So, it’s officially been two months since I’ve had a drink. I wanted to do an alcohol-free challenge, in part because I want to test out all the statements I’ve read about the benefits and in some ways to prove to myself I could do it. Before you applaud me for my outrageous self-control, I will voluntarily point out that I originally planned on it being a 100 days challenge. But truthfully, I got bored with it at 60 days.
Objectively, I’m NOT a huge party animal, but I’m still an average forty-something who likes to socialize, and inherently much of that scene everywhere I’ve lived, from New York, Florida to CT, revolves around drinking.
Although I will probably go back to drinking moderately after this extended experiment, going without it for 60 days has put a serious damper on my desire to drink, especially at the frequency I used to. It has also allowed me to take a good look at some of the social, and health factors that influence our appetite for booze and socializing.
And in the end, I couldn’t be more grateful for my decision to try this challenge.
When I first decided to go dry, I wanted to be purposeful and knowledgeable about why I was doing it. I discovered as an economic contributor, the US alcoholic beverage industry provides approximately 4 million jobs for workers across the country, but the US liquor industry spends billions on marketing effectively normalizing the behavior surrounding frequent and intense alcohol consumption.
My family tree is littered with alcoholic’s, and I know that alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and health conditions, such as alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. Globally, alcohol misuse is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability.
My decision to give it up for a period of time was to see if the following statement about the brain was real: Alcohol affects mood, behavior, and interferes with how the brain looks and operates, as mentioned above. I have to say I did feel like I was slightly more focused, aware of the items that were aggravating me, and I was able to come to terms with each. One side effect I had, was that I started to grind my teeth at night in sleep, only to be hit by my husband to try to stop me. The stress, comes from the basic fact that I understand I will never be able to pay back my college loans without a drastic change in employment and pay scale. But like I said, once I focused on the issue, came to accept the reality, it was “just what it was”. Life continues.
The other statements below, I can’t test, but I trust the information.
Heart: While research shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease (but upon closer inspection, it’s not advisable to drink for these reasons because any benefits are outweighed by negative effects or achievable through other lifestyle changes), heavy use in the long-term can cause high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and cardiomyopathy.
Liver: Heavy drinking abuses the liver, one of the most important organs in our body, causing a variety of problems and inflammations.
Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
Cancer: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the: mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast.
Immune System: Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Even drinking a lot on a single occasion inhibits your body’s ability to ward off infections for up to 24 hours after. Alcohol use has also been linked to diabetes.
After 60 Days:
After two months without alcohol, I feel great! I’m better able to focus, and my memory has gotten remarkably sharper. Literally things I couldn’t remember a few weeks ago now come back to me immediately and childhood memories I hadn’t recalled in a decade are back at my fingertips. Not to mention that any inch of excess fat has melted off my body. I lost 6 pounds without any effort.
I’ve also had so much more time to create this blog.
Did I feel awkward when I did go out? Yes, I did.
And of course, it was annoying as hell to realize that drinking has become so normal that not drinking was somehow cause for alarm. And I found it hard at first to locate non-alcoholic beers, my one and only vice while doing this challenge, but they also gave awful headaches. Worse than hangovers, not sure why, but now I have a great tea collection instead.
However, I could not go much longer without a glass of pinot noir with dinner or having at least one craft beer on a night out. I got bored, I knew I had accomplished my goal. But I can say for certain that I will never go back to drinking at the same level of intensity and frequency as I did before. I also know that without doing this 60-day experiment, I never would have been able to moderate my drinking to this same degree and come away with as clear of a picture of why my relationship to alcohol needed to change.