Morning Drinking

There are a few fairly nonsensical indicators when it comes to problem drinking. Things like drinking alone and experiencing memory loss. I doubt there is a serious drinker on the planet who hasn’t had drinking induced memory loss to one degree or another, unless they are one of the temperate few who never drank more then they intended. As for drinking alone, surely someone who has a glass of two in front of the telly one or two days a week has far less of an issue than someone who drinks to oblivion every night with friends (or acquaintances) in the local pub or bar.

Morning drinking is another one, it is often cited as a symptom of problem drinking, but that means that everyone who has had a morning drink at a wedding, or at Christmas, or at the airport before going on holiday, had a drinking problem.

As you can see all of these so called symptoms of problem drinking are very subjective, but I think that morning drinking, if not a symptom of having a drinking problem per se, can be a significant stepping stone on the journey to chronic alcoholism.

My ‘morning drinks’ were actually middle of the night drinks. Whenever I drank I would always wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning, anxious and utterly unable to get back to sleep despite being absolutely shattered. I would lie there unable to sleep for the rest of the night and get out of bed even more shattered in the morning than before I went to bed. I now know that the reason for this was simply that my brain had released naturally occurring stimulants to counter the depressive effects of the alcohol, and after a few hours as the alcohol was processed and removed from my body the stimulants would remain, leaving me nervous and unable to sleep (for more detail on this see Chapter 2 of Alcohol Explained which you can read here). However all I knew at the time was that I would have dreadful insomnia when I drank.

Anyway one day I was reading a book (I think it was ‘It’ by Stephen King) and in it one of the characters would keep a can of beer back to drink in the night when they woke up with a hangover so they could get back to sleep. So one night I tried it. The effect was astounding.

One drink removed the nervous, anxious feeling, replaced it with a feeling of calmness and contentment and, above, all, sleepiness. I went to bed and got straight back to sleep.

The problem of course is the same problem every drinker has throughout their drinking career; specifically that you need an ever increasing amount to get the same effect. The first time I had a night drink I needed one drink to feel calm and content and able to go back to sleep, but soon I needed two then three then four. And so it went on.

The physiological reason is fairly simple. If you drink a substantial amount every night, the brain has the stimulants ready to go later in the day. Take a drink in the morning (or in the night) and the brain isn’t ready for it, it has no stimulants ready to counter the alcohol, so one drink and you’re off and away. But the brain learns quickly, and very quickly starts to create ever more stimulants, and has them ready morning, noon or night, whenever you regularly have a drink.

So if you do take a morning drink just to get rid of the worst of the hangover, it may well do that, but in no time at all that one drink will become 2 then 3 then 4, and soon you’ll just be embarking on another drinking session in the morning, just to get going.

That is exactly what happened to me as my night drinking turned from one to two to three to four and so on. The problem is it is not just the amount of drinks that increases, but also the amount of time it takes to drink them. The increase happens incrementally (as our drinking does) and as ever it’s a sudden wake up call that makes us realise how badly things are deteriorating. We all have our low points, or rock bottoms. If you are anything like me you have several, but one of my lowest points was waking up at night nervous, anxious and unable to sleep, getting up and sitting on the sofa and drinking away, and just as I was feeling sleepy enough to get back to sleep, hearing the morning alarm go off and then realising I was absolutely staggering drunk, so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open, and having a full day at work ahead of me.

And today I was talking to someone and said I didn’t drink, and they asked if I missed it. Miss it? I still cannot get over the joy of being free from it. I just thank my lucky stars I got out when I did, and had the knowledge I had to allow me to escape.

14 Comments

  1. This is amazing! Thank you! I am Day 20 alcohol free right now and elated! Awaiting your book in the mail, as I have ordered it. Following Annie Grace’s 30 day alcohol experiment. I am also elated to be free of alcohol. cannot imagine going through that again. I am profoundly happy and grateful for finding your information. It sure does shine the light in the darkness.

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  2. Hi. Just a note to say how grateful I am to you and your book. I have recommended it strongly on the 5:2 diet website ( the monthly challenge blogs) and loads of people have said how much it has helped them. I have finally got my life back, just as I’ve retired at 60. You have definitely saved my life.

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    1. I’m so glad you found it useful and thank you for recommending it, I’m afraid I am useless at marketing / promoting so its entirely reliant on recommendations.

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  3. Great post! I could almost feel that last part about your alarm going off and being staggering drunk and having a full day ahead of you. Wow. I’m so glad those days are over for me too.

    I’m curious, do you get a lot of people asking whether you drink? How do you usually respond?

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    1. I get a few people. It’s still fairly usual to drink when socialising so sometimes when I ask for a soft drink people ask (although these days more and more people just accept it when you ask for a soft drink). What I say depends of who I am talking to. The other day I went out on an alcohol free pub crawl with club soda so I gave a pretty frank account but usually I just say it interferes with my sleep (which it does) so I stopped for a bit (which I did) and now I just don’t fancy it anymore (which I don’t).

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  4. I love your comment “I cannot get over the joy if being free from it” sometimes I forget that not drinking is freedom. Once trapped, you are lucky to get out. (Thanks for sharing your escape route…aka Alcohol Explained)

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  5. “ I still cannot get over the joy of being free from it” – this is what I am cultivating. I’ve read your book, – really excellent, and helpful. Thank you.

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  6. Great post with a lot of resonance for me. Two months now since stopping drinking once and for all thanks to the guidance in your book. Previous attempts have been a battle of sheer willpower – with a thought of someday being able to enjoy a drink again always lurking at the back of my head.

    This time is different – as you say, I am now grateful to be free of it, rather than looking forward to a time I might consider myself sufficiently recovered to drink again. Or looking back wistfully to when I could drink to oblivion….

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  7. I usually would finish all the booze before sleeping. But occasionally I would wake up at 3 and realize I left half a glass or bottle by the bed and drink it with the effects you describe. Secret bonus drink! Well I am having success changing all that. Thanks William.

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  8. Sometimes I think half the country must by lying awake between 3 and 5 worrying! Probably not far from the truth…

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