Alcohol is so last season

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Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when he says, “one day I just started running”. Drinking was like that for me. One day I told my mother I was going to “babysit” at a friend’s house but at the tender age 15 we got dressed up, sprayed our hair into ungodly shapes and went out to the club! Looking back now, I understand why they call it the “folly of youth”. And I off I went on my various adventures around the world, drinking, dancing and stay up very late!

Nothing about binge drinking in this culture even seems remotely odd. It was sort of a given, we go out on weekends, get absolutely blithering, eat some greasy what-nots, then back it up the next night. 

Time is not so forgiving though. As 30 approached, so did the ‘scaries’ the day after a drinking event. The hangovers had more of a punch, and backing up just wasn’t a thing. Backing up? Don’t know her. 

non alcoholic wine

Image: Human-directed Ai | Marena Lydon

The Wax and wane

Periodically through my party years I would make a stand about alcohol and just stop. Just because. I would spend a number of months being “deso” (designated driver in Australia) and ride high on my smug, ‘I don’t need alcohol to have a good time’ jag, and then drive a car full of drunken tentacles through Macca’s drive-thru at dawn’s crack. 

I also stopped drinking, of course, when I was pregnant. It took a fair while after having a kid before I dipped my toe back in. I was never the same. I became a bit of a Cadbury (only takes a glass and half). It was so normal that event = alcohol. People ask too many questions if you don’t drink, they speculate that you’re up the duff or if you’re a dude, that you’re a bit of a p*ssy.

I never really questioned why I drank. I just did. Everyone did. It’s a thing. Isn’t it?  

Enter: Professor Huberman

Who? The guy some Gen Z folks online might dare to say has, ‘distinct Daddy vibes’ and fairly heavy credentials when it comes to all things body, brain and science.

Andrew David Huberman is an American neuroscientist and podcaster. He is an associate professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

What’s he got to do with getting absolutely blind on champagne and making highly questionable choices late at night? He did a life changing podcast, and it was a bit of a slap in face. Check it out at Huberman Lab.

What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health

I’m pretty sure we all vaguely think we know how and why the booze in bad for us. Yet it never seemed that dire. Everyone is out there doing it every weekend (or night) after all. If you’re not the kind of person to go and listen to this podcast for an hour here are the main points. I highly recommend you do go listen/watch it.

  • Communication pathways: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, affecting mood, behavior, and cognitive function.
  • Memory and Learning: Heavy drinking can lead to shrinkage in areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, such as the hippocampus.
  • Short Term Effects: Impair motor function, judgement and reaction time.
  • Long-Term Effects: Can cause permanent brain damage and increase the risk of dementia. 
the beauty of the human brain

Image: Human-directed AI – ‘The Beauty of the neural circuits of the human brain when it sees something nice’. | Marena Lydon

  • Heavy drinking can lead to shrinkage in areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, such as the hippocampus.
  • Excessive drinking can lead to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure
  • Can cause pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation that impairs digestion
  • Increases the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer.
human heart diagram
  • Risk of alcoholism, mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
  • Most cognitive damage can be reversed or improved within a year of stopping drinking.
  • Even moderate drinking can still cause brain shrinkage and increase the risk of certain cancers.

Most of us think we know what’s up with drinking, the snapshot for me was: “losing brain cells, maybe getting cirrhosis, not great for decision making and also causes weight gain”. There was a lot I didn’t know and it wasn’t for lack of ability to learn. Some part of me had the equivalent of hands over my ears saying LA LA LA. I worked in healthcare for a time and saw what alcohol was doing to family structures but then I’d still toddle off for a cheeky tipple with my coworkers.

When I think about brain shrinking, cancer risks, meddling with hormones, permanent brain damage, the ‘why’ for drinking becomes a lot more intense. Why would I? Instead of ‘everyone does’. 

And just like that… my running drinking days was over. (Forrest Gump).

September 21, 2023 I just stopped drinking. And so far, I have not revisited it. We’re nearly at the year I needed to reverse the damage. And when I tell you I had a bloody good run at damaging my brain with the demon drink on a night out, I mean it. The Usain Bolt of shot-taking. Now I look back and cringe.

So now what? Plenty of folks like the nose bags and other activities but that is not my speed. I haven’t been bothered at all by it. What pleases me is the massive range of non-alocholic wines and drinks available now. They look the bit WITHOUT shrinking one’s brain. Next step is quitting doom scrolling. One step at a time, they say.

A Few Bevvies

Sounds so harmless. Luckily there is a much better way to have a few bevvies now. Non-alcoholic wines like Altina give you that sparkling condensation on the glass in summer, the warm twinge on the palate and the feeling like you’re not a buttoned-up square, silently judging everyone. And speaking of PhD advice, one of the creators of Altina has a PhD in plant biology. (Vegie Tribe has an internet degree in plant doom-scrollery, scientific paper squinting, and learning the hard way in the garden. We’re a match made in heaven.

Altina was founded by Christina Delay and Alan Tse, a couple who are passionate about creating a new way for Australians to socialize without the negative aspects of excessive alcohol consumption. Christina, a Ph.D. holder in Plant Biology, uses her expertise to craft unique, botanically infused non-alcoholic wines that are free from added sugar. Alan, a Chartered Accountant and experienced commercial director, shares Christina’s vision and works to ensure their products are widely available and environmentally sustainable. Together, they aim to inspire Australians to live life without the negative impacts of excessive drinking, while still enjoying the ritual and theatre of wine.

The THEATRE of wine. I’m here for it. And of course it led me down an ADHD rabbit hole about Dionysus the God of Wine. Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, the Greek god of wine-making, orchards, and fruit, as well as vegetation, fertility, festivity, insanity, ritual madness, and theatre. I mean I’m sorry is he my dad? Does he belong at Vegie Tribe? Catch me in the garden being festively insane and theatrically mad! 

red wine

 Back the story. If you’re trying to find a delicate way to weasel out of feeling horrific after your next Sunday Sesh, then do yourself a favour and saunter over to Altina to get yourself some non-alcoholic options. They’re made with Aussie ingredients and botanicals, so they taste just as good as the real thing. Plus, they’re low in sugar and won’t leave you writhing in the Sunday Scaries. That said, if you do anything questionable on your evening jaunt, you won’t have the demon liquor to blame it on. Use this $20 off the Taster Pack as an excuse to try something new! Feeling good!!