taking a break from booze

as i’ve referenced a few times recently, i’m in the thick of a fitness/nutrition program put together by the lovely keri lynn ford. though the eating plan isn’t too far off from what i’m used to, the workouts are similar to the ones i was doing previously and the results thus far have been phenomenal, there is one facet of the scheme that is quite an aberration from my way of life.

not drinking.

when keri introduced this plan to me initially, i read through the details and noticed that one component was abstaining from alcohol for eight weeks. at first, i was adamantly against this plan of action, thinking it would be impossible. soon, that feeling of stubborn resistance gave way to skeptical curiosity. could i do it? the place i ended up in wavers between resolute devotion and weak compliance. the first four weeks on the program, i cut back to 2-3 drinks a week, and that task was honestly a lot less challenging than i originally envisioned. it turns out, i don’t need a drink every other weeknight when i get home from work. i also firmly believe that more often than not, when i would go to bars, i would drink past what i needed, or even really wanted for myself by at least two drinks. setting a weekly limit kept it in check and helped me to realize that fact.

today marks two weeks since i have had ANY alcoholic beverages. i am going to try my hardest to comply with the eight weeks of abstinence (though keri and i have already discussed my plan to take a break halfway through, as we have a trip planned to san francisco to visit my parents, and being at the foot of wine country certainly calls for a glass or two) and though this choice of mine has incurred raised eyebrows, intense questioning and suspicions of pregnancy, there have been a lot of benefits so far.

1. much better sleep. all the time. i knew drinking was disrupting my weekend sleep when i’d had a few too many, but i couldn’t possibly have understood the extent to which it was preventing me from getting good rest during the week as well. hooray for increased energy and less illness! it has also, of course, led to better workouts. i have begun the process of resuming early morning sessions.

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2. lost inches. the first week without alcohol led to some serious drops in inches around my waist. just goes to show that even though i was working my butt off in the gym and eating clean … alcohol is a fitness/weight loss poison. it’s so unfortunate, but true.

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3. better memory and clearer thinking. i began noticing that my mind just felt clearer and i didn’t have to struggle as much to remember things, whether that means little bits of trivia or where i parked my car at the grocery store.

4. more even-keeled emotions. even dan mentioned that i have been much calmer and able to deal with stress better. he remarked, “sometimes you will get upset about things that might have triggered you before, but you find the humor in the situation much more quickly these days.”

5. freedom. from a lot of things. this encapsulates a lot of different components: i’m able to drive any time i want, i never worry about whether or not i said something i shouldn’t have while drinking, and i don’t freak out about the taco bell run i made at 3am the next day.

6. i’m saving money. whether it’s bars or grocery stores, booze is expensive, and when you cut it out completely, your bank account thanks you. i bought a new dress to celebrate.

7. my productivity has gone up. when i used to try to drink while doing things like … blogging, packing, cleaning, etc, it just didn’t get done as quickly. it might be less fun now, but at least it’s completed in no time.

don’t get me wrong. it’s not an easy thing to do. there have been a few prominent mental obstacles along the way. for example:

1. romanticizing the drink. picture this: it’s a chilly spring sunday night. dan and i are cozied up, playing scrabble in front of a roaring fire in the early evening before making dinner. what would go perfectly with this moment? a nice glass of wine. there are a zillion other scenarios just like that one, and sometimes it’s tough to imagine that the scene will be quite as good without a cocktail or glass of wine. what to do? i’ve been trying to replace the glass of wine in that picture with a mug of my favorite tea or a glass of club soda with a lime. occasionally it does the trick, but there are instances in which i don’t feel satisfied.

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2. force of habit. because dan and i have always enjoyed craft beers and wine, there are quite a few situations in which i am just accustomed to drinking. when we are making dinner, it has been tradition for us to crack a bottle of wine to enjoy along the way. nowadays, when we prep our meals, i still feel a bit of longing for a glass of vino.

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3. it feels like i should be. when i’m at a bar, when i’m at a party, when i look through my facebook feed (especially during st. patty’s weekend) and see my friends out with drinks in hand, etc. i think to myself: “this is nuts. they’re drinking – why aren’t you?” i guess the peer pressure they warn you about in high school to drink never really goes away.

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4. hurting people’s feelings. as a bit of an extension to the above point, some people take it personally (or at least i perceive it that way – it could very well be all in my mind!) when i don’t want to share a drink with them. drinking is associated with celebration, cutting loose and special events, so i can certainly understand this point of view, but i hope to not permanently alienate or offend anyone with my actions. that is certainly not the intension or purpose of this whole ordeal. it’s similar to food: when someone bakes you something and you’re trying to lose weight/eat healthy – it’s so hard to say no, because you don’t want that person to feel you don’t appreciate them, but at the same time, hopefully they understand that it’s a personal journey for you and has nothing to do with how you feel about them or their cooking/baking.

5. not having a concrete goal. frequently throughout the past few weeks, i have had friends and family members query: “what’s the end goal of this whole process? what do you want out of it?” and the hardest part for me is that i don’t have an answer. i don’t know. it started out as something i wanted to try because i like a challenge and because i love to mix my fitness/nutrition routine up for the sake of experimentation. before starting, i was not unhappy with the way these things were going in my life, nor have i at any point along the way felt as though i needed to lose weight or adjust my physical appearance. in that sense, weight loss was much easier. i knew what my target was and could concretely say that i hit it. when i was tempted with something, i had a vision in my head to attach myself to that deterred me from cheating. with this? i just don’t know sometimes.

so thoughts on all of the above? it can all be frustrating, but i’m gaining more insight and perspective about why i choose to drink when i do. not unlike my journey with cutting out unhealthy foods, i’m hoping to develop a method for determining when i really want a drink instead of indulging because of a mental component listed above. i hope to continue to hone in on a concrete goal to attach myself and draw some conclusions by the end of this whole “experiment” that will benefit me and my approach to something that affects my quality of life.

have you ever given up booze? would you? 

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6 thoughts on “taking a break from booze

  1. I can relate to so much of what you put in this post… both the benefits and the challenges. I liked that you talked about not only the social challenges in terms of seeing others out drinking, but the challenges of having to hurt people’s feelings by turning them down, or just having to worry about if their feelings are going to be hurt! I think what’s helped with that is when your very firm about sticking to a said “goal” – so something like, “i’d love to, but I gave up drinking for February” or “I’d love to, but I gave up drinking for 8 weeks because X, Y, & Z.” I’ve found it much easier to take than approach then to just say something like “Oh I Can’t” – which we both know some people could perceive as an excuse.

    I commend you for giving up drinking as a part of your overall health plan. In my eyes, the benefits FAR outweigh the challenges. Alcohol is the only food/substance out there that provides calories, while providing no benefits to the body – WHATSOEVER. Even if you eat a stick of butter, at least your supplying your body with something it can use as energy! Alcohol doesn’t even do that! :-0 !!!! I definitely understand how hard it is though. Continue to push through to your goals and I think it’s a great idea to take the between break!

    Good luck 🙂

    • thank you so much for your comment. it means a lot to me that it resonates with someone else. i told you – blogger soulmates! 🙂

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