NEXT WEEK MARKS 12 MONTHS since I quit the booze. Again.
You’ve heard of yo-yo dieters? Well I guess my thirties has seen me operate at both ends of the drinking spectrum.
On the boozing extreme, I would have binged hard but limited the damage to weekends. How bad did it get? Well, blackouts were par for the course. I didn’t have a good handle on things. I drank to get drunk. Why? Escapism. Habit. Boredom. Confidence. Many reasons.
In many ways this year has been one of the most revealing for me. I’ve always been health conscious, at least in my research, if not the practical application of those discoveries.
That being said, I have trialled several things in the past to improve the quality of my life. Some things stuck (cold showers) while other habits proved less ‘sticky’ (sleeping on the floor).
So, what has abstinence of booze taught me as 2018 draws to a close?
1. Sleep is Precious
I love sleep. I love it even more knowing that I’m going to get some quality shut-eye every single night and wake up refreshed.
Deep, restorative sleep is something I didn’t get enough of when I was drinking. Weekends and half of the work week was a write-off as I tried to recover my sleep debt after a particularly boozy night.
2. Comfort Zone
Approaching someone at the bar. First dates. Awkward social occasions. Gigs and events. My comfort zone was tiny when I was drinking. Bottled confidence helped (or so I believed) navigate me through some tricky spots.
The problem with the artificial confidence is that it is fleeting. Real confidence is created by battling through difficulties in spite of the odds. Like muscles – confidence atrophies if not used. A year ago I would have run a mile at the prospect of a first date with a stranger in a foreign country in a different language. Now, it’s fun!
I’m really comfortable being alone. In fact I love it. In the past, it would have been difficult for me not to get antsy and push for something to happen on a Friday or Saturday night.
Now, I can still go out if I want and enjoy the sensitivities and atmosphere of bars for as long as I like and return when I’ve had my fill. My decision making is better (free of influence), and much more aligned to enjoying the moment with friends without stressing. Many bars are designed to make you initially uneasy (noisy/dark/congested), encouraging the act of drinking to reduce your discomfort.
4. Health Gains
After 30 days when I noticed the effect that removing booze had in my life, I decided to explore other areas where I could improve my well-being. This led to me becoming a vegetarian in February which I have continued.
I am in the best shape of my life and feel physically and mentally transformed. I continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and listen closely to my body/mind for feedback to improve.
5. Precious Time
I now have a lot more of it.
For two of the last three years I have been sober. Those years without drinking coincided with my time in Colombia – a period where I was at my most creative, writing and publishing five novels in total.
There is simply no way I would have had the discipline or time to do that if I was boozing.
6. Family Bonds
As my natural confidence grows, I’m becoming more comfortable expressing emotions and feelings to those nearest and dearest to me.
Emotions weren’t expressed very well in my family from the teenager years up. Regrets, frustrations, despairs or even lighter ones like joy and affection were rarely displayed except for boozy family occasions. Now, I’m learning to tell my truths and how much I love and treasure those closest to me. As a result, I’ve never felt closer to my family.
Without the cloud of alcohol, I have a much clearer idea of the kind of person who I would like to attract into my life. I’ve made plenty of bad choices – haven’t we all? – which, if I would have had a couple of drinks less, certainly wouldn’t have happened. Yet, twelve months later, we were still in a toxic relationship. How did that happen?
Now, there are no surprises. My vision is clear. Also, for the other person, they get the real me – like it or lump it! Not the guy who after a few pints appeared like he had all the answers, was chatty and confident. Now, what you see is what you get.
As I toast to my one-year anniversary next week with a limonada de coco in Medellin, have you considered going off the booze? Or have you already given up? I’d love to hear from you.
In this post I share a couple of book recommendations which helped make up my mind about why go sober.