Going booze-free? The effects of a month without alcohol

Dean Burnett: What does swearing off alcohol for a month do to a person? What scientific consequences can it have?

Alcohol. Its a popular social lubricant, provides pleasure, and often tastes nice. It also has long term health repercussions, and imposes a heavy burden on our society. Overall, its a mixed blessing.

At present its becoming ever-more fashionable, even charitable, to abstain from alcohol for the month of January. After the indulgence of the Christmas period, its hardly surprising people will want to do something healthy, and what could be healthier than giving up alcohol?

But is that actually a rhetorical question? There are debates as to whether or not alcohol is good for you, or whether giving it up has any benefits. Nobody seems to have a straight answer, so I supposed Id offer my own experiences. I abstained from alcohol last January, but as a trained neuroscientist I opted to keep detailed notes as to my physical and mental state as the month progressed, to find what the absence of alcohol did to me. I wasnt a problem drinker( and still am not as far as I know ), but I did like a glass of wine of an evening, and met with friends in the pub once a week or thereabouts. So how would a sudden absence of this chemical depressant effect me?


Its easier to give up drinking if you can associate alcohol with unsavoury characters. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/ AFP/ Getty Images

Day 1

No change that I can detect at present. But then I did go out last night, must have had about 10 divisions, so odds are its still in my bloodstream, given how long it takes the liver to clear it out. Also my head feels like Ive had my brain replaced with concrete and transgresses glass and my stomach seems to be trying to declare independence from my body, but then thats to be expected .~ ATAGEND

Day 3

Pretty sure its all out of my system now. Starting to feel somewhat sharper and focused admittedly, but thats probably just my brain returning to normal levels of functioning.

Day 5

Find myself feeling more energetic, possibly because my liver doesnt “re going to have to” spend so much time clearing the alcohol out of my system. As a outcome, it can provide more energy and important metabolites. I chose I should put this enhanced function to good use, perhaps use this opportunity to build up my livers important mineral stores, like iron. This strategy was aborted when my spouse caught me trying to eat a box of fingernails. I had assumed it was alcohol causing me to have impaired judgement, but its possible this is my default state of being.

Day 7

My memory is improving. Several times today my spouse has built statements that she has made at other times over the past two years and I was able and willing to point out exactly when she said them and how she objective up being incorrect each time. I am also able to sleep better now, which is handy as Im doing a lot of it on the sofa.


Science fact: for some people, their wine uptake is inversely proportional to their squeak output. Photograph: 68/ George Doyle/ Ocean/ Corbis

Day 10

Met up with some friends in the pub last night. As Im not drinking I just had apple juice and put the time to good use by explaining to each of them the damage they were doing to themselves with their alcohol intake and pointing out how much better I am now due to me not drinking. I had to leave early in the end as they have begun get hostile, which is another effect of alcohol I hadnt considered. I pity them and their stunted experience of the world.

Day 12

Energy levels and focus continues to rise, attaining me feel stronger and more agile all the time. It results to me that I may have been bitten by a radioactive spider while I slept. Ergo, I may be Spider-Man? I have not noticed any extra glands for secreting web fluid, but with my enhanced cognition it shouldnt be a problem to assemble an efficient wrist-mounted apparatus for simulating this.

Day 13

Just got home from hospital after being treated for traumata caused by my falling off the building I was attempting to scale. I got a stern telling off from the doctor, both for my ridiculous behaviour and for interrupting him constantly to tell him Im not drinking.

Day 16

My improved focus and cognition entail I am far more productive. Today I calculated my taxes for the next 5 years employing an exquisitely complex algorithm that I came up with that deduces my incomes and outgoings with less than a 0.05% margin of fault, reorganised the house so that the air flow ensures maximum effectiveness of the heating system, and solved Fermats last theorem while attaining some toast. I was going to write it down, but with my vastly improved memory there is no need.


Abstaining from cocktails means you can give up several types of alcohol at once. Photograph: PR company handout

Day 19

Im starting to remember things from my early childhood. Like, really early, from birth to 6 months old, in exquisite detail. So embarrassing, how could I have soiled myself so often? What was I believing!

Day 21

Decided to count all the atoms in the house. My spouse told me that this was a ridiculous endeavour as you cant know both the position and velocity of an elementary particle due to the uncertainty principle. I told her this was just a delusion by people who werent focused enough.

Day 24

About half way through counting all the atoms in my house, have done the ground floor and upstairs bathroom, but I keep get confused by a low hissing audio. After ruling out all possible sources in my home, I realised I was now hearing the echoes of the Big Bang. Precisely how my brains hearing system, which responds to changes in air pressure, was detecting low-level radiation is uncertain, but I guess thats what giving up drinking does to you.

Day 27

I dont need to keep these notes anymore. I see all. I know all. I recollect all. With my enhanced intellect and brain, it is my is under an obligation bring enlightenment to all those lesser beings. And I will do so. By force if necessary. How could anyone stand against me? They are but insects to the God-like status I have achieved.

Day 31

Told some rugby fans in town that they should submit to my teaches or responding to the wrath of my almighty brain. They wedged me upside down in a bin. I genuinely need a drink right now.

Day 32

Had a drink. Feel much better now. I recollect something about Spider-Man and being a God, but that was probably just a dreaming.

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Sometimes you are able to end up so sick of not drinking. Photograph: Radius Images/ Alamy

So there you go. In truth, the impact of giving up drinking is something that cant genuinely be generalised in any useful style as it depends on so many factors. Your regular uptake, you age, body kind, diet, genetics, family history, all of it.

Each person reacts differently, and while abstaining from alcohol is likely a good move overall in a health-sense, dont expect it to be some magic bullet that solves all your problems in one easy step. It might even have a negative impact, like attaining you think up ridiculous events for the amusement of strangers online.

Dean Burnett isnt drinking this month, but doesnt expect you to sponsor him so dont worry. @garwboy

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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