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How stopping drinking alcohol made me a better teacher.

Over the years, I had grown into a habitual drinker. I would drink a glass of wine or three after a hard day at school. I would celebrate Friday by enjoying a bottle of red with dinner. Saturday night would be bubbles whilst dancing or BBQs with friends. I developed a habit and I didn’t like it. I was feeling crappy, dehydrated and flat. So I decided to detox and took on a 90 day no alcohol challenge.

So how did it make me a better teacher?

Not drinking alcohol gives me more energy on a Monday morning for school. I have more time at the weekends to think and plan fun lessons for my students instead of nursing a hangover. I have less brain fog from dehydration and am better organised. My classroom management is better because I am more patient with my students and less irritable. Giving up alcohol has improved my physical and mental health, of that I am certain. I am a better teacher because instead of consistently thinking, ‘Should I have a drink? What should I drink? Is it too early to drink?’ Instead, I am thinking about being a better teacher, mum, wife, daughter. You get the picture.

How did I stop drinking?

Sitting here on day 501 with no alcohol, it feels easy. But in fact, it was super hard. I like a goal to work towards, so I signed up for the 90 days One Year No Beer online challenge. This kept me accountable and I was able to connect with others online for support. The first few weeks were easy. This was only because I was unlucky enough to get pneumonia and was in bed for 3 weeks.

But after I started to feel better, the pull towards having a relaxing glass of Sauvignon Blanc was strong. I resisted. With my online support and accountability buddies, I did it. I also listened to a lot of audiobooks on giving up alcohol. This in the trade is called ‘quit lit’. Basically, it is stories of others who have given up drinking alcohol. I have some recommendations.

Interestingly, I found some of the stories had exactly the same issues as me and listening to how they dealt with them was very useful. One of the major problems I was having was peer pressure from friends and work colleagues to have an alcoholic beverage. ‘Just one will be fine’, they would say. I was no longer party Jay and had become boring.

After the 90 days, I decided to continue to 120 days. Then I just kept going. The wine witch was getting quieter and quieter and to be honest, I didn’t want her to come back. I didn’t want to think about if I should have a wine or not. Claire Pooley in The Sober Diaries calls this the ‘wine witch’. In her stories, she is funny and truthful. She explains how to get rid of the ‘wine witch’ and I total agree with her. Basically, the longer you go without a drink and starve her, the quieter she gets.

I still kept away from events where there were drunk people. It was hard to listen to the conversations after a while. Drunk people don’t make great conversation. I found great alternatives to drinking. I met with friends for high tea or had yummy food at posh restaurants. Because I was driving, I would go further afield without thinking about how much the Uber would be.

Does not drinking alcohol make you boring?

After about 400 days, I felt the pull to go out dancing again. Yes, you can have a great time clubbing and not be hungover the next day. I joked and told my Dad. ‘Dad, I have been out out’ (click here to see a funny Micky Flanagan sketch on what it means to be ‘out out’). I went on to say. I had had a fantastic time partying and dancing without a single drop of alcohol. My Dad found it hilarious to tell me that he had read a news article saying over 35-year-olds were too old for clubbing. What! At 43, I still have a few years left in me before I hang up my high heels. Anyway, I digress.

Now, my friends are happy with my ‘not drinking’ and totally think I am not boring. I am always the first on the dance floor. You can’t get me off the microphone at karaoke nights. They also have the additional benefit of a free ride. The one downside is, I am sooo done by 12. No more late nights for me, too old for that.

Another issue I had when I first give up alcohol was people asking me why I had given up. ‘What a funny question’, I thought. Alcohol is a drug. Just because it is a socially acceptable drug doesn’t make it healthy. All the quit lit I read, they all had these same issues. Quit lit gives you great tips on what to say in response to this question. I found having the 90-day challenge made it easier to explain in the beginning.

Does being sober give you more energy?

From personal experience, I can answer with certainty. Hell YES! I have even started running again. I have registered for a half marathon on my Birthday in September. No way would I be able to train for a half marathon if I was nursing hangovers. I have more work energy and invest this energy into researching fun, engaging activities for my students. Additionally, I want to get creative in my classroom, with more complex instructional strategies to keep students’ minds active and my own.

I am also writing more with a clear mind. I have set myself some awesome goals. I want to blog two to three times a week. I want to improve my grammar and spelling. As a math and physical education teacher, I am always growing in this space. Not only have I got more energy, but my anxiety has also gone. I have to admit this is also the result of giving up coffee too, but that is a different blog;-)

I have been listening to a few goal-setting books with all this new energy to give myself targets and challenges to improve in life and teaching. Some of my all-time favourites are.

Other benefits of not drinking alcohol.

  • Improved classroom management and lesson designs.
  • Having more money to spend on other things such as massages and facials.
  • Not having to worry about acting a fool when drunk or acting unprofessionally at work functions.
  • I don’t smell of alcohol.
  • My kids don’t think drinking alcohol is the norm.
  • My sleep is amazing.
  • Less calorie intake.
  • The list goes on and on.

There are so many benefits to living a life without alcohol, so why not give it a try?

With Dry July around the corner. There is no better time.

To read more on becoming more effective in the classroom by improving your classroom management, click here.

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