My readership, in their teaming dozens, may have noticed that the title of this blog has changed slightly. I took the word “beer” out. To be honest, I originally added it for alliterative effect, to follow “barbells” and “books” but also, beer was a major part of my life for a long, long time.
If you have been reading this blog since it’s inception you might have noticed that my relationship with booze in general is/was uneasy, a love/hate relationship at best. Fear not, Dear Reader, this will not be an anti-booze screed. Rather I thought it’d be interesting to describe what it’s like to take conscious, months long break from alcohol. Was it hard? What was the best part? Does your life become ultra-fabulous overnight? Do people act weird when they notice you aren’t drinking? Think of this a Buzzfeed for the Buzz-Free.
My relationship with alcohol: Don’t worry, this won’t be a “woke up in a puddle of my own sick down by the train tracks” sort of post. Suffice it to say that my history with booze began with a bang (too many stupid and dangerous things to relate here) and seems to be going out with a whimper. For the last several years I was not binge-drinking, blacking-out or waking up with horrendous hangovers. What I was doing, however, was drinking more regularly. At least a few beers, almost every day unless I was sick. I wasn’t getting ultra-hammered, rather I was just getting a decent buzz on. Sometimes less, sometimes (accidentally) more. Another thing that changed is that I stopped drinking socially and began to “self-medicate”. It seemed (yes, yes, I know how stupid this sounds) like the best way to relax in the evening and get some sleep. This almost immediately presents a problem in that you need to hide your behavior, the fact you’re buzzed (not always successfully) and yes, all those pesky empties. Why this seemed worth it to many people such as myself is subject for another post, or perhaps a book.
Suffice it say that there came a point when it was obvious to those close to me, and even my own self-medicating, denying ass, that something had to change. So I did two extended periods of no alcohol during 2021. Most recently, I stopped drinking for just a few days over 3 months. These were the longest periods of abstinence I’ve done since I was 22. So, how was it, you ask?
- In some ways, it was easier than I thought. I didn’t have any physical symptoms of withdrawal, however for the first several weeks I felt triggered around 7PM. I had to remind myself all the reasons why I was taking a break. Once I got over that urge, it wouldn’t resurface until the next day at roughly the same time. Eventually, the idea gains momentum and psychological urge weakens.
- My mindset towards what alcohol represented in my life was much harder to change. It represented excitement and fun, which is darkly ironic, so my subconscious was constantly saying “so what do we do now?” I had to constantly remind myself of the reality – and my thought patterns seem to be changing.
- Weird cravings for carbs the first several weeks, especially bread. I guess this makes sense as beer is essentially liquid bread. I decided to give into the bread and junk food cravings so I wasn’t trying to make too many changes at the same time.
- I didn’t lose as much weight as I thought I would. I ran the numbers re: the number of beer calories I was ingesting on a weekly basis and thought, hell yeah this is a slam dunk. The Kgs will melt off. Eh, well, not that quickly nor ultimately, that much (3 Kgs over 5 ). Of course, giving free rein to my bread and ice cream urges probably didn’t help things.
- Sleep: It improved, thank God, but not right away. By the second month, however, I was sleeping actual quality sleep and was able, once again, to take honest to goodness naps. F*** booze, sleep is where it’s at, y’all.
- Overall health: my skin and hair improved and my blood pressure is slowly improving. My face is less “red” than it was before.
- Piece of mind: This, along with sleep, are THE reasons to abstain either permanently or periodically. Slowly, the constant, nagging feeling of guilt dissipated as well as all the other myriad stresses that regular alcohol use engenders. I could look at myself in the mirror and my loved ones in the eyes. That is/was priceless.
- People generally don’t care if you aren’t drinking: I attended a few large social events during this period and drinking was a non-issue. I grabbed a Coke or a sparkling water and just got on with it. By the 2 months mark I did mention to a few co-workers and friends that I was abstaining for a period and they were bemused. I had long since ceased to drink really excessive amounts, in public or elsewhere so for them, there didn’t seem to be an issue. In my experience, fear of people forcing one to drink seems overblown.
- What it feels like when you get off the wagon – So as of a few weeks ago, I started having the odd drink socially. It was anticlimactic – it wasn’t awesome and I didn’t feel the need to go have several more. I don’t currently have the reflex to use booze as the answer to any question regarding boredom, anxiety or stress. Also, the urge to drink has diminished. Left unchecked, however, it’d just be matter of time to return to old habits.
As of April 1st I’ve decided to do 6 month dry period. For one, I’ve heard that many of the really cool changes happen AFTER 3 months (i.e. weight loss really starts to kick in, etc.). So, yes, I took the word “beer” out of the title of this blog because its no longer part of my life. I no longer equate it – as I still do with Barbells and Books – as essential to the “good life”.