I have been alcohol free for 60 days.
It all started with something called “Dry January”. A friend of mine had gone one month alcohol free (or “AF” as she called it) earlier in 2019. She decided to start 2020 off sober and posted on her Facebook asking if anyone was interested in joining and supporting her. I had never heard of “Dry January”, but apparently it is something that has been around for awhile. Another friend of mine told me that her husband has gone dry in January for a few years now. A quick google search led me to discover that Dry January actually started as a public health campaign in the United Kingdom by the charity Alcohol Concern in 2013.
I decided to do it, and even took it one step further – not only would I be alcohol free in January, I would also give up pop. As you can see by this blog, I made it through the month and then some without drinking alcohol. Pop on the other hand… well, on February 1st my friend cracked open a Dr. Pepper while sitting in the backseat of my car and when I realized it wasn’t January anymore, I asked her for a sip. My pop habit is definitely a more difficult one for me to break.
You’ll notice that I am using a lot of different terms here – alcohol free, dry, sober. As I was brainstorming about writing this blog, a friend of mine cautioned me on using the term “sober” to describe myself because most people associate that with alcohol use or substance use disorder. She and many others have told me that I don’t have any problem drinking – I don’t drink too much, I don’t lose control, I don’t drink too often, I am not addicted, I am not an alcoholic, I’m a social drinker. While I agree that I do not have alcohol use disorder, this 60 days has given me a chance to reflect on my relationship with alcohol, and from where I stand right now I prefer my current relationship status: call me dry, sober, alcohol free, whatever term you want to use. I’m not using alcohol and don’t plan to in the foreseeable future, and I like it this way.
Now let me acknowledge my privilege here – because I don’t have alcohol or substance use disorder, because I don’t suffer from addiction, giving up alcohol for me has been a much different experience than it would be for someone who does have those conditions. I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms, I have not had any cravings. I am not claiming to be better than anyone else because I don’t drink or because I gave up alcohol. I simply want to share my experience so far and my reflections on my drinking habits.
My relationship with alcohol has varied over the years. Something that I have recently learned about myself is that I have a serious case of “FOMO” – fear of missing out. You might say that I am prone to giving into peer pressure. In my 20s it seemed that whenever I drank with my friends, we drank A LOT. I wouldn’t drink often – maybe every couple of months – but when I did, I would often have blackouts or would end up sick. A lot of that changed when the people that I hung out with changed, but alcohol was still there. When I became a part of the running community, I discovered that post long-run and post-race beers and ciders were pretty damn enjoyable. We weren’t getting wasted like I had been before with my friends, but I did find myself having a beer or two here, a cider or two there more times in a month than ever before. There were still the occasional heavy drinking occasions but I found that I didn’t recover as well from them. And although my friends will tell you I am a fun and happy drunk, when I reflect on my drunk behavior I am embarrassed by it. I don’t like drunk Megan.
When I first decided to go dry in January, I found myself rethinking plans. Like when a couple of my girlfriends and I were discussing having a girls night, I thought to myself, “Better make sure it is in February!” I didn’t let that thought go – I really questioned why I would have that thought. Why would I need to have alcohol when hanging out with my friends? I have said to people that while I don’t have plans to drink again, there are a few exceptions. Some of the exceptions I have named are the mimosas on the Crim course and the incredible crush drinks in Virginia Beach. As I have continued to reflect on that, even those seem kind of silly.
Some of you may think that I am being too strict on myself, but I really don’t feel that way at all. I know myself and if I decide that I want to change my relationship with alcohol, I will. I know that I am a natural rebel and that if I give myself strict rules I will want to break them. This does not feel like a strict rule to me. I’m not telling myself or anyone else that I can’t drink. I have simply said that I am sober, or I am dry, or that I am not drinking. I have had such a positive experience with being dry and I just want it to continue. My sleep has improved and my energy levels are better. That has meant that my training has gone better. I don’t have to worry about having a DD – and I can make sure that my friends are safe if they decide to drink. If I order water when I go out instead of pop or alcohol, I’m saving money. It may not be much since I wasn’t a regular drinker anyway, but it is something. It is noticeable. And I like it.
So that is my alcohol free journey so far. 60 days and counting. I promise to be completely transparent and update you all on any changes and I appreciate your support either way. And if you are thinking about going alcohol free, well, you’ve got a friend and supporter right here! I would love to hear your experiences, too.