drinking alcohol in moderation

Can’t moderate? Blame alcohol, not yourself.

601 days alcohol-free.
$3,435 saved ($40 a week).
Last drank on January 31 2018.

(Stats from my Nomo app data.)

I don’t miss it. Alcohol doesn’t seem comforting or pleasurable to me like some people think it is for them (or the advertisements make us want to believe).

I don’t just look at the buzz and high of the first hour or two.

I see all the guilt, regret, anxiety, expense, conflicting thoughts, desperation, sickness, insomnia.

Douglas Adams wrote a book entitled, “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul”. To me, that phrase can describe when the sun is nearly over the yardarm and you want to start drinking to stop the worry and stop feeling crappy about everything – to get a quick buzz like a rat in a science experiment in the 1940s.

That’s alcohol. That’s the result of chemical effects the day after you drank (again).

It’s not your fault you can’t moderate. Totally not your fault.

Alcohol is to blame.

It’s lovely to NOT drink. Not to desperately reach for a fake high that messes up your already borked chemistry.

It’s lovely to look forward to feeling tired in the evening and ready for rest and relaxation.

Noosa National Park running walking trail view palm tree beach

Euphoric scenic run in Noosa Queensland on day 377 alcohol-free

Set out for my run at 5:10 am and it was 24C / 75F in the pre-dawn half-light. I was running gently to take in the scenery and so I didn’t trash myself in the “Feels like 31C” (89F) heat and 88% humidity which had made me quite unwell running 13 km quite hard 4 days earlier.

Four years ago when we were in Noosa, I was 35 kg overweight and barely walking a few thousand steps a day. But that was also when I was slowly trying to increase my activity.

A year ago I had aimed to run 4 km to Noosa then explore the National Park headland trail. But both times I ran there, only I got about 1 km into the park before having The Fear that if I didn’t start running back I’d need a toilet before I had found one.

This run was a victory venturing into the unknown (where there were loads of other people)!

I’d found a map showing toilets a few hundred metres past where I’d got before. I also brought my Camelbak containing chilled water, and was much more Zenned-out and calm, and able to enjoy every moment.

When I stopped drinking about a year ago, I started to lose my anxiety. That, and no fear of a toilet emergency were some of the reasons I enjoyed this.

On top of all this, the scenery was incredible, and I started to feel quite euphoric!

I paused a lot to take photos, and I’m happy with these ones.

Sunrise Noosa Parade bridge Weyba Creek running Queensland AustraliaNoosa Queensland Australia tropical plantsSunrise Noosa Parade bridge Sofitel Hastings Street running Queensland AustraliaNoosa Heads beach Queensland Australia running surfingBoardwalk Noosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach oceanBoiling Pot Noosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach oceanNoosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach ocean tropical plantsNoosa National Park running walking trail view palm tree beachBeautiful Trail Noosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach ocean sunriseNoosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach oceanNoosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach oceanDolphin Point Sunrise Noosa National Park running walking trail view Queensland Australia trees beach oceanNoosa National Park walking trail view running

I’d made a connection in the morning that each fairly typical glass of wine I used to drink had the same number of calories as two slices of bread.

Three glasses of wine a day (or a beer and two wines) plus the usual meals and snacks and no purposeful exercise for 5 years meant the weight steadily crept up and up, till I discovered how to count calories easily for free and started to move more.

Last year’s holiday began during my first month without drinking and I had been so proud to stick to not drinking during it, and happily surprised I found it so enjoyable.

This year, the distances walked and run seemed much shorter and I felt very light-hearted.

drinking alcohol in moderation

Less alcohol

I drank 2-3 large drinks a day pretty much every day for many years.  At the start of 2018, I had 3 of my running friends do alcohol-free months which made me start to think I should really take on a new challenge.

Then another friend wrote about “Being kind to Tomorrow You”. He made me realise that not drinking is a lovely, sympathetic gesture towards the person we are now, and whom we will wake up as.

I don’t look at a day without alcohol as a punishment for drinking too much.  A night off is a treat for Tomorrow You. You’ll wake up without guilt about last night’s drinking, and without a headache or hangover.  A night off will be an achievement you can be proud of all day.

On February 1 I decided I’d take it one day at a time and see how I went.  One day led to the next, and soon it was my birthday.  Instead of celebrating with a drink, I felt it would be a more significant occasion if I didn’t drink on my birthday for the first time in 30 years.

I also celebrated other milestones (decluttering my room; running my first 50 km run) without drinking.  I found I was enjoying my “streak” and my natural highs much more than a couple of hours “buzz” then many hours feeling crap.

I’ve now passed the 9 months alcohol-free mark.

I always felt “fine” as a daily drinker, but I didn’t know how much better I could actually feel!

  1. No guilt, fear, or foreboding about what the drinking is doing to me.
  2. Sleeping soundly.
  3. Better memory.
  4. Huge boost in creativity.
  5. No mood swings.
  6. Better relationships.
  7. More money!

 

I have an app set up, “Nomo”, which tells me I’ve already saved over $1,600 by not spending the $40 per week I used to spend on alcohol.

I read this yesterday, by an alcohol-free woman who has made and is making big changes.

She writes:

 

“From school, to uni, and at work, at sports and weddings, funerals or even community events – it’s always been a prolific and revered part of any social connections.”

“Somehow, I made it. The odds were overwhelmingly against me – as I kept reading and being told. Some fanatics declared ‘once an alcoholic always an alcoholic’ and I realised that was why so many people cannot beat the stigmas and are overwhelmed before they even start.” Hello Sunday Morning

Sure, it can be helpful discussing not drinking with like-minded others. I wouldn’t have got this far without discussing how to think differently about alcohol with others online.

But many people find the idea of attending AA meetings too confronting, though they do help many others.

To me, thinking you’ll always be fighting a permanent part of your being (“I’m an alcoholic”) seems very unhelpful and defeatist.

I choose to think that alcohol is a form of chemistry that can be fun… for a while, but it has side-effects that snowball with consumption, and increased consumption is one of those side-effects.

Don’t blame it on yourself. Blame the alcohol chemistry.

Once you’re free of the alcohol, you’re free to be whatever you want to be.

I found it easier to quit rather than to moderate, or have regular days off, with a disclaimer.  The way I “quit” was by thinking I’m not quitting forever. I can drink whenever I want. I choose not to for now.  I felt that the occasional drink is how I became a daily drinker. It’s too hard to drink then quit, repeatedly, considering how hard I found it to quit for one day for all those years.

Thanks for reading.

Edited 20 March 2019 to include something about my participation in discussions online. That was a huge part of what helped, along with reading articles such as those in the Hello Sunday Morning newsletter.

 

How to quit smoking and get your shit together

Set aside a weekend for it. Prepare yourself for a really crappy Saturday. Get yourself some sleeping tablets for Saturday night.

Gear up for a couple of weeks beforehand, smoking normally. Have your last cigarette on a Friday night.

On Saturday, instead of getting up for a cigarette every half an hour, get up and do some tidying each time you have a craving.

Tidying, not thinking

Instead of sitting around thinking and letting your brain’s repetitive cigarette cravings torment you, keep your body busy so your brain has other activities to occupy it.

  • Wash stinky, smoke-smelling clothes.
  • Wipe down or mop ashy surfaces.
  • Hide ashtrays and lighters.
  • Go shopping to buy nice new drinks if you associate habitual drinks with cigarettes.
  • Clean pet areas.
  • Go for a walk to buy cleaning supplies and enjoy your breathing on the way.

 

I did this 4.5 years ago, and that weekend, I did and put away 7 loads of washing and did so much spring cleaning! A sparkling house and a new me!!

Relief

Saturday will have been easier in comparison than what you were dreading. You’ve probably got through plenty of bad days. If you know a really tough one is coming, you’re prepared.

Just do it and get that one crappy day over with. It’s hard, but it’s always going to be hard, and never going to get easier, so just fucking do it, then it’s done.

Come Sunday, the worst is over, you’ll feel proud of yourself, your future will be brighter and the day will be easier.

 

Within 6 hours

Your heart rate slows and your blood pressure becomes more stable.

Within a day
  • Almost all of the nicotine is out of your bloodstream.
  • The level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped and oxygen can more easily reach your heart and muscles.
  • Your fingertips become warmer and your hands steadier.

Quit Australia

 

Keep tidying. You may feel tired, but be happy, this is your crappy but transformative weekend that puts health money in your future bank.

You’ll sleep better Sunday night, and by Monday, you’ll know you’ve won the battle.  Any urges to smoke that pop up are just brain farts.  Challenge those thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think.