The things you learn after three months without booze

I blogged a few weeks ago, from the halfway point of my first ever ‘HSM Challenge’ – a three-month period completely off the booze. I’ve now reached the end, and here’s a brief summary of what I discovered:

The first couple of days were disorienting, and I received unsolicited feedback from my spouse that I was a grumpy bugger who had better watch his step.

After the first week, the clouds parted, the sun shone through, and the benefits became very obvious:

  • Sleep was wonderful: deep, unbroken and revitalising. Dreams were a little weird, but in a good way.
  • Mental acuity was noticeably improved. At times during the three months that followed I felt I’d gained a bonus 10 IQ points.
  • A general feeling of wellbeing ran over me like a warm mink glove from morning to night.
  • My background level of anxiety reduced steeply and stayed low for the whole three months.

Not drinking for three months: a timeline

After the first month, my old habits started to fade away and it didn’t feel odd to spend a weekend without a drink. (I was also slightly disturbed by how surprised my kids were when they saw I wasn’t drinking wine in the evenings.)

After the first six weeks, my usual pre-dinner conversations with my wife started to feel normal again and I didn’t miss the tongue-loosener.

After the first two months, I began to take the new benefits for granted – they became the new normal, and I began to feel I’d hit ‘peak benefit’.

By three months I’d read more books than usual and painted a couple of rooms in the house in the evenings after work, but apart from that there was no noticeable change to domestic productivity.

Other observations

I didn’t lose any weight, but I wasn’t particularly aiming to, and I probably compensated for the lost alcohol calories with ice-cream and chocolate.

We seemed to be invited to other peoples’ places less often over the three-month period than is normal. One friend wondered aloud whether HSM was a cult that I’d been caught up in, and some others asked if I was responding to a booze-induced medical crisis.

I discovered that zero-alcohol wines are pretty awful, and best avoided. Zero alcohol ‘spirits’ and botanicals are either insipid or medicinal-tasting when you first try them, but they do start to grow on you, and they are worth the effort. On the other hand, zero-alcohol beers are surprisingly good, and I’ll keep drinking them even though the three months is up.

Oddly for someone who only occasionally drinks spirits, the real craving during this period was for scotch, not my usual tipple, red wine.

What’s next after three months without alcohol?

I thought a lot about extending the HSM Challenge out to six months. In the end I decided not to, but instead I’m going to do three more random dry months during the rest of this year. I’ve also decided to use the dry spell as a way of resetting how I drink, so I’ll stick to a few new rules: never more than 3 days in a row, even during holidays; stay under 14 standard drinks a week, and no more knee-jerk drinking without thinking about it.

Overall, the three dry months have been a useful experience. Would I recommend it for everyone? Actually, I would: I’ve learned some unexpected things about myself and have developed a more cautious view about habitual, casual drinking. I have no ambitions to become a complete abstainer, but I want to maintain a more mindful relationship with alcohol and be aware of some of the more subtle effects that can creep up on you, unnoticed.

Roger, Marketing Manger, Hello Sunday Morning.

 

 

19 Comments

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  • This reasonates with me so much! I did 100 days over summer and felt almost the same on all counts. So nice to read and inspiring me to do a few more months this year 🙂

    By C
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    April 3, 2019
  • Well written… thanks for sharing!

    By Sean Murphy
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    April 3, 2019
  • Good balanced article. I did 2 weeks off in Feb, and had similar benefits as Roger. It also allowed me to recalibrate. I now frequently have three afd’s per week, sometimes more, and gives me much more clarity when I do, and better sleep. I am 66, working full time with a professional practice, and find I am much more productive without alcohol. I still enjoy the release of it when I have it, so am not yet ready to totally abstain, although the less I drink, the more alcohol adversely affects me. I lost 4 kg while abstaining, in conjumction with Mosley’s Fast800

    By John
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    April 3, 2019
  • Great thank you completed the challenge but personally feel a little sad that you don’t want to carry on. Having said that each to their own and if you don’t have a problem with it then I guess there’s no need. From personal experience when I used to say to myself, “only three days in a row, or .. only on weekends .. or .. will limit myself to x per week ..” it was the beginning of realising I had a problem with it. Not saying you have but personally now just don’t understand the real need for it when life is so much better without it. Anyway, like I said great effort on the three months either way and loved the message about your life improving 🙂

    By Ben
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    April 3, 2019
  • I really enjoyed reading this article and it inspired me to continue with my Dry April (with the intention to extend that period to 15 May). I’m only in day three and havent experienced an official dry weekend yet although i have had dry weekends in rhe past as a try out. My husband is not happy at all, neither are our drinking buddies. I’m sofar quite enjoying it and without negative pressure i can do it. In fact, with negative pressure i can do it too, i just get tired of justifying. Thank you for sharing.

    By Lia
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    April 3, 2019
  • I too have been on a three month Odessey of not drinking and have found the journey to be life changing. Going from drinking daily for many years to zero was a challenge but so worth it. 10 kilos lighter and a world away from where I started I cannot believe the changes in my life. Not just physical, but the mental clarity is awesome!! I feel like someone else, or a younger version of me in my pre-drinking days. I have no intention of returning to a daily drinker, and love my new sober and purposeful life. Thank you HSM for being my companion on this life journey.

    By Laney Riley
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    April 4, 2019
  • I’m useing Drinkaware which is a Uk website where you track your drinking. I’ve gone from daily drinking to four to five days a week alchohol free and find similar things. Mental clarity improved enormously and I’ve got more money! Just finished reading “ The sober diary’s “ Very funny account of one ladies battle with the wine witch.

    By Wendy Carter
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    April 4, 2019
  • I gave it up for Lent, and am now in my 4th week of 6. Having been a daily drinker for decades, this is hard. Very hard. I am feeling many of the benefits Roger describes above, but I am still counting the days until Easter. Hardest is sitting down to a first-class dinner without an appropriate glass or two of wine. And foregoing that ice-cold ale after a hard day on the golf course. We shall see.

    By Carl
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    April 4, 2019
  • Seems like a good honest appraisal for a 3 month AF challenge – well done! It’s a facinating liquid. It holds so much power in our lives. I believe most people are hooked – just in varying degrees. I know very few people who started out drinking in their teens and didn’t continue in one way or the other. I agree with the AF wines – especially the reds they are awful!

    By Mslil
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    April 4, 2019
  • Good article – i did 2 months alcohol-free and had my first drink on 1st March……only had one night off since and am back to square 1. I think it may have to be total sobriety for me as I felt all the things you did and more but it all counts for nothing now – I wish I was the type who could have used my 2 months off to reset and manage my drinking but alas it doesn’t seem that I am!

    By Tony
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    April 4, 2019
  • I am thankful for this website. I drink almost every day and have for years. sometimes I am frightened because I can’t seem to just stop. Although I only have one or two a day for the most part, I have days where I can drink 3 or 4. I know one is too much for me. I have avoided reading the emails on from HSM because I am not ready to quit. Now I am committed to opening all your emails in the hopes that I become inspired and supported to take the alcohol free challenge. Thank you for being here HSM

    By Joanne Marie
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    April 5, 2019
  • Thanks all for your comments (helps to know we are all in together, wanting a better life) and Rodger for sharing your achievements and congrats to you… I just wanted to add a suggestion for all – I’m reading The Alcohol Experiment book by Annie Grace and have been AF for 22 days so far. Hellosundaymorning has been a great start to getting me thinking that things have got to change for me and Annie’s book has made it easier that expected – here’s to our health, it is our choice.

    By Kate
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    April 12, 2019
  • I completed 100 days and feel I have re calibrated too. However, Im mindful that I mustn’t slip back into old habits! Hope I can manage that!! I will try a drink tracker app too.

    By Glynis Tudor
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    May 1, 2020
  • This all resonated with me too. I’ve given up for 4 months – ie given up my 40 year habit of between 1 and 2 bottles of red a day. In the 4 months I have had alcohol on 3 occasions – after 2 months some excellent shiraz on my 70th birthday (about 4 glasses), 2 glasses to celebrate a special family occasion after 3 months and a few glasses in the last day to celebrate a friends birthday. I’ve replaced alcohol with sparkling and filtered water with some freshly squeezed lemon and am perfectly comfortable with this. What all of this has done is to improve my overall health (lost 15kg and still dropping), seriously reduced my attrial fibrillation , dropped my blood pressure and increased my exercise (back walking 5-10 km almost daily). I have increased my energy levels, significantly improved sleep patterns, enhanced overall feelings of well being, made me feel that I was much more in control of my life, improved my decision making. And the really good thing is I’ve just about forgotten the original pattern of drinking (having a drink as a reward for a good walk, some heavy gardening, or just because I felt I deserved a reward), because it was 5 oclock or a fine meal deserved a good wine. And on two of the three occasions when I drank alcohol I could feel the effects next day and didn’t particularly like it. So I’ve demonstrated that I was alcohol habitual rather then alcohol dependent, that I have increasingly forgotten about alcohol and can significantly improve my outlook on life, general health, motivation and energy levels. So this it for the long haul – I may have a glass or two very occasionally (and linked to a significant social occasion) but essentially I no longer see myself as a drinker. The minimum $70 I spent a week on wine has gone to a travel fund (now with $1100 in my travel account). And you know what – I infinitely prefer being this way and really regret not having taken this action much earlier in my life!!

    By Mike Frost
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    May 1, 2020
  • Congratulations to all for any kind of attempt to take control of alcohol. It certainly had a hold on me. And up until the last couple of days I was doing fine. I have 4 months sobriety but the last 2 days the Voices in my head are tempting me. That is why I came to this conversation, to get reinforcement to continue on my journey. I forgot about the clarity. I forgot about having a clear mind to make better decisions. I forgot about the happiness that I felt every morning when I woke up because I was so proud not to jeopardize my life. These things are not easy to say. I have many reference points how I really messed up. And I thought I couldn’t put down the alcohol until I was beginning to have blackouts. And that last day I decided that was that but the voices are talking to me now, asking me if I can’t just have 1 glass of wine or a sip of scotch or a ‘real’ beer. But I won’t do it. I can’t. I would be right back to shame in a heart beat. And it helps me here to say it. The embarrassment that I caused myself and the loss of memory is worth every day of sobriety to stay away from the demons that talk to me. My life is better without alcohol. I wish everyone the best journey. Stay in control. Fight the voices.

    By Ontha Fae Oberley
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    May 5, 2020
  • A good read, however I felt disappointed that Roger saw it as only short term. Alcohol is an insidious substance. I once heard the term “building dependence” which is exactly what happened to me. What started with a nice (very small) glass of wine while cooking dinner ended 20 years later with 3 or 4 very large glasses every night and probably more in company. Apart from the cost there was always the health issue niggling at the back of my head. In more recent years I managed to cut the alcohol completely (several times) but caved in due to my partners displeasure at not being able to have a nice drink together. Over a period of 16months after cutting it once again I thought I could control it by only having a drink when we went out. This worked well until I eventually found myself weaving reasons to have a glass/bottle into every occasion. Right now I am 10 weeks free and feeling quite at home with being a non drinker going forward. I don’t feel like a drink, don’t miss the expense or the anxiety as I pass every bottle shop thinking have I got enough at home. I know this is the right thing for me, for my physical health and my mental health.

    By Lou
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    May 14, 2020
  • I took a four year break and started drinking last summer… ONLY red wine with dinner. After this pandemic, I’m thinking of taking another break over the summer. And non alcoholic beer is my go to, when we are out. I do feel better when I’m not drinking, especially when others are intoxicated around you. Annoying. Don’t like it.

    By Sadie
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    May 14, 2020
  • Great post. I did “Dry January” earlier this year and while alcohol free, I ate more ice cream and more chocolate. I would be interested to know the correlation between the two.

    By Angie
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    May 14, 2020
    • That will be the sugar craving Angie 😉 I am the same with my AFDs!

      By Sharon
      |
      June 9, 2020
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