4 Months without Alcohol

April 16, 2023

I haven't had any alcohol since the 14th December 2022, and so this is my four month update report.  You can see previous updates here.

How things are going...

It's easy to gloss over how well things are going.  In the day to day rigmarole, it doesn't seem like things have changed much.  It's like aging; you look in the mirror everyday and see the same face staring back at you. Changes are so minor and on a continual basis that they go unnoticed.  That is until you look back at a photo from 10 years and are startled by just how different you look.

So, in a similar vain, I decided to pull up a journal entry that I wrote during a period where I was drinking to fully understand the magnitude of the changes after 4 months of abstention.  

In this post, I'll share some phrases from my journal entry that stood out with a comparison on how things are going now.


Journal entry:- I am unable to sit down and focus on something at length (deep work) because it’s not engaging enough for me so I’m distracted and struggle to get anything done. Probably because my dopamine circuits have been hyper stimulated by all the excess drinking.

After 4 months not drinking:- While I'm definitely not a paragon of deep work and concentration, I'm consistently focused and productive on a daily basis.  This is a far cry from struggling to get anything done.  So far this year I've accomplished a LOT.  I'm far more steady and less likely to procrastinate and put things off.  

I started to keep a "Life highlights" log to keep track of everything I've achieved this year.  This is to counteract the "stuck in the mud bias" - if you haven't heard of this phrase before that's because I just made it up.  But it refers to our tendency to quickly forget everything we accomplish and to feel like we're working hard but getting nowhere.  Reflecting on this list has helped me to appreciate how well things have gone this year.  I can say, without any doubt whatsoever, that not drinking has led to serious improvements in this domain.

Physical Fitness

Journal entry:- I lose physical fitness, gain weight, and I find it really hard to get things back on track.

After 4 months of not drinking:- The improvements I've made in my physical fitness this year have been substantial.  

To give some context: I'm never really out of shape because even when I'm drinking, I also still try to take care of myself physically by going to the gym and eating well.  However, this year, I've made some serious gains in the gym.  I recently pulled a 190kg deadlift and squatted 130kg for 4 at a bodyweight of 77kg.   These lifts are very close to lifetime PR's at this body weight at the age of 38.

I've also started having regular body composition scans (there are discussions as to how accurate these scanners are so let's take the results with a pinch of salt) and they've shown a 800g increase in muscle mass with 0.5% decrease in body fat in less than 4 weeks.

These results are clearly not purely as a direct result of not drinking.  However, the butterfly effect of not drinking helps me with the willpower to train harder, push myself in the gym and follow a regular gym schedule.  It gives me the energy and focus that's easily derailed with just a single binge.  For the same reason, it also helps me eat healthy and stay off the junk food. Clearly, over time, these minor habits really accumulate to significant results.

Anyhow, the point is this:- I've been adding muscle, dropping body fat and lifting close to lifetime PR's at 38.  This is a far cry from "gaining weight and finding it hard to get things back on track".  Another positive aspect of not drinking to add to the list.


Journal entry:- I drop the ball on my commitments - I’ll skip my weekly meetings like 1 to 1’s for example

After 4 months of not drinking:-  I cannot recall a single commitment that I've missed for the entire year so far.  Why? I think a lot comes down to better time management and scheduling because I've maintained a regular sleep schedule (something that I find really hard to do when partying weekly).  

There's also the matter of increased willpower.  I feel that I have increased ability to face things that I don't want to do.  For me, these are things like phone calls (sales calls, for example), paperwork and bureaucracy.  I've had extreme examples of these over the past four months (if you've ever tried to apply for a residency visa then you'll know what I mean).  

Clearly, I'm a lot more consistent when I don't drink.

Other things worth a mention..
How about the cravings?

I've noticed that over time I feel less and less triggered by things like other people drinking.  

It should be noted that, from the outset, I haven't tried to avoid social situations that involve drinking.  I'm a competitive pool player, and so being around people drinking beer in pool halls is something that I cannot avoid.

A few days ago, for example, I had an all day pool competition on a Sunday.  90% of the 30 or so entrants were drinking during the event.  I can't even remember a slight temptation to drink.  This wasn't the case in the first few weeks of giving up alcohol though.  I can remember having pretty damn strong cravings in the first week after giving up but week after week those feelings seem to continually drop.  I can sense, though, that one drink could easily awaken those old cravings up which is one of the reasons why it just makes no sense to even drink in moderation.

Any negatives of quitting alcohol?

I have a few mates in my local town that all experience euphoria when drinking.  If I go out with them, we 'll laugh all night, meet new people and just really enjoy ourselves.  

The truth is that level of euphoria is no longer part of my life.  I haven't been able to replace it. 

I've noticed that some "quit lit" authors try to make you believe that alcohol does nothing for you and that the euphoria is merely just an illusion.  I think they're being intellectually dishonest.  Even at a physiological level, it's understood that alcohol produces dopamine in the same way that other addictive substances do. That's not an illusion - that's real - and I definitely feel it.

I've accepted that this part of my life is gone.  Having a meaningful life that's well put together is more important to me than temporary bouts of chemically induced euphoria.  Instead I'll get my pleasure by leaning on the side of pain.

Final Words...

I don't regret this experiment one bit.  I'm super happy with how it's going and, while I don't want to put pressure on myself, I'm questioning whether I'll even drink again after this year is over.

Either way, I'll post my updates here.

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