Here it is February 1st, the first day of a new month and my 31st day without alcohol. On the heels of a Dry January, I thought I’d share my takeaways from this experience by highlighting the 10 ways Dry January changed me for the better: physically, emotionally and mentally.
Like millions of others around the world, I spent the month of January alcohol-free. I didn’t join any Dry January online groups, didn’t get “an app for that” – and there are apps for that. I just stopped drinking on January 2nd, having attended a New Year’s Day party on the first.
This was not a spontaneous decision, but a planned one. I asked my husband back in early November if he would join me in the challenge – an experiment of sorts – to have a Dry January after the holiday festivities concluded. I had noticed an uptick in my alcohol intake during and after the wine country fires in October. Plus the holidays are so much about socializing, which for me almost always equates to more drinking.
For a long time I’d been curious about what not imbibing for an extended period would do for the 30+ pounds I have put on in the last 2 years, annoying and persistent hot flashes and night sweats, wonky sleep patterns, low energy levels and my overall health, wellbeing and outlook on life.
I’m happy to tell you that refraining from alcohol greatly impacted all of the above in positive ways. With that, here are the 10 ways Dry January changed me for the better in order of my most important:
1 ~ It Made Me Not Hot
I put this benefit at the top of the list for a reason. Hot flashes and night sweats have plagued me since 2015 and I was desperate to do something about them. My doctor will not let me get near any hormone replacement therapy due to cancer in my family history and when I asked for something else I was offered only antidepressants.
I had pretty much given up on finding relief until I found out that wine contains histamines, which are known to flip the switch on hot flashes. I discovered the truth about this when I went to a holiday party last December. I hadn’t had any alcohol for several days and was feeling pretty good. My hot flashes had stopped and the relentless night sweats weren’t gone but they were diminishing.
At the party, I decided to have one small glass of white wine. I sipped it slowly and when I was done, I set the glass down. Soon I was chatting with a longtime friend then suddenly – within 3 minutes of finishing my wine – I felt the blast of internal heat take over my body. In no time my face had turned bright Santa Claus red, beads of sweat covered my forehead and cheeks and my hairline was drenched – all of this on a cold December night with the doors open. My friend even noticed what was happening and asked if I was feeling okay. I would not have been surprised if she told me my hair was on fire.
It took me only seconds to put two and two together. Me + wine = hot flash.
Fast forward to today and I can happily report I am completely free from hot flashes and night sweats. Prior to giving up alcohol, I would have paid money to be able write this sentence honestly.
2 ~ I Sleep Through The Night
Night sweats contributed to many, many months (years?) of sleepless nights. Waking up in a cold sweat is startling and disturbing no matter how many times it happens, thereby making falling back in to a peaceful slumber nearly impossible.
The absence of night sweats certainly goes a long way toward a good night’s sleep but there are other reasons I am sleeping soundly through the night. And when I say sleeping soundly, I mean I fall asleep quickly, then – and this is the important part, I think I’ll italicize it – I stay asleep all night until it’s time to wake up. I know! It’s like winning the post menopausal super lotto.
I am no scientist nor am I a health professional but I do know that alcohol interferes with sleep. In a not complex nutshell, it does so by delaying and decreasing our REM stages of our deepest sleep. I don’t wake up groggy anymore and while I might not exactly leap out of bed with pep and vigor, I certainly have more energy and alertness than I did when I slugged wine before bed.
3 ~ I Lost Weight
I have been struggling with mid-life weight gain since 2015. I have tried being “okay” with my heavier self and accepting it as part of the aging journey. But I’m not that evolved and the truth is I loathed it. I hated having to take outfit photos for the blog. Trying on clothes in my closet was something I had to work up the nerve to do. Giving clothes I loved away to Goodwill because they didn’t fit me anymore was upsetting as was shopping for bigger and bigger clothing sizes. I could go on and on about all the emotions around sudden and dramatic weight gain, but I think you get the point -> I hated it.
A month in and I am not sure how much weight I have lost. The scale and I don’t get along so it’s best if we keep our distance if I want to succeed. However, I do measure my waist and hips every couple of weeks and have lost two inches in my waist, a little over 1 inch in my hips and the jeans I couldn’t wear in November are now barely staying on, they’re so baggy. Also, I used to fasten my bra on the last notches, now I fasten it on the first.
Giving up alcohol is not the only contributor. I am also following a ketogenic/low carb diet and exercising 3 to 5 times per week. But I was doing that when I was drinking alcohol too, without much success. Why? Because alcohol consumption on a keto diet interrupts the fat burning process even if that alcohol has no carbs.
4 ~ I Have Glowing Skin
I quit wearing most of my makeup a couple weeks ago. With my lovely eyelash extensions that I adore, eye makeup is unnecessary and with my glowing skin, which I also adore, no foundation is needed. My redness is gone and the dryness and blemishes also vanished.
So now, when I want to put my face on as they say, I fill in my eyebrows, add a little blush and lip gloss and I am good to go.
People are noticing and asking me about my skin. It looks that great, even I see it! Aside from washing and moisturizing my skin and using a konjac sponge a few times a week to exfoliate, I’m not doing much to it.
5 ~ I Am Even Tempered, Mostly
I confess to being short, snappy and impatient with those whom I love the most, like my husband. I am not curt with him as much anymore, I am pleased to report. I do hope he has noticed the change. I have, strangely, become more irate with those I share the road with. Not sure what that’s all about. Maybe it’s time to cut out the caffeine too or take up some kickboxing?
6 ~ I Am Committed to My Wellbeing
Being able to live life without wine or any alcohol isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was kind of easy once I got started. January being the month with few social opportunities and short, cold days helps. Still it was much easier than I had envisioned.
If not drinking alcohol for 30 days was simple, what other areas of my life could I improve? How else can I take better care of myself?
Well, all the money I spend over at Amazon is pretty ridiculous. So I just stopped that nonsense for now. And I’ve been wanting to incorporate yoga into my daily life forever. So instead of thinking about it for another couple decades, I started actually rolling out a mat and getting on it every day. Sometimes I spend 2 minutes on the mat and sometimes I spend 30. The point is I am doing it and I am committed to doing it. My wellbeing is a priority because I made it one.
7 ~ I Found New Ways to Sip and Chill
A glass of white wine is now absent from my clutch and in its place at any given time is a mug of expensive tea or a glass of sparkling water with a wedge of lemon. I think it helps me unwind. Now, it’s the ceremony of making the drink and sitting down to enjoying it that helps calm and relax me, not the buzz.
Along with tea and fizzy water, I also love green juice. I splurged on a bad ass juicer last year and enjoy creating veggie concoctions with stuff like dandelion leaves and collard greens that I love but make my husband recoil and shudder (I make a special one for him with extra fruit). Sometimes I serve it up in one of my fancy wine glasses and take an extra long time drinking it.
I also bought a nifty electric tea pot that I am crazy about. It heats up in minutes and shuts off automatically so I don’t have to run to the stove to shush the whistle. I also keep my tea cabinet full of delicious and healthy teas. I don’t mind dropping a few extra bucks on the high end stuff now that I don’t buy alcohol.
8 ~ I Have New Interests
Over the last several weeks, I have developed more of a willingness – a yearning even – to try new things. Whether it’s freezing my tookus off in a cryotherapy chamber or learning about fermentation and making my own sauerkraut, I’m finding new interests all the time. Next I want to experience a session inside a deprivation tank and possibly take up macrame! Oh, and I also want to find out what freeze-dried crickets taste like.
9 ~ We Have More Moola
Bill and I love good wine and good wine is not cheap, in my experience. The money we would have spent buying bottles of wine, going out for drinks, or the extra expense of wine with dinners out, we’ve put into redecorating our guest rooms. I tell you, it’s so nice to have something to show for our dollars other than tight pants.
10 ~ I Got This
A surprising aspect of not drinking is a new found confidence, an “I got this” frame of mind. I feel more capable and inwardly strong than I have in years, maybe ever. I also have much less anxiety now which is interesting since I relied on alcohol to get me through stressful and traumatic periods in my life like the recent fires. Alcohol impacts your neurotransmitters and serotonin levels and can lead to anxiety issues. So all those days spent trying to soothe my worries and calm my nerves were actually exacerbating my anxiety.
Dry January is over. What now?
Now that January is over, will I drink alcohol again? Yes, I plan to drink again but I am not picking up where I left off. I will treat alcohol as a treat. Just like I rarely order dessert in a restaurant or eat a donut for breakfast or buy shoes over $150, I will also rarely drink alcohol.
Celebrating my birthday? Yes, I’ll have a glass or even two of the finest French bubbles I can find. Husband retires (someday) and has a dinner party? Okay, that warrants a nice cold martini with a fat olive. Wine tasting at a gorgeous and luxurious winery? I am more than happy to sample the wines.
February will therefore be a month focused on living this new lifestyle, mostly alcohol free. We were not very social in January which made things easier, but this month we have plans with friends at a winery, are attending a fun pruning party at one of our favorite Sonoma Valley wineries, and we have some exciting local travel plans booked. We are prepared to be tested!