As mentioned in the previous post one of the first challenges I set for myself was to forgo drinking alcohol for one hundred days. It is amazing how we can go years without doing something, like drinking beer or coffee, but once we consume them they become part of our lives. We become so swept up in their consumption that it now seems unbearable to swear them off. They have become part of our routine, part of our identity, and we rely on them to help with our functionality. We use these substances to help us wake up, relax, and to get over our social anxieties. I swore off drinking for one hundred days as a way to develop a mental and physiological edge over my competitors on the soccer field but it also helped me grow more confident with who I was and what I had to say. It developed my ability to connect with others, and noticeably improved my memory and cognition. I found it easier to retain information while studying less. I would wake up feeling well rested and without any minor headaches. Overall it was a great challenge to take on, and while it is not a challenge I would necessarily look forward to doing again, it is one that I enjoyed immensely.
Before I was 21 my alcoholic drink of choice was sugar-laden drinks (grenadine I discovered is great at masking the flavor of hard alcohol) mixed with low quality, low shelf vodka bought in large plastic jugs. But after turning 21 I began to buy and drink beer. It was an acquired taste for me but I fell head over heels for it. Before I took on the 100 day no drinking challenge I was having at least one beer a day. Usually I would have a beer while I was cooking dinner, then I would have a beer during dinner, and then I would do the dishes and occasionally celebrate with opening beer number three. It didn’t matter if I was alone or not beer became an indispensable part of my life. Or so I believed.
I took on the no drinking challenge with vigor and I openly talked about it with others. I was still playing in about two to three soccer games a week and after every one my teammates would go out to drink and they would ask me why I wasn’t joining in. I will admit that it was hard at times. I would go out to the bar with friends and become self conscious of the glass of water I held as they pounded shots and drained mugs of beer (Not really. People don’t use mugs in the US which is a real shame). I became the permanent designated driver for the next one hundred days. There were times when I would have an intense workout and all I would want to do afterwards is have a beer. There were times when I would spend a full day of studying on campus and in the library and the thought of a having a beer when I got home seemed so tempting. But I was committed to sobriety and over time I even took pride in what I was doing.
During this period my friend Zak (another shoutout to Zak) was hosting a party every two weeks for all of our friends. They were always a good time and drinking always occurred. There were birthday parties, and holidays to celebrate, and everyone would be drinking merrily while I just stood there with my glass of water in hand. But to say I “just stood there” would be a lie. I began to revel in my soberness. I don’t say this from on top of a high horse as if I was judging those who were drinking. I understood better than anyone that drinking could be fun. But without alcohol as a social crutch I realized that all it took was a small amount of confidence to go up and start a conversation with someone. Alcohol gave me false confidence and in its place I learned what true courage was like. It allowed me to drift in and out of conversations as I pleased, I began to have real conversations with people instead of shared drunken ramblings. I had a better understanding of what type of person I was. Plus being sober allowed me to thoroughly remember all the silly drunken antics that my friends participated in. Like doing shots of apple cider vinegar. Although to be fair I participated in that too so that wasn’t drunken tom foolery. It was more like a fun social bonding moment and an example of the power of group think.
For those of you that want to work on your social skills, develop a healthier lifestyle, or save money (honestly it’s amazing how much you money you can save when you aren’t buying a six pack once a week or having a beer or glass of wine when you go out to dinner) I would encourage you to take on the this challenge. Choose a month where you will not drink for the entirety of it. If you really want to make it challenging choose a month that your birthday or one of your favorite holidays is in.
In sum I got a lot out of this challenge. I grew stronger in both mental and physical health, my wallet began to fill up quicker, and I enhanced my already existent relationships as well as my ability to develop new ones (plus my tolerance dropped to zero as I discovered to my surprise when I went back to drinking). When the challenge was over I found myself drinking less by choice. I no longer needed to drink to have a good times with friends or to get through socially anxious situations. I didn’t need a beer to relax when I got off work. Sure it was nice to have one, but after the challenge I treated it as a luxury instead of a necessity. I found myself enjoying my post work beers more than I ever did before. During the challenge it sucked having a snide comment thrown my way every now and then but those were few and far between. Almost everyone who knew about my drinking challenge had nothing but supportive and encouraging words for me. Even the people who didn’t understand my reasons for it still gave me their support. It was reaffirming to know that I was surrounded by people who had my back even if I was doing something odd.
I encourage you to post in the comments section below if you’ve already done a challenge like this or are thinking about doing so. Let us know if you liked it or not, or got anything out of it. I am a huge proponent of this challenge but I’d be really curious to hear from someone who tried it and didn’t find it worthwhile.