40 Days Alcohol-Free: Check-In

As I glance once upon the foam 40′ beneath my feet
The coldest calm falls through the molten veins
Cooling all the blood to slush that congeals around the again

La la la, 40′ remain

Salt scales upon my drying arms burn my back beneath the sun
But I am cold beneath the burning rays
Looking down, looking down, down, down again

La la la, 40′ remain

40’ by Franz Ferdinand

40 days! This almost the longest amount of time I’ve gone without a drink since I started drinking daily at age 21. The longest was last summer, where I managed to go a month and two-ish weeks before I eventually gave in.

Has much changed? I’d like to think so! Here are a few things I’ve personally noticed over the past 40 days (and 40 nights) of being sober:

Emotional leveling-out. My emotions got really wacky for the first couple of weeks, but they’re actually starting to calm down a bit. I’m no longer crying to myself at my desk for no reason, getting unnecessarily rageful toward slow drivers, or laughing uncontrollably at life’s absurdities. I’m a bit more calm and introspective, and while I definitely have my “off” periods, I don’t feel like I’m sinking quite as much as I did in the first week or so.

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Mental energy is through the roof. In addition to my emotions leveling-out, I’ve found that I pretty much pushed right through the brain fog stage and have found myself with an abundance of mental energy. I’m determined to run with it for as long as I possibly can – this energy will be vital for my success in managing a full-time work schedule and a full-time grad school schedule, while dating and attempting to repair/build a new social life.

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When I was drinking, even a single glass of wine would demotivate me to the point where I would half-assedly complete homework assignments, skip required readings, and feel as though I didn’t really comprehend what I did the next day.  I was content wasting my time on reddit or Facebook or Netflix. I can only imagine that continued drinking would’ve been the largest single contributor to burnout for me – more than any of the other activities I’ve got going on combined. For this reason, I’m so grateful to be sober.

 

No change in weight on the scale, but a change in how my body feels. So, I’ll just say that I didn’t exactly make myself hold back when it came to sweets and comfort foods in these first 40 days. I don’t regret it, and I think it was important for me to feel like I didn’t have to be so rigid over everything. If I wanted a chocolate-banana-peanut butter smoothie after a workout, I got it, and didn’t worry myself about the sugars or calories.

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That aside, my body definitely feels less flubbery and bloated than it did 40 days ago, and though I haven’t hit the gym as much as I would’ve liked, I still feel like my muscles are quite a bit more defined and that I’m able to lift heavier/ride harder than before. My tummy is ever-so-slightly flatter, without actually being flat. I don’t feel scared to wear shorts and a tank top in public anymore, which is genuinely a first for me.

I’m aiming to get back into running a 5k once or twice a week in addition to my lifting routine, especially as the weather cools off. This will be key in helping me stay relaxed and sane during the upcoming fall semester.

 

Sleep was hard at first, but now I zonk out quicker than I used to. I have a pretty anxious brain, and like many of us it tends to get hyperactive right around bedtime. For the first few weeks, I was routinely staying up until 12:30 or 1:00am, reading and consuming media and writing in my journal or blog, even when I had to be awake at 7:00 the next morning.

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Now, I genuinely start getting tired around 11, and when I lay my head down, it probably takes me no more than 10 minutes to fall asleep…and I stay asleep! Back when I was drinking, if I happened to have a rare night of not getting tipsy or drunk before going to bed, I would often lay there for a two or three hours before deciding to get up and take a few swigs of straight hard liquor to make me pass out. That was definitely a “low” for me. I often had to try to avoid waking up my boyfriend in the process, which felt shitty. I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

 

My social life and relationships have NOT magically repaired themselves, but people have been much kinder and more understanding than I thought they’d be. I’m probably one of the lucky ones, for which I’m incredibly grateful, but nobody has given me a hard time about not drinking. I’m still operating under the guise of doing a 100-day no-drinking challenge, which I feel is a softer way for both me and my loved ones to adjust to the fact that I’m not drinking. When 100 days come and go, I won’t feel so awkward continuing with my sobriety, as I imagine nobody could really argue with “I feel much better, and my studies/work/health/relationships have improved because of not drinking. I’m just gonna keep doing this to see how long I can go.”

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When I first quit, I imagined having to fend off questions, especially from the people in my life who are still every-day, several-drinks-a-day imbibers. It’s hard to not feel like people are noticing and judging you for drinking soda water + lemon instead of your favorite beer. Still, I’ve managed to get through several drink-heavy socializing events without people making much of a fuss about my non-drinking. This includes:

  • Weekly trivia at a local brewery. I get their craft NA root beer, instead.
  • Two housewarming parties in one day, where the fancy cocktails/trashy mixed drinks were the main focus of each
  • A concert at a local dive bar
  • A two-day music festival in the woods of Wisconsin
  • A meat raffle + weekend getaway at my mom’s cabin in Wisconsin
  • A huge, overcrowded sporting event at our city’s newest, fanciest football stadium

 

My attitude toward alcohol and drinking has shifted drastically. I think one of the biggest things that has helped me feel secure in my sobriety is a dramatic shift in how I view alcohol and drinking culture. This is almost entirely the result of reading This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. No, I don’t get paid to mention her. The book is just that important. At least, it was for me. Her book helped me re-frame my thinking about drinking, making it less about “missing out” on drinking, and more about being free from the tight clutches of literal poison.

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A few of the ideas/images that really stick with me are the following:

  • When you see those beautifully backlit bottles of liquor at the fancy cocktail bar, don’t be fooled: bars arrange those bottles very strategically in order to increase their appeal. You’re staring at a wall of amber-colored death.
  • Alcohol is the ONLY drug that we have to justify NOT using. You never hear anyone ask, “So, what made you decide to stop doing meth?” or, “Don’t you think you’re going to miss shooting up? What about when you go to parties?” Seriously. Think about it.
  • Alcohol is an addictive drug that creates a need for itself. Alcohol doesn’t relieve anxiety – when you drink, you’re essentially relieving yourself of the unpleasant feelings of withdrawal. You wouldn’t have those feelings if you didn’t drink in the first place.

That book, in addition to keeping myself active on here, reading blogs from other sober bloggers, and having access to addiction therapy materials in my studies has made a huge difference in how I view the substance. When I find myself having a craving, I immediately remember how shitty it used to make me feel (physically, emotionally, mentally), and I have a deeper respect for its dangerously addictive nature. Seeing it for what it truly is – all cultural and societal conditioning set aside – makes it so much easier to turn it down, every time.

That’s not an exhaustive list of changes, but I think those are the biggest things I’ve noticed since I quit 40 days ago. While 40 still feels like a drop in a big bucket, it’s definitely not a small drop, and I’m proud of it.
Here’s to 40, 400, even 4000+ more!

4 thoughts on “40 Days Alcohol-Free: Check-In

  1. insidioustemptation says:

    Good for you! Stay strong. I agree, one of the hardest hurdles to hop over was hanging out with people who still drink..bars, parties, etc. “your drinking coke???” “Why don’t you drink anymore” or even worse people just kinda looking at you. It gets better! I’ve been sober 4 years…HELL YES BEING SOBER IS BETTER!!

    Like

    • okayishness blog says:

      Awesome! Congrats on your 4 years, that’s an impressive achievement. I’m slowly learning to not give a flying you-know-what about what others think of my non-drinking. It’s hard, but makes it easier to get through social events!

      Liked by 1 person

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