emotional health when she was not putting alcohol into her body. And this led her to address self-limiting beliefs and do things she’d always dreamt of doing such as writing a book and starting a business.
About Karolina Rzadkowolska
Karolina is a certified alcohol-free coach who helps powerful women make alcohol insignificant in their lives. She’s worked with thousands of clients through her online courses and coaching to change their drinking habits and unleash a new level of health, happiness, and potential to go after their biggest dreams. Karolina is the author of Euphoric: Ditch Alcohol and Gain a Happier, More Confident You and host of Euphoric the Podcast, and founder of Euphoric Alcohol-Free. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, PopSugar, Authority Magazine, Greatist, and Elite Daily. Karolina is passionate about helping you discover what really makes you happy outside of a beverage and design a life you love.
The science behind how alcohol affects the human body
Karolina originally thought that the way alcohol made her feel was specific to her and not to other people. But as she began talking about her experience with being alcohol-free, she discovered other people experienced the symptoms too. Symptoms like sleepless nights, night sweats, feeling groggy, etc. are simply how alcohol affects the human body.
Alcohol reduces REM sleep. We typically have 5 to 6 cycles of REM sleep per night. Even one glass of wine per night decreases the number of REM cycles down to 1 or 2. Even if sleeping 8 hours, you aren’t getting the emotional nourishment you need because of the decrease in REM sleep.
With more than one glass of wine, the body has a counteractive system, alcohol slows everything down, and numbs everything. There is a counterbalance in the body and it releases stress hormones; cortisol, adrenaline, and dynorphin which make you feel dull and glum. This release of adrenalin will cause you to have restless fragmented sleep and you’ll be less rested and maybe glummer or a little more anxious the next day.
The effect of alcohol on hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain
The body detoxes from alcohol in approximately 1 to 2 days, depending on how much you drink. But the stress hormones can remain for a week or two. When drinking every week, you don’t get to experience the natural state of the body, and how it feels without alcohol.
When you take a break from alcohol, you can rebalance these chemicals in your body, the stress hormones go down, but the happiness neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA go up. Over time, alcohol lowers these neurotransmitters. Initially, alcohol will cause a spike in dopamine in the pleasure center of your brain, but after that 20-minute buzz, it crashes and goes even lower than it was before. It also desensitizes you from naturally occurring joy.
When Karolina took a break from alcohol and her body rebalanced, she was happier and giddier than ever in her life. She felt awe, gratitude, and appreciation and was laughing more. This is why she calls her business euphoric.
How does someone recognize that it is time to remove alcohol from their life?
First, you don’t need to wait until things are really bad.
Karolina works with people having one glass at a time.
Ask yourself if alcohol is making you happier and if it is having a positive effect on your life long-term. Another question to ask is does drinking alcohol align with your values? Does it let you explore deeper dreams or is it keeping you stuck in the status quo?
Everyone has an alcohol story. The key is to ask if alcohol is serving you. When you are younger, is one thing, but is it serving you for where you want to go in the future?
Most people are drinking more than the recommended level of alcohol and many say they would like to drink less or not at all. Until you try being alcohol-free, you won’t know if you feel better without it.
Alcohol influences metabolism and weight
The cortisol levels increased by alcohol will also influence belly size, something that is already at risk of increasing for middle-aged women going through peri-menopause and menopause. Alcohol will slow your metabolism down for about 3 hours. The body has to process the calories from alcohol first so the metabolism of proteins and other food sources is paused when you drink. This results in the food being stored as fat. Alcohol not only slows metabolism but will alter the signals from the brain for filling full, and blocks some nutrients. It blocks vitamins A, D, and C and it causes you to be hungrier more often.
Alcohol and mental health
Karolina emphasized that it increases stress hormones and reduces naturally occurring joy. She also felt apathetic, restless, and bored. One thing she didn’t recognize was the sense of boredom. When you become alcohol-free, you start to realize the uncomfortable feelings that you were masking with alcohol. Our feelings are the barometers in our lives. What Karoline wasn’t able to feel was how unfulfilled she was with her week and how she was using the weekends to make up for that. Drinking was the biggest highlight in her life. Once she went alcohol-free, she was able to recognize that she wasn’t following her dreams. Being alcohol-free allower her to deal with the deeper feeling of boredom, which is actually a beautiful thing.
Boredom is the secret to all innovation, it is the secret to creativity and inventiveness. Experiencing boredom allowed Karolina to try new things and new hobbies.
Alcohol affects our pleasure center in a different way than all of the other experiences available to induce natural joy and pleasure. The effect on pleasure from alcohol is temporary.
Living alcohol-free allowed Karolina to defy the limitations she’d always put on herself and she began to feel a bigger sense of purpose.
Health benefits of living alcohol-free
There are also physical benefits of living alcohol-free, which include:
lowering blood pressure
lowering blood cholesterol
growing your gray matter
healing liver fat
reducing cancer markers
All with just one month of living alcohol-free.
Relationships and living alcohol-free
The social aspect of going alcohol-free is the most challenging. Once Karolina went alcohol-free, her friends and family also became vulnerable and their relationships improved because they reinvented their friendships and talked about deeper things.
She also inspired her friends and family by starting her business and writing her book.
Karoline shared the analogy of the rising tide lifts all boats. When you do something so life-changing, you have an opportunity to create a ripple effect. At least 52% of Americans say that they want to drink less or not at all. Those people are around you. So instead of feeling like an odd man out, think of being the leader and influencing others.
After a period of getting used to a new norm and realizing that your relationship hasn’t changed, people accept what you are doing. Karolina shared the analogy of the crabs in a bucket. How if one crab is trying to climb out, the other crabs will bring it back down. So when you change it often brings fear to other people, because they may think you won’t approve of them. It may also bring a mirror to their relationship with alcohol and they may try to stop you, become defensive, or bring you down.
If people don’t want to hang out with you because you don’t drink, is it possible that alcohol was the only thing you had in common and maybe you weren’t as good of friends as you thought?
When you create space, you open the door for the most meaningful relationships.
What is the first step to becoming alcohol-free?
The first step is to change your mindset around alcohol. We’ve all been taught to glamourize alcohol and it’s important to understand that we are all a part of that society.
Questions to ask to help determine your mindset around alcohol:
- Do I feel more glamorous and sophisticated when I drink alcohol?
- Does alcohol help me fit in?
- Do I need alcohol to have fun?
Get interested in a different perspective on alcohol to start changing your mindset.
Lean into alternate information, and read a book, like Euphoric by Karolina.
The next step is to take a break from alcohol. Start where you are and go 3 days, then 7 days, then a month, and once you get to 100 days and you’ll really see life-changing benefits.
Taking a break from alcohol will help you realize so many things about yourself and life. You will really begin to discover yourself.
Learn more about Karolina and connect with her:
If you are struggling with anxiety and have been using alcohol to try to decrease it, download my free eBook: Alleviate anxiety by developing healthy habits for a healthy mind. Developing healthy habits can be life-changing and very beneficial.