I’m sorry for the above Bon Jovi reference & lyrics. I’m now even more sorry for implanting the tune in your head, which you’re now probably humming. Maybe even playing air guitar? If so, stop! The other day, when I realized I had passed the half-way point in the Dry2018 journey, it was the first thing that jumped into my mind. I’m showing my age, I guess, with the choice of song!
In truth, I’m surprised that the half-way marker creeped up on me so quickly. When starting out back in January, 6 full months seemed like a long way off. Never mind the full year. The fact that is has arrived so quickly is definitely a positive sign. And still going strong sans-alcohol is very encouraging. I decided to mark this milestone with another bit of reflection on more learnings & challenges overcome since the 100 days mark was passed (check out the 7 learnings from first 100 days here). For anyone going through a similar year or period without indulging, some of these might resonate. For those of you considering a stint off the booze, they might even be helpful. Just know, it can be done.
The Business Conference
I’ve attend a good few of these over the years. They generally are great fun and excellent for networking. But pretty much have always included some ‘free drinks’ receptions which I would have always taken advantage of. So, when I signed up to attend a Project Management conference in Berlin in early May, there was a mix of excitement about the event as well as a slight anxiety knowing there would likely be ‘networking’ events that involved large German Bierkrugs full of Weissbier just crying out to be drank! As an introvert, the ‘dutch-courage’helps!
I was right, there was free German food, beer & wine. But they also provided some non-alcoholic beers too. And they’re allowed. It still feels more comfortable when in this environment with a beer bottle in your hand, even if it’s not real beer. Having a diet coke in hand just feels wrong. I’m happy to say though, that the event was a great success and as I was recording content for the PMI podcast that put together, that gave me a real reason to chat and network with others. It forced me outside my comfortzone to talk and engage more. Something that I might, no actually, I know I would have used alcohol for in the past.
Best Friends 40th
It’s the year of the 40thBirthday Party and another very close friend was celebrating theirs towards the end of June just gone. This was the first time that I was out with my oldest/longest group of friends since taking up the Dry18 challenge. So, of course, it was going to be another hurdle. Another new experience. My dry 18 partner-in-crime (or in this case zero crime) Richie was in attendance also. That was a good thing. The extra support helped.
Again, there was a sense that it was going to be a challenge. But things are always worse in your own head than what actually happens. That’s how it was here. An added benefit to others was my ability to play chauffeur on the night. And as the group all were very much up-to-speed with the #Dry18 challenge, it was well respected! Nobody tried to spike our drinks with alcohol. If this was 10 or 20 years earlier, I have a sense we wouldn’t have got a way so lightly.
But how times have changed. As both Richie and I have taken a shine to the Heineken Zero, we actually had to smuggle bottles of it into the bar as it wasn’t being served there. Now, that’s a first. For many a year, as broke students, we might have been guilty of hustling in some cheap vodka from an off-licence into a pub, saving a few €/£ and getting drunk cheap. Now it’s non-alcoholic beer. As you can see from the image, we’re both enjoying it though.
Another potential challenge came directly after my friends 40th. The very next morning my girlfriend and I were heading away for a week’s holiday. The first proper break from work so far this year and the first holiday of Dry18. I’d imagine if we selected Ibiza as the destination, the temptation levels would have been a lot higher, but nevertheless, a week off, with nothing to get up for the next morning, and that sense of freedom from responsibility, would have given me the perfect excuse in the past to have a few drinks every day or evening to help me ‘enjoy’ the time off more.
Instead of Ibiza, we opted for Eastbourne. Instead of Techno and Clubbing, we opted for Tennis and Jogging. A nice relaxing week to soak up the sun and digitally detox. Not putting myself in the line of fire either helped for sure. You can still have a great holiday, without having to go wild. And that doesn’t mean going out of your way of having fun. You don’t want to be in the middle of a wild party atmosphere every night. That could only torture yourself. Do some planning & find a balance.
So often in the past, I’d return to work on the Monday after a week off, thinking & feeling that I need another holiday to recover from the one I was just on. Yeah, you know what I mean? This time round, there was none of that. It still didn’t mean I couldn’t wait to get back to work. But at least the extra dread of alcohol withdrawal wasn’t there. It took me a while to listen to my own advice. But it can be done.
For every long run I’ve ever set out on (long would probably be anything over 8 miles), I’ve always found the first half mentally more challenging than the second. Even though I’d be fresher and have more energy. But as soon as I just get to that half-way point, I feel different. I’ve turned the proverbial corner and I’m now on the homeward stretch, even if that is still 13.1 miles when in marathon mode. It feels like every step I take I’m getting closer to home and, psychologically, that gives me more impetus. It’s just something I’ve always noticed when running. So, I thought, now that I’m on the return leg of Dry18, that it would might like that too.
To be honest, it doesn’t. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the reason it’s not such a big relief is because I don’t have that same sense of struggle as I do when running long distances. So, as a result, I’m not getting that great sense of relief that I’ve turned the corner and am homeward bound.
Don’t get me wrong either. It’s great that I’ve less days now to do, than I’ve already done. It’s just not as momentous as I thought that half-way mark was going to be when I started out!
The rise of the not-drinking culture?
The first 100 days were definitely harder than the last 80 or so. As I wrote in the first 100 days post back in April, a number of interesting insights emerged during this period. It was a time of adjustment, pushing myself outside the comfortzone in many ways and experience things in a new light.
Since then, despite my concerns over the summer coming, longer days, beer garden weather, and the world cup football feast coming at me, all of which would have been ingredients that would make for a great day/night’s boozing, it’s been pretty easy going. My levels of social unease when not boozing has dropped and I’m not overthinking these nights out as much as I was at the start.
Taking this beer break has been great. I’ve gained confidence, my blood sugars are in better shape, I can predict with near certainty what I’ll do the next morning and how I’ll feel, and I’ve even been able to share the learnings with folks from other places through these blog posts and with the Alcohol Concern UK group. If any of the above words and insights help someone else on their own expedition, then that’s awesome too.
I’ve also started to notice a lot more non-alcoholic betters and even an alcohol free Gin hitting the shelves. Could there be a bit of a movement starting to move away from drinking too much? I read somewhere about another sober campaigner who is trying ‘to make not drinking cool’. That’s not my goal, but there certainly seems to be an emerging trend towards a less reliance on it. And that’ is such a good thing. Till the next one. Cheers!
Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics.
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