So, Happy New year, immediately followed by…I want to stay in bed, not move and watch really bad TV. Sound familiar ? Good, at least I’m not alone in this! Trust me, I’m the last person I thought would be talking about this!!!
Stick with me on this one. Rather than wait and write one completed post at the end of the month. Or, write multiple posts about the same thing throughout the month. I’m going to put this up, almost as a working draft, an in flight composition if you like. I’ll update as I go. (Could be a short read!)
To kick things off though, some housekeeping.
1) I only claim to be a doctor at the weekend. (I’m not.) Anything I say is my observation and experience. There are enough snake oil sales men out there, the world doesn’t need another. Unless it really does change my life, help me find inner peace and cure famine, I’m not going to tell you it does.
2) I have done this before (yeah really) I surprised my self TBH!
3) I like a drink (more about that later.)
4) The first year I did it (this is 3rd year in a row now) I found reading about other peoples experiences, hopes and expectations helped me stay the course. If that’s you, say Hi, leave a comment, leave a like. If i can help, I will. Deal?
Let’s start at the beginning. There’s no getting away from the fact, I live in England its either raining or it’s cold. If your lucky, it’s cold and raining. That’s why we love the pub. Ask any Brit who has been abroad and gone to any wannabe, imitation, “English Boozer” …and they will tell you, it’s not the same! I feel an Al Murray moment coming on… “A pint for the fella. Glass of white wine or a fruit-based drink for the lady.” For anyone not from the UK, he’s a comedian. For anyone in the States, you won’t get it.
Going to the pub is a way of life. Comfy chairs, familiar faces watching the match or having a chat. Every date I’ve ever been on, started, involved or ended in a pub. I’ve had interviews for jobs, at the Pub. I’ve celebrated with friends and family, in the pub. I’ve even taken my team members to the pub to do their 121’s and Year end appraisals or just for a chat, when they have sh@t going on at home that they don’t want to talk about in work. We love the pub!
Which leads me to your first questions I hear you say – “If it’s so great, why quit for a month?” “Your just going to carry on afterwards, might as well not bother!” That’s exactly what I’d have said a couple of years ago. That’s also the point, what is it like to go cold turkey for a month and can I do it?
It’s paradoxical. If you tell me I’m not allowed, I’m going to do it anyway to spite you. If you tell me you don’t ‘think’ I can do it, I’ll do it to prove you wrong. That was the approach I took first time around. I just decided I was going to challenge myself, didn’t think I would manage it, I proved myself wrong. (I could argue with myself in an empty room if I was bored.)
If your an earlier reader, this next bit will be a bit jumbled. I will be coming back to it. I didn’t want to just recount my memories of the process from previous years, there will be things I have forgotten. I’ll run through some of my thinking and expectations now based on that. But, throughout the month I will collect my thoughts, add current observations and will try and find some science or data to back up my observations as I make them during the month and flesh this out properly.
So, in the quest for the WHY? Here are some of the things I remember or have read, that helped me get a view on the benefits of Dry January. First things first, loving a drink is one thing, but you can have to much of a good thing. Also, sometimes it isn’t that good and to be honest, it’s just a habit.
I‘ll fact check these!
It takes 21 days to make or break a habit (not just drinking) anything. So, it could be a good chance even if you don’t quit, to at least cut back. January is an easy excuse and lots of people are doing it anyway, which might make it easier too.
I looked this up too and while it remains a widely held assumption and to be fair a good yard stick, it seems 21 day’s is a generalisation, it’s origins as a theory seem unclear. It would seem there is observational but no clinical evidence to support the 21 day rule. I’m going to assume it depends on the habit, circumstance and individual. But, I like it as a guide and think it can’t hurt to have as lose rule of thumb for setting goals.
Europeans have an evolutionary predisposition to drinking alcohol, its in our genes, not everyone shares the same make up or tolerance. I’m not sure if that tolerance is good i.e you may drink more but have less long term effects or it means because of it, you will drink more and be more likely to suffer long term implications. (I will look it up.)
So, I did look this up and I’d be stricter with referencing and framing it, if this was an academic endeavour, but for anyone who is interested I found the following in “Why Europeans Drank Beer and Asians Drank Tea” Mark Bittman, July, 2008. (The New York Times.)
“… approximately half of the Pacific Rim Asian population (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans) possess an atypical alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) known as ADH2*2 that leads to unusually rapid conversion of ethanol to acetaldehyde.” [SIC] …
“After consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, they may experience symptoms which include dizziness, nausea, headaches, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that would lead to further intoxication. “
The aforementioned article explores how different cultures evolved strategies to tackle the problem of dirty drinking water and hypothesis a link between to the differences in tolerance for those who have ADH2*2. It also notes the metabolism of alcohol takes longer in those subjects, which may also be a discouraging factor in drinking.
Things I remember/Will Pay closer attention to –
- Sleep Improves (not immediately) Dreams become more vivid as you get more deep sleep. (Had a dream the dog hurt himself and was talking to me, telling me it hurt!)
2. Sleep will get worse before it gets better, because you haven’t had a drink. (Definitely restless during the first week. That passed, have slept less but felt better. Cant be a bad thing.)
3. Skin and Hair will improve (not immediately) you may get some break outs to begin with. (Not sure, but I definitely need a hair cut today. Saturday job!)
4. You may snack more to replace the calories you aren’t getting from alcohol. (I wasn’t bad the first few days after starting, but chocolate and cheese on toast have been staples in recent days.)
5. Your detoxing? I’m not sure on this, your liver is there to detox you. But, a break from alcohol may support my liver functioning more efficiently. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but the liver is the only organ that can repair its self, if you’re not already past the point of no return? So, a break could be a welcome boost!
6. You lose the springing out of bed because on the chemical residue left in your system from drinking. But in the long run should feel you have more energy and a brighter outlook on things. (I agree 100% with this from my own perspective, more about that below.)
7. Milk Thistle and drink water. (Haven’t bothered with the milk thistle, have drunk a lot more water as well as pop!)
8. Headaches (Nothing to report.)
January 4th – OK, I Know it’s only 4 days since NYE, but I see this a the first big hurdle. The overhang from Christmas and being off work is still there, the routine is broken. But most of all, its Saturday night and that always means having a drink. Also, I did find myself almost going to get the wine on the 2nd just as a force of habit, before I remembered it was January. I haven’t been craving a drink, so that’s good, but to be fair I put enough of it away on the last few weeks to see me stay the course a little longer.
Here’s the other thing, I don’t know about anyone else, but there’s still plenty of alcohol in the house and Bourbon is a staple Christmas present. So there’s plenty about. I’ve never hidden it or thrown it out when I’ve done this in the past. It’s there, I just have to be mindful of not just pouring one and drinking it without thinking.
I choose to look at it like this, it’s there, I can have one if I want it. I’m not denying myself, I’m just choosing to forgo it for a while. Also, if I sit thinking don’t have a drink, don’t have a drink, don’t have a drink that thought will become pervasive, as it’s all I’m thinking about. Like when people say, if I tell you not to think of a red car, you will think of a red car. You just did it!
Other observations, I did have a spot on my nose yesterday (don’t know if there’s any concrete connection. I might just have had a spot. Sleeps a little disjointed (time to go write something to take my mind off it.) I’ve also been a bit snacky. I’m putting this down to replacing the calories I’m not getting from beer.
So, the positive stuff I do feel a bit more energised. When I left work on Friday I told my boss I was looking forward to not having to do anything and just be able to relax this weekend. I have to admit, I feel I was a bit more productive and energised when I got up today. I’m in a good mood and got stuff done. I’m guessing due to no hangover and a bit of down time after the rush of Christmas.
I‘ll see how long this lasts. But, I do feel I achieved a bit more than I would ordinarily on a Saturday. Overall I’m Happy.
January 11th – I know its only ten days, but I made it past the first ten days and that’s great. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem that daunting and it doesn’t seem like it’s that long to go.
At first it was an exercise in reminding myself that I wasn’t drinking in January. As the week went on, I wasn’t really thinking about it after work the way I was in the beginning. Being the first week back at work after the Christmas break was always going to be a litmus test. Not letting home time be a trigger for a glass of wine when I got in took some conscious effort at the start, but I soon got past it and it’s not crossed my mind the last few days. I guess whatever gets you through cant be a bad thing, and I’ve got Twisted Sister, “We’re not Gonna Take it” stuck in my head.
It would be fair to say I feel good for it. I’m more productive, pretty focused and feel I’m still getting through more than I would normally, in the same amount of time. I definitely have been snaking the last few days. Something I will have to balance out with the gym. I’m hungry as I write and thinking about what I’m going to eat next.
On a down note, by mid week I was losing my enthusiasm for fresh fruit and healthy snacks. I cheated on the healthy diet, cleaner eating piece and had to have a bacon roll. It’s not the end of the world and it was great. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (😛)
So far, So good!
Feb 16th: OK, I’ve let this one languish too long and need to close it off and move on. I’ll do that with a confession, I for the first time in 3 years, I fell off the wagon, Arghhhh. To be fair, I got three quarters of the way through the month and had a big weekend. It was the combination of friends not seen before Christmas and three birthdays all converging around a road trip and long weekend. To that I need to hold my hands up.
Although, I should say, I still found it a really useful exercise and definitely felt the benefits and will do it again. My head was clearer, my productivity better and I got so much done and ready in the new year, I just had a much better sense of focus. Amongst other things it promoted a welcome return to the gym. Made me thinking a lot harder about life in general and what I’m doing with it and after going dry for a while, I always feel less inclined to go all out an get blitzed. I’m going to close by saying, give it a try and it doesn’t have to be January to do it. Look after yourself at all times. Whatever it is, if you think you need a break, take it. You cant fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty. So, want to do the best for others, start by looking after yourself.
For now, say Hi to Your Families and it’s Goodnight JonBoi