I've decided to go 2023 without a sip of alcohol - I've already explained the reasons why here.
Has it been hard to stop drinking? Not really. Every now and then I get triggered, but these days it's probably only once or twice per week while I'm out shooting pool with my mates. I just watch the cravings and let them pass.
Anyhow, here are my observations after 90 days...
Differences after 90 Days without Alcohol
- Better mood in general - definitely more stable in terms of emotional regulation. While I'm not getting the euphoric highs from binges, I'm more content and engaged during normal everyday life. It reminds me of a book I read a while back about being 10% happier. It's not a panacea, but there's a noticeable impact on day-to-day happiness that comes from not indulging.
- Less procrastination - regular alcohol exposure impacts the frontal lobe - that's the part of the brain responsible for things like willpower, amongst other things. It's actually been shown that regularly drinking alcohol reduces gray matter in this area in a similar way to drugs like meth. Willpower is apparently like a muscle in that it can be improved through training but it can also be weakened through regular pleasurable indulgence. A weakened sense of willpower leads to the tendency to focus on the here and now rather than the longer term view. That's when procrastination comes into play.
I'm surprised to say that I've been able to notice this effect: I haven't procrastinated even on things that are usually most triggering for me (admin and paperwork to name a few!). It's not that there's no resistance, I just feel it and do it anyway.
- Clarity of thought - going through a challenging time with a new company that I joined as CEO. Strategy and clarity of thought are of utmost importance as we navigate through this tricky period. I've spent a large portion of my time analyzing, problem-solving and strategizing to good effect.
The knock on effect is that, while in the past I've sometimes had the tendency to delay difficult decisions due to my inability or reluctance to deeply think things through, this new found clarity of thought has helped me to make decisions quickly and with conviction. Fast and effective decision making is an important leadership quality so I'm glad to be improving in this domain.
- Productivity - I've accomplished so much in the past three months. I can't solely credit abstention from alcohol because I'm also super engaged in growing this new company so that helps. Nevertheless, this has been one of the most productive quarters in my life. Coincidence? Time will tell.
What's more important...
I look up to people who are doggedly consistent, exhibit strong levels of self-discipline and continually improve their craft to be experts in their field. More than ever before, my day-to-day activities, effort and hard work are increasingly in line with those that I admire. Because of this, I'm earning respect...from myself.
This self respect; the ability to look in the mirror and not be partially ashamed of regular mindless alcohol indulgence, cascades and snowballs. Each day it gathers momentum and trickles into my day-to-day activity. I can now see that over the space of years and decades, the difference a sober life can bring is profound. These positive changes in behavior multiplied over the space of 30 years could literally mean the difference between a life well lived and one wasted with regret.
It all sounds very dramatic, I know.
I genuinely don't think abstaining from alcohol will have as much of an effect on most others as it does for me. But I'm just one of those people that enjoys a night out on the beers a bit too much. And the side effect of drinking probably has a longer and more pronounced effect on my mental wellbeing during my regular day-to-day life than most others.
One bender a week is pretty much enough to have me in a state where I constantly feel like I'm putting my life back together. I miss gym sessions, avoid meetings and people in general, don't do my reading, procrastinate on work I don't want to do and destroy my sleep schedule. For someone that's trying to integrate daily positive habits, it's like trying to start a fire in a bucket of water. Regular drinking wouldn't be such a big deal if not trying to hold myself to a higher standard. But I am, and alcohol is too much of a headwind for me to consistently push against.
Onwards and upwards. At the moment I'm still a little uneasy at the idea of never drinking again. I'll be really interested to see if anything changes after 6 or 12 months.
I'll report my updates here as and when...