The 10-week no-alcohol challenge
For a period of 10 weeks I tried out a non-alcoholic existence. First things first, it was the best time I have experienced in a very long time. Better yet, these ten weeks I finally felt that I started to get to know myself again. My self-confidence rose, my physical performance got increasingly better (even though I am considered highly fit), my thoughts were clearer, my mental wellbeing was at ease, and best of all my general happiness was better than ever.
So weren’t there any negative sides? Well in all fairness, not really. What I experienced as the most negative aspect of these ten weeks, were the many “surprised” reactions I received for almost the entire period. When you come from drinking after every training session and every weekend, and then suddenly you don’t drink anymore, people start asking questions. Rather than being supportive- even after you have explained that you wanted to stop drinking for a while — people always tried to supply you with a good old beer. Don’t get me wrong; I was never upset with them, because their intentions were never bad. It’s more that others have to get used to a different situation. People are surprised, sometimes they tell you that they could never do it or would never want to (repeatedly), even though I never asked others to do the same.
Explaining yourself and the concept of balance
The most annoying part of these 10 weeks was that I always had to explain myself why I didn’t drink. At some point I even considered to tell people that I was a guy who was pregnant… Until this day I still cannot comprehend why so very few people can react supportive to a decision to not drink alcohol. Another argument I heard a lot is: “why can’t you just have 2 drinks? You can balance it.”
Now for this argument I am very sensitive. Because I know how 1 drink can be beneficial for your health, and I am very fond of balance. But balance is delicate and seeking balance is difficult, especially when it involves the consumption of something that inhibits your judgment ability and greatly triggers happiness areas in your brain. Combine that with an environment that is aimed at stimulating your alcohol consumption — salty peanuts, music, good company — and you can see why maintaining balance can be difficult.
There are of course people who have great discipline and who can stick with 2 drinks. However I am not one of them. I lack discipline and backbone when it comes to going out and drinking, especially when I haven’t set my mind on not drinking. As soon as the first and second beverages are down, I struggle to leave it at that. Within the 10 weeks however I had a clear goal, and because I didn’t start the first drink a second never came either. It made all the difference in the world. I could even handle the laughs and the jokes, all because every single time I managed to not drink I felt increasingly better.
Long story short, 10 weeks without alcohol got me into one of the best periods in my life. Physically, mentally, socially and my relationship, everything felt better than ever.
So after 10 weeks, what do you do? Where other stories tell you that they kept going in this direction — which makes great sense because you felt so AWESOME — this one got back to old habits.. slowly.
The concept of balance was still in the back of my mind. And there are always things to celebrate. So after 10 weeks at the first celebratory event, you have a drink. Things are fine, everyone is happy for you -mainly for their selves because now the social version of you is back — so let’s drink because now you are allowed to again.
I have been drinking less after my 10 weeks of sobriety. But I started to notice that on more and more occasions, there were plenty of reasons to have a drink. Soon I developed old drinking habits again. These were not extreme habits, but still, I noticed the immense difference between no-alcohol and my “regular routine”. My mind wasn’t as sharp, physically I remained ok but not excellent, and I started to drift away again from my true self.
Destructive lifestyle environment
I started to notice how I developed a lifestyle that was not in line with how I actually wanted to live my life. Alcohol was part of that lifestyle and is probably very recognizable for others as an aspect that is almost always present and that you cannot easily get around. It is a great example of how your environment can influence your lifestyle in a destructive way, when you are not that disciplined or confidant to do what you got to do for yourself. One of my close friends used to say this in many situations, it has probably been one of the best health advises I had.
Now for me personally it opened my eyes that there are a lot more factors that shape my lifestyle and not always in a beneficial way. I just went wherever the wind took me without being true to myself. Perhaps the reason that I felt so good when not drinking, was not only because I didn’t experience the negative physiological aspects, but because I finally did something that I really wanted to do for myself and stuck by it. Of course it is extra beneficial when you get to do it with something that can have a negative impact on your health, such as alcohol, smoking, eating to much junk food etc. But it can also be very beneficial when you change things that aren’t necessarily bad for you. A particular aspect that I have been working on lately is my morning routine. My usual mornings weren’t unhealthy, but by tweaking with it and slowly adapting new elements in this aspect of my lifestyle I was able to improve the way I start my day.
Medium warm turkey style
As I explained before, alcohol is part of the bigger lifestyle picture. There are many more key lifestyle elements that influence your health. At this point in time it’s clear that alcohol isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle for me, therefore I am not consuming it anymore at all. Quitting with it was more or less a medium-warm turkey style, but its fine for me. What it did teach me is that in order to learn what works and what doesn’t work for you can only be answered by trying yourself; you have to be ready to experiment with lifestyle changes for an extended period of time. Reflect on it deeply and be ready to provide honest answers to yourself.
Changing the way I consume alcohol is a result from trying out a new less destructive lifestyle, for my personal health. It started from being curious about the effects of alcohol, reading about others who quit, my own passion to feel fit and my enthusiasm to try out new things. In the end it turned out to be more than just quitting a habit. It taught me more about myself, my environment and how I want to experience life.
I will continue to research the science behind lifestyle aspects from a health and sustainability perspective with Living Life Lab. And of course I will try to make them applicable to my daily life, experiment with them and share my personal experiences here. It will help to experiment my way out of destructive lifestyle elements.
I am ready to do what I got to do, in order to do what I want to do: live energetically as much as possible, and use that energy to create a healthier world.