So it's been 7 months since I quit drinking as an experiment. Here's my update on how things have been going.
Feelings vs Reality
I'd say for the first two months, I was on cloud 9. I was constantly thinking about how much my life had improved after quitting the sauce. I've read on forums that this is quite common - something like a honeymoon period.
I'm well over that honeymoon period now. It's no longer exciting that I don't drink. It's just become the norm. And, because it's been quite a long time since I last got caught up in binge drinking, it's a little hard to remember all the reasons why it was such a big issue at the time.
It's actually quite a dangerous period of time. I feel like I'm not seeing vast improvements in my quality of life and I can't fully remember how bad things were before. It's tempting to reach for a beer, and in all honesty I almost did a few days ago.
But, when I sit down and look through my previous journal entries and look at everything that I've accomplished over the past 7 months, it's as clear as day. Life is far better now than it ever was when I was binge drinking. It's just that we, as humans, have a tendency to both forget the realities of past experiences (especially true as time passes) and take things that we have for granted. You just can't rely on how you feel as a good measure for how things truly are. This is why having a journal as a means to reflect has been an incredibly useful tool (I wrote more about this in my last update).
Reflection on Improvements in Quality of Life
- Physically the best shape I've been in for the last decade or so
- Strongest I've been since I was in my early 20's
- Bench press = 15 reps @ 80kg
- Deadlift = 200kg (probably a bit higher now - testing again next week)
- High bar squat = 2 x 140kg (I've got chicken legs despite 15 years of squatting)
- Front squat = triple at 100kg (new lift for me)
- Haven't missed a gym session all year
- Done many more excursions and trips thanks to not being rendered at the weekends
- I play pool as a sport and my game is the strongest it's ever been thanks to more reliable and consistent practice schedule. Won a few tournaments this year.
- Blood pressure down to around 110/65
Smashing a 200kg deadlift on the right hand side vs a 190kg deadlift from a few months before. Great to see some progress!
- Confidence through the roof, especially when it comes to meeting people.
- Haven't even thought about social anxiety recently, which is a great sign that it's not really a problem I have anymore.
- Generally feeling happy and positive about life and the future
- Higher self esteem - I like who I am more now that I'm not binging
Not a Panacea
During the honeymoon period it seems like a rebirth. All aspects of life just seem better. As time goes on and things settle down, though, quitting drinking is not the panacea that it felt like at the beginning. Other problems persist and need addressing independently.
For me, I've had problems with productivity as a result of a lack of clarity in strategy in one of my businesses. I've also suffered a bit of over analyzing every decision causing me to delay making them (a great book about this is called The Paradox of Choice). As these problems arise, the temptation is to grab a beer as a means to escape, relax or because "we deserve it". This is a common trap to be aware of. Awareness is commonly all that's needed to avoid it.
Helpful Thought Patterns
99% of the time I'm not really bothered about drinking. But it's those 1% of times when I'm out shooting pool with all my mates and I'm triggered where the following thoughts help me:-
- I don't think about never drinking again. It's too overwhelming. I take it one day at a time. I just don't drink today. (Great video by Russel Brand about this). This concept also works on smaller time frames, too. If not drinking today is too overwhelming, just don't drink for an hour. Usually, after an hour, the feeling has passed.
- I accept that if I drink again in the future, it will inevitably lead me getting back into a position where I'm binge drinking again at some point in the future. Even though it doesn't happen straight away, that first drink sets off a chain of events that unfolds over the coming weeks and months to take me there. Understanding and accepting the consequences of that first drink has helped me refrain when tempted. The consequences aren't worth it.
Key Takeaways after 7 months
- Temptations get easier over time. The first month is the hardest. After that it's not so hard
- After the honeymoon period, things settle down and it's easy to forget how much your life has improved without firm reminders
- When you're triggered have some thought patterns to fall back on that rescue you
- General day to day life is much better when you don't binge weekly
Will I go back to drinking? I don't plan on it. But I'll just focus on today and take it from there.