I quit drinking for 28 days. Here's what happened.
Go without drinking? Are you crazy?
My career is budding. I'm an attentive father. I pay my mortgage. I wake up to change the baby's diaper. I show up. But that was about all. Prior to this challenge, I just showed up.
Though I was far from wrecking my life, living in a gutter, or drinking myself to death, I was still drinking consistently. I was perpetually in a state of slight hangover from a few too many glasses of wine a few nights a week.
But, I showed up. Alcohol wasn't having the same consequences in my life that those alcoholics experience, right?
Enter Andy Rampage
As a junk food vegan aspiring to be better, I'm a huge fan of Rich Roll's podcast. While eagerly queueing up the next episode, as fate would have it, it was a podcast with a message directed right at me: The "Middle-lane" drinker.
I'll let Andy explain it best, but he realized that drinking was robbing him of his most peak performance, the very best version of himself he could be. While he wasn't an alcoholic by common perceptions, he realized it was marginalizing his success. I've included the interview at the bottom of this article. I have no affiliation with his organization One Year No beer.
I was moved by Andy's interview, and I decided to take his 28-day no alcohol challenge. Here's what happened.
This was the first thing I noticed when I stopped drinking. It was also the most dramatic change I experienced physically. I was sleeping for the same periods (sometimes shorter due to our baby), yet I felt more rested than when I had gone to bed after a couple glasses of wine. The quality of sleep was simply better. I had no idea waking up feeling like a pile of shit wasn't normal.
The second biggest difference I noticed was my energy levels were much higher than before. I'm able to play with my toddler and take care of the baby while my fiancé is working. Double daddy duty has been much easier, instead of feeling absolutely exhausted and turning to wine.
I dropped ~ 12lbs overnight, basically. I'm a big guy, so that isn't too hard to do. But, this required zero effort. And, when I say zero, I mean I didn't change anything (other than everything by not drinking) and I lost weight. Of course, the math in this equation checks out, but it's still a pleasant surprise.
Mental & Emotional Changes
So, this is where I saw the biggest benefits. One of the most shocking things is how much clearer I've been able to think and concentrate while working and sustain that performance level for several hours a day. Not drinking has essentially become a nootropic. I'm able to hold complex strains of thought for longer durations of time while programming, and I'm able to exchange technical details with colleagues with ease.
I had no clue what I was getting into emotionally when I agreed to take this challenge. I had no idea how much of a coping mechanism my wine at night had become until I gave it up. It's a slippery slope, and giving up alcohol for these 28 days has been a journey of re-discovering myself and allowing me the clarity to really find out who I am.
Alcohol was like a cloud of silt on the bottom of the ocean. I couldn't see the treasure chest right in front of me. But, once that cloud of dust settled, it showed me that I'm able to cope with anxiety, life, happiness, and the entire range of emotions without diluting who I am.
I got lucky. I didn't have many outings planned during this period, and with a toddler and a baby, it's tough to get out anyway. However, I'll relay some great points I've heard from others on how to deal with this:
- Say you're trying out a challenge. Given the pro-challenge state of the internet, people are usually on board with this and leave you alone.
- The great thing about drunk people is that they don't remember shit. If you have to show up at a party, outing, etc. simply show up, have a mock-tail and go home. They'll remember that you came, but lose track of when you left. I can personally attest to wondering where a friend went two hours after they'd already left (I was drunk).
- Try some mock-tails and find what you like. People are a lot less insistent when you already have a drink in their hand.
- People might get salty, and that's ok. That's usually because you tackling your issues tends to shine a light on their own. They'll have their plate of upsetti-spaghetti and forget about it later.
This was big for me. Managing stress & anxiety is still a daily battle for me, but this challenge was a step in the right direciton. When I took away the booze, I actually found that my anxiety went down, not up, despite me convincing myself that I needed it to cope. I'm able to parse my emotions with much more clarity than trying to numb them, however slightly, with my wine at night.
Let's do this
If you're considering that you may be just like me, a middle-lane drinker who is stifling their peak potential by drinking, I emplore you to try a 28-day challenge and see for yourself. If you feel you still want to drink, then that's ok. The goal is to explore those 28 days and find out what living alcohol-free is like, and make your own decision.
If you'd like some help along the way, please check out One Year No Beer. It's a wealth of resources & support for anyone looking to try this.
As for me, I'm continuing this expirament to 90-days. While I stated above that I'm not an aloholic, I've learned that it is truly a scale, not binary. It is a gradual process that may never become recognizable "alcoholism", but I'd rather not stick around the booze to find out.