Since May 1st, 2018 I have not touched a drop of alcohol, so that’s over 2 months since I quit drinking. For some of you that’s an incredibly short period, for others, it sounds ridiculously long. It’s not the longest time I’ve quit drinking alcohol for, but it’s certainly the most impactful.
The funny thing is that I could give up both alcohol and smoking on the same day and I quite honestly have not thought about them in terms of the desire or want. Just the occasional, I wonder how many days it’s been now? So it was super easy, and like I said it’s already made a huge difference to my life in Mind, Body and Soul.
I am currently on creative sabbatical in Bali and I knew that I would not be able to find the right path for the next stage of my life if I carried on drinking, so I challenged myself to 30 days. A 30-day alcohol and smoking detox, which quickly became 2 months and is ongoing.
Why did I not Quit DRinking alcohol and smoking before?
I have tried many times to give up drinking, as I know that it really doesn’t work for me. I probably try a couple of times a year and failed to give up both alcohol and smoking. It just never worked. There were always too many reasons to have a drink.
In the Uk, having a drink is pretty much the answer to everything, happy and sad, and so it’s very easy for it to become embedded into your life without much thought and it’s very easy to use any vice as a crutch for the survival of life.
Why did I decide to Quit drinking and smoking?
I’ve known for quite some time that alcohol does not have a normal effect on me. It affects me from the very first sip, where I can feel my brain slowing down and relaxing. It’s like heaven to me, as my mind is always very active and I find it very difficult to sit down and chill out.
Some people have suggested I may have ADHD, I just think I have a lot of energy. Nevertheless, the only thing I found to shut out the often-anxious overworked state I used to get myself into and the onslaught of negative energy (some my own, some other peoples) was alcohol.
And so, I abused it. For me it was not really about the social aspect, it was about being able to find the kind of inner peace that you hear meditating monks speak off. Instant relaxation, instant gratification.
So that was my life. Work and work and work, as much as I could, and then switch off quickly with alcohol. The thing is, it’s addictive. And the more you drink, the more you need to keep drinking to get that peace. I was no better than a junkie, craving a fix.
If I had only used it to gain peace that would be okay, but I used it to block out pain, problems, bad relationships and so the list went on. Self-medication, which turned to self-destruction.
I was not a day drinker, I really did not like that, neither was I really an early evening drinker, and neither did I drink every day, but I could polish off a bottle of wine or sometimes more in an hour, in the gap between working and needing to sleep. I used it like a sleeping pill, and that I knew was very very unhealthy.
Of course, I would drink socially too, as my work and my friendship group encouraged it, or maybe I encouraged them, who knows, as it’s always good to drink in company, and you feel less of an “addict” if you have accomplices, so to say.
However deep down I knew it wasn’t good for me and it wasn’t providing me with a lot of clarity, right when I really needed it most.
The hangovers get worse with age, as does the anxiety and I knew that to get on with my new life, I needed a proper clear-out and a break and a detox. Too much wasted time either drinking or in the grip of a hangover, made me realise that I was wasting very valuable time, and so it had to stop, this time for good.
So, I quit, just like that, on day 1 of my creative sabbatical. May 1st, 2018.
Why was it so easy for me to quit alcohol and cigarettes?
What I am calling a creative sabbatical or a writing retreat may be just a glorified DIY rehab, who knows, and really who cares. All I know is that by putting myself in a new situation and taking away a lot of the things that triggered me to drink such as work stress, toxic people, people dumping their problems on me, and a job I had started to hate, that I could just stop.
I changed my daily routine. Now I get up anytime between 5 am and 7 am writing a journal for at least an hour. It’s basically free writing and is part of The Artists Way book I’m working on now.
It’s literally just 3 big pages of writing, which the writer Julia Cameron called Morning Pages. I always found journaling to be useful, but this is about double the writing I used to do, and the difference has been significant.
All your worries, fears and crap, you can put down there, and it’s incredibly cathartic. Meaning much less noise roaming around in my head to need to subdue. Another reason not to drink.
Getting up early in the morning means early to bed, and so those hours when I would normally meet up with people over dinner or a drink now don’t exist, as I eat an early dinner and then I go to bed. I also purposely cut myself off from people and making new friends, until this new habit and way of life were established and enmeshed within me.
To some I might be a boring hermit, to others, a creative writing retreat sounds like a dream. To me it’s a space of exorcizing my demons and through that,t I pull my creativity, or maybe the other way around. It’s all a circle of growth and I feel happier and healthier than I can’t really remember since when.
On top of the writing,g I have an elaborate morning practise that grows by the day, which consists of many different healing or growth practices that I shall be writing about soon as part of this series.
I can’t tell you if it’s one or all of them, that are supporting me during this time, but as I test them out for a minimum of 30 days I’ll write about them and let you know. The social media detox was the first, and that worked really well for me.
Maybe it’s time to look at your triggers or reasons for Quitting drinking & smoking?
If alcohol is not causing you a problem, and it’s not affecting your moods, your judgements and your ability to start or create your dream career, then it’s probably not worth you looking at. Stop reading this article and get on with your life.
However, if like me, you are using alcohol to make yourself feel better or to cope with life, then it’s probably worth dissecting.
The biggest contributor for me was work, 100%. I struggled massively with the daily rejection that I had to take in my role, helping brands get into retail. It was a normal part of what I offered my clients, but the competitiveness of the industry and the way that I used to get treated by people within the industry, most especially distributors and resellers I used to detest.
Bullying or sexual harassment happened weekly in some form or another, it was either one or the other and so often I lost count. That was very toxic and after 13 years in such unhealthy environments, I was terribly worn down, and burnout.
Instead of reacting to them directly and telling people NO. I sucked it up and self-destroyed, as I thought I had no option. Just keep my head down, earn the money and it will get better. I lived in fear basically, having given over my power a long time ago and that is a horrible place to be.
It won’t get better by itself, I know that now. I had to take a firm break, which I am doing now to recharge, build myself up again and get myself much bigger and better boundaries.
It’s very hard being a woman in an almost all male career. I managed to shut most of it out for a very long, time, but then at some point, it just gets too much. The crap just piles on and on, and then you have something happen like the death of your father in my case, and everything just starts falling apart, or maybe coming together. Up to you how you see it.
Your triggers, may not be my triggers, but the ease with which I have been able to drop not only drinking but also smoking has been astounding to me.
As with the last article that I wrote on this series -How to get your dream career – give up social media, I am going to write for you the gifts giving up alcohol has given me in this 60-day period so far. All I can hope is that I continue to find the strength to stick to my new healthier life and pursue the life of my dreams.
The gifts that 60 days free of Alcohol and smoking has given me
Gift 1 – Clarity
This was what I was really searching for. To be able to see the past, present and future situations more clearly and scratch away what was not real and replace with reality. Alcohol does weird things to your brain, at least it did with mine. I am not sure it helped me to see what was real that clearly. It affected how I looked and reacted to situations, both when I’d had a drink and with a hangover. So now having a clear head means that now I know what I’m working with, and what I need to work on.
So now I have that clarity. I still don’t know what direction I’m taking and what the future holds, but I know I’m in a much better position to be able to see, create, identify and assess opportunities.
Gift 2 – Loss of Anxiety & Fear
I guess this is linked to clarity in some way, but alcohol really did use to give me anxiety. Mainly the day after with the hangover. Even 1 glass of wine would give me a hangover, so I could never really escape it.
Anxiety for me at least was heavily linked to fear and so I was finding that I was living my life in an anxious and fear driven state a lot of the time. That’s no way to live your life and no way to make decisions. The entire time I worked in the consumer electronics industry everything was always a major panic, as there was excess stock, not enough stock, no one wanted it, it would not sell, and so on. That did not help at all.
Maybe all working life is like that, but I’m convinced that there is another way and another side to it, so that’s what I am trying to find out.
Now my anxiety is all but gone, and again that makes it a much better place to make decisions from.
Gift 3 – More Time
Now I am not drinking in the evenings and nursing a hangover I have more time to work on whatever I want to. Granted I am not actually “working” in the sense of getting paid, but I’m working on myself and learning heaps of new skills.
If you are looking to make changes in your life and are considering a new career, it really does take time to figure out what you want to do, how you want to do it and then space and more time to start practising it. Having a new career drop out of the sky and present itself in your lap without having done anything for it, is not that common.
But by taking time to move towards the direction that you want to go and then perhaps by looking at new skills that you might need, this will enable you to begin progressing and there’s nothing the universe likes more than that, to see some action and certainly some creativity.
I know not everyone has the gift of taking a sabbatical like I do, but by creating pockets of time from changing up your daily habits, suddenly you have created time from nowhere. Use it wisely.
Gift 4 – More Money
This one is obvious, but of course, I’ve saved loads of money. Being a wine drinker, and a nice wine drinker anywhere in Asia is expensive for wine. Not drinking means quite possibly a few extra months of not having to work quite honestly. I’ve kept my costs low, and alcohol would have skyrocketed them. Not drinking and smoking means more time travelling and I’m sure no one could argue with that.
Also, no hangover means no hangover food, so that also saves money and calories. A decent bottle of wine in a wine shop here is £25-£30 quid, and that wine you could buy in the UK for £5 – £7. It’s a big difference. In restaurants, it’s even more expensive!
Gift 5 – Better Health
For sure I am healthier. It’s only been 60 days, but I feel better, I have more energy and I get up early every day. I did not have any symptoms of detox at all or any cravings.
I have been doing quite a lot of kundalini yoga though, which involves a lot of breathwork and moving energy, so it could be because of that, but so far so good.
I have no idea if I have lost weight as I have no scales, but I will admit to having more desserts in Bali, as ice cream seems essential, when it’s hot, so that would be why!
Gift 6 – Meeting new people
As I said before, I have been very hermit-like in the evening, but in the day, I have been out and about doing new things.
I walk miles into Ubud centre or around the area and do all sorts of classes. From Kundalini to sound healing, to trips to local sites. I’ve met loads of interesting people, and have no need for drinking.
The family that owns the guest house I have been staying in have been taking me out and about a lot to lots of new places, to a lot of religious ceremonies and a lot of that gets done in the early morning.
A lot of the communications here in Bali are based on smiling and the speaking of the few words I’ve picked up. So, the feelings and the acceptance are based on good energy. If you are tired with a hangover, then that easily commutes to your local hosts and you can’t get that connection so easily.
Not drinking has given me a much cleaner and clearer energy, that I feel people are reacting a lot more positively too.
Gift 7 – a Better commitment to Exercise & Meditation
Apart from a couple of days when I was super tired this month, the last 60 days I’ve exercised and meditated every single morning. There is nothing like exercise and meditation to make you feel good, for me at least.
If I can get those done in the morning, early then it impacts the rest of my day. These things are not for everyone. For you, it might be 5 mins silence, or the act of blow-drying your hair or whatever it is that makes you feel good. But that time for yourself that relaxes you really is key.
Now I have no excuses to not do it. I get up 7 days a week and I do my stuff, and that makes a huge difference. One of my clients always used to say to me to get the exercise done and the rest will fall into place. He was right of course, but I often used to skip it, with the too much work or hangover excuse!
Gift 8 – Self-Belief
If you have read this blog before you will know that self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and self-love, are topics that I like to talk about a lot. After spending time with therapists and studying these areas, I realised that not only were mine ridiculously low, that they were affecting almost everything in my life.
I came to realise that self-belief and self-love are the cornerstone of literally everything. It’s the rock that everything else gets built on, and it can only come from you and from within.
It’s taken me a very very very long time to realise this, but I am very happy that I know it now, as it’s a gift
So in the last few years, I’ve been working on ways to rebuild them. I can honestly say that it’s made a huge difference to my whole life.
How to do a 30-day Alcohol-Free Challenge
Here are some tips to help you if you want to do your own challenge, based on what I learnt after 30 days. As you read here, I found it so life-changing, that I am already on 2 months and looking towards deleting alcohol from my life permanently.
Of course, if you are a heavy drinker it is not always advisable to just stop drinking from 1 day to the next. Always consult a doctor first for medical guidance.
- You can either just take increasingly large breaks from alcohol or set yourself a 30-day challenge. Try weekdays with no alcohol perhaps for a month and then go to full time. Personally, I think that it works better, cutting it out entirely, as then you get the full benefits. As you get older alcohol affects you more and more, and so that late night Saturday drinking can cut into your week with the bad hangover.
- Set yourself a goal of something that you want to do instead that’s creative. I personally think it’s good to have a positive outcome so you can see the difference. If you are looking to create a dream career, then start working on that in your time off, or pick up a new hobby. I think it’s about showing yourself what you create with the new time that you have, as opposed to feeling like you are denying yourself something.
- If you feel like you need additional support, of course, you can try the AA, which are worldwide, but that may not be for you. There are heaps of people that write about this online. Websites like Hip Sobriety, or Club Sober here’s a list of more. If they don’t hit the spot, then just have a google, and I’m sure you will find someone that inspires you. Instagram is also another great place, where this topic is widely discussed, however, I’m currently not on social media, so I can’t find you the links!
- Or you could try a retreat to kickstart it. There are now plenty of Retreats on offer all around the world, that can help you to kick alcohol if you can’t do it in your current surroundings
I’m just 2 months in so, of course, it’s early days, but I’m actively working to keep to it. I know I did not really mention smoking very much, but for me, the two were extrinsically linked. I did not really smoke without drinking, so I almost consider them one and the same thing.