I started July 2017 with a 30-day challenge to help me reduce stress. You can read my article on completing the challenge here. After the month was done I decided to just keep going. I have not had a drop of alcohol in the last four months and I want to give an update of where I am at.
Dealing with social pressure
Living in Toronto, that’s what people do – drinks after work, drinks at events, drinks with dinner, etc. Alcohol runs the city. Everyone drinks. The hardest part of eliminating alcohol is the social aspect. It’s not so much the peer pressure (which I am glad I haven’t really had to deal with) but the ongoing internal conflict.
The first 30 days were easy because there was a concrete end date. Once that date passed some strange questions and thoughts started to crawl into my head. I felt my identity was being questioned by this change. I have always been the type who liked to have fun, and alcohol was a big part of it. So, when I told myself that I’d keep going after the 30 days were up, I started to feel like I was losing a big part of myself. “I don’t trust people who don’t drink” is a common motto among drinkers. I felt the same way. So now that I don’t drink – does that mean people don’t trust me? Do I somehow come off as a less trustworthy person with a hidden agenda now that I don’t drink? If I was seen as the life of the party, now that I don’t drink what other value do I bring to the table? Battling these thoughts required a lot of introspection and it has not been easy.
The new normal
Another hard part of the last three months was the transition to the “new normal”. The transition meant eradicating old habits and forming new mental shortcuts. If you consider the impact of alcohol on your free time, it’s a lot more wasteful than you’d think. It’s not just the time that you spend at the bar, but also the time you are tipsy at home, tired in the morning on a weekday, and hungover on the weekend. All this time adds up to a shocking number of hours that you now have to fill with something else. Giving up alcohol can easily mean you have an extra 20 hours on your hands per week. (Do the math now). Now you need plans for Saturday morning. Now you need a hobby for Thursday evenings.
What I found works for me is really celebrating my new mental state. I wake up on the weekend and register how grateful I am to have all this energy for fun activities all day.
Getting to the new normal is what I consider a win. I am living my life to the fullest and alcohol is just not a part of it.
Time to think
The 20 hours I mentioned above are now the time I get back to myself. My mind now has an extra 20 hours a week of mental clarity. I feel like the absence of alcohol has freed me from materialistic thoughts I’ve had in the past. I have more time to think of my impact on the Earth and the legacy I will leave behind.
I have surrendered the dream for owning a G-class Mercedes. I want an electric car now. I’ve cut back on the plastic I use – saran wrap, plastic packaging of veggies, plastic bags. I am more mindful of electricity consumption, and my family and I dream of building a sustainable home one day.
I feel like cutting alcohol out of my life has made me less of an egoist. For the longest time, I’ve only thought about what’s good for me. Now I start questioning, what can I do for the world? I am excited to explore this further.
I originally wrote a long section on the benefits to my health, wallet etc. but decided to delete it so it doesn’t take away from the, in my mind, more rare insights that I was able to uncover.
I am very interested to hear from you! What changes have you made in your lives that are worth trying?
March 8, 2019 update: it’s been more than 20 months since I stopped drinking and I have finally admitted to myself that I have no intention to ever drink again. Being sober is the new norm for me and I love how much time and energy I have, and how sharp my brain is any time of the day. Dry wedding here we come!