Some of you may have heard that each year I embark on a personal challenge,something to get my teeth in to. Optimise my coaching techniques personally and mostly just indulge in the curiosity of my capabilities.
2019 has been all about quitting alcohol for a year and now at just over 6 months in I thought I would share this experience with you so far.
On New Years Eve I made sure that I had indulged in one of each of my favourite drinks a red wine, a delicious Porter and a single malt whisky we bought on a holiday in Scotland. In preparation for a year sober.... our fairly healthy alcohol supply was shifted up into the loft to "avoid temptation" and rules were set about whether using red wine in a Spaghetti Bolognese would constitute as alcohol consumption or if the alcohol cooked off sufficiently.
The focus of the benefits of not drinking alcohol were personally reviewed. These are highlighted below:
A) Save Money ( we have house renovations to prioritise and although our consumption is no way going to fund a loft conversion we were working on the fact this could pay for a two week holiday while we get the job done!)
B) Healthier - Alcohol has calories, lots of unnecessary calories and is linked to all sorts of health conditions that I don't need to mention on here... Not to mention hangovers make you hungry and tired which means a much more sedentary life style. So I figure a break from the odd indulgence couldn't do my body any harm and only good.
C) More Adventure.More Time - when you don't drink you can drive, which means you can do more, go further, do more and seek out new adventures and activities which may have previously ended up with a pint in the pub.
D) Curiosity - we figured out that we hadn't had a sober year since our underage-park-drinking-antics and whilst no way "out of control" with our adult alcohol use it was going to be interesting to find out what our adventures were like without drink involved.
Other rules we included were:
1) Avoid becoming smug-sober-recluses - this ( alcohol -free) was our choice and not a plight to rid the world of alcohol we wanted to include ourselves in social events that involved people who want to drink alcohol to be merry with us in toe and not just stay locked up or avoidant of people drinking.
2) Emergency Pass - we have a festival lined up in July and we gave our selves a 1 ticket pass to have a drink in a festival environment if we felt we needed.
3) Talk about our experiences and any challenges - this was a good chance to open up our understanding of how and why we choose to have alcohol in our lives and any purpose we recognise it has served, what came down to choice and what we come to recognise as habit (Deep Mannnn!)
We downloaded an app which estimates and tracks our previous annual in take and savings and could record our days sober, a little like a quit smoking app but based on a Dry January focus ( You can download the app here)
Now here is the truth so far there hasn't been anything majorly profound, apart from the fact we are sober [ I have to keep reiterating that we were by no means living a life in excess - we do however enjoy a drink] . In January I noticed a minuscule withdrawal but I actually think this was due more to the excess food of Christmas rather than the alcohol evaporating from my body!
The more subtle understandings around my relationship with alcohol, have come over the past few months, aspects such as sunshine, exciting opportunities, busy days, the unknown days - they all play a factor in this learning.
6 Month Reflection.
1) Food has loads of additives in it... I always thought this was just a light hangover from the odd drink throughout the week/weekend... it's not! My body was quickly reminded the processed food we eat is equally drying us out. - This has been a catalyst for fresher food and drinking more water, which can't be a bad thing.
2) Sleep is better without alcohol - this has definitely been noticeable and I have reaped some seriously deep nights sleep and some wonderfully creative and calming dreams.
3) Did I use alcohol for relaxation?.... This is a question I have asked myself. You will know that I get really excited about stuff, work, life, opportunity... my brain is regularly pumped and firing off some serious creative enthusiasm, although this is often about positive things, I have to admit on reflection that a glass of wine was a great way to wind things down on occasion. Now I listen to my mind for all it's thoughts and am using relaxation such as deep and present breathing, my own ( less focused) version of mindfullness or relaxing my brain through reading.
4) Socialising is still fun - I am lucky to have some wonderful connections and socialise in some great circles ( some heavily fuelled with alcohol). It's been great to be in these spaces and find that I can have fun and enjoyment in abundance with others, drunk or not. Although friends initial concern is to try and convince us to "Relapse" or appear concerned that they want to get drunk and we won't be, it is soon forgotten when we can drive them home at the end of the night. I have realised more and more people are opting for sober lifestyles and this too makes for interesting conversation to hear the story that led them there.
5) Less Distraction/More focused - I am benefiting from the gained focus of a sober life, and this means recognising opportunities and seeing the potential in situations more often. From Physical activity to business decisions I have found that a clear head really does clear the way for vision and opportunity.
6) Money - It is definitely a sure fire way to save a little income here and there, booze is growingly expensive in pubs and clubs and 3 for 2 offers in supermarkets are cleverly alluring to the thirsty consumerist. For a quick money management win, why not save your booze money for a month?
Our curiosity has been optimised in our market research for 0% beers and I think we are slowly making our way through those available to us ( Ok so that does mean slightly less money and calories saved then initially planned I confess!) . If you are curious to try some alcohol free, a great little website called Dry Drinker offers a wide selection of alcohol free from mail-order and plenty of pubs are expanding their remit from only stocking Becks Blue and investing in a wider range. Here is my top three:
1) Freedam - Estrella's 0% version
2) Hefe - Weisbier - Paulaner Zero Alcohol - A wheat zero alcohol beer that does best to be served cold.
3) Becks Blue - not the most imaginative but again, served cold and it makes for a refreshing alternative.
I have also had a go at some alcohol free wines and gins - I am yet to try Seedlip but it's coming with plenty endorsements as a gin alternative and my favourite so far in terms of Pun factor has been M&S's "Gin and Teetotal" which doesn't quite taste like a G&T but makes for a pleasant drink with ice and a slice.
6 Months on and I only had one day when I thought about alcohol and that was a fleeting thought. Our "Free Ticket" at the festival in a few weeks time has floated off the radar and we are getting excited about dancing sober at the late night discos, waking up hangover free and maybe even beating the hungover revellers to the queue for the showers ( could this will be the first festival I come back from without being a environmental hazard at the end?!).
We have talked about returning to drink next year and what will have changed for us, I will catch up with you in 6 months time to share further reflections.
It's continues to be a humbling process to reflect further on the fact that giving up is not always easy and for some people, I know and work with, making this sort of change, does not currently feel like a choice they have to make with ease. The efforts they make to quit may feel enduring.
There are some amazing services out there doing wonderful things for people with addiction and I give an extra shout out to them and more importantly to those of you that decide to make that change. This involves experiences and endurance that many will never know!
If you want to change a habit or reach a goal Get In Touch and we can explore together.