Last year (2019) in January I did a personal experiment which was that I took part in Dry January or No Alcohol January.
This year I did it again.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is a random thing where you decide to reduce or abstain from drinking alcohol in January.
You can make your own rules. Some people give themselves a weekend exception or they have special events that they exempt. It’s nothing formal.
Why do Dry January?
I think that some people find that after the October – New Years food and drink binge a break from booze sounds like a good idea.
For runners and triathletes I also think some use dry January as a kick start to a season of clean eating and fitness.
It’s a long challenge – but not too long. In my experience one month gives me a chance to check in with myself and my relationship with alcohol.
This post is not giving you advice on whether you should drink or not. Alcohol like food is a personal decision. I will say that I think a tricky thing with alcohol is that it impairs your judgement. That includes your judgement of yourself. You might be the last person to realize that you have an issue. If there are people in your life suggesting that you might have an issue … my only advice is to try to listen.
What’s new for me this year with Dry January?
My first Dry January last year was a great experience. I slept better, my skin was clearer and I was surprised that I didn’t have any real desire to drink. Once I decided that I wasn’t doing it – it was done. My surprise last year was how much I enjoyed being without.
This year was less of a surprise simply because I knew some of what to expect. This year, I was able to do a little more deeper thinking about my thoughts about alcohol.
Between last year and this year I did interview 2 people for the Mile after Mile podcast about the topic of recovery. Todd Crandell (episode 54) and Meredith Atwood (episode 58) . Those are good interviews.
I also read the book This Naked Mind. Which is an interesting even if you don’t have an out of control relationship with alcohol.
A few shifts in my thinking
Abstaining from alcohol for me gives me a chance to rethink the question, “what do you want to drink?”
At a restaurant, that’s how the server starts the process. They walk up to the table and ask, “Can I start you off with something to drink?”
They want you to buy a drink with alcohol simply because it makes them more money. That’s fine – I’m all about making money. Taking alcohol off the list of my choices really gave me a chance to think of other things that I did want to drink for thirst and refreshment.
Additionally, one month without alcohol gave me a great chance to ask myself what do I want from alcohol? What does drinking alcohol add to my life?
Abstaining from alcohol removes “a filler ” in my evenings. My daily schedule includes picking up my small people from school and shuttling them through Miami traffic to activities and then home. When my kids were young this evening window was filled with helping with homework and feeding and baths. Now that my kids are teenagers I now have a sort of doldrums or a dead spot that I was filling with a beer or a glass of wine – maybe 2.
Taking a month off from alcohol highlighted that this thought was an illusion. That’s a good discovery. Instead of having the drink I have to come up with something else to do. Call a friend, read some of a book, write a few hundred words.
I mentioned that I read, Naked Mind. This is an interesting book. Some of the book did not resonate with me simply because my relationship with alcohol is not the same as the author’s. However, she gives a lot of great information about how our bodies process alcohol and how our brains handle it.
This did strike a chord with me because I do try to make mindful decisions about the food that I put in my body. When I look at alcohol with detachment as a food source, a calorie source it does change how I feel about it.
When am deciding about whether to eat food I think about what it does for me. I think about health and nutrition but I do also think about joy. If I eat cookies or cake or candy I do that for the pleasure of eating it. If I use that same method with alcohol I would really only have a few sips of wine or beer and be finished. I do enjoy the taste of wine and beer.
This happened last year too. I don’t lose weight when I cut out alcohol because I eat a lot more sugar. I don’t know exactly why this happens.
Candy, sugar cookies, ice cream … I crave sweets. That was interesting.
The final week of the month I intentionally reduced my sugar also and I did drop a few pounds.
Moderation or Abstinence
Some people will tell you that moderation doesn’t exist.
I do pretty well with moderation. I don’t always do well if I make a rule that I cannot have something, ever.
People are different. I can have one cookie (except thin mints where I think my minimum is about 4).
No big drama
Stories and experiences about alcohol can sometimes be very dramatic. There’s not a lot of drama here. I’m not declaring that I’ll never have another drink or that alcohol is evil and nobody should drink it.
I took a one-month break.
I did not have trouble going without.
I did sleep better. I love sleep.
I did get more accomplished.
I do still like the taste of beer. I had 2-beers while watching the super bowl last night. It was fun. This morning though I did think … mornings are easier without beer the night before.