When is the last time you felt convicted? You know, you read or heard something that struck a chord and you knew it wasn’t going away until you did something about it. A chord was struck with me after researching and writing about the wine mom culture and I had to ask myself: Could I do 30 days of no alcohol?
Here is what my habit looked like: I would have a glass of wine every night and a couple of drinks on the weekend. These numbers put me above “low-risk consumption,” which scared me, so I knew I needed to do this experiment. I’ve read about the benefits of not drinking alcohol. I expected to save money and drop a few pounds, but I actually learned a lot more and was surprised by these 3 things especially.
1. I learned drinking wasn’t helping me relax.
I thought a glass of wine during that hectic hour on weeknights was helping me loosen up and not be sharp with my kids. It wasn’t. Things were still crazy, even with alcohol. Every mom knows those hours are just a tense time. Lunches need to get packed. Homework needs to get done. There’s dinner, showers, attention to my husband. It’s just that time of day when I have to recognize I have a tendency to get a little frazzled. And let’s get real—Pouring a glass at 4:30 p.m. doesn’t do much to ease the tension at 4:35. It’s all in our heads at that point. What has actually helped is putting my phone in my room and focusing on one task at a time.
2. I learned 30 days of no alcohol doesn’t automatically lead to weight loss.
Everyone knows one of the benefits of not drinking alcohol is weight loss. I figured I’d easily lose 5 to 10 pounds. I did not. But don’t get discouraged. Listen to this. I didn’t drop a lot of weight because in my 30 days of no alcohol, I worked out on 25 mornings. I gained muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. And here’s the important part: The reason I was able to stick to my exercise routine was that even when that pesky alarm went off at 4:50 a.m., I woke up feeling rested. I was getting the same amount of sleep as before—about 7 hours—but ditching the alcohol gave me better quality sleep. Sure, I’d love that number on the scale to be lower, but I’d rather feel strong and healthy. Waking up with exercise is giving me that.
3. I learned I don’t always drink because I want a drink.
Yes, I love a glass of red wine and I’m not saying I ever force-fed myself one. But going dry made me re-examine the “why.”
When the server asked what I would like to drink, I felt guilty for requesting water or club soda, as if I was disappointing him. Yes, I have a few boundary issues. A couple of times I even apologized, and said, “We’re doing a dry month!”
I also realized that ordering a drink made the dining out experience feel more like, well, an experience! But here’s what I had to come to terms with. If I’m at Chili’s with my kids and they’re dripping salsa on their laps while playing tic-tac-toe on a placemat, and servers are walking by singing and clapping to the birthday song, and there are fries on the floor under the table, the vibe is pretty much killed anyway. In this type of scenario, a Diet Coke would suffice. I know what you’re saying—That’s exactly the kind of crazy situation that necessitates a glass of wine! But I’d rather allow a drink to make a pleasant time nicer than use it to numb myself in a hectic one.
And therein lies the lesson. The greatest benefits of not drinking alcohol truly were moments when I stopped to think about whether drinking was enhancing life or numbing me to it. Like many other things, good and bad, drinking is a habit. For me, it’s not an addiction. But recognizing why I habitually drink has given me insight into how to do it moderately without feeling deprived.
Do you think you could or should go a month with no alcohol? What would be the most challenging part?