Weekly Top Five: Pleasant Surprises About Sober February Thus Far
I know at least half-a-dozen people who jumped aboard the “Sober January” train this year, vowing to abstain from “the drink” for the first 31 days of 2019. Some did it with the intention of detoxing after the holidays, while others hopped on the wagon as a part of a holistic diet change, or New Year’s goal to be healthier. But did this girl participate? Nuh uh. And did my husband Wesley participate? Absolutely not. We had bigger plans for January: our [delayed] honeymoon in Peru. Sober January was out of the question — bring on the pisco sours! — but sober February? That we could handle.
It was 6:22 on the evening of February the 2nd when I received a text from Wesley. “This whole not drinking bit…I don’t know,” he cautioned.
We had gone less than 48 hours without taking a sip of alcohol and he was already considering hopping off the wagon. “Honestly,” I responded, “I knew you were gonna say that at some point throughout this month...but I didn’t realize it would happen on day TWO!”
To my delight, he didn’t cave, and 13 days later I can proudly report that we’ve both successfully passed the halfway point of our month-long sobriety. Not only did we survive Super Bowl Sunday without any adult beverages, but we also persisted through our friend’s birthday celebration, a dinner party with friends, a concert at the Ryman, a show at the Basement East, and Valentine’s Day...all sober.
Truth be told, I can’t say I’m ready to give up the sauce for good; I do miss having a glass of wine with dinner or enjoying a beer on a sunny Saturday afternoon. But I have noticed some surprising, unexpected shifts that have made this challenge worth the effort.
Below are my Top 5 Pleasant Surprises From Sober February Thus Far:
1. Saving Money
I would guess I spend about $200 per month stocking up on wine at Woodland Wine Merchant. And I’d suppose I spend something like $100 monthly on beer and liquor, plus another $100-ish after that on drinks that don’t come from my home: after-work cocktails; watching-the-game beers; or a mid-afternoon glass of rosé just because I wanna. Relatively speaking, alcohol is expensive. So not drinking alcohol makes life a little more affordable. Not only have I been able to pay off our credit card following the expenses we racked up on our big trip (and did so in just three weeks’ time!), but I have extra cash available to purchase other want items. Score!
2. Better Sleep
A person who wakes up almost every morning at 5:30, I rarely struggle to fall asleep at night. Where I do struggle, however, is staying asleep. I wake at 1:22 only to discover I’m completely drenched in sweat; I wake at 3:34 with a sandpaper tongue and an overwhelming thirst for water; and then I wake at 4:24, 4:37, and 4:52 due to repetitive anxiety dreams or general, uncomfortable sleep. But with an alcohol-free system — and one that’s well-hydrated to boot — I’ve been luxuriously sleeping through the entire night soundly. Even better, I’m dreaming clearly. Sure, there are plenty benefits to tout about dreaming, and I’m happy to be the recipient of such benefits, but first and foremost...dreams are fun! And fascinating. I’m enjoying the adventure each time I hit the pillow.
3. Stronger Workouts
Sure, my superior slumber helps with alertness and brain function — and I more or less expected that benefit — but what I didn’t anticipate was improved strength in my physical body. I set out on my first official Chefs Cycle training ride of this year on Sunday, February the 3rd, and was psyched to discover I felt stronger than ever before. I hadn’t been out on my bike since December 16th (over six weeks!) but I noticed my energy was at an all-time high: I rode the farthest I’ve ever gone.
Furthermore, without the allure of after-work happy hour to take up my evenings, I’ve been distracting myself with exercise. When I get off work at 5:30, I’m keen to entertain myself in ways other than drinking: yoga, HIIT training, cycling, you name it. And when my alarm sounds at its usual 5:30 in the morning, I’m far less sluggish about peeling myself out of bed. Overall, it’s been fun! And I’m feeling really great.
4. Improved Digestion
I won’t go too far into detail on this one; I’m sure you can paint your own pretty picture of what “improved digestion” looks like. What I will divulge is that I think my new, [temporary] alcohol-free lifestyle has had a positive effect on my gastrointestinal system. To be fair, this might be aided by the increased volume of kombucha I’ve been drinking as a replacement (I like to drink booch as an “alcohol alternative,” since the taste is reminiscent of sour beer in my opinion, and I can therefore trick myself into thinking I’m having a real drink), but I’ve noticed less bloat and more regularity and honestly? I am very down with that.
5. It’s Really Not as Bad as I Thought...
My main hesitation in regards to tackling an entire month of sobriety was that my social life would almost instantly vanish into the abyss. In the absence of going out for drinks, what else was a woman of 28 supposed to do in order to have fun? All the same stuff, as it turns out. And then some! I went to a Super Bowl Party and drank seltzer. Still had fun. I met friends for drinks and ordered a mocktail. Didn’t notice much difference. I got up early on Saturday and Sunday, and jam-packed both days with To-Do’s and errands and fun activities, and then relished in reading a book or catching up on television come evening time. With more energy to expend and more time in which to expend it, I’ve been having a pretty damn good time as Sober Maddie.