Alcohol is a big part of life for a lot of people. Here in New York, social lives tend to revolve around the stuff. Having drunk enough wine around the holidays to hold me over for a while, I decided to quit drinking any alcohol for all 31 days of January.
Many folks call it ‘Dry January’ so, that’s what I called it too. I kind of think it’s weird that there’s a term for it but, it makes it easier to explain to people why you didn’t order a glass of wine at dinner and they tend to leave you alone about it that way. I’m not sure how it happened exactly but, JB wound up doing it along with me. He really is a bearded angel. He’s got a thing for good beer.
I should preface this all with the fact that lately I seem to feel hungover after drinking very little. In fact, on New Year’s Eve, my friend had a breathalizer machine on him for some reason and we all wound up blowing into it when we got back from dinner (you can imagine the wild time we were having in suburban New Jersey that night).
Throughout the night, my alcohol level was the lowest of the bunch, aside from my prego friend. In fact, much of the night I was legal to drive. However, on New Year’s Day, I felt like hell and everyone else seemed to be fine. This made me wonder if there was actually something wrong with me. A poorly functioning liver perhaps? I was probably just plain old hungover but, I bought some milk thistle just in case. Safety first, ya know?
I hadn’t consciously set out to skip booze for this long since I was in nutrition school, but I’d been thinking about it for a while. I’ve just been feeling so good lately, I was curious about how much better it could get. Would quitting drinking blast me into a feel-good realm I’d never previously been? I decided to find out.
From New Year’s day to dinner time on the 31st, I went 100 percent sans booze.
Here is what I noticed.
1. I really, really like not drinking.
This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I really love wine. I thought I would really miss it but, I didn’t. Sure, there were a few times where I really wanted a cold, crisp glass of pino but, not many. I actually really enjoyed it.
2. I sleep like a champion when I’m not drinking.
I wasn’t sure if it was because I finally got around to starting that meditation practice at the same time or what, but I have literally never slept so well in my life. It was fantastic. Out like a light all night. Sheer glory. I also realized that after this past week of drinking again, I have been sleeping like shit so, yeah … definitely the booze. Noted.
3. I found myself with incredible amounts of energy.
To go along with the benefit above, I had a ton of energy. I was flying through barre class push-ups like never before (like nine, I could do nine of those). It was as if a very thin veil of tired and fuzzy had been lifted. Giddy became a regular feeling, if giddy is a feeling.
4. Oh, I really was hungover.
Yeah, those times when I wasn’t feeling great but, didn’t think I was hungover because I only had one glass of wine? Not true, I was hungover. I didn’t feel like that the whole month.
5. No booze equals a lot less anxiety for me.
I used to think that anxiety was just my natural wiring. Ever since joining the real world after college, I’ve been operating (successfully at least) with a decent amount of anxiety. I didn’t have one anxiety attack the entire month. This one alone kind of makes me hate alcohol.
6. Most people seem to have some sort of ‘stuff’ around alcohol.
Peoples’ responses to my dry run really ran the gamut. Everything from “why the hell would you do that? I think that’s dumb,” to total shrugs of indifference, to “I would love to do that but I don’t think I could.”
I think I envied the shruggers the most. They clearly lack the internal stuff around booze that a lot of us feel. I liken this to people’s responses when I went vegetarian for a while. The people with the strongest responses either way, I find, generally have their own shit to deal with regarding the issue.
7. I craved a glass at two particular times.
The first was while annoyed at my desk at work. This is telling. Wine is clearly a stress-relieving tool for me and I’m probably in the wrong line of work. No surprise there. #ihatecubicles
The second was the first 15 to 20 minutes of a party or a dinner, when everyone else was pouring or ordering. I had a few pangs of missing out, of annoyance with myself for being devoted to personal development, and thoughts of ‘nothing wrong with treatin’ yo’self’. However, after that initial phase passed, I was good.
8. I could actually be one of those people who didn’t really drink, like ever.
It was hard for me to visualize a life without alcohol before January. A decade of drinking will do that to a girl. I probably don’t have to explain drinking in college to you and moving to New York, I went from frat parties to happy hours. This didn’t do too much to curb that kind of boozing.
Since my mid-twenties my consumption has declined a great deal. Before January, I would categorize myself as a moderate drinker. Picture dinner with friends a few nights a week and always on the weekends. Vino and sushi on the couch was a lovely Friday night. I’m pumped to have come to the realization that if I really don’t want to drink anymore, it’s not as big a deal as I would have thought. It’s actually quite exciting to me.
In the end, Dry January was awesome.
I don’t know what the future holds for my relationship with booze but I’m much more aware of how drinking affects my daily life now. I think my main takeaway is: I like wine, good beer and cocktails, but I like how I feel without them more.
January was one of the best months I’ve had in a while, I felt really alive and happy and my mood was more stable and lifted. I’m sure that I haven’t had my last crisp glass of pino but I will likely be partaking a lot less from here on out.
Ever done dry January yourself? Notice anything?