So before I dig into why I quit drinking and how things have changed over the past 100 days, I want to be clear that this is not a call for others to quit drinking (although I will recommended it to anyone who is curious). This is not a push for prohibition or a source of judgment for those who continue to drink. This is just MY experience, and seeing as it has affected my health -- physically, mentally, and spiritually, I thought sharing MY experience on MY health and wellness blog made perfect sense. I am sharing for those who might question their relationship with alcohol as I have.
Why did I stop? This is a big question. The short answer is that I realized that I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism for life's stressors. It was my go-to when I felt I needed to "relax or unwind". Now, this was not an all-day, everyday kind of coping mechanism, but it was a regular tool in my toolbox. It was a part of my week, even more so a part of my weekend. It was the way I socialized and slowly became engrained in my habits over the past 15 years. The second part of this is that as a sufferer of depression, the alcohol, which is a depressant, was making things worse. This is like drinking coffee and then wondering why you can't sleep. It was affecting my every day life, as it was taking me, not 1 or 2 but 3 days to come back to my real self after drinking. Even knowing that the alcohol was adding to my depression the thought of completely removing it was incomprehensible. But my life and body were craving a break. I am a firm believer that when "bad" things happen it is actually being presented as a lesson to be learned. If you ignore the lesson you will just be presented with another version of that "bad" thing until you actually stop and take a look at why it is happening. So, I finally chose to look at the root of this problem and see what life would look like if I removed the source of inevitable ickiness.
When I first removed the alcohol it was constantly on my mind. It was hard to ignore as I was seeing it in every aspect of life. It is such a common thread in todays society. Everywhere you turn there is a song, an advertisement, a social media post, hell, Lululemon even has a beer now. It shows up in every social event, even fitness events, sometimes its the only part of the event. As a 30-something single woman, finding new ways to socialize has been a very big task and is a work in progress.
As far as my state of mind, I am noticing the little things much more than previously. When you take out alcohol, and the time, money and energy that went along with it, you find you have a lot of extra time. That extra time has allowed me to notice the small beautiful things around me that I previously overlooked. This might seem like nothing but those little beautiful things add up to make my day a little brighter, even when life's throwing lemons.
My depression has lessened significantly but unfortunately it is still here. I started doing research on other factors such as sleep and food and have made significant changes in hopes of further lessening my depressive states. I found Dr. Kelly Brogan's work to be of great help in this area.
I have had to create more routine and have been way more productive than in the recent past. Without hangovers and the dullness that alcohol can sometimes bring, I have been able to use the momentum gained from this change and parlay it into all sorts of other projects. I have some really cool ideas and I am excited to see where they lead. I have more time, energy and money for my to-do list/dream list. I have saved an additional $600 over the past 100 days :)
Removal of alcohol has made me truly understand the value of self-care. Cravings for things that we are trying to steer clear from are less intense when you are taking care of yourself. When you consistently check in with how you feel and then take action to reduce stress and nourish your body, there is less urge to snap and say "damn it, just give me a cookie!!". I have however noticed the use of other things to get that comfort feeling. Things such as food, sugar, social media, coffee, and shopping. My eyes have been opened to how frequently I rely on stuff outside of me to deal with stress, loneliness, or just life in general.
Starting my day with hot lemon water and a filling breakfast, instead of jumping right into the coffee and sugary treats, helps to keep blood sugars stable. Continued hydration, healthy meals, meditation, yoga/exercise and regular mind/body compass check-ins, help to keep the water from boiling over. Sleep, hydration and daily movement are now at the top of my priority list everyday.
My skin has cleared and I have noticeably less cellulite!! I have not lost weight but many have commented that I "look skinny" or have asked how I lost so much weight. I am not sure if this is meant as a compliment or not, as it sometimes just feels like a concerned question with a kind of puppy dog face, but there are a handful of reasons why I have leaned out. First, I have not been lifting weights regularly over the past 2 months, resulting in a decrease in muscle mass, however yoga and long walks have been consistent. Secondly, I have been witnessing my diet and reducing grains, sugars and diary where I can, although they are all still present in some form. This has also led to reduced stomach issues and bloating.
The last factor is that I have removed all of the alcohol calories as well as the stellar food choices that tend to accompany the use of alcohol. I have started lifting again so we will see what happens over the next few weeks. Something else that I have noticed is intense sugar cravings. Because alcohol is primarily sugar, the removal has resulted in strong sugar cravings which I have been fulfilling with yogurt, dark chocolate, dates and kombucha throughout the week and ice cream on the weekends :)
This is where some really unexpected changes happened. Seeing as having wine after a stressful day was a regular activity, I was forced to find other ways to unwind. Baths and long walks are good but they do not have the same mind-numbing results as a glass or two of wine. This means that I always have to be PRESENT! Whoa. It has led me to examine every aspect of my life; my health and fitness, my business and life goals, my finances, my daily routines and habits, my social life, my friendship/relationships, my thoughts and my spiritual life, which was pretty lack luster before.
I feel more level headed and calm than ever before. I feel more confident in my decision making skills. I am able to create boundaries and say no to things that do not align with my goals or that I simply do not feel like doing. I understand now that I cannot expect to have the truly fulfilling life that I have always imagined living, if I am dulling my sensations, avoiding discomfort, and ignoring life's lessons. So, naked as a jay bird I am going to tackle another 100 days. Here's to 200!
Shout out to Holly Whitaker from Hipsobriety.com as she is why I made it this far. I also want to thank the friends and family members who have stuck by me through this and have continued to check in. Sometimes, a simple "How's it going?" can change someones day.
"If you drive down the same dirt road day after day, your car will form ruts in the road that will limit your ability to maneuver. Unless you pay attention and become mindful, your car will default to the ruts, and in doing so, reinforce the prior patterns in the dirt. If you want to get out of the rut, you will need to consiously choose another path and reinforce this new path until it becomes your established way of traveling." - Deepak Chopra