On quitting drinking at age 36.

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Stop drinking for 30 days. That was my original plan. Ian actually suggested we both try it, more in the vein of losing weight, and I was up for it.  I had quit drinking before, the longest stretch being about 6 weeks in 2014, but this time, I went into the challenge figuring we’d do 30 days and then, on our anniversary, which would be the last night of the challenge, we’d split a bottle of champagne and toast 9 years of marriage.

It’s been over 3 months now without a drink of alcohol, and I have to say it--I don’t think I’ll ever go back.  Don’t get me wrong, there are nights when a glass of wine or a cold beer sound amazing, and there are times being out with friends where I feel tempted to order a drink so I “fit in”, but the long term impact of this sober lifestyle have far outweighed the enjoyment I get from a glass of wine.

I don’t think I had a drinking problem before this challenge, and I have no issue with people who do drink. I’ve noticed some of my friends saying, “Do you mind if I drink?” around me, and the answer is of COURSE I don’t mind if you drink--I don’t have a particularly fraught relationship with alcohol, I just don’t want it anymore.

At first, it was strange. Ian and I had to take a few weeks to realize how much of our social life, and the social lives of people in their 30s, really does revolve around drinking.  It was initially odd to meet a friend for coffee, rather than a margarita, and I have found myself noticing how much drinking or “what to drink” or “what do you want to drink?” or “what should we bring to drink?” has become a thing in our culture. I intially felt a little odd explaining to people that I have given up alcohol, always couching it in, “Oh, I’m taking a break.” Now I feel pretty comfortable just saying, “I don’t drink anymore.” Some people ask about it, or make assumptions that I’m pregnant (I’m not) or that I had a problem (I didn’t), but a lot of people just accept it, and move on, which I think is pretty awesome too.  

Before June 9 (the date of my last drink), I would have 2 or 3 glasses of red wine a night, if I’m being honest. Looking back, that seems absurd. How did I intake that many additional calories? Why was I drinking that much? What was I trying to escape?

It will come as no surprise to most of you that the past year of my life has been tumultuous. I started the school year at Northview, and then left mid-year to pursue what I thought would be a dream job, only to find out upon arrival that it was anything but.  I stammered and stumbled to the end of the school year at GRPS, and then spent the first part of the summer unsure of my next move.  

When I was hired at my current job in Leelanau, I had an interview that lasted about 2 hours with the superintendent, the principal, various members of the school staff, students and the board of education for the district.  Needless to say it was intense.  I found myself talking quickly and explaining a lot of complex ideas surrounding my philosophies of education and teaching to a large group of people.  The questions they asked were challenging and thought provoking--it was the best type of educational discussion a person in my position looks to have--and I had the conversation and got the job.  

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that were I still drinking at the time of this interview, I would not have been able to hold my own the way I did.  The clarity of mind that comes from not drinking is startling.  I remember about a month into our sobriety, Ian called me from a work trip and said something to the effect of, “When you don’t drink, the way you see the world is a lot more clear. Almost frighteningly clear.”  Now Ian tends to be a much more philosophical person than I am, but I knew exactly what he meant.  My head's clear, I can see things more rationally, I take time to consider decisions, I don’t snap at people, I am so much more laid back and relaxed. It’s honestly unreal what this has done for me.

Not to mention the physical health benefits.  I have so much energy, I feel like I’m 17 again. I sleep soundly--I used to suffer pretty consistently from insomnia--waking up for 3-4 hours at a time in the middle of the night. Now I sleep for a solid 8 hours, and, according my my fitbit, that is a lot of deep REM sleep.  I go to bed around 10pm and can easily wake up at 5:30am. Gone are the days of the low-grade headache from wine the night before, or the dry mouth.  I drink tons of water, my skin is clear, I dropped 8 pounds in the first 30 days, I have time to read...I hate to say, it’s life changing.

I know some of you might be thinking, “Well, that’s cool, good for you, but not for me,” and that might be totally true, but I would say if you are at all curious about jump starting your Fall or taking some time to reset, giving up alcohol could be a really simple way to do so.  I would love to hear how it goes for you if you make the decision!