When your alarm goes off, do you feel excited about the day? Or do you calculate how many hours until you can have a 5 o’clock cocktail?
Over the course of my life, I’ve been the person who jumps out of bed every morning ready to take on the day. I’ve also had periods of time where an end of the day Chardonnay was the only thing getting me through the day.
The problem is, it’s a vicious cycle. The more you indulge, the more drag around tired you get. Which makes your days harder, which makes you crave caffeine, cocktails, sugar, and all the other indulgences.
I joined a friend doing “Dry January” this year. In addition to giving up alcohol, I also gave up sugar and bread. Here’s what I noticed during my abstention:
1. Professional fun = alcohol.
It’s a gin and chardonnay soaked landscape. As best I can tell, there is not a single professional event that does not include alcohol. When my friend first asked me to join in dry January, I looked at my schedule and thought: I can’t do it this month; I have a team off-site, a client cocktail party, a weekend in New York, and on and on. Then I realized, that’s not just January. That’s my life. As I’ve gotten busier, and our business has grown, the business dinners, flights, and client parties have increased.
It was an odd reframe for me to think about going to party simply to meet people and have fun. The fact I had to proactively reframe my thinking is disturbing.
2. People get weird when you say you’re not drinking. Others will happily eat bread and sugar while you’re munching celery, but they don’t like to be the only one drinking. Alcohol is communal; drinking alone while the person across the table sips water feels sad. I semi-solved this problem by getting a soda with lime before I approach a group.
3. Food tastes better without alcohol, and you eat less of it. I know all the foodies talk about food wine pairings, but I notice when I don’t have wine, I focus more on my food. When food it the only element of the meal, I chew more slowly and savor the flavor. I also notice, when you don’t drink, you’re less likely to overeat. Full disclosure, I have the appetite of a lumberjack, and my palate is not what one would call sophisticated.
4. Your brain changes. Or at least mine did. As my friend says, “When you know you’re not going to get that end of the day glass of wine to calm yourself, your brain finds other ways to calm down.” I’m noticing I’m looking forward to a good book or a bath at the end of the day.
As of this writing, it’s mid-February and I’m still not drinking or indulging my sugar and starch habits. I’ve lost weight, and I feel better than I have in years. I have more jump out of bed days than not. I’m not sure how long I’m going to continue my clean living ways. Maybe two days, maybe forever.
I do know I’m going to be more mindful of the impact my habits have on my mind, body, and career. A drink is nice, but waking up feeling great has more staying power.