I have just recently given up drinking alcohol. I have been a daily white wine drinker for the past five years. Usually I came home from work and drank a bottle throughout the course of an evening, followed by a late, nutritious dinner. It mainly was a stress reliever due to my high-pressure job. How long will it take for my body to return to a normal, healthy state like it was before I began drinking daily? I also work out four times per week at my gym and eat very balanced meals.
Alcohol is everywhere. It is consumed by all kinds of people. From the lowest to the highest echelons of society, across racial and economic lines, it is deeply embedded in our culture, and a part of everyday television, movies, sporting events and literature, not to mention our personal day-to-day lives.
When it comes to drinking alcohol, there are many points of view. Some find it a balm, a relief and a comfort to drink alcohol after a stressful day of work. In moderation, alcohol soothes, gently sedates and calms the anxious and worried mind. It loosens inhibitions and eases the tension of social gatherings. It can be a facilitator of commerce — be it business relationships, fund-raising events, sporting events ticket sales or even sex. It is, by and large, a socially approved drug. American culture, and most of the Western and Asian worlds sanction and approve of alcohol. The Muslim world is a significant exception, and some would look to them for the moral high ground when it comes to abstinence. Liquor may be purchased in public stores, and consumed almost anywhere. We have accepted its sale to anyone over the age of 21; the ubiquitous bars, taverns and pubs provide public venues where people come together in order to drink, or sometimes just to get drunk.
Yet, as everyone knows, alcohol is an abused and addicting substance, and a crutch that engenders dependency. When used in excess, it shortens lives, ruins careers and destroys families. How are we to conceive then of the appropriate use of this double-edged sword, this treacherous paradox, that beguiles and threatens us at the same time? It is an important and elusive question, a high stakes question, with important implications for anyone who drinks.
You have taken a huge first step in reconsidering your relationship to alcohol. Evidently, you have decided that your use of alcohol was a problem and should be stopped. Like many who find it difficult to moderate their use, abstinence provides secure ground and clear guidelines for making this important change. Is a bottle of white wine a day too much alcohol? Probably yes.
The answer to whether or not alcohol is a problem for any one individual must consider, however, not only how much alcohol is drunk, but also what effects the alcohol has on one’s behavior, mood and competency. Much less alcohol than that may be a serious problem for some people. Slurred speech, stumbling, shouting arguments with one’s partner, diminished work productivity or neglect of responsibilities are examples that we all could readily agree indicate problem drinking.
But there are more subtle effects that are harder to measure, difficult to quantitate, and perhaps less noticeable to family and friends. For example, one might notice a tendency to begin thinking about wanting a drink earlier in the day, anticipating “cocktail hour” or that first glass of beer or wine a little too eagerly. There might be a tendency to drink slowly but steadily throughout the evening, carefully titrating the dose to maximize relaxation and minimize overt intoxication: sort of a self-medication. There might be a tendency not to do activities or tasks that ought to be attended to because of alcohol-induced fatigue or apathy; physical activity may lessen, and outside interests may peter out.
On the face of it, no longer drinking a bottle of wine per day seems like an excellent move. You now ask how long it will take for your body to become healthy again. However, you have not indicated any ill health. Presumably there is no alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, nerve damage, malnutrition or other major ill-effects of long-standing alcohol abuse. If so, there really is not much for your body to recover from, since fortunately for most of us, the intoxicating effects of alcohol are brief, and the liver clears alcohol from the system in a matter of hours. Nutrition is critical, since it is often poor in people who drink excessively, and you already seem to have an excellent balanced diet. You may want to review the widely publicized USDA food guide to ensure you are getting the right amounts of the important food groups. Physical activity is also right on, good for both the body and mind. Stick with it!
You should be in fine form in no time. The greater challenge may actually be to continue a life of not drinking. Since moderation is difficult, unless there are major changes in job stressors or other factors, any tendency to start having an occasional drink is likely to lead to excessive drinking once again. Be careful.
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