This question was put to me by a friend on a recent night out (pint of cider in his hand) about the purpose of my dry year, which I’m nearly half way through. My initial, unconvincing response was that, at the very least, I’ll have completed a 70.3, to which he again queried “You couldn’t have done that anyway?”
His playful jibe, and my meek response, got me thinking more deeply about my decision. What do I really want out of this year? Could it be obtained with alcohol along for the ride?
Here’s what I came up with…
365 fresh mornings. In which I’ve exercised, read, journaled, and worked on my goals. These mornings, which I love, are stripped away by alcohol, late nights, and hangovers. By the time my post-night-out-self is dragging himself out of bed to ‘deal’ with the kids in the morning, my alcohol-free-self already has two hours of value under his belt, and greets his kids with smiles and hugs as they wake.
Develop confidence to enjoy myself, and learn to relax, without a drink. Drinking is not a prerequisite to having a good time. When we go out with friends, great conversation and laughter is what makes it enjoyable, not the drink in our hand. We’re just conditioned to think the drink is required. Equally, when we sit down to relax at the end of a long day, we’re conditioned to believe a glass of wine is essential to unwind completely. It’s not. We’ve just made the association from such a young age and have never tested the theory. For the last five months I’ve been doing just that, and the theory doesn’t hold.
Clarity. So much time is lost to the haze of intoxication, hangover and recovery, during which time our goals and best intentions are put on hold. Often we’re taking a step backwards, having to make up lost ground when we eventually recover from the haze. Without booze, we’re always moving forward. And with sobriety comes clarity, and clarity equals success.
A healthier bank balance. This outcome would be more so if I wasn’t spending all of my money on the kit required for triathlons, but alcohol costs. The drinks you consume are expensive enough, but when you add in the rounds you buy for others, the takeaways, taxis, costs for replacing lost items etc. well… let’s just say I’m much better off financially this year.
Energy for my kids. One of the catalysts for giving up alcohol was eliminating hangover-induced lost time with my kids. I no longer wanted to stick them in front of a movie on a weekend so I could recuperate on the couch. I want my kids to grow up with, and remember, a playful, energetic dad, and alcohol simply doesn’t allow this. Not for me.
Broken the cycle. I’ve been in this cycle since I was 16-17. That’s 22+ years. I want to experience what life is like on the other side of alcohol (turns out it’s pretty bloody good).
So could I have these things with alcohol? My answer is a resounding NO. And I have history to back me up. For me, none of the above list can enjoyed to the levels I want unless booze is removed from my life in its entirety. Alcohol tends to make me delay, postpone, and compromise, three outcomes I’m no longer prepared to tolerate. I want my early mornings; all of them. I want to feel confident and have a good time without having to alter the chemical makeup of my brain. I want to be always moving forward, not regularly slipping. I want my money in my back pocket, not in the coffers of pubs and clubs. I want to be a great dad. And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in the same cycle, only to look back and wonder what might have been. So my answer is no, I can’t do all this with alcohol tagging along.
The list above won’t mean much to my sceptical mate, or the many others who have shown their disbelief (even disapproval) at my decision. And that’s fine. After all it has taken me 22 years to reach this point; I can’t expect anyone else to ‘get it’ overnight. As Derek Sivers says in some will always say you’re wrong:
“You have to know your preferences well, because no matter what you do, someone will tell you you’re wrong”
What I’ve come to learn is:
…if you expect this criticism in advance, and take pride in your stance, you can bash on with a smile, being who you want to be.
Then every time they say you’re wrong, that’s a sign you’re doing it right.
The best part is I no longer feel like I’m making a sacrifice. I’ve developed a level of confidence and comfort in my own skin that I’ve never had before, and never thought possible. Now I realise the sacrifices were being made the whole time I was drinking. I was giving up, or at least delaying progress toward, everything I truly wanted.