In my last post, I talked about the power of 30 Day Challenges.
I’ve done several challenges over the years, but honestly it’s only been since July this year that I’ve been doing once every month. The hardest so far, has definitely been 30 days without alcohol 🙄
Why I chose to give up alcohol for 30 days
In July, I decided that I wanted to focus on my health. I qualified as a personal trainer 13 years ago and I’ve always eaten well but I knew that alcohol was sabotaging the things I was doing well.
First off alcohol is loaded with “empty” calories plus it inhibits fat burning, can increase hunger and lead to food cravings.
I also started to notice that after drinking on a weekend, Monday’s were a challenge. Feeling tired after a poor sleep and a significant spike in anxiety (which I later found out is also a common symptom of perimenopause).
I was scared of what I might lose
One of the things that stops people making changes in their life, including something like these 30 day challenges, is the potential pain of loss.
Their brain will immediately offer them (consciously and unconsciously), all the things that they could lose if they pursue their goal. Some of the most common ones are:
Comfort… I’m going to lose the comfort of being where you are. Even if you are miserable in your current situation, there is a great deal of comfort in certainty.
Relationships…What if my friends/family/spouse don’t like the new me?
Fun/Joy…what if I can’t have fun (common one with quitting alcohol)? What if I lose joy from my life?
For me, I was definitely concerned about missing out on fun! I’m a keen cook and love to entertain my family and friends – and there’s always wine on the table. As a “foodie” I love going out for dinner with my hubby or snuggling in front of the tv with a bottle of something nice at the weekend. Our village has a tonne of pubs which make great “stops” whilst out on a long, weekend dog walk.
How would all these things feel different without alcohol? Did I even want to find out?
Feeling All The Hard Emotions
In August 2021, my dads cancer progressed rapidly. The following 4 months leading up to his passing, were horrific to say the least. And I found myself revisiting an unhealthy method of coping. Not eating and numbing the emotional pain with alcohol. A couple of large glasses every day became the norm and at the time, I had no desire to stop.
I suspect I suffered a form of PTSD after he left us (I still struggle to say the ‘D’ word) and it took over 18 months for me to feel anywhere near normal. Whilst I cut back on alcohol a lot as time passed, I came to realise that I needed to look at my relationship with it.
I’m not going to lie, there was a part of me that was scared to feel all that grief fully, without the barrier of alcohol.
August 1st was the first day of “No Alcohol August”.
And something felt VERY different.
I’d done no-alcohol months a couple of times before, and literally crossed each day of the calendar, eagerly anticipating my first glass of red. I was grumpy, moaned the whole month and felt like I was being deprived.
However, this time, I felt NONE of this.
I felt calm, empowered by decision and committed to being curious about the results I’d experience.
Replace old with new
It is suggested that one way of removing “bad” habits, is to replace them with new ones. Personally I don’t believe this works all of the time, but that’s for another blog.
Completely unconsciously, during this time I created myself a new routine.
My husband and I sat down in the evening with a Chai Tea or an alcohol free spritzer and we began watching a new TV Series. After watching a couple of episodes, I’d go off to our room and lay on my Shakti mat whilst doing Wim Hoff breathing.
Without even knowing, I’d created the same EMOTIONS that I get from a nice glass of red. Relaxation and Peace.
And having a drink didn’t even enter my mind.
I didn’t realise that anxiety can be a symptom of perimenopause but I was aware that I had started to experience it – and it didn’t feel good.
Without alcohol, there was a definite decrease in my symptoms plus I felt a sense of clarity that hadn’t been available to me for a very long time. It was so refreshing to feel “clear” in my head, to quieten the incessant voices that had been resident there for too long.
This had a knock on effect. My productivity sky rocketed. I’d spend some time every evening getting my work set up for the following day; I got more done in less time and I felt great whilst I was doing it.
The Ripple Effect
As I explained in the 30 Day Challenge blog, there is often a ripple effect when we focus on one thing for a month. Giving up alcohol had quite the profound effect:
- Enhanced my relationship – we spent more quality time together, had more patience with each other (he did the 30 day challenge too), and eeked every moment out of our weekends together.
- My Body – whilst I only lost a couple of pounds, my body shape changed a lot. I felt and looked less bloated and my skin and eyes were brighter.
- Exercise – I was able to workout more effectively and felt stronger and fitter.
Alongside the reduction in anxiety, increase in positive mood and productivity – I was astounded by how different I felt without alcohol for 30 days.
I am so glad that I gave myself this challenge. I learned a lot about myself and my relationship not just to alcohol but to my emotions and to what and how I experience fun and joy.
Whilst I have not remained alcohol free, I have transformed my relationship with it and that is a big win in my book 👏🏻. I don’t see it as a tool to hide from difficult emotions; I don’t ‘need’ it to have fun and perhaps most important.. I really like WHO I am and HOW I behave without it.
Reminder: As I tell my clients all the time, make the pathway to change YOURS. There is no right or wrong. There is no timeline you have to stick to. And there is no reason that is better or more worthy. Trust yourself and your ability to lean in to hard things and learn more about yourself.