Just over a year ago, I gave up drinking for good. I’d tried unsuccessfully to quit twice before, but I’m proud to say that this time, I stuck with the decision. Giving up alcohol was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The hardest part for me wasn’t the alcohol itself, it was the criticism and ostracism I faced from others. Many people view it as an insult and anti-social move when you’re not drinking and they are.
Drinking alcohol is so deeply ingrained in our culture, many people couldn’t picture a life without it. People also assume that because alcohol is legal and everyone else does it, that it is safe. However, alcohol is said to be the most harmful drug of them all according to David Nutt, MD, a neuropharmacologist at Imperial College in London.
Dr. Nutt rated 20 drugs based on the various harms caused by each drug, both to the individual and the harm caused to others. Alcohol topped the list over heroin, crystal meth and crack as the most harmful drug anyone can take.
The editorial and the Nutt study appear in the Nov. 1 Online First edition of The Lancet.
If this isn’t enough to give you second thoughts about alcohol, here are six ways my life has improved by quitting.
1. My confidence improved
Alcohol is known as a social lubricant, and I had come to depend on it in order to feel comfortable in a social setting. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually using alcohol to cover up my shyness.
I felt very awkward the first few times I went out sober, but it was surprising just how quickly I became used to it. I now enjoy nightclubs and bars more sober than when I used to drink. It gives me confidence knowing I don’t have to be drunk to start a conversation with someone. This is the kind of confidence that stays with you and isn’t gone by the morning when you have sobered up.
2. Peace of mind
Alcohol impaired my judgement and caused me to make some really bad choices. I will admit it, I have driven drunk more than once and had unprotected sex with girls I met in bars. I played Russian roulette with my health and freedom and I’d been let off the hook more than once.
There are many people around the world that will be paying for one bad, alcohol induced, choice for the rest of their lives. I was strong enough to quit while I am ahead.
3. My body fat percentage dropped
After a few months off the booze, my body fat dropped from 15% to 10%. My pot belly and love handles shrunk and now my muscles feel more firm. I don’t know if this was down to me quitting drinking, or not stopping at McDonald’s for an oversize Big Mac meal on the way home from a big night out. It’s probably both combined.
4. I gained an extra productive day per week
I have to say the thing I like best about not drinking is waking up fresh and feeling great on the weekend. I don’t miss the hangovers – which had become two-day affairs now I am over 30 – and I cant think or work when I am hungover, so all I want to do is stay indoors and watch movies. A hangover day becomes a completely wasted day. Now that I don’t drink, I have gained an extra day a week to catch up on whatever I need to get done.
5. I saved thousands of dollars
I used to spend a lot going out. A night out would cost me in the range of $100 – $300. I weigh over 200lbs, so to get me drunk takes a lot. On an average night I would spend between $100 – $150 on booze. Then I would get generous and buy others drinks too, and then we always had to stop on the way home for McDonalds or Mexican food.
Not drinking for one year has saved me somewhere upwards of $8k. Think of the holiday you could buy yourself at the end of the year with the money you saved.
6. My overall health and mood improved
A surprising thing that happened after around one month of no drinking was that I found myself with this amazing mental clarity. I now feel more focused and clear about everything. I used to get so depressed the day after I drank, I’d start to question my life direction and it made me feel terrible.
Now I feel healthier, my liver is working better and my whole system is thriving because it’s not getting poisoned two times a week.
Don’t forget that that’s what alcohol really is, it’s legal poison.
The 30 Day No Drinking Challenge
The holidays are the best time of year. The downside is, too much of the good life during the festive season can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated and a bit flabby around the mid section. If you have been contemplating getting back in shape, there has never been a better time to take the ”30 Day No Drinking Challenge’. Nothing will whip you back into shape faster than a good fitness program and a month off the booze.
So I hereby challenge you to take the ’30 Day No Drinking Challenge’. If alcohol doesn’t have control over your life, then surely you can survive without it for 30 days? If you can’t quit any vice in your life for 30 days, you need to reconsider who or what is really in control in your life. In fact, many people don’t realize they are addicted to something until they try to quit.
What you can expect…
- The first few nights will feel weird, although you will be surprised at how quickly you become used to not drinking.
- The cravings will be at their worst when you encounter one of your triggers, such as watching a football game with your friends or being at a social gathering where everyone else is drinking.
- It will feel strange to be at a party and not have a drink in your hand. It almost feels like you are naked. You can get around this by substituting your alcoholic drink with an iced water with lemon – so as not to attract too much attention – most people will assume it’s alcohol.
- Remember, to get the benefits of weight loss, you wont be able to substitute alcohol with soft drinks. It needs to be a low calorie drink.
- Weekends will be the hardest time. Remember, you only have to get through four of them. The hardest part of quitting for me was on Friday nights. After working the whole week, it was really hard not to want to have a beer to celebrate a successful week.
- I have found going to the gym on a Friday or Saturday night helped. After I finished a good workout, I didn’t want to ruin it by drinking.
- Don’t avoid social gatherings altogether, but do let everyone know your are doing the 30 day challenge and it is important to you that you do not cheat. This will make it less likely people will try to pressure you into having a drink.
- Try to find a buddy to do the challenge with and hold each other accountable.
- Put your money where you mouth is. Give your friend $100 that they get to keep it if you cheat.
- Keep the end goal in mind. Think of how proud you will be after 30 days.
So I challenge you to give it a try – stop drinking for at least 30 days and see how good you feel. You may find that you are indeed better off without it after all.
Feel free to post your comments and progress in the comments section below. Good luck!
Featured photo credit: David Blackwell via flickr.com