On New Years eve, I decided to take a break from alcohol. December had been a pretty rough month for a couple of reasons and my intake was, well beginning to feel unhealthy to the extent that I would pick up a beer, pour myself a wine (or a vodka & ginger beer) without really thinking about why I was doing it. I guess that one of my weaknesses is that when I am busy, I fail to take time to question myself exactly why I am doing what I do, as if I’m on auto pilot, not having a mindful approach to my actions or behaviour. The Advent & Christmas period was no different and it is fair to say that I took advantage of the increased availability of booze and moreover an alarming social acceptability of such an increased intake. A discussion with my wife revealed that we would both make the month of January a dry one in terms of alcohol as both of us had reflected that we had over-done it and it was time to regain control.
A lot of her friends were doing the “Dryalthon” in January. I resent the fact that I was a part of this crusade by default, even though I did not call it this and think that the term is stupid. Don’t get me wrong, stopping boozing for 31 days is an admirable way to re evaluate ones perspective and dependence on alcohol but can you really call a period of 31 days of self control anything ending in “..athalon”? I mean the Brownlee brothers exhibit far greater self control, training and dedication to compete in Triathalons. They are deserving of the name Triathlete. Stopping alcohol for one month is what it is-an exercise in mindfulness and self control. So no, I am not a “dryathlete” (ridiculous!)
Once the novelty had worn off, I was expecting it to be tougher than it actually was. The hardest part was a Friday & Saturday evening after the boys had gone to bed, the occasions when we would open a bottle of wine, cuddle up on the sofa and “relax”. I was surprised and even disappointed to find that as the month progressed, I didn’t feel any better, fitter, less tired that I expected to be. But I felt better in many other ways & here’s what I discovered:
- Tired, yes but felt more energetic if you can understand that.
- Blackcurrant and soda and many other non alcoholic beverages.
- Not staying up late and over eating.
- My weight stayed stable-the reduced calorie intake from not drinking was made up for in the consumption of chocolate & biscuits.
- My normally short fuse and intolerance of others was longer. I suspect that had something to do with exercising more mindfulness in other areas of my life.
- Not being a slave to Strava distance nor competing with others in the often guilty effort to burn the calories consumed through alcohol-I cycled 199km less last month than I did in January 2016.
- More money
By the time February 1st came around, I didn’t want nor feel the need to go back to it. But out of curiosity, I did on the 5th over dinner at some friends. The 3 bottles of beer, 3 glasses of wine and the 4 hour sleep left me with a headache and lethargy the following day to the extent that I felt that I needed a drink to “pep” me up again. I did have a couple that night and felt worse the following day too. My sleep was worse and my mood became flat. I resolved to stop again which I haven’t completely but have felt better, less moody and no longer using drink to cope with a “bad day at the office” to feel better. Having thought about it a lot recently, I definitely feel a potential to dependence, one which I never considered I had.
I don’t want that so after this 11 day February pause, I am approaching Lent with the positivity that I can again go without it and this time for longer. Lent is a time of sacrifice, thoughfulness and reflection. The only thing that I will sacrifice is my health and well being if I don’t stop.
I am looking forward to that blackcurrant and soda already…