So, I did it. I managed to go an entire month without any alcohol, an oft attempted NY resolution with a 0% success rate until now. In fact I have never reached 3rd January before without falling off the wagon which is spectacularly bad, although in my defence 2nd January is my birthday.
Not wishing to go over old ground from my previous blog, let’s skip straight to the key points. What have I learned?
I now know I can go a whole month without alcohol. Whit-whew, whoop-di-doo, get me. The objective in itself is meaningless without looking at the tangible benefits so here goes:
I estimate I drink 4 bottles of wine a week normally @ ~£6 a bottle, with one visit to a pub for a couple of pints @ £3.50 a pint. Add to that a couple of G&T ‘sharpeners’ to kickstart the weekend and perhaps a cheeky late night Malt and that’s another £3-ish, so approx £35 a week. £150 a month.
I lost around 4Kg from 1-31 Jan, approx. 9lbs, but there are a whole load of caveats here. Firstly, it was January and I always begin the year at my heaviest after a libidinously indulgent festive season, and so by doing nothing different I would expect to shed around 3lbs anyway. I also watched what I ate and did some 5:2 fasting and whilst I don’t enjoy the success my wife does, I suspect this also contributed to a couple of lbs of weight-loss too. I’ve also been exercising a lot, although when I was training for the London Marathon in 2008, averaging 30-40 miles running a week, I still didn’t lose any weight, so not sure I can attribute much weight loss to exercise. I would therefore suggest around 2lb in weight loss attributable to not drinking. That’s still 24lbs extrapolated over a year.
3) General health
I definitely exercised more due to feeling good each day and not hiding behind the hangover. I also saw a marked improvement in long term running injuries for the first time in years, which I would say is an indirect consequence of not drinking (not drinking -> more exercise -> improved strength & conditioning). I have felt pretty fit and perky throughout, certainly more than usual and this might be psychological. Sometimes after a boozy session I just assumed I would be tired and therefore probably was. Conversely now I expect to feel better and therefore do.
A big problem of mine traditionally. Interestingly I have had a lot going on with work this month (a usual cause for poor sleep) and yet despite this I have definitely slept better than average. Still had a couple of bad nights, so not a cure but a marked improvement in the quality of sleep if not the duration.
So some tangible benefits there, the main one being financial followed by some weight/health benefits. I haven’t done detailed blood tests which could add extra weight to these arguments. For example a reduction in cholesterol or BP or glucose levels would certainly push this category more towards ‘Significant’.
Much easier than I ever imagined. During the last two weeks I even forgot to count and I had days where I don’t think I ever thought of having a drink. I only went to a pub once and found that really hard. I did stare a little too longingly at some blokes drinking pints of what looked like gorgeous tasting ale, but what I missed more than the taste was the ‘occasion’. Going to a pub with friends/family and not drinking feels odd in a “why bother?” kind of way. The best way to describe this is to say that I felt a bit sad. I missed that chilled feeling, that warmth and relaxation, that light, heady fuzz that comes from the first pint, that feeling of walking back to the bar for a second one because you’re in the zone. I really missed that as I drank my orange juice and tonic. I also missed a glass of red with certain meals. Wine just goes together with food like no other drink can. That wasn’t so much the need for alcohol, but the need for a full flavoured drink that isn’t gassy, suger laden or just plain bland.
I’m pleased with the results and pleased with my ability to remain resolute throughout. Now I face a dilemma of what to do next. My inability to moderate worries me – the ‘cheesy wotsit’ syndrome (see last blog) worries me. I certainly don’t miss hangovers but I do miss the social side of drinking and the sensible answer is to resume drinking but in moderation. Easier said than done in my case.