I have a little secret. Today marks 30 days since my last drink**.
I had attempted a 30-day alcohol-free period in January of 2018 which ended up being, arguably, one of the most challenging years of my life. I made it 26 days miserable days and it all ended because Brucey, my beloved rescue dog, died while I was traveling to Miami for an event. This is when I discovered that Walgreen's sells wine (what?!).
I look back at my first alcohol-free attempt and I realize that I wasn't really set up for success. Hindsight and all that... Not only did I try to detox on January 1st, but I was also newly ramping up training for my big bike adventures AND I decided to try my hand at 30-days of Yoga with Adriene. All of these things independently are (and were) really good things. Healthy. Mindful. Etc. Etc. However, I went into that period of time looking at not drinking as punishment.
This dry spell was needed more than ever. With COVID hitting a year ago (that's another post in itself), we got into the habit of drinking a lot. Daily. Because it was going to be a couple of weeks and we'd go back to real life. Joke was on us!
Except it wasn't funny. Things got dark. My anxiety and depression skyrocketed. I felt like shit every single day.
The difference this time was that I wanted this. I took a little time, chatted with a select few people who have done long stints of sobriety or are completely sober for advice and support, and (most importantly), I looked at this as an opportunity. One of the first things I read when considering a sober stint was that the best thing you can do is change your mindset. Rather than saying "I can't drink", I learned to say "I'm doing something cool and not drinking for a bit". And it helped, y'all!
We started our experiment by figuratively (and literally) closing our bar.
The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace was suggested by more than one person, so I thought, "why not?". It became a daily resource and is something I highly recommend to anyone looking to give some alcohol-free time a try! Even if you've done it before.
I enjoyed the daily messages with science-based info on how alcohol affects the body and how to work toward changing cognitive dissonance combined with journal prompts. It was all super digestible. The book sometimes felt repetitive, but that is the point: the more you read the same things over again, the more likely it is to help reset that subconscious narrative. Annie Grace is a huge proponent of sobriety. She often says that ultimately, the reader needs to make the best decision for themselves (because IT'S TRUE), but definitely paves the path towards complete sobriety.
I'm not there yet. I'm not sure I ever will be. But, hey! that's MY choice.
Right now, the desire to drink really isn't there and I do believe I'm on my way toward a healthier relationship with alcohol. I'm working on boundaries that are in my comfort zone and what to do if I cross those boundaries. That's the very best I can do: give myself some grace.
And a big pat on the back, thank you very much!
The last 30 days have gone well overall. The understanding that what I've been doing is a great reset and a nice, warm hug to my body really helped. The fact that COVID has strict restrictions on going out and gatherings has helped for sure! There was still a fair amount of stress and boredom both of which had me grabbing a cocktail daily.
I also had help from my therapist and have been taking a medication called Naltrexone which has helped considerably with cravings. Sometimes it feels a bit like cheating, but I think that this medication gave me the ability to think a little more clearly about the process rather than being completely consumed by cravings. Cheating? Maybe. Helpful? YUP.
Here are my observations and benefits from 30 days on the "experiment":
- No rosacea breakouts!
- I'm less bloated (I don't have a scale, but I'm sure I've lost a couple!)
- My eyes are clearer
- I'm getting full, uninterrupted night's sleep, y'all. I am a self-professed "bad sleeper" and never made it through a single night without waking up. Usually at 3:00am full of anxiety and guilt. (if you read The Alcohol Experiment, there is an entire section on the science behind this)
- I'm no longer embarrassed to take out my recycling
- My thought process is more concise
- My anxiety has improved a great deal
- That little fuse that often lit quickly into a ball of anger has gotten longer it seeems
The biggest downside was that I've been missing that "renewed energy" people spoke of when detoxing from alcohol. Even though I've been getting the required amount of sleep (more than ever!), I'm still half asleep by 8:00pm every night. I like to think it's my body making up for years of poor sleep. That may be true, but what is truer is that it appears as though I had fed my body so much booze that it's got some serious healing to do.
That's tough to realize and even tougher to admit.
But here we are!
I'm proud of myself. I'm hopeful for a better relationship with alcohol moving forward and I'm slowly gaining the tools I need to maintain it. Time will tell, but for now...go me!
**I AM NOT an expert on anything relating to alcohol abuse, therapy, books about either of those things, etc. This is an account of my personal experience shared in my little space on the internets in hopes of telling my story to anyone interested in listening.