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Drinking less alcohol has transformed my wellbeing in the menopause

For Alana Kirk, a G&T or glass of wine had become a default Friday fix and go-to companion. But with alcohol exacerbating her night sweats, sleep problems and more, the 54-year-old from Dublin knew it was time to cut back – and it’s changed her life for the better.

As told to Alex Davies

‘When it comes to my past relationship with alcohol, I didn’t know I was in one. I grew up in the 1970s, and then worked in PR in London in the ’90s, so drinking was such a normal part of life. It was a given, really, and not something I ever questioned.

Over the years, it became a no brainer to have a gin and tonic at 6pm on a Friday or to open a bottle of wine in front of a film. Sunshine equalled rosé and I loved going out for drinks with friends. Alcohol was also very much a companion during difficult times in my life, including the end of my marriage. It was part of ‘me time’ and switching off.

It was when my daughters – now 18, 17 and 13 – started to encounter alcohol in their own lives that I began to reassess its role in mine and what messages I was sending them. On the one hand, I was saying ‘please don’t go out and get drunk’ while, on the other, there I was with a proud collection of 26 small batch gins.

Plus, I was wrangling with perimenopause symptoms at the same time, including disrupted sleep, anxiety and brain fog. My entire thermostat changed, as I went from wearing socks in bed and using a heated blanket to practically breaking into a night sweat if I even looked at a sheep! And, yes, alcohol exacerbated all of these.

I experienced heart palpitations, too – which I didn’t realise can happen during menopause – especially the day after drinking. Not only did hangovers suddenly seem worse, but they were more unpredictable; I could have two or three glasses and be fine or feel terrible after just one. With all this in mind, I decided it was time to redefine this decades-long relationship and to become a more mindful drinker.

As an author, speaker and coach working with women in midlife, I encourage clients to look at their mindset before actually changing a habit or behaviour. So, for me, the first step was observing and journalling about my approach to alcohol. I’d notice if I finished a bottle just because it was open or just because it was Friday; I’d tune into patterns and triggers. It became more and more apparent that sometimes I drank without even thinking about it.

In early 2023, I was invited onto a TV show to be interviewed about my work, so I did my first Dry January to feel my absolute best for that. And I really enjoyed how much better I felt! One challenge was missing the ritual of having a drink, but an alcohol-free gin in a nice glass turned out to be a good alternative.

I did my second Dry January this year, but ultimately my goal has always been to find a “damp” destination. One where I haven’t broken up with alcohol completely, but I’m not marrying it either. Where I’m not denying myself, but also not drinking as a default and without intention.

Now, I’m in a place where I don’t drink at all during the week. On weekends, if I have the kids, I’ll either not drink or only have a glass or two. If it’s just me and I have a friend over, we’ll have a bottle of bubbles and perhaps a bottle of wine; I’ve no problem with that. Agency is a massive value of mine, so I put myself in the driving seat and ask, ‘do I want to drink tonight? Why?’ Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. Sometimes it’s ‘I’ll have one but not another’. Those questions just weren’t on my mind before.

Since cutting back, I’m sleeping better, I have more clarity and energy, I’ve lost weight. I feel more alive. Oh, the joy of not waking up with a Saturday hangover! My night sweats seem to have improved, too. This is in conjunction with HRT – I spent my 20s and 30s trying to find the right gin cocktail, and my 40s and 50s have been about the right HRT cocktail!

Change takes time, but feeling better gives me so much momentum. Finding other ways to treat myself has been a game changer, whether it’s yoga stretches with the sun on my skin or relaxing in the garden with a tonic and lime. I’ve also joined a twice-weekly weights training class to boost my muscle and bone strength. The better and stronger I feel with that, the easier it is to say no to an “emergency” glass of wine.

When I do drink, I’ll go for quality over quantity and really take the time to enjoy it. You can also get some nice low-alcohol options and pre-made cans, which help with portion control – I like the brand Ramona. I still look forward to going out with friends, but near the end of a recent night out, for example, I ordered a sparkling water instead of another glass of wine. One friend and I have also started playing tennis in lieu of our default wine night, which is so much fun.

One of the biggest things has been the relationship with my dad. Having wine together was just always what we did, and I feared it wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t drinking. But he doesn’t care in the slightest – realising that was huge for me.

I probably can’t see a future where I won’t drink at all, but who knows? It’s about being open and choosing the route that works for you. Now, here I am – a yoga-practising, weightlifting, responsible-drinking woman that I wasn’t at 40. I’ve changed a decades-in-the-making default mechanism by becoming more intentional with alcohol, and I’m pretty stoked about that.’

To find out more about Alana’s work and coaching head to

You might also like:

How to thrive at work during the menopause

Easy ways to deal with midlife anxiety

Smart ways to ease hot flushes & night sweats





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