Last Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to take January off of alcohol. Just like all the cool kids in the world who do Dry Januaries. Last year, I did the Whole30 diet from around Jan 15 to Feb/March, which ended up being 45 days off of alcohol. I felt so good during that time. But habits creep in and sometimes stress has a voice that’s louder than Reason and more powerful than Will.
Today is day 31 of my alcohol fast, and I’m going to end it today, only because I would LOVE a beer, but I don’t want to drink over the weekend. We have a video production on Sunday that I want to be completely on my game for.
So tonight, I’m going to finish some beer I bought over the Christmas holiday in North Carolina. I can only buy it there, and damn, it’s great. So I’m going to consume it, and jump back on the wagon.
My goal is to continue this trend and spend the majority of my time off of alcohol, and only drink for special occasions or social gatherings. I’d love to take time away from drinking at EVERY social gathering. We’ll see how it goes. But it’s a start. It’s an idea. I mean, my habit is in the throes of broken. Why mend it with some sort of rebellious binge?
I don’t really do any other drugs except caffeine and ibuprofen. I don’t smoke or consume marijuana edibles. Never done cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, meth, or any number of drugs with names I don’t remember at the moment. I do caffeine every morning and Ibuprofen as needed, but I needed it more at the beginning of the month when the weather was decent and I was running 35 to 45 miles a week. It was interesting to me that I seemed to need more ibuprofen, because of no depressants otherwise to block the pain (and I mean uncomfortable, moan-worthy pain) from sore muscles. It’s something I know runners talk about. But I think sometimes a beer or two can block those messages enough to make a difference.
If you have anything that you consume, do, sometimes without thinking, sometimes with a pang of guilt, for example phone use, internet use, social media use, drug use, TV or otherwise, I strongly encourage 31 days off of that thing. Then review how you feel about it when it’s over.
I’ll end this post with the positives and negatives of a 31 day fast.
- Mental clarity. I found myself remembering things I would otherwise forget or give up trying to remember.
- Increased productivity. I wrote and read more this month than in other months. I’ve been creating more content than ever before. I’m running more. I sometimes use alcohol to escape creativity, from constantly thinking about doing. But that also can be very negative when the productivity slumps over like an old man asleep in a chair.
- Save money. I don’t really do bars anymore. But that extra $10 for a six pack two or three times a week is some thing to consider. I do my best to stay away from hard liquor, too.
- Improved self esteem. I’m embarrassed by the appearance of a hangover. Although — as I will write below — I didn’t sleep great and often looked tired, I found that 6 hours of sober sleep is better than 8 hours of sleep after booze.
- Accomplishment. There are days when you think, damn this is so impossible. And others when you rally and fight. Others when you reach out to someone and need some encouragement. At the end, the feeling of accomplishment is beautiful.
- Health. Any time away from a poison like alcohol is, well, positive.
- Enjoy life. Sometimes, I find myself hating movies when I drink, that otherwise, I’d love. Or at least enjoy. I find myself enjoying the little things, petting my dog, spending quiet moments with Tina. Life’s little moments have a better, more tangible pleasure to them. I love that.
- Improved mood. My mood and level of anger is more tame. Stress from work, while still triggered quickly, also can be defused more quickly.
- Better foreign language recall. I’m much more vocal at French class. I’m sure I’m not any better with my grammar, but I find I’m less quiet when I haven’t had a beer the night before class.
- Designated Driver! This one is funny. Tina rarely drinks all that much but I was the DD on a handful of occasions. So glad she could let her hair down and I was the one who got us safely home.
- Cooking better. I cook almost every night. Without the distraction of alcohol, I made less mistakes than when I have a beer while cooking. With a beer, I’ll forget an ingredient or two. Or I’ll add it at the wrong time. It’s a minor frustration, but it’s a frustration.
- Sleep not improved (necessarily). Sleep has been very inconsistent. This happened the last time I did it. Some nights I can get almost 8 hours, but it’s rare. More often it’s between 6 and 7.
- Dealing with Inhibitions. I started writing about this in my journal. Alcohol breaks down inhibitions, and when you’re an artist, occasionally dealing with self doubt, sometimes an extra level of decreased restraint is a good thing. I want to learn how to voluntarily overcome the feelings that might prevent me from self uninhibited self expression.
- Preoccupation with the thoughts of the habit. This one is a stretch as it tapered heavily over the last two weeks. But the first two weeks were much more difficult.
- Decreased social calendar. Although this break was better and we actually were able to hang with friends. I notice that I try not to schedule too much time with friends with whom I would likely have a beer or two.
I’m trying to think of any other positives and negatives. For instance, my memory is great over the course of 24 hours. I’ve been journaling once or twice a day every day. And I always go back 24 hours to try and remember what we did, ate, cooked, created, thought about. But then I leaf through the pages and see how much I have already forgotten about things that are 48 hours old. Or more.
You probably don’t have a problem or perceived problem with alcohol. And I admire that. And I hope you never do. As I examine myself without this vice, I see other things I want to work on. More clearly. And I hope to do my best to take time away from those things as we move through 2019.
So there you have it. I took aim at a month off of alcohol. Now I’m on the other side. Hurray! I’m going to see what February brings. It’ll be important to define the scope of my goals in order to achieve them. But with this renewed sense of accomplishment, I don’t believe that’ll be too difficult.