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My 6-Month Alcohol-Free Experiment

Picture by the author.

The surprising and wonderful advantages of taking extended intervals off ingesting.

Emily Rudow

The idea of a “dry month” has gained mainstream recognition prior to now few years the place for 30 days, you get slightly style of a lifetime of sobriety.

I upheld this custom all through my twenties, beginning off the primary month of every 12 months with omitting ingesting from my routine. I selected this month since December was at all times a heavy month of indulgence with the rolodex of Christmas events and festivities on faucet. January was the beginning of a brand new 12 months and what higher time to leap on the well being practice and cleanse my system. Annually the expertise was sort of the identical — the primary few weeks have been simple and the latter two harder. The final week was once I actually wanted to ramp up my will energy (which was conventionally operating near empty) and couldn’t await the ultimate day the place I may have fun my accomplishment with… guessed it…a beer (or a number of).

Nevertheless, since turning 30, issues have modified. Alcohol has sort of misplaced its attraction to me and a few of the relevant social conditions involving alcohol (events, bars, and so on.) don’t actually curiosity me anymore. Maybe I overdid it in my youth or possibly I identical to feeling good and energized most of the time. As I’m certain most of us can relate, I’ve had some unhealthy experiences with alcohol; I’ve achieved or mentioned silly issues, acted like a idiot, and felt the dreaded “hangxiety” and disgrace the following morning.

It wasn’t till my thirtieth 12 months once I actually began chopping down on the ingesting and abstaining from alcohol for longer bouts (2–3 months at a time). Once I took these extended breaks, I noticed some massive, optimistic modifications in my life and my psychological well being. I used to be capable of make transformative modifications to my physique (constructing muscle and getting leaner), had far more vitality in my exercises, approached my work with extra positivity and enthusiasm, felt extra artistic, and had extra motivation to pursue actions that introduced me actual pleasure and achievement.

On the finish of 2020 and within the midst of a turbulent time in my life (and more than likely everybody else’s…we won’t miss 2020), I needed a transparent thoughts to set a optimistic tone for 2021. The reality is that alcohol has by no means actually added something to my life — solely detracted from it. I set some fairly lofty objectives for the brand new 12 months and knew that there was no means it was believable if I upheld my ingesting patterns — even on events. I couldn’t afford to have a day to go to waste, nor did I need to. Should you’ve been studying my weblog for some time, you’ll know I’m a fan of timed challenges and experiments so with this one, I needed to see if I may abstain from alcohol for a full 6 months — which is the longest I’ve ever gone with out a drink (since turning 19, or possibly even earlier than that).

As I write this, I’ve efficiently hit the 6-month mark. Should you would have requested me in my late 20’s if I assumed this was believable, I’d have laughed and replied, “yah right! maybe a month max” — oh, how issues have modified.

On this submit, I’ll take you thru my expertise abstaining from ingesting for half a 12 months. Just like all my experiment posts, I’ll embody a few of the newest analysis on alcohol and the way it pertains to your coaching and physique composition. Whereas I do know alcohol is a sensitive topic, I feel it’s essential to uncover some truths in the case of the consumption of alcohol and a few of the lies we’ve been result in imagine: one being that life simply isn’t nearly as good with out it.

I don’t know if it’s as a result of I’m getting older or as a result of I’ve shifted to a extra holistically more healthy way of life, however each time I drink alcohol, I really feel exponentially worse than I did in my 20’s. Though, I feel that is one thing that everybody can relate to — our tolerance simply isn’t fairly the identical because it was through the “golden years” of partying. Even after ingesting a beer or two, my mind would start to really feel foggy and I’d really feel a bit sick to my abdomen. The following day was like clockwork — I’d really feel overwhelming anxiousness that lasted just about the whole lot of the day. If I drink any greater than that, properly, let’s simply say my hangovers often final 48 hours. Whereas I do benefit from the quick, euphoric buzz after the primary drink, that rapidly fades and I’m simply left feeling like rubbish.

For the sheer indisputable fact that ingesting makes me really feel like shit, it wasn’t a really tough resolution for me to exclude it from my life. In January of this 12 months, I moved again from Alberta to Ontario to quickly stick with my dad and mom as I found out my subsequent transfer. Since we’ve been in lockdown FOREVER, I haven’t had the chance to see too lots of my associates on the common or had the posh of hitting up any form of patios or eating places. So, on the social aspect of issues, it’s been simpler to abstain. My shut associates that I do see, we often select the extra geriatric actions like having a tea or espresso and going for a stroll/hike + having a superb chat.

So whereas it’s been simple during the last 6 months, there have been occasions all through the previous few years that made it harder (from a social standpoint).

In my 20’s throughout Dry January, I’d keep away from any “tempting” conditions: going out for meals/drinks with associates, going out to events, going to golf equipment or bars, concert events, and so on. Most of my month, within the lifeless of winter, would consist of an entire lot of indoor chilling and watching Netflix.

In my 30’s, I shifted this mindset and determined that I don’t need to miss out on any of those experiences — alcohol didn’t should be the focus. I needed to stay life like I usually would and run a social experiment to see if I genuinely loved the actions I used to take part in or if it was the lens of alcohol that made these actions appear enjoyable.

I feel we typically underestimate the facility of our minds and the way they affect our experiences. If we don’t assume we’re going to have a superb time hanging out with associates or going to a celebration with out alcohol, it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’ll really feel like we’re lacking out on a superb time. Standing there being the one sober one can really feel boring or make you self-conscious.

If, alternatively, we go into the expertise considering we’ll benefit from the firm, the deep conversations or the occasion itself (whether or not that be a live performance, sports activities recreation, and so on.), we’re extra more likely to have a superb time.

One surprising realization I got here to throughout this experiment is that a few of the actions I cherished doing when ingesting, I couldn’t stand sober. I solely loved it as a result of alcohol was concerned. Baseball is a superb instance. as an illustration; Going to a three-hour recreation sober is torturous for me — I discover it boring as hell and realized that for me, the entire expertise used to revolve round pints.

Hitting up a patio with certainly one of my finest associates, alternatively, was a terrific expertise: I obtained to take pleasure in some wonderful appies and a terrific dialog — no alcohol was wanted to boost the expertise.

Once I first began this new sober way of life (pre-pandemic), I truly felt anxious exhibiting as much as “drinks” at a restaurant/pub and ordering a weight loss program coke or arriving at a celebration with a 6-pack of glowing water. I used to be frightened that my associates thought I’d be boring or that I’d include a “holier than thou” perspective — judging them for his or her selections.

The reality is that alcohol made me boring. I wasn’t as articulate, I misplaced my wit and keenness, and on a few of the blurrier events, I may barely keep in mind the conversations I had the night time earlier than.

When folks discover out I’m not ingesting there are combined reactions, however predictable at this level. The primary and most typical response is curiosity: why am I selecting to not drink when ingesting is simply a lot extra enjoyable? The second, much less widespread response is when somebody begins making an attempt to strain me into it (or guilt me) or routinely goes on the protection about their ingesting habits. That is essentially the most irritable response to cope with. I don’t perceive why my resolution to not drink is anybody’s enterprise, however my very own.

I’m truthfully not judging folks for his or her selections and selecting to not drink is a private selection — not a mirrored image on what I take into consideration different folks’s selections. I don’t go round telling folks that I don’t need to drink as bragging rights on how “seemingly” nice my self-discipline is. The truth is, one of many essential causes I publicly introduced that I used to be doing a 6-month problem was to mitigate any questions/unfavourable responses from these round me after they realized I wasn’t ingesting. I may merely say that I’m doing a 6-month problem. After additional reflection, I assumed extra about how bizarre this complete scenario is. Bizarre that alcohol is the one drug that we stigmatize those that don’t take it.

What I’ve seen although is that my true associates don’t care if I drink or not. They take pleasure in my firm due to me and never as a result of I’m a ingesting buddy. Connecting deeply with folks I care about gives the pure excessive I crave with none of the unfavourable unwanted side effects that include consuming alcohol.

Alcohol consumption is so pervasive in our society and by selecting to not drink, I’m conscious that I’m going a bit in opposition to the grain. Whereas I used to care a lot at first about what different folks thought (I used to meticulously plan out my causes and even devised a script that outlined causes for not ingesting when out in social conditions), I’ve sort of stopped caring altogether. When anybody begins to probe, I simply shut it down. I’ve realized that if individuals are dissatisfied or don’t need to hang around with me anymore as a result of I select to not drink, properly then so be it. No love misplaced on my finish.

I do know for a indisputable fact that I’m far more gratifying to be round once I’m sober vs. intoxicated and I can create extra lasting reminiscences and experiences. When most occasions or social conditions contain alcohol they’ll change into a blur of sameness or what Annie Grace in This Naked Mind describes as, “a boozy Groundhog Day in which you become ensnared.”

For me, this couldn’t be nearer to the reality — my reminiscences all sort of mix collectively when alcohol is concerned, however the lasting, actual reminiscences that I maintain near me are at all times when the day/night time doesn’t depend on alcohol.

Now let’s get into some truths; arduous truths about what alcohol can do to your physique and temper.

As quickly as we take that first drink, alcohol instantly will get absorbed by the bloodstream and b-lines it straight to our livers. Our our bodies course of alcohol the identical means as if we have been to ingest poison. Which is sensible as a result of alcohol, made up of ethanol, technically is poison. If we devour meals concurrently, our physique prioritizes processing the alcohol first to rid the toxicity from our our bodies as rapidly as doable. As quickly because it enters the liver, alcohol is damaged all the way down to acetaldehyde and into acetate. Acetate suppresses fats oxidation; in different phrases, it stifles our potential to burn fats. One examine confirmed that the consumption of simply two beers inhibited lipolysis (the breakdown of fat).⁠ This is likely one of the many explanation why alcohol can stunt our fats loss progress.

If I may choose one factor responsible for hindering efficiency and palpable physique composition modifications within the gymnasium, it might be alcohol. Understanding hungover is clearly not enjoyable and I often really feel sloppy once I’m making an attempt to raise — breaking my kind, chopping corners, and ending my exercises before I had deliberate. I’ve run my justifiable share of races after an evening of ingesting. Again in 2011, I ran a half marathon after staying up till 4:00 am ingesting and threw up inside the first 5 kilometres. This was undoubtedly up there by way of my catalogue of depressing life experiences.

I feel it’s apparent at this level that alcohol will not be a substance that may improve efficiency within the gymnasium — solely considerably detract from it. Whereas it’s believable to nonetheless make progress within the gymnasium whereas together with alcohol in our way of life, it must be restricted.

Constructing Muscle

Research has shown that consuming alcohol post-workout decreases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and inhibits restoration — two important substances wanted to construct muscle. This identical examine confirmed that even after ingesting ample protein (25g of whey protein) post-workout, MPS was nonetheless hindered. Principally, which means that if we drink after our arduous coaching session, the beneficial properties we made will probably be impaired — all that arduous work for nothing. If you’re planning to drink, it’s higher to make use of that day as a relaxation day or go for some cardio.

Weight Achieve

Not like proteins, carbs, and fat that nourish our our bodies and suppress our appetites, and depart us feeling satiated, alcohol doesn’t. The truth is, it sometimes increases our appetite.⁠ The overconsumption of energy, plus the excessive caloric content material of alcohol ( 7Kcal/g) can simply put us in a caloric surplus — the important thing catalyst for weight achieve.

Binge ingesting episodes are the worst for fats loss, however in the case of informal drinks (1–2) as soon as per week, this in all probability received’t have an enormous impact in your progress. Alcohol can also be a drug; it lowers our inhibitions, causes dehydration, and the addictive results make us need to drink extra. As a result of alcohol is a drug and never a nutrient, its essential goal and full-time job is to make us need extra That’s why it’s so arduous to cease at only one drink.

Common alcohol consumption and all these informal after-work drinks stymied my progress with physique composition. As quickly as I finished ingesting (for over a month), I began making substantial and actual modifications to my physique composition: gaining lean muscle, shedding physique fats, and extra vascularity in my legs and arms.

2019 me vs. 2021 me

Since eradicating alcohol, my vitality has change into much more steady. I sleep higher, I’m capable of regulate my moodiness (with fewer outbursts), I’m extra affected person, and general rather a lot much less anxious. I’m higher at coping with my unfavourable feelings — actually feeling them after which subsequently, letting them go. Alcohol simply numbed my feelings and dulled my senses. After a break-up for instance (one of many hardest experiences for me emotionally), I’d exit to fulfill with associates for drinks to get my thoughts off issues. Whereas I felt higher within the second, the following day my anxiousness can be off the charts and all of these unfavourable feelings got here flooding again — however this time even stronger.

Since I finished ingesting, I’ve change into far more artistic, been capable of follow the commitments I’ve set for myself, and simply take pleasure in on a regular basis actions a lot extra: like studying a superb e book, joking round with my household, or going for a mid-day stroll in nature.

This 6-month experiment has been a terrific expertise. I’ve realized that alcohol will not be a magic elixir that helps me calm down, however moderately, it’s been an enormous supply of quite a lot of my issues.

I’ve been capable of save a ton of cash, spend money on the inventory market, and in addition spend money on myself (ie. I took a course on creativity in March). It’s far more gratifying figuring out the cash I labored arduous for goes in direction of the main issues I would like in life: a cottage, monetary independence, and my very own self-growth.

I not should expertise the intense swings that include using a drug (which is what alcohol is: a drug) and might cope with my feelings alone phrases. Feeling them absolutely (good and unhealthy) and letting them cross via me has been a cathartic and liberating expertise.

Whereas I solely set a objective to go for six months, I’ve determined to increase the problem and proceed this new way of life I’ve change into accustomed to. 6- months in, I hardly ever even take into consideration ingesting anymore.

Should you haven’t taken prolonged intervals off ingesting earlier than, I extremely advocate giving it a shot. Whereas it does take a little bit of time to acclimatize, the advantages are immense. The toughest a part of the problem by far has been the social pressures, however keep in mind that anybody that doesn’t help your resolution to not drink both isn’t a real buddy (drop them) or would possibly wrestle with their very own relationship to alcohol.

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