I Quit Drinking for 60 Days

…technically, it’s been 63.

…And counting.

Full disclosure: Besides mixing pretty cocktails and then taking their picture, I’ve never been that interested in actually drinking alcohol. I didn’t touch the stuff until I was 22 and, over the past few years, have gone fairly long stretches without it, abstaining for a month or so, maybe a few weeks. I like wine. And whiskey… sort of. But for the most part don’t care for any of it in large amounts — I like the room better when it’s not spinning and, on my constant quest (crusade?) for better sleep, avoiding the sulfites and sugars that rob me of my rest is worthy of being cast as a potential social pariah.

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But still, there were moments of over-indulgence…

On New Year’s Day, I woke as I imagine many did: roused from a fitful hour’s worth of sleep to the harsh light of a new year. Whoops. “That’s it for me,” I said to my sorry self in the mirror, before crawling back under the covers to hide from my own puffy reflection. The 1st meant the holidays were finally over, that insurmountable peak of good cheer and emotion and overindulgence and work, and my body needed rest. And care. And vegetables. And so that’s what I gave it. Taking January to reset and recharge and rediscover the habits that make me feel most connected to myself, after a season of feeling completely disconnected and frenetic. Leaving behind the habits I knew to be damaging, habits that contributed to my overall feeling of malaise.

But still, I didn’t go into this intending to avoid the stuff for two months, but that’s what happened. And I feel great.

Throughout the month of January — a month when many, like myself, choose to go “dry” for a time — I read accounts of others giving up alcohol and the various effects their abstinence had. Some lost friends. Some rediscovered themselves. Some saw improvement in their jobs and declining numbers on the scale. Each experience valid and very specific to the person. I had no expectations… all I wanted was to feel better… and I did. My head cleared, and my skin did, too. As days went by my complexion acted less and less like that of a moody teenager and my eyes ditched the baggage they’d been carrying for far too long. And that’s what kept me going, not only the fact that I felt better internally, but that I’d begun to recognize my face again in the mirror. When the opportunity arose to go out, I didn’t shrink away; instead, I joined my friends and ordered seltzer with a lime or lemon. And the world didn’t end. I carried no embarrassment for not partaking, and passed no judgement on those who did. This was a quiet choice (until now, of course), one that accompanied a shift in mindset and mood and when January 31st rolled around. I didn’t find myself reaching desperately for a glass of Malbec. So instead of picking up where I left off, I decided I’d do a Whole30.

Go big or go home, right?

If you’re unfamiliar, in the simplest of terms the Whole 30 requires you give up not only alcohol, but also grains, legumes, sugar and dairy. For 30 days. I encourage you to read up on it, but essentially it’s a reset for your body, a chance to break habits (hi sugar) and discover the foods you may be sensitive to. In a word, it’s strict Paleo. While this wasn’t my first rodeo, it was my first time entering into it having already given up a major category. And I was apprehensive simply because I expected to feel deprived of the social norm at some point. There are only so many times you can go out for a seltzer, right? Turns out, not really. Instead, forgoing alcohol brought awareness to why I enjoy going out in the first place: drinking isn’t the thing, the connection with another person is the thing. Giving up alcohol invited me to explore other options, rediscovering my love for long afternoon coffee dates and Sunday afternoon walks. As February rolled along, so too did I, rather than picking up a bottle of wine and holing up on the couch after a particularly rough day, I made it a point to shake off my mood and do something productive. Even if it was just the dishes. As I brought thought and awareness to my habits surrounding food and drink, I began feel the same awareness creeping in to other areas of my life. Thoughts, feelings, actions… I found I was better able to process everything and bounce back quicker with a clear head and heart. And there was one other thing I’d begun to notice… I was sleeping better than ever and actually dreaming again, after years of never remembering my dreams or having none at all.

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And then suddenly, it’s March. And my 30 days will be over, well… yesterday. And so the question of “what now?” has inevitably arisen. It’s been 63 days and, while the experience has been profound, I’m not one for absolutes. I’m not out to break any personal records, but I’m not exactly in a hurry to go back to my old ways, either. I’ll likely have a glass of wine eventually but, like gluten and sugar and dairy and all the other things I’ve eschewed over the past month, I’ll partake in a much more mindful manner, without fear or obligation, knowing now how incredible I feel without it. Even though my consumption was light before (save for that unfortunate New Year’s), to me, the interrupted sleep, acne and tired eyes just isn’t worth it. These 63 days have been a breeze and a gauntlet but, ultimately, I was brought closer to myself by bringing distance between me and my habits. Perspective can only be gained by stepping back.

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+ Have a similar experience? Please share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’m really getting sick and tired of this society glorifying alcohol when in fact it’s the most unhealthy and toxic drug there is. I’m all for a good cocktail, trust me, but ever since coming back from yoga teacher training, I’ve found myself getting really tired, sick and eating poorly when I have a few drinks. My body just can’t handle it anymore, especially after eating clean. I feel 10x better and have been waking up earlier, sleeping great, digestion great, losing weight, more focus and creativity, the list goes on…without it. It’s been a faint whisper in my mind to let it go in terms of excess, and now I’m ready and excited for it :)

    Congrats on discovering this part about yourself and best of luck on rest of your journey :)

  2. What a beautifully written post; I found myself overwhelmed with emotion and it brought tears to my eyes. Your literary style of describing unhealthy habits and coming back to yourself hit the nail on the head. It feels amazing to return home.

  3. Great post!

    After a night of rather heaving drinking (an open bar at a wedding) I got terribly sick, had to work the next day (totally not recovered from the night before) and decided right there that I would never drink again. I didn’t drink for 8 years and I didn’t miss it one bit. Now that I am a more responsible adult I drink the occasional boozy beverage with dinner or curled up with the husband watching a movie.

  4. Giving up something that wasn’t much of a thing to you anyways is not as much of a deal as portrayed here. Personally I think people just should relax more. If you have your occassional glass of wine you will not get akne from that. It’s nice if you feel better avoiding it, but heroifying yourself for quitting drinking if you had never been drawn to it a lot anyways is a little hilarious to me.
    Usually I really like this blog and come back to it frequently, but sometimes it’s just a little bit too much. If you keep quitting everything you can ever eat or drink because it’s oh so bad for your body, what will you live from? (Not that I don’t see the bad sides of alcohol, don’t get me wrong!) Keep up at least some fun in your lifes, we are humans, not godesses. I encourage everyone to be a little less thoughtful and strict to theirselves from time to time! Be young! Be carefree! And fuck counting calories for once.

  5. Brittany – My habits were really similar, any more than one drink and everything went out the door. I found that when i was drinking, I’d choose foods that, normally, I would avoid because they typically make me feel sick, like bread and cheese, just to feel less tipsy. I know my limits now, and after these 60 days feel as though I can go out and make a more conscious and clear decision of whether i want to drink or not. Usually the answer is “thanks, but no thanks”

  6. This article was such an eye opening for me. I’ve been thinking of quitting alcohol altogether and like you, I already started without even realizing it. I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, but drinking just to get drunk doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Back in college, I couldn’t wait to drink, go out with friends, and have that dizziness feeling. Yet, back in college, I was able to bounce back quicker. Now, one night of reckless drinking and I’m spending the next day recovering. I lose an off day and can’t get any of my errands done as much as I would have liked to. I don’t feel accomplished and feel disappointed in myself. Now, I enjoy going to bed early on the weekend, waking up early to the Sun, and enjoying quality time with my friends and family.

    Again thanks for sharing!

  7. No one should judge her because everyone has very different drinking tolerances, effects, afflictions, and heredity issues. We all get that it wasn’t as hard for you vs. an alcoholic to quit drinking (since you’re not a “drinker”)…however, it’s an honest story of her own journey. I am very glad you wrote and published this. And how much better it is to become aware of the toxicity and risks of alcohol before t’s too late and true alcohol abuse occurs. xo

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