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A Sobering Hepatitis C Message

One reason I don’t drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time.” ~Nancy Astor

A booze-free holiday

Sober is healthy, and healthy is fun

If you have hepatitis C, your doctor probably told you, “No alcohol.” If you like to drink, this is hard news to bear, particularly around the holidays. Alcohol seems to be everywhere this time of year, even in grandma’s fruitcake. It may be alluring to the mouth, but it is like adding fertilizer to hepatitis C.

When I first got hepatitis C, it was easy to give up alcohol. I didn’t feel well, and alcohol made me feel worse. After my second treatment, I started to feel better despite the fact that I still had hepatitis C.  A liver specialist told me that an occasional glass of wine probably wouldn’t hurt me. It was the worst thing he could have told me. In time, my definition of an occasional glass of wine grew from a few times a year to weekly. When I found myself reaching for a glass of wine more than once a week, I knew this wasn’t what the doctor meant, but I didn’t want to give up my precious fruit of the vine.

However, I had to give it up, because I couldn’t look at patients in the eye and ask them to do what I wasn’t doing. So I completely quit and it was the best decision I could have made.

I am telling you this, so you know that I know that it is hard not to drink, especially during the holidays. I also want you to know that you can have a wonderful time without alcohol. Here are a few tips that may help you through social occasions:

  • As soon as you arrive at an event, get a non-alcoholic drink so you have something to hold in your hand and to quench your thirst.
  • Focus on conversation. People like to talk about themselves, and if everyone around you is drinking, they may have a lot to say. It may not make much sense, but all you have to do is listen.
  • Find others who aren’t drinking. They will probably be relieved to have a coherent conversation.
  • If you are looking for comfort or warmth, try hot tea or cider.
  • You don’t have to feel deprived. Order something special. Experiment with various nonalcoholic drinks. Here are some suggestions:
    • A “virgin” version of any favorite mixed drink, such as a non-alcoholic piña colada
    • Ginger ale, a splash of grenadine, and maraschino cherries
    • Tonic with a twist of lemon or lime
    • Club soda or seltzer on the rocks with an olive
    • Carbonated water with grenadine and a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange
    • Non-alcoholic beer with lime (May not be an option for those on a liver transplant list or in an alcohol recovery program)

People ask me if I will drink now that my hepatitis C is gone. The answer is no.  Women’s livers are more likely to be affected by alcohol than men’s livers are, so I don’t want to tax my liver. I worked hard for my health, and resuming old habits seems like going backwards. Besides, I am happier without alcohol than I was with it.

If alcohol is a problem for you, perhaps you have a problem. Here are some resources that offer help.

  • Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) www.aa.org
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) www.niaaa.nih.gov
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including NationalDrug Treatment and Referral Routing Service www.samhsa.gov

Wising you a happy, peaceful, alcohol-free holiday.


This blog previously appeared at Every Day Health, December 24, 2013

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