The risk versus the reward as you age weighs heavily in one direction.
“The trick is growing up without growing old.” — Casey Stengel
Irarely speak in superlatives unless there is something that I feel adamant about, and this is one of those things.
If you are drinking past this age in life, you need to stop ASAP.
I have never been a proponent of saying that individuals should never drink, as I’ve had a number of great experiences from drinking at a younger age.
However, as I do more research about how alcohol affects us over time, I am of the mindset that there is a clear age at which NO ONE should be drinking anymore.
Why you should consider quitting at a certain age?
When you look at the data and how alcohol destroys you over time, one thing remains clear.
The older you get, the worse it is for you.
We intuitively know this by the increased difficulty we have with managing hangovers as we age.
Whereas, we used to bounce back from a night of drinking by the next morning when we were younger, this could take as much as a couple of days when we reach certain stages in our lives.
There are two primary factors that cause this:
1. Muscle mass decrease
As we age, we have less muscle mass than we did when we were younger. This decrease in muscle mass will cause someone older to reach a higher blood alcohol content much faster than someone younger.
This could lead to a number of dangerous or embarrassing incidents in which you may do or say something because you try to drink as much as you’re accustomed to without realizing that your body can’t handle that volume anymore.
Think David Hasselhoff’s infamous hamburger incident.
2. Our liver’s decrease ability to process alcohol
As with most things in our body over time, our liver just doesn’t work as efficiently as we get older. For this reason, the speed at which our body is able to break down the dangerous toxin of alcohol formaldehyde and remove it slows as we age.
This prolonged exposure to this toxic chemical leads to our liver having to work harder to remove it, which then leads to a greater chance of developing steatosis (fatty liver), fibrosis (scarring of the liver) or cirrhosis (serious liver damage).
My alcohol-conscious partner in crime
Gillian May writes extensively about this in much of her writing here on Medium, educating others on this very real danger over time.
What is the appropriate age?
While I would argue that individuals should stop at a much younger age if possible to ensure they live a more holistic and successful life, the age at which no one should continue to drink alcohol anymore for their overall long term health is 40.
There are several reasons to support this:
At 40, you should be at a place in your life in which you should recognize the need to drink to overcome or escape various problems hurts more than helps most situations and leads to more negative outcomes than positive.
When we were younger, the concept of drinking to relieve stress and just forget about our problems seemed to make sense based on our lack of experience and naivete.
However, as we age and realize that these problems never truly go away unless we face them, we should have a better sense of the way alcohol impairs our ability to make better decisions and do the things we know we need to do every day.
Life’s no longer a party
At 40, hopefully, you’ve had a lot of fun doing the things that alcohol allows you to do when you’re younger, but once you hit that age, there should be a number of responsibilities that require a fully-functioning 100% version of yourself.
For many people, having kids is the event that helps them recognize they need to focus on more long-term thinking and be more serious about life in general.
For those who don’t have kids, like me, it took me finally giving up alcohol to recognize that for me to fully grow up, I needed to remove this substance that had a tendency to make me revert to short-term, myopic thinking that hurt my long term prospects of success.
Your body is telling you it’s time
As alluded to above, as we age, our body goes through a number of different changes.
While many of these changes can happen over a course of time, 40 appears to be the usual line of demarcation that most people begin to experience these in mass.
As shared, there is the reality that we lose muscle mass at our liver works less efficiently as we age, creating the dangerous combination of getting drunk faster and not be able to get it out of our bodies as quickly.
In addition to that, forty is also the age at which your body finds it more difficult to sleep as deep easily.
This effect is often exacerbated by alcohol and can increase as you get in your 50s and 60s.
How do you do it?
There are a number of ways that you can potentially quit, but you have to decide which one is the best for you.
Although it is not possible for all, there are a fair amount of people who have been able to quit cold turkey by just deciding that alcohol is no longer serving them.
There are a lot of different philosophies and resources available to help with this, with this publication being one of them.
The MEDS is one such strategy that we developed here at AINYF that should help, but you should do your research to identify all the various other strategies as well.
Overall, you have to be patient with yourself and realize that this could be more of a long term journey if alcohol has more of a hold on you than you realized.
The secret is to never give up and stay focused on how great it will be to one day look back on your drinking days with fondness, knowing that you’ve left that in the past and are creating a future that is so much brighter without it.