Dry July: What I Learned After 31 Days of Sobriety

After too many virtual happy hours, it was time for a change.

Photo by Christian Fridell on Pexels.com

I spent July completely sober. In this time of COVID, that’s a strange thing – especially since there are Zoom Happy Hours popping up everywhere you turn. However, I’d noticed that my occasional evening cocktail was turning into a daily occurrence, and it was affecting my mood, my sleep, my mornings, and my coping skills. I started viewing my nightly drink as an escape, and that just isn’t like me. So I took the month of July off from drinking.

For the most part, not drinking wasn’t a huge challenge. I mean, if it were something like giving up chocolate or social media for a month, then it would hurt a little. But alcohol has never been something I couldn’t live without.

That said, there were a few things I noticed when I actively chose to not drink.

1. Alcohol is pushed at you everywhere!

I got a taste of what newly sober alcoholics must feel in their first months of sobriety. I repeatedly said no to people who kept trying to put a drink in my hand. “Come on, one won’t hurt.” Thank goodness I don’t have an alcohol issue, but how is this kind of pressure for someone who chooses a lifetime away from booze? I also had to face countless ads depicting delicious looking drinks. And then there are those virtual happy hours. I eventually stopped attending because it’s just not that much fun to see your friends getting smashed through a video screen while you sip your sparkling water.

2. I was forced to face my issues

Whether it was stress, boredom, sadness, anger… At the end of a hard day, my regular routine was to fix myself a vodka soda, and feel my discomfort slip away. Now, I had to actually feel that uncomfortable feeling – and I learned that wasn’t necessarily a horrible thing. Sure, it doesn’t feel good to feel bad. But if you allow yourself to go through the motions of a negative feeling, you’ll eventually be able to move beyond it and go on with your day.

3. I slept better

Originally, I wondered if I’d have a harder time falling asleep without a nightcap. That was definitely not the case. I read before bed, and found myself falling asleep around 10 p.m. – earlier than usual. Then I’d sleep soundly the whole night through. On more than one occasion, my husband has mentioned the snoring habit I developed. Once I stopped drinking, however, the snoring stopped too. I thought it had just been a hereditary thing that caught up with me, but apparently it had everything to do with alcohol.

4. I woke up better

I’ve always been an early riser, so morning time is my jam. But I hadn’t realized how hard mornings really were – or how much better they could be – until I gave up drinking. A week into my sobriety, I noticed I could get up without the overwhelming need for caffeine so I could fully wake up. My body moved easier. My joints hurt less. In general, I was just more awake from the moment I opened my eyes, and I felt much more alert throughout my day.

5. My mood has improved

You guys, I’m 42 years old. I have a stinking suspicion I’m heading into Peri-menopause. The mood swings are real, and they aren’t going away. At the beginning of this month, as I was still detoxing off alcohol, I suffered the mother of all mood swings. A month later, when I should be experiencing the same thing, I feel all right. Not perfect, but not stuck in a downward spiral either. To me, that’s a total win.

All that said, there were also a few things I missed this past month. I missed that feeling of celebration from sipping sparkling wine or a tasty cocktail. I missed the social aspect of drinking (or as social as you can get in these COVID times). I missed how alcohol made me less inhibited, or how I could quickly let go of stress after a long day. But after 30 days, my need for alcohol to cure these ailments became much less. By the end of the month, I was happily sipping my sparkling water from a wine glass, and the feeling of celebration was just as real.  

Now that July is over, I’m free to drink again. I may even enjoy a cocktail tonight. Every night, though? Nah. I’ve realized just how much I enjoy the evenness of my moods and how rested I feel throughout my day. I think that feels better than feeling buzzed.   

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