A year without drinking, and this is what happened

I challenged myself to a one-year hiatus from drinking and today I’m proud to say that my challenge is over. I’m done! So you might be wondering: Will I drink again? Why did I do it in the first place?

Before I answer those questions, I’ll focus on how I feel now.

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

I feel more empowered.

I’m more confident.

I’m thinking faster, more clearly.

I sleep better. I need less sleep. I get up to exercise every day (even Sundays).

Years of IBS and struggling with digestive malaise is gone.

I haven’t felt bloated or yucky in I don’t know how long.

The itchy swollen-ness I felt from drinking is over.

I don’t gain weight on vacations and holidays. In fact, the opposite.

I’m a more patient parent and compromising wife/partner.

I make more time for friends and enjoying my life.

I eat better. I crave less sugar. In fact, I eat almost no sugar.

I know myself more intimately.

I’m finally comfortable in social settings w/out alcohol.

I can dance at concerts completely sober, no matter how awkward I look.

Why did I do it in the first place?

I wasn’t a big drinker. Meaning, I didn’t drink a lot in one sitting. I drank socially and enjoyed that glass of wine a night. I really, really, really looked forward to the glass of wine after work. On my commute home, I fantasized about how relaxing it would be to drink my cool, refreshing white wine in a beautiful glass on a summer day. Add avocado and shrimp and I’ve hit perfection. Or on a cold day, I’d imagine a rich, bold red with a tenderloin and chocolate to top it off. We’d pop a bottle open after work, maybe finishing the bottle or saving it for the next night. We’d do the same with friends on Saturdays, but not much more.

What I found is that the fantasy was just that. Make believe. Once I relaxed, I tired. And if you have kids you know the kiss of death is being tired. They need you. My kids are older now and while they don’t need me to change their diapers, turn on the shower or brush their teeth, they need help on homework, to drive them to an activity, entertain them on a weekend, be clear headed in an emergency, and most of all, they need me. If I’m tired, I’m not present and honestly kinda lazy and unmotivated to really engage.

Let me tell you about an example of an emergency where I was so thankfully sober. I was two weeks into my challenge of one year without alcohol. It was a typical Saturday night. We had friends over and everyone but me was drinking socially, nothing crazy. The kids were outside playing. All was good. Then my son came running inside crying but couldn’t talk. He was frantically waving his hands making any motion to alert us that he was in real pain. The other kids quickly followed and said my son had bumped into a friend outside. As a parent, you can imagine the panic that sets in. Why can’t he talk? What is wrong with my child? Someone call the doctor! Oh crap, I’m at home with no ER doc around. Sh&t. In what felt like hours but was probably just seconds, I realized he dislocated his jaw. What the.. how does that even happen. Anyway, not a few minutes more and we were on our way to the emergency room where we stayed until two in the morning. Because I was not drinking, I was able to think clearly and react quickly. If I had been drinking, would I have figured it out so fast or put the kid in the car and drive with no hesitation whatsoever? I bet we would have been ok but you never know. This experience cemented my decision to embark on this challenge. It was crystal clear that I was on the right path.

I’d like to say that calories weren’t part of this decision and I’m less vain than that, but they were and I do care about calories and that stuff. By not drinking, I don’t take an extra 100-200 calories a night from wine and then the “treats” or the “extras” that come after it. In my relaxed state, it was harder to resist that second portion or special dessert. Over time, every night was special. When I was younger, I could burn that stuff off. I would just run more. But my body tires and injures more easily now, and can’t put in marathon-like burn last night’s indulgences work outs like I used to. So something had to give. And cutting alcohol was the easiest choice.

I have food intolerances to everything under the sun, and as I look back, I realized that my IBS started when I started drinking. I’ve struggled with stomach aches, bloat, and all of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS that we know about but don’t need to discuss here. After about six months, it started to go away. My stomach started to heal. Meanwhile, I got a really good probiotic and whaddaya know. No symptoms. I’ll still avoid inflammatory foods but in general, I feel so much better.

Why did I pick a full year?

Abstaining from alcohol for an entire year seems extreme. I totally get it. I wanted a length of time that was long enough that it would create long term behavior change. I have abstained from alcohol before for a few months here or there, eventually resorting back to old habits. Enough with that. I wanted to make this a significant life experience, and only a significant amount of time would do.

Will I drink again? Gosh, it’s so hard to say. I know better than to say “never.” I don’t plan to. It’s not worth it. There are certain things that are worth an indulgence but for me, drinking is not one of them. I feel like I’m on “the other side” and I don’t want to go back.

This is my personal experience. It’s not for most people. I get that. If you do want to try it though, I would say it’s one of the simplest, cheapest ways to empower yourself.

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