Today I decided to stop drinking for a year.
This blog is about my decision to stop drinking alcohol for a year. I made the decision because I realized I had spent the past few years drinking too much. Since I had been drinking on a regular basis, I had gained weight and did not always get around to doing planned tasks. I made the commitment to quick drinking for a year to lessen this dependence as well as improve my health, well-being, and productivity. Many of my social activities involved alcohol but it was starting to interfere with my life, and it was an expensive habit in more ways than one.
When I made this decision, I was drinking two to five drinks almost every night. I never felt a physical compulsion to drink but I was attracted to drinking more when I was under stress.
I am interested to note the impact my decision to quit drinking for a year will have on my friendships, job (where I am expected to socialize), and health.This is not meant to be a judgment on alcohol or alcohol use, which I think can be part of a healthy life, but not in the way I was using it. I plan to document what happens every day on this blog. Please join me by either leaving your thoughts or joining me on this challenge or just reading about my efforts. I hope my experiences are thought-provoking.
September 5, 2017
Today would have been a good day to have a drink. But I held strong. And because of that, hopefully, tomorrow will be better! 344 days left!
September 4, 2017
Still going strong with the no alcohol challenge. I got a little lazy about posting for the last few days. It’s like a snowball, once I go one day without posting, subsequent days become easier and easier.
In any case, since my last post, I have been on two alcohol-free dates with two different people. During both of them, I felt more like myself than I would have if I had been drinking. It is so much easier to carry on a real conversation over coffee than it is in a bar. Regardless of whether or not I take up drinking again at the end of this year-long challenge or not, alcohol-free dating will definitely be my thing.
Happy Labor Day! Thanks for reading!
August 29, 2017
Rough day. Nothing bad happened; I was just tense and annoyed despite my better efforts. I made it through, no alcohol. This would have been a classic day to wind down with a drink. I will feel better tomorrow, though. Drinking away stress not only defers it, but it also compounds it. I will keep trudging along.
351 days to go.
August 28, 2017
Today I got back to feeling good for the first time since falling off the wagon on Friday night. I was clear-headed and optimistic. It was easy to be patient. I was productive for most of the day and even spent some quality time hanging out with my best friend. She told me she wanted to cut back on her drinking, too. She decided to only drink on weekends, completely abstaining during the week. It made me feel good that I was at least a partial influence on her decision to cut back. As I wrote previously, cutting back and making rules did not work for me personally, but I imagine it can work for many people, including my friend. I made my “One Year No Alcohol” choice because cutting back was difficult for me. I kept making excuses for why I was going to start cutting back tomorrow.
Over my morning coffee, I read an article in last week’s Economist about how women, minorities, and the elderly are all becoming heavier drinkers, to detrimental effects. In 2012-2013, the percentage of Americans with “Alcohol Use Disorder” was over 13%, 30 million people, up from 8.5% only nine years earlier. We Americans are literally drinking ourselves to death, and the problem is growing. And there are similar results all over the world, including Europe and Australia.
Alcohol is becoming more and more influential in our lives. I salute everyone out there who has struggled with this and is actively trying to break this influence. As well as, of course, the people who have already conquered it.
Writing this blog and knowing that people are reading it has helped keep me accountable and on track towards my “One Year No Alcohol Goal.” Thank you for helping me along.
August 27, 2017
A couple days ago, I messed up. I had some friends coming over for dinner and we planned to go out on the town after. My first night out since I moved to D.C. I made a nice roast chicken with carrots and fennel and served the wine. At first, no issue. Then towards the end of dinner, I refilled a friend’s glass of wine and went ahead and served one to myself. I stupidly followed my impulse.
From there, I continued to drink over Friday night and into early Saturday morning (which is why I am counting two days with alcohol). I guess I felt that since I had broken my promise to myself that I might as well keep going. Nothing too excessive. I was still enough in my mind to make sure that I and everyone else got home safely, but I failed in my challenge. With nothing to show for it. I realized the next day I would have had just as good of a time if I were sipping water. It was a fun time, but drinking did not contribute to that.
Drinking did contribute to my hangover the next day. I woke up feeling terrible, even though this had not been an especially excessive night according to my previous track record. I did not go on my morning run, I broke my diet, and the most productive thing I did all day was lay on the couch. Standing up made me feel nauseous. Sunday I was more productive but still felt off. Drinking ruined my entire weekend. Having broken my challenge, I felt ashamed and weak.
There was something good out of it, however. Since I had about ten days of complete sobriety before this weekend, I could discern how awful the alcohol made my body feel. I think that when I drank nearly every day I did not have this feeling, but it did not mean that the alcohol wasn’t damaging my body or making me feel bad. So I can take this slip-up as motivation to keep going with the challenge. With an extra nine days added on at the end, of course.
Now it’s Sunday, and I have never been so happy in my life to not be drinking! This weekend was a setback but this week I will regain my strength.
August 24, 2017
Binge-drinking was on my mind today. Maybe this is a problem that always existed; maybe it is getting worse. It’s the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing about 80,000 Americans annually. More than 38 million Americans binge drink an average of four times a month. The total cost to the U.S. economy is $223.5 billion annually. All of this is according to a CDC report. This is just staggering when you think about it.
According to the same report, “Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics.” Definitions of binge drinking differ. This study quantified it as more than four drinks in a short period of time for women or more than five for men. Other studies define it as consuming an amount of alcohol sufficient to raise blood alcohol level to .08 or higher.
My tendency to binge when I drink was a key reason why I became uncomfortable with my drinking patterns. So why do people binge? For me, it helped me realize a sense of camaraderie with friends who were also drinking heavily, and I liked the feeling of being relaxed and even losing a little control. I liked the feeling of being drunk. This was always a short-term feeling. No one likes the long term effects of over-drinking, especially not the hangovers the next day. It was one too many of these that prompted me to start this challenge.
What got me thinking about the topic was advertisements for “Thrive+” that keep appearing in my Facebook feed. It’s a product that claims to “mitigate the negative effects of alcohol.” It’s basically a supplement you take when you drink heavily that prevents hangovers. The comments in the advertised Facebook post included testimonials from people who wrote of drinking all day in Cabo, taking the product, and being in a perfect condition to continue partying the next day without the inconvenience of being hungover.
I found such enthusiastic promotion of this product disturbing, chiefly because the product seemed to exist to ease the effects and even justify binge drinking. While it may help with hangovers, there is no mechanism by which it could actually reduce the 80,000 American annual deaths; it might even serve to increase them if people turn out to binge drink more if there was a product that would prevent hangovers.
Reading the CDC report was an eye opener. Yet binge drinking seems to be becoming more and more socially acceptable. Suffering the effects of a hangover may be miserable but they also can be an indicator when we have gone too far with our drinking. Taking a product to alleviate the after-effects can mask a bigger problem. If it were not for my hangovers, I may have never recognized that I was drinking too much too often.
Still going strong in the challenge. Today is Day 9. Thank you for reading.
August 23, 2017
Ah, stress! Any other day before this challenge, I would be calming down the pounding in my chest with a few drinks and maybe a cupcake or two for good measure. Today started normally. I had a good morning run (despite the humidity) and traffic was not too bad on the way to work. But after completing almost all of the day’s tasks without too much difficulty, the majority of my afternoon became mired in an asinine bureaucratic nightmare that I could not resolve despite my best efforts. It really got me wound up.
Not being able to drown the adrenaline in calming alcohol is a new feeling. Any other day, I would already be a few drinks in and feeling better (at least temporarily). I was seriously tempted to suspend the challenge for the afternoon and maybe just a beer or two. And then (in a devil voice) I told myself, I could start right back on the challenge tomorrow. Maybe not even count the day. I was under stress, right? A couple of drinks would not hurt in the big scheme of things, right? After all, I was surely already getting healthier, so why not take a break just for a couple hours?
Because, as the cliché goes, it really is a slippery slope. If I stop the challenge now, I will have failed and would need to start over. If I lied to myself and somehow avoided “counting” the slip-up, then it would be easier to do again and again my “One year, no alcohol” challenge would have no integrity. In either case, I would find the fact that I seriously wanted to quit drinking for a year but couldn’t to indicate that I have a bigger problem with alcohol than I believed.
So I resisted. I will do my utmost to continue to resist. And somehow already the idea that I have been able to resist has made me feel less stressed and more in control. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. I wanted more temptation this week and I have so far gotten it.
Thank you for reading this.