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Things I’ve realised in 45 days of not drinking

I began a lifestyle experiment 45 days ago, cutting out alcohol from my life to see what happened. It’s been much more enjoyable than I thought it would be and here’s a few things I’ve realised:

  • Higher education runs on booze. It’s remarkable how many events involve free alcohol and how much socialising after other events involves alcohol. It’s much easier than I thought it would be to opt out but it’s hard not to feel left out sometimes.
  • Alcohol dims my awareness of my own energy levels. I’ve been struck when travelling during this time how physically and mentally tired I am by the evening. It was a jarring experience to go to bed in Prague at 10pm and wake up refreshed the next day without an alarm clock, as opposed to waking up with a hangover and feeling awful.
  • I’m newly acquainted with my own introversion, particularly how my energy depletes if I don’t get time to myself (preferably at home) during a day. This is particularly a problem when I travel, with this occasionally making up as much as half of my time. I find it exhausting to socialise with people after doing stuff with them all day and I’m starting to feel ok with that because if I’m still like this at 32, it’s probably not going to change.
  • I was aware going to the pub could function as stress-relief for me. I’d spend an evening drinking with friends and feel better about everything the next day. But I hadn’t realised how this stopped me dwelling on the nature of the stress, providing an outlet without addressing the underlying problem. It’s not so much that I think I over work, as much that I’ve failed to organise my working life in a way that’s kind to myself and that’s something I’m in the process of changing.
  • I often drink out of habit. I’ve found it remarkable how rarely I’ve actually wanted to drink in the last 45 days. Once was while stuck in an airport, once was with a friend who was visiting and once after doing a successful workshop on a sunny day. The rest of the time I’ve simply wanted to do something nice and refraining from alcohol has helped me disentangle how it can have a self-care component but when it’s habitual it probably won’t.
  • My energy levels as a whole have increased remarkably, probably because I sleep much better than I did previously. I want to live a full life and whatever absence refraining from alcohol entails (though it’s much less than I imagined) is counterbalanced by everything else in my slightly crammed life working much better than it did previously.

I’m not going to refrain from drinking forever. I like craft beer far too much for that to be feasible. But I can easily imagine myself doing this for a long time and only occasionally drinking, focusing on really special beer in a way that fully appreciates it. For the time being, I’m going to persist and see what happens. The very fact of committing to refraining from something that had been such a habitual part of my life has created a new orientation within me, shedding light on other things that were habitual and opaque beyond alcohol itself.

Categories: Cognitive Triage: Practice, Culture and Strategies Thinking

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Mark

8 replies

  1. Good for you. I have found through a similar experiment that alcohol is exteranneous to my happiness. I’ve found it clouds my mind in a way I hadn’t noticed before I stopped for a period. Now I just don’t even want it. But everyone is different, of course

  2. One might be compelled to ponder what the real outcome is for a consciousness to routinely enact breaks in cognition for itself. And then have to ‘reboot’ time after time. What could be an awareness that sees itself through a continence that is actually articulated by interruptions? What could that mean as a consciousness?

    Anyway. That’s what crosses my mind.

  3. A friend of mine was a professor of ethnic studies at a university. She was a recovered drug addict from her teens. her department would have welcome parties for new faculty and just general department dinners and parties. At 40 years old. 10 years tenure in the department, She became addicted again because of drugs that were present and offered at the occasions. She sued and won. And went to treatment and all on the school tab. But her department colleagues Ostracized her. She had to switch departments . It’s interesting it took You stopping to notice the prevalence of intoxicants.

  4. I’m pretty convinced it’s a diminution of reflexivity (i.e. it entails a loss of agency rather than an increase in it). But I totally see what you’re getting at, even if we might disagree about how to interpret it. This is partly what I’ve been trying to write about as ‘cognitive triage’.

  5. Intoxicants indeed can have their benefits. For sure. But then along side of that. I’ve pondered why would I need it.

    I am sure you’ve heard a thing about pot. I used to smoke a lot of pot and I remember people would say or it would come up about being addicted to it, but alcohol could be said the same: they would say well if you’re not addicted then why don’t you stop. And the usual answer is well I don’t want to. And then they would say it’s because you’re addicted.

    But I definitely know some people who only drink alcohol very occasionally like when the occasion comes up where they’re particularly tired that evening or they go out or something but it’s not an every day thing.

    One has to ask one self if — someone who is otherwise functional, you know they’re not fully alcoholic or drug addict or something, —about someone who goes out or who drinks every single night.

    And if you would suggest to them hey why don’t you not drink one of those nights I would imagine that it might be difficult for a lot of people not to drink every night when they’re used to drinking every night.

    So, anyways. I’m interested in intoxicants and how they affect people and the possibilities around them so.

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