This post is all about why I am finding being alcohol free easier than I ever thought possible. Sure there are some tough times, cravings and difficult situations but I feel after nearly two weeks that this really is it. I’m hoping this is not false optimism and my instincts tell me the optimism is justified. Even if I have a little lapse, that’s all it will be because I’m going into this alcohol free journey with expectation and enthusiasm rather than a mindset of deprivation, negativity and loss. For me it’s all been about the mindset.
In January I decided to try going alcohol free to see if it would lower my cholestrol, improve blood pressure and help me lose some weight (doctor’s orders). I knew I was drinking too much, particularly binge drinking at weekends and it was taking its toll. When I’d tried to stop drinking for a few weeks before it always ended up as failure and looking back it was because I saw it solely as depriving myself, giving up something I liked but couldn’t control and if I didn’t make it that was my fault, my failure. It all felt negative. Change based on principles of deprivation, loss, will power alone, guilt, moral weakness and probable failure is not likely to be successful . I’d read the books that most people read but didn’t like the tone, the evangalism, the judgmental tone in most of them. I’ve got nothing against people who drink, I’m simply someone who is not good at being a sensible drinker. Alcohol is a powerful drug and for various reasons I am not someone who can use it in a responsible and healthy way. Something had to change.
I then stumbled across two British men who had created a community based around giving up alcohol initially for a month. They referred to what they had set up as ONE YEAR NO BEER. they devised an approach that suited them. Suddenly there were two people speaking my language. They are two men that liked a drink but drank too much sometimes and were fed up with two day hangovers and the impact alcohol was having on their health.
The key thing was this- they focused on the positive, cool aspects of giving up alcohol- improved health, well-being, weight loss, more time, better concentration and sleep. They looked at the work of Professor Moore who conducted a massive study of the effects of giving up alcohol for just 4 weeks. The results were staggering in terms of health benefits. Prof Moore suggested that if someone ever produced a pill that could replicate what 4 weeks without alcohol could do everyone would be clamouring for that pill. Powerful stuff.
Suddenly the picture changes- going alcohol free is going to open up an enhanced experience of life. I knew this deep down but seeing it spelt out like it was by these two men hit me like a thunderbolt. I couldn’t wait to go alcohol free. That was certainly a reframing moment. At the same time alcohol was at the centre of so much that I did so it was going to be a mixed process; there was going to be some loss and physical reactions to stopping but there was also going to be much to look forward to. I went on their website https://www.oneyearnobeer.com and downloaded their 28 day challenge (not sure if that i still available). I adapted it for my own purposes and turned it into a 3 month challenge. I kept a journal. I logged the changes. For me knowing it was three months gave me an escape clause. This was time limited. I could give it a real go knowing I could drink again after 3 months. During that 3 months without alcohol I felt great; I lost 12 lbs, better skin, improved sleep (although not for the first 4 weeks), more time, more energy, more motivation, lower cholestrol, reduced blood pressure. My doctor was impressed. All I had really done was cut out alcohol. I was happier. The only downsides were some of the anxiety I mentioned in a previous post and the adjustment of tackling social ocassions without booze.
Three months without hangovers! Being able to do productive things on a Saturday morning, this was great. After 3 months I decided to go back to drinking, that was the original deal with myself but part of me didn’t want to. Of course when I started drinking again my drinking was even heavier than before. It was as if I wanted the contrast. As I started drinking again the conviction slowly develped that I wanted to go back to how I felt during that 3 months without alcohol. I reread the booklet written by OYNB authors – Ruari and Andy and set the target date of September 1st. I knew enough about myself to know that moderation was not going to work. I drank alcohol like I do everything else- excessively. I wanted to experience those highs of not drinking again. Going alcohol free had been a positive adventure full of transformation, promise and tangible benefits. It was the magic pill that cost nothing.
So there we are. Many elements have coallesced to give me this desire to live my life alcohol free. Without doubt though Ruari and Andy from OYNB have been a huge influence and I wish to thank them for sharing their thoughts and insights but most importantly for reframing going alcohol free as a positive choice rather than one stemming from a feeling of failure or moral ineptitude. If you are thinking of going alcohol free or want to give it a go I recommend checking out their website. Their approach spoke to me and felt right. I didn’t join one of their online programmes or communities because I personally felt I had enough knowledge and motivation to go it alone. Except of course I’m not alone, there is this marvellous community of bloggers here all looking out for each other. If I had rushed into this sobriety or filled my head with an AA style approach going alcohol free would not be working for me, I know that. It’s all about finding a way that works for you. Reading what Ruari and Andy had to say, being inspired by fellow bloggers who were enjoying alcohol free lives and dipping my toe in the water with a three month challenge all helped me start this journey that is more exciting than it is scary. Alcohol free living – what a pill!