This morning I happened to check the app which tracks how long it has been since I quit drinking.
And – wow! – it’s been 700 days since I gave up booze.
It got me thinking about how different life is.
Today I woke up early, did yoga, some cleaning, messaged my family and went for a walk. Now I’m sitting here writing to you.
Two years ago I would have woke up with a wine-induced headache before shuffling to the sofa. Then, I would have drunk lots of coffee and watched Friends reruns. I may have gone for a redemptive walk, I may not. Crisps most definitely would have been a key restorative feature of the day.
The benefits of breaking a habit far outweigh the challenges and I’m chuffed to be at this point. Here’s a few thoughts on some lessons so far.
Baby steps are the best.
Right from the start, my goal was to take each day as it came. In the past, my failing was in setting unrealistic goals for cutting out alcohol and I ended up feeling disappointment.
I decided to break it into manageable chunks. I knew my first booze-free weekend would be tricky – my habit was to have wine with dinner at the weekend. Come Friday, I’d focus only on the evening ahead.
There’s a great proverb about it being better to take many small steps in the right direction than a great leap forward only to stumble backward. The bit-by-bit approach helped me focus on the present. That way, time took care of itself and I enjoyed little victories along the way.
Time = more headspace.
I talked about having more time to play with in the benefits of being alcohol free. As well as more fun stuff, I became more reflective.
I’m not sure I’d thought in any meaningful way when pissed but alcohol is great at leading you down a false path.
In the midst of a Merlot moment, I was sure I’d hit upon the most riveting plot for a book (which, of course, would be an international bestseller). I scribbled it down, congratulating myself on my literary prowess. Cheers to that! Imagine my disappointment the following day when my scrawled notes only revealed a bad copy of Harry Potter. World: meet Gary Potter!
In all seriousness, the extra headspace gave me time to think about what mattered. I questioned areas of my life which were unsatisfying and which I’d otherwise ignored or not had the wherewithal to tackle. It resulted in…
When I stopped drinking, other alcohol-free friends talked about how they’d changed their lives in all sorts of positive ways.
I’ll admit: I found this difficult to imagine. Will it have that much of an impact? I wasn’t sure.
They were right. It lead to me making decisions about my career. For a while I had felt unfulfilled as if I was getting further away from what I was genuinely good at at, and loved doing.
I spent time time exploring what was possible and what I needed (and wanted) to do.
I applied the same principle of little steps and this gave me the confidence to keep exploring. Slowly, I made changes to provide more satisfaction, creativity, happiness and less stress.
Relationships have changed too. Some have petered out naturally and others have grown. I feel like my family and friends see me for who I truly am now. It’s really quite nice. But saying that…
… It’s not always easy
I do still struggle at times. Saying no to booze doesn’t mean life is a bed of roses.
Seeing relationships falter or fade can lead to sadness. It’s not easy to accept. It takes time to process.
The introduction of Covid-19 restrictions in March triggered worries that a dormant urge to drink may erupt. I recognised I felt anxious because of the disruptive changes caused by the pandemic.
I gave myself a gentle shake and reminded myself about why I quit in the first place. I find going back to your ‘why’ so helpful because it settles your mind. I have also carved out time to start yoga, something I’ve been toying with for a little while.
But here I am today. A bit richer, a bit more balanced, a lot more positive.
Life is looking very different 700 days on. Here’s to another 700!