Here we are, nearly at the end of February, and you may be asking (or not) how the whole Lose the Booze thing went. The short answer is that it went well, and I surpassed my goal of raising $200 to the BC Cancer Foundation (Kermit Flail!!).
The long answer is that I’m frankly surprised it has gone so well, but I have noticed a few…things, since I cut out alcohol entirely. People who know me personally, especially work colleagues, know that I liked to drink. They know that I frequently had a glass of something after work, or in the evening after the kids went to bed. Hell, I even sometimes had a tipple after my night shift, especially if it had been a busy one. And, even though I wasn’t drinking that much, I was beginning to wonder if it was becoming a problem. Like, maybe I was relying on it a bit too much to unwind at the end of the day. Like, maybe it was becoming a habit, and, although I certainly was not and am not an alcoholic, that maybe I was starting to head down that path.
Even the week before I started this, I wondered how well I was going to handle it. What if I had a really hellish day? What would I do to relax without a beer or a glass of wine? How much was this month going to suck?
I attribute a lot of the “not sucking” to the discovery that I absolutely love tonic water. It’s not as sweet as pop, it makes a lot of other things more palatable, and it’s way cheaper than booze. The one downside is that it has as much sugar as pop, so to avoid the caloric load, I had to find the diet stuff (it’s funny that I became concerned about the number of calories when I didn’t give a good goddamn about the amount of calories in the beer and wine I was drinking).
As the month wore on, I noticed some definite differences in my life, most fairly subtle, but some a bit bigger. In no particular order, I share them with you now.
- Dear sweet God, the insomnia. I think I knew, somewhere in the back of my monkey brain, that I was using alcohol as a sleep aid, but I don’t think I would have described it so. Boy, did I notice the difference once I was dry. Before, I would fall asleep pretty much once my head hit the pillow. Now, it takes minutes or more. I find that as soon as I lay down, my brain just won’t stop thinking of stuff. Occasionally, it’s about stuff I have to do the next day, but mostly it’s just dumb shit. Which leads me to the next one.
- ICY COLD FEET AT NIGHT. Before, most nights, when I got into my jammy jams, I put on a pair of warm fuzzy socks and I had to shuck them about an hour later. Not anymore. It takes forking forever for my feet to warm up, and if they’re still cold when I go to bed, forget about it. I can’t sleep until they are warm, and it takes a while. I always thought that I didn’t have cold feet anymore because of improved circulation from running. Hahahaha nope. It was good old-fashioned hooch.
- Better running. The first two runs I did this month were about 20 seconds per kilometer faster than my usual running pace. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a big deal. Or it was, until the rest of my runs were at my regular pace. But, my motivation to run has taken a huge boost, especially in the morning. Not like 5am in the morning; that’s just crazy talk. But I have been heading out right after I take the kids to school, and it’s nice to get it done and out of the way. My runs themselves have also been much more enjoyable; if you a see a crazy-looking redhead mouthing song lyrics and waving her hands around as she runs by, that’s me. I’ve turned my runs into mini dance-parties, which is fun for me (if a little alarming for passers-by).
- Weight loss. Maybe. It’s hard to tell, but I think I might have lost a couple of pounds. I definitely feel lighter, probably because booze seems to cause more than the average amount of bloating. My clothes aren’t particularly looser, although I think my cheeks are a bit slimmer. Now if it would only keep going to my midsection…
- These weird things called feelings. I’m not sure if you know this, because I’m pretty sure I’m in a constant state of denial about it, but us humans have these things called emotions. I’ve been told they are useful, but I find a lot of them, especially the painful ones to be less so. The great thing about alcohol sometimes is that you can either suppress these not-so-great emotions (like guilt, loneliness, or vulnerability) or even pretend they don’t even exist. The problem is that when you stop drinking, you realize they never really went away and now you have to deal with them. I have realized that I am not all that great at this. I’m getting better. Running helps.
So, what now? I don’t think I’m about to become a teetotaler; I actually like the taste of really good beer and bourbon too much to give it up entirely. But now that I did all the work to get out of the habit of drinking “just because”, I plan to keep it up. This means having days, mostly when I have the boys, where I just don’t drink. Now that I’ve found some good alternatives (I’m looking at you, fancy tonic waters) I think this will work well. Even on days when I do have a drink, I’m going to limit it to one, except for very special occasions. I’m going to make sure I avoid the pitfall of using booze as a sleep aid or anaesthetic. It’s not going to be easy, but I think my mental health is worth it.