Urgent Help
IS THIS AN EMERGENCY? Are you or others in danger? Do you need an ambulance or the police? 24 HOURS
Lifeline 24 hour phone line for crisis support and suicide prevention. 24 HOURS
13YARN 24 hour crisis phone line support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 24 HOURS

Giving up alcohol has many benefits to health and wellbeing. Here’s how to pause the habit

This opinion piece was featured on ABC Health & Wellbeing on 11 February 2023.

What if I told you I’d found a tablet that could make you sleep better, think clearer, concentrate longer, run faster, and help your immune system?

That doing one simple thing could bring such a wide host of health and wellbeing benefits.

Well, what if I told you that instead of taking something new, you just needed to pause something instead?

February is here, and this means I have joined febfast alongside thousands of Aussies to pause a habit in my life — drinking alcohol — while raising money for young people facing significant disadvantage.

Why alcohol?

Alcohol, chemically known as ethanol, is a psychoactive substance. It’s produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast, and commonly found in beer, wine, and spirits.

It is also a toxin that affects every part of our body. When alcohol is consumed, it quickly enters the bloodstream through the digestive system. In the liver, enzymes work to metabolise ethanol, breaking it down into less harmful substances.

However, our liver can only process a limited amount per hour, and excessive alcohol can overwhelm this process, leading to the accumulation of toxic by-products.

Why pause?

When alcohol enters the bloodstream and reaches your brain, the short-term effects are varied. The central nervous system is particularly affected by alcohol, as it acts as a depressant, slowing down brain function and inhibiting neurotransmitter activity.

This means it changes our mood and behaviour, slows our thinking, affects our brainwaves, interrupts the cleaning process of our brain tissue, and impairs our decision making and cognitive function. This results in impaired coordination and altered judgement.

In addition to its effects on our brain, alcohol also affects our metabolism and our weight. It’s packed with calories which our brain doesn’t recognise in the same way as food, meaning we can consume a lot more. It also changes the way we digest food, and even our appetite directly.

In the end, we often eat more without realising and consume greater energy overall.

But the effects of drinking don’t stop there. Even small amounts of alcohol can lead to our immune system taking a beating, and we might find ourselves at higher risk of catching a cold or coming down with something.

Alcohol can also have a significant effect on sleep patterns and quality. It disrupts the natural sleep cycle by reducing the amount of rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, a crucial phase associated with dreaming and cognitive restoration.

Additionally, it can contribute to fragmented and lighter sleep, leading to increased wakefulness during the night. This in turn affects our concentration, mood and alertness in the days following. Even moderate alcohol consumption close to bedtime can interfere with the body’s ability to enter deeper, more restorative sleep stages.

Longer term, alcohol increases the risks of breast cancer, heart disease and weight-related diabetes.

How to pause

Despite the clear health benefits, giving up alcohol isn’t simple for most people. A non-drinker is often met with suspicion or accusation in the social context, and ads prompt us to drink every time we drive by a bus stop, log onto social media, or watch our favourite TV show.

If you’re considering joining me on febfast, or pausing alcohol as we kick off a new year, think about three things to boost your chances of success.

First, set clear and realistic goals. Define specific, achievable objectives for reducing or pausing alcohol. Establishing realistic targets, like pausing for one month, can help you stay focused and motivated.

Second, share your decision with friends and family so that they can support your decision at every step. Having reliable support systems can provide encouragement, understanding, and accountability. Surrounding yourself with people who respect your choice can significantly increase your chances of success.

Finally, invest time in developing alternative coping mechanisms. Identify healthy substitutes for the roles alcohol may have played in your life, such as stress relief or socialising.

Engage in activities that promote wellbeing, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones. Developing alternative coping mechanisms helps replace old habits with positive, fulfilling alternatives. With busy lives and budgets under strain, we’re all looking for simple and affordable ways to be healthy and feel great.

Instead of adding yet another tablet, workout, or commitment to your schedule, consider the multiple benefits of pausing or giving something away. With one small but powerful change, it’s possible to bring a host of wellbeing benefits that will keep you sleeping better, thinking clearer, and feeling great — now and into the long term.

About febfast

This February, you get to choose how you’ll change young people’s lives.

Across Australia, thousands of people take on the month-long challenge for the month of February to raise funds for young people experiencing serious disadvantage to access the resources and support they require to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Find out more or register at www.febfast.org.au

The latest from YSAS

Media Release  
23.05.2024

Up to 330 young people per year who come into contact with police will be denied access to an effective program that can turn them away from crime and toward a better future.

Despite a recent rise in youth crime and concerns about community safety, the State Government did…

Media Release  
23.04.2024

YSAS welcomes the Allan government’s Statewide Action Plan to reduce alcohol-related harm, including the appointment of Victoria’s first Chief Addiction Advisor.

YSAS CEO Andrew Bruun said the plan demonstrates the government’s commitment to making evidence-based harm reduction policy and treatment available to those who most need it.

“A targeted,…

Media Release  
23.04.2024

Young people with lived experience of drug and alcohol-related harm are disappointed the Victorian government won’t create a safe injecting service in Melbourne’s CBD.

YSAS practitioners, addiction medicine specialists and experts with lived and living experience have supported the life-saving North Richmond supervised safe injecting service since its inception in 2018.

Story  
22.04.2024

John Albrecht has fundraised for febfast each year for 15 years, often raising over $10,000. Here are his top tips for boosting your fundraising efforts.

When it comes to charity fundraisers – think febfast, Run for the Kids etc. – it’s often the money-raising bit that’s the hardest. We diligently…

Story  
04.03.2024

Daniel Robinson Croft is a lived and living experience Youth Peer Advocate at Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), Australia’s largest youth-specific community service organisation focussed on youth alcohol and other drugs, mental health and youth services. Daniel frequently volunteers for various harm reduction services within Victoria and is a community campaigner for…

Media Release  
07.02.2024

One week into the month-long national fundraiser febfast over 2,000 participants have signed up to take a break from alcohol, go sugar-free of give up another vice. In the midst of Australia’s cost-of-living crisis it’s never been a more important time to support charities experiencing the double pinch of…

Media Release  
31.01.2024

National fundraiser febfast has begun— where Aussies ditch booze, sugar or another vice to improve their health and raise funds for young people facing addiction.

To mark the beginning of febfast, CEO of VicHealth Dr Sandro Demaio is available to talk about the scientific health benefits…

Story  
30.01.2024

Official 2024 febfast Australia Ambassadors Sarah Bunnell and David Andrew from Naked Life Spirits share their secrets and tips for cutting back or switching sober for 29 days this February to raise funds for YSAS services and programs.

In the heart of Melbourne’s vibrant scene, amidst trendy…