The 30-Day Alcohol-Free Experiment

Too Good Not to Share

This week’s TGNtS is sometimes called Dry January and is touted by the likes of Men’s Health and USA Today, as well as numerous others. While I’ve never done Dry January, I did do a 30-day alcohol-free experiment, which started rather spontaneously in early August of 2014. Because of the insights and benefits I gained, I’m suggesting that you (after all the holiday imbibing of the past month — and including tonight) may be surprised at what you learn by experimenting with an alcohol-free lifestyle for 30 days, starting tomorrow.

Before I get into my results, let me be candid and give you an idea of what my relationship with alcohol was at that time. I was in my late forties, my kids were grown and out of the house, and I enjoyed having a glass of wine in the evening as my husband sipped on a bourbon. However, I realized at some point that my glasses of wine were becoming more full — but still only two glasses — and that I wanted to have wine (and more and more often did) even if my husband wasn’t having a drink, and finally, even if he was not at home with me. I never had to run to the bathroom sick, but I started feeling uncomfortable about my attitude toward alcohol and that I wanted a drink most every night of the week. One August day I realized that I hadn’t had a drink for a couple of days and thought that since I was already two days in, I might as well see what would happen if I went 30 days without it, as I had started to see on social media that people were doing.

Here are some of my own observations and what I learned from my 30-day alcohol-free experiment. First, I didn’t realize until I hadn’t had a drink for several days that I must have been functioning most of the time with a hang-over without realizing it. My definition of a hang-over was a head-ache and nausea, so I wouldn’t have said that I’d experienced a hangover; but, whatever you call it, I couldn’t believe how much clearer my thinking felt after just three or four days without alcohol. Even more surprising,  I continued to feel more clear-headed every day for at least a couple of weeks. Before that it had been a common refrain of mine that I had “brain fog,” and I thought it was just how my brain worked. It was a fantastic feeling to think clearly for the first time in who-knows-how-long.

My skin also started looking clearer — or, I should say, brighter. I hadn’t realized how grey my complexion had become until my skin began to look bright and young again. Lovely. I also slept better without alcohol. Certainly, when I was drinking, the couple of glasses of wine had helped me to fall asleep, but my husband started noticing that I was snoring; and I always woke up at about 3:30 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep again. While I lay there awake, I spent the time berating myself for drinking again on a night where there had been no social excuse to do so. So, I was losing sleep, and filling my head with negative self-talk on nights when I drank. None of that happened when I went alcohol-free. Sleep was no problem.

The most surprising thing I noticed was that every store I went into (no matter what I went in for), I felt a physical compulsion to go check the booze aisle for good deals or interesting looking bottles of wine. By every store, I mean big box retailers, grocery stores, and drug stores. It rather astonished me to realize that I had spent so much time shopping for alcohol, even when I had run to the store on a completely unrelated errand. So the alcohol-free experiment made shopping trips speedier and freed up other time spent planning drinks, as well.

Then, I made the biggest change. With clearer thinking and the confidence gained from not mindlessly succumbing to my alcohol habit, I found the strength to quit my job. I had been stewing for months as to what to do, and I did it. I was capable of doing the work, but the job wore me down. Part of why I hadn’t wanted to make the decision was I knew that quitting would leave a dear friend deeply disappointed in me. With a clear head, though, there was nothing left to stew about — the best course of action became apparent. Although it was highly uncomfortable, quitting my job was the only thing to do.

My only major disappointment in going alcohol-free was that I didn’t lose any weight. It’s one of the benefits listed in every article or testimonial I read about trying the experiment, and I had really looked forward to it. Alas, the other benefits more than made up for missing out on this expected one.

There is more to say about longer-term changes I’ve experienced as a result of my 30-day experiment five years ago, but no more room to say it here. Look for me to continue this topic in an upcoming Saturday reflection.

There is a wealth of information an easy Internet search away under terms like “dry January,” “30-day booze-free challenge,” “30-day alcohol experiment,” and others. For that reason I won’t go into what has been reported by others, but I do encourage you to investigate it for yourself. While I have not tried these groups, The Alcohol Experiment (free) and One Year No Beer (monthly fee) look promising if you’d like some support during your experiment. I also have a great suggestion of a drink to try in place of alcohol that still makes you feel like a grown up. Check out my TGNtS on Curious Elixirs here. So, is now the time for you to try the 30-day alcohol-free experiment? I’d love to know how it goes for you.

If you are physically dependent on alcohol, do not try this cold turkey. Please consult a professional.