If you were around on the blog when I posted about confronting our relationships with alcohol, then you will know I decided to quit alcohol for a month. And yes, I purposely chose the shortest month of the year to do it in. For 28 days I would abstain from drinking in an effort to better understand my relationship with alcohol.
Before I started the challenge
Not that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in the first place. Although if I took on this challenge while living in London it would have been more difficult. The access to alcohol, a busy social life and convenient public transport facilitated a drinking culture hard to ignore. My drinking habits since moving back to Australia tend to be limited to a glass of wine while cooking dinner at home, but I think the psychological relationship remains the same.
What I struggled with most
- Purely from habit, I missed having a glass of wine while cooking dinner on the weekend and listening to music.
- Feeling stressed and wanting to unwind with a ‘quick fix’ of having a drink.
- Delaying meeting up with friends until I could ‘have a drink’.
What I learned from not drinking for 28 Days
I learned what triggers me
The first two weeks of the challenge had passed before I even noticed myself thinking about the absence of alcohol. Because I realised I couldn’t have it, I suddenly found it more desirable. This became an opportunity to pay more attention to my environment and notice my triggers for wanting it. This included weekends when I wanted to ‘switch off’, evenings out in a social environment and the habitual drinking opportunities like cooking with a glass of wine in hand. I learned that my triggers were mostly either emotional or social. Just being aware of this was enough to help me understand and later improve my drinking habits.
I learned how to ‘switch off’
Prior to the challenge, after a stressful day, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have a couple of drinks to just relax into that nothingness. I would truly believe that this kind of switching off was helping my anxiety. Not having this option forced me to find alternatives. I found peace in going for a walk, being creative or phoning my sister. But better yet, I would resist the desire to zone out and distract my mind and I would actually confront it and process the day. Feeling ‘wired’ from stress, I learned that taking some deep breaths and letting the feelings just ‘be’ was enough to instil calm within.
I learned that I didn’t need alcohol to socialise
Initially, I felt really uneasy being in social settings where everyone else was drinking and I wasn’t. Although it was completely in my head, I thought everyone knew I wasn’t drinking and was judging me for it. Ridiculous. I reminded myself that nobody knows this and even if they did, so what? What was it going to change? I would still be me. I relaxed into this, felt more comfortable in my own skin and had a clear head the next day. Conversations flowed better, I engaged more deeply and I was expressing myself with more authenticity.
I learned how to listen to my body better
You know how sometimes when you’re out having drinks with friends, you have one glass, then another and another. Soon you have stopped listening to your headache that wants you to drink water. During the alcohol-free nights out, I paid much better attention to my body’s needs and not only did I hydrate and eat, I also knew when it was ‘time to go home’. It was a new sensation for me to drive home from a night out and reflect on what a great night it was. My body thanked me with a good night’s rest and a clear head the next day.
I learned life feels better without alcohol
On a physical level, I was feeling so many benefits from going alcohol-free. Better sleep, mental clarity, increased energy. I felt better inside my body, 100%. The difference in the mirror was minimal and I owe that to an already healthy diet. However, there was a noticeable improvement to my waistline and hips. The improvement to how I felt on the inside was the biggest benefit. Understanding how my body feels without alcohol is the best lesson I can take from this experience and I will continue to make healthier choices.
With the better understanding of my drinking habits gained from this experiment, I do believe it’s in the interest of our health to limit our alcohol intake to as little as possible. There is a direct, positive impact on our wellbeing and the relationships with people around us when we minimise our intake. However, I also believe in balance.
As long as we are aware of our choices and how they affect our behaviour, feelings of wellbeing, health and relationships with others, we can encourage a healthier relationship with alcohol.
Thank you for reading this post. If you have any similar insights, experiences or comments, I would love to hear from you.