You know the feeling. The afternoon urge that pulls you to relax and unwind with your favorite cocktail. It’s an impulse that so often becomes a daily habit. One cocktail inevitably turns into several cocktails. It’s a cycle that repeats each day.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoy the occasional cocktail. My previous life as a CIA officer was filled with more than my share of booze. It was almost as if drinking was a requirement, and in some cultures it is practically seen as rude to decline a drink. Ouzo, scotch, wine, beer, vodka, you name it – I probably like it. But sometimes this can become a habit, and I recognize that I feel much better overall when I don’t imbibe.

We all know how drinking alcohol can hurt your health. Heavy, long-term drinking can damage the liver, the organ chiefly responsible for breaking down alcohol into harmless byproducts and clearing it from the body. But did you know that alcohol consumption can also cause serious damage to your brain?

Alcohol–damaged liver cells allow excess amounts of the toxic substances ammonia and manganese to enter the brain causing harm to brain cells. Long-term heavy drinking may lead to shrinking of the brain and deficiencies in the fibers (white matter) that carry information between brain cells (gray matter). And it’s not just heavy drinking that can harm your health. The effects of alcohol consumption are cumulative. Long term use, even having one drink a day, can drain your energy over time. Alcohol consumption causes changes in sleep patterns, disrupting the most restorative phase of sleep that occurs later in the night. It can affect your mood, personality and contribute to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. There can also be severe cognitive effects such as shortened attention span and problems with coordination.

Sometimes the old advice to exercise when you feel the pull of alcohol is just not feasible. After a long, draining day at work or while attending a social event it just might not be possible to take a jog much less throw yourself down and do some pushups.

So what do you do instead of sipping that cocktail or taking that shot? I’ve come up with some suggestions.


As I mentioned above, cutting alcohol out of your life can be quite beneficial to your health and well being. In addition to alcoholic beverages being full of calories, they can dehydrate you and even make you think you are hungry, when you are in fact thirsty. This leads to weight gain, and with weight loss being a common goal of people all over the world, the clear choice is to either limit or abstain from that drink.

We all know drinking water can help your skin to look better. Alcohol can act as a diuretic, which can increase fluid loss and lead to dehydration. Give your body a break from alcohol and you will notice a healthy change in your skin’s appearance, even within a few days of having that last drink.

If the prospects of memory loss, decreased brain cells, depression, mood changes and poor sleep are not enough to keep you from reaching for that cocktail, perhaps just trying to alter the way you drink alcohol can help. A trick I learned long ago from my friends in Europe is to space out your alcoholic beverages. Put a full glass of water between each drink. This allows you to feel that warm fuzzy feeling that alcohol can bring and enjoy it, without overdoing it. Obviously the best solution for some people is to cut alcohol completely out of their life. In other cases, as with most things in life, moderation is key.

A great deal of mental strength will be required to retrain your brain in order to control that urge for a daily drink. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing usually is. The effort you put into living a healthier life will most definitely pay off and will be worth every minute of struggle you endure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *