Are you thinking about giving up alcohol? What is stopping you?
Maybe you know that you have a problem with alcohol, that it is no longer serving you, it’s causing wreckage throughout your life…but the thought of quitting makes you nervous and scared?
Maybe you are sober curious. Alcohol hasn’t really caused any problems in your life but you still would like to see what living a life free from it would be like.
And maybe you’re hesitant because of some of the myths, misconceptions and rumors floating around out there about what living a life without alcohol is like. Societal stigmas exist everywhere. And although there have been great strides and growth in the AF (alcohol free) movement in recent years it is often the fear of feeling stigmatized, labeled or judged that stops people from seeking out a life free from alcohol.
Don’t fall victim to the many myths about sobriety. Let’s look at some of them.
1. YOU HAVE TO LABEL YOURSELF AN ALCOHOLIC
FALSE 👎🏼 👎🏼.
First of all, what is an alcoholic? It is an outdated term that the medical and scientific communities don’t even use anymore. Instead it’s called alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD can be diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe…and the bar for mild AUD is pretty low. Which makes it not surprising to me that a large chunk of my friends and family exhibit it.
Second of all, you don’t have to label yourself as anything…labels are for file folders.
Personally I am neutral when it comes to calling myself an alcoholic. It doesn’t bother me. I can take it or leave it. But the word carries so much stigma and people have such a specific image in their head when they hear it…that it turns people away from getting help.
Before I get hate mail from the ‘alcoholics’ out there let me continue. I know that for some people identifying as an alcoholic is an important part of your sobriety…and there is nothing wrong with that! GO TEAM ALCOHOLICS! 📣
2. YOU “HAVE” TO GO TO AA
FALSE 👎🏼 👎🏼.
You also don’t HAVE to go to AA…but it’s perfectly fine if you do! When I first decided to get sober…many moons ago…AA is the first place I went. I think that is how it was for a lot of people, because there was a time that AA was all that was out there.
AA is not part of my program currently, but it was as recent as a couple years ago. I even held a service position for an entire year!
What matters most is finding what works for and is the best fit for you. As long as it is keeping you sober, that is all that matters.
3. IF YOU ARE SOBER, OR CHOOSING TO LIVE A LIFE WITHOUT ALCOHOL, YOU MUST HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM.
FALSE 👎🏼 👎🏼.
You don’t have to have a severe drinking problem to want sobriety. You don’t have to have a drinking problem at all.
You can just want to feel better. Maybe you’ve decided that alcohol isn’t bringing anything positive into your life so you are just going to remove it from your life. It doesn’t have to be awful to want better.
Anyone, anywhere, with any kind of drinking habit can make the decision to stop drinking…there is no prerequisite for how bad your drinking has to get first.
4. YOU HAVE TO HIT ROCK-BOTTOM TO GET SOBER
FALSE 👎🏼 👎🏼.
You don’t have to hit rock bottom to want sobriety. You don’t have to be suffering from the repercussions from drinking to want sobriety. You don’t have to have lost everything…the job, the money, the house, the friends, the family… to want sobriety.
And can you really even say what your rock bottom would be? Everyone’s rock bottom doesn’t look the same.
5. SOBER LIFE IS BORING
FALSE 👎🏼 👎🏼.
This preconceived notion could not be further from the truth. Alcohol numbs our senses and feelings. And guess what… when you numb the bad, you also numb the good.
Remove the alcohol and discover how much more time you have, how much more money you have. Discover and rediscover hobbies and interests you once had. You will discover your FOMO turn into JOMO.
If you find that sober life is boring I hate to say it…your life is boring. Make some changes. Sobriety provides a greater amount of opportunities for freedom and fun than a bottle of booze could ever offer.
It’s not a no to alcohol…but yes to a better life. Sobriety…there is probably no healthier, kinder, loving thing you could do for yourself. ❤️
Until next time, be well.
Kerri Mac 🤟
“I’m in recovery.”
Two statements that very often get interchanged. If you think they mean the same thing, think again. There is a distinct difference. Being sober is very different from being in recovery. You can be one or the other…or you can be both.
What Is Sobriety?
When you have eliminated alcohol from your life you are deemed “sober,” and although sobriety is part of recovery, sobriety alone is often a temporary and fragile state. Think of the terms “white knuckling it” and “dry drunk”.
White knuckling your sobriety means you are trying to manage your addiction without help. You are using your will power or trying to fix yourself with your mind.
A “dry drunk” is someone who is sober but is struggling with the emotional and psychological issues that led them to have a problem with alcohol in the first place.
Just because you no longer live under the influence of alcohol it doesn’t mean that other unhealthy aspects of your life have changed. For example, you may still have poor or damaged relationships, behavioral health issues, mental health issues, or emotional issues that need to be addressed.
Sobriety is considered to be the natural state of a human being at birth. A person in a state of sobriety is considered sober.
What Is Recovery?
There is no “standard” definition of “recovery” in the addiction community, and part of the reason why is because everyone’s recovery journey is unique. 🙌🏼
According to SAMHSA, recovery is “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”
A person in recovery is continually making an effort to work through the issues that caused the alcohol abuse to occur in the first place.
In recovery is a powerful period because beyond everything else, it signifies that you know you have a problem and you are trying to fix it. Recovery allows you to make positive changes and deeply examine your feelings, beliefs and behaviors. Recovery does not mean you fix your issues right away. It means you recognize something is wrong, which is the first step and a critical part of getting help.
People in recovery have the greatest chance of maintaining long-term sobriety. Better yet, they have the opportunity to live a happy and productive life that is free from addiction.
I love this list that Odette shared on the podcast, episode 316…titled the same as this blog…”Sober” VS “In Recovery”.
When you are in Recovery, you:
- Feel a kinship to those who are also in Recovery. (SO true!)
- Make decisions based on how it could impact your Recovery. (“My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last.”)
- Adjust friendships and relationships based on how they could affect Recovery. (BOUNDARIES!!)
- Never let down your guard. (I don’t got this!)
So, can you be sober and not be in recovery? Absolutely! And although you can achieve a state of sobriety with simply abstaining from alcohol, with time, you will come to find that the life you want comes not just from being sober but from entering into the recovery mindset. 🧠
And you know what the cool thing is? You don’t have to be an alcoholic to live in this mindset. 🤯 The mindset that allows you to grow and develop your self awareness, the mindset that allows you to see beyond the surface and question many things in life like relationships and boundaries. That mindset is for everyone.
Once I got past the early days of sobriety I started thinking of my sobriety journey as my recovery journey. I realized that it was about SO much more than just ditching the booze. That the recovery process is one of ongoing healing and that there is no part of my life that my recovery doesn’t touch.
I also learned that it is rarely accomplished alone. I wanted to be around others ‘in recovery’. Not just because they were sober and could relate to that part of my life. But because they want to grow, want to learn, want to be better.
Transitioning from sobriety to recovery takes both commitment and action.
If you are a grey area drinker or someone who doesn’t even know if they belong here because you are not alcoholic enough…I hope you know that recovery is for EVERYBODY.
E V E R Y B O D Y.
You have your seat at this table, no matter what.
Until next time, be well.
Kerri Mac 🤟🏼
Do you keep count of your days of sobriety? Do you keep track of how many days you have away from alcohol? 📆 Should you? People fall into one of two different camps when it comes to that question.
One camp says yes…keeping track and counting your days of sobriety helps you. In the early months it can be a powerful motivator. That running count can give you the confidence you need to get through the hard days. It can be a way of measuring your progress, to help you visualize the distance you are putting between yourself and your drinking past.
The other camp says no…day counting can backfire, be counterproductive, and hurt you. It adds a layer of unneeded pressure. And really the only day that matters is TODAY…so why would you keep track? Quality of days over quantity of days is what’s important.
And what is more important…emotional sobriety or continuous sobriety? If you are white knuckling it through every day…counting those days you are staying away from the booze but miserable…is that enough?
Like anything else in the recovery world I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer.
Just like there is no right or wrong way to get sober. Counting days is neither right or wrong. It’s entirely up to the individual. It’s entirely up to YOU. And you may feel one way about it and then change your mind along the way. And that is OK.
“The importance of sober time is a contentious issue, considered by some to be “just a number” and others, the barcode stamped on your very soul. Fact: your sober date is yours, and this means you can report it however you wish, if at all.” ~ Anna James
Day counting is a big deal in some 12 step programs, such as AA. There are chips for 24 hours, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year…you get the picture. There are terms thrown around like “new comer” and “old timer”…all depending on how much sobriety time you have. There are celebrations and cake! (I like cake! 🎂) Certain service positions will become available to you after reaching a specific amount of sober time. Chips, cake, service position opportunities…that all sounds fab! Right?!
But…let’s say you have 10 years of continuous sobriety…and for whatever reason you go out and do some field research (aka…drink alcohol)…well my friend, then you are back on day 1. Doesn’t matter if it was one drink or a night of drinks. You just ‘lost all your time’.
Ouch. Back on day 1. But what happened to those 3,650 days you just had? Are they just gone? As my friend Kate would say…gone, like a fart in the wind? 🐕💨
The ‘pro-keeping count camp’ believes that, because you will have to reset your counter and will be back on day 1, that counting sobriety days will stop you from doing that field research. That you will think twice about picking up that drink. Doesn’t always work that way though.
Personally I feel like counting days can be a slippery slope. (Don’t come at me 🤣…that’s just my opinion…and I am just one little person in this great big world full of people in recovery!) I mean c’mon…we are all human…and alcohol is a sneaky piece of shit. What if…in spite of the fact that you have 3,650 continuous days of sobriety…you pick up again? You’ve been stacking those days and now find yourself back on day 1. Time to reset your tracker my friend. But wait! Since you are starting over again why not drink through the weekend…and then restart your tracker. Or, continue through the upcoming holiday and then restart it. Before you realize it, weeks have gone by and you have continued to drink. 😔
I’m not entirely against counting your days of sobriety. In fact quite the opposite. It was a tool I used and a HUGE part of my early sobriety. HUGE! Those first 100 days I was checking my tracker daily. I always knew what day I was on even without checking my tracker app. Counting those days in my early sobriety was a big motivation for me. Made me feel successful. So if you are just starting out, counting the days can be an indispensable tool. And there are a lot of apps out there that will help you keep track.
After I hit 100 days things started to change. Counting the days became less motivating for me. I started finding my motivation in other things…like how I was experiencing less anxiety, I had more energy, my mood was better, I was becoming more active. After I hit those triple digits I found I didn’t (and don’t) need the daily reminder of how far I’ve come.
I also stopped keeping track of the days because it just started to feel so overwhelming. With my desire to never drink alcohol again I was proud of the number of days I had gone without drinking…but then overwhelmed by the number of days I still had before me. 🤯 I know…I know…one day at a time. But counting days was causing me to continuously think about the enormity of my decision to ditch the booze for good. That is not healthy or helpful.
Counting your sobriety days…or your days away from alcohol…is a very personal choice. And the way you do it, if you decide to do it, is also entirely your choice. If you’re counting because you feel it is expected of you…then don’t. 👎🏼 If you are motivated by waking up in the morning and seeing the number on your tracker go up…then do. 👍🏼
Even though I don’t count my days anymore I am forever grateful for this simple strategy that helped me during my early days of sobriety. The most important thing I hope you will remember is that no matter what your day count is…it is YOU that counts!
Until next month, be well,
Kerri Mac 🤟🏼
By Claire O’Brien
A few months before I quit drinking for good, the husband and I stole a few days to lounge on the sand at the Delaware Shore. It was September, and the air was still warm but the crowds had thinned, leaving us the wide beaches to ourselves.
We had three entire days to soak up the sun and watch the dolphins dart among the waves. So, I was pretty annoyed to wake up one morning so hungover that I had to grit my teeth to force myself to face the day.
A few precious days that we’d paid a lot of money for, which I was now just trying to survive. At brunch, I’d order coffee (obviously), and avocado toast (healthy!) and make chit-chat with my husband about how to spend the day. He might not notice, but I’d be distracted, hardly present at all, because mentally I’d be berating myself for swilling that extra glass of red wine, again.
Maybe I wasn’t the biggest drinker you’d have ever met. But, I definitely had a habit, and it was getting old. Frankly, so was I. How many days traveling over the last 20 years had I wasted from overindulging? I couldn’t even guess.
But, what’s traveling without drinking anyways? Swilling pints of lager in cozy London pubs. Pounding shots of rakija in Croatia. Sipping wine with every meal in France. Spilling sticky cups of rum and cola on the dance floor in Belize. And a personal favorite, guzzling margaritas from a can in Mexico. Traveling means experiencing life to the fullest! That means alcohol. And lots of it
Less than a year later, I was back in Rehoboth Beach for my 2-year wedding anniversary. This time, I was six months into my post-alcohol experiment. I booked a B&B, famous for its waffles in the morning and free wine in the evenings
Immediately, my mind flooded with anxious thoughts
“How can I travel without drinking?”
“How can I celebrate my anniversary without alcohol?
and most urgently, “But…free wine!”
Then I remembered that I once celebrated a trip to the grocery store with wine. So…maybe my excuses are still pretty flimsy
It rained all three days in Rehoboth Beach on that trip. I didn’t drink. It was totally fine. In fact, it was much more than fine. I spent too much money on used books and antiques. We took the ferry over to New Jersey and explored the Victorian town of Cape May. We ate fresh seafood. I challenged the waiters to bring me “the funnest” non-alcoholic drink they could invent
Instead of being a liability, I woke up early to research activities. I assumed the podcast DJ duties on the drive. I made ridiculous observations intended to make the husband laugh. When I returned home content and invigorated, rather than depressed and full of regrets, I conceded that perhaps I really was onto something.
Traveling without drinking is not only possible…but dare I say, preferable? Before you shriek “Heresy!” hear me out
Since that Delaware trip, I’ve spent several weeks in Scandinavia. My birthday fell during a 7-day work trip to Las Vegas. I spent a luxurious weekend in a Pennsylvanian resort and survived many visits home to California. I just returned from a week in the Netherlands. All accomplished without even one cheeky drink.
I’ve met other people that don’t drink while they’re busy exploring the globe. Some just don’t like it, some want to save money, and others were in recovery. At an afterparty in Rotterdam recently, my new friends hardly touched a drop of booze, just because! I’ve realized that traveling without drinking isn’t really about abstaining from this magical liquid worshiped the world over, but about feeling empowered to make decisions that work for you.
As a regular drinker, even if you don’t have an obvious problem, the ritual begins to make your world smaller. It’s imperceptible at first. Weekends might involve having a few drinks with friends. Soon, the two become completely intertwined. Next, your brain wonders,
“How can I even hang out with the girls without drinking?”
“Is it possible to attend this wedding without toasting with champagne?”
“How will I visit Scotland without sampling a few drams?”
“How can I survive Tuesday?”
In some ways, my lengthy travel resume, with its regular doses of the unfamiliar, prepared me for this new life sans alcohol. What’s more uncomfortable than quitting a 20-year habit, especially one that is both so soothing and socially encouraged? If the point of travel is to escape the ordinary, experience our differences, and push against the boundaries of what’s comfortable, then quitting drinking has, in fact, also made me a better traveler.
I’m more adventurous than ever.
I’ve always considered myself a risk taker. But that quality didn’t extend to my drinking ritual, which was really more of a drinking rut. Now, every restaurant, city, and country is an opportunity to sample the new. Frothy glass of hot pink dawet at a Surinamese restaurant in Amsterdam? Sure! Traveling in Sweden was a delightful surprise. I found an extensive non-alcoholic wine and beer list on every menu, none of which I would have glanced at before.
My adventurousness even extends beyond my drink choices. One random evening I came up with the idea that I should fly to every international destination served by a direct flight from Washington, DC. And write about it. Then, more astonishingly, I actually started doing it.
I’m more flexible.
Previously, every evening ended with drinks, with few exceptions. Now, experiences of all kinds are crammed into my days. In Las Vegas, I spent the evenings visiting the museums and aquariums. I splurged on fancy tasting menus and rented a vehicle to explore the desert. On a whim, I rode in a drift supercar around the Las Vegas Speedway. It was harder to be spontaneous when I was preoccupied with where I could buy wine on Sundays and wondering if I had remembered to pack my corkscrew.
I’m more responsible.
I was the type of drinker that managed to get shit done. But I was still just managing. Once, because I was so disorganized, my debit card was declined while attempting to buy a single stick of deodorant. I was 35 years old. Now, my kitchen is clean. All the dogs and humans in my house are current on their medical appointments. And there are probably fewer than three empty coffee cups floating around my car. I have a savings account dedicated solely to travel, which I diligently contribute to monthly. All trips get paid for in cold, hard, cash.
I have piles of money.
Ok, I’m not exactly stacking bricks of cash, but booze is expensive, especially when you are consuming it with the frequency I once found refreshing. Since my travel fund isn’t being depleted quite so rapidly due to lengthy pub sessions, I’m able to spend more on quality experiences. Like upgrading to Economy Plus!
I have more fun.
Ironically, I’m more outgoing and social since giving up the hooch. The dark cloud that followed me around gradually evaporated, making a cheerful and upbeat mood my default personality. Who knew? Now I’m the person planning adventures, not bailing on invitations at the last minute. I’ve instigated weekends away for welding classes, white water rafting, tree climbing courses, and exploring Jamaica while encouraging friends and family to join me.
I’ve become more resilient.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I developed healthy* coping techniques for stress, boredom, and all of the feels that I don’t like. Things still go wrong when I travel. In Richmond, the husband got food poisoning courtesy of a dodgy roadside gyro. In Sweden, it was an AirBnB fiasco. In Las Vegas, I mysteriously scratched my cornea and required medical attention. Now it’s easier to figure out what I need to do next without requiring an entire bottle of wine to cope.
Note: *Debatable if coconut ice cream with Magic Shell chocolate topping qualifies as healthy.
I’m more authentic now.
Confronting my worst habits and the role my ego played in prolonging the behavior was a humbling experience. The process of building new habits in their place, however, has grown my confidence. Also, without the daily dose of self-loathing, waking up every day as myself isn’t so bad. I don’t have to present as anyone else or hide parts of my life of which I’m ashamed. So, I’m able to more sincerely connect with people both at home and while traveling. Since I’m less distracted by my own internal dramas, I’m more interested in getting to know you.
I’m also less judgemental.
Like most well-traveled people, I considered myself to be very open-minded. Conversely, like most drinkers, I distrusted people who didn’t drink! I viewed cultures and customs that didn’t embrace alcohol with extreme skepticism. Now, that’s no longer an issue, which has opened up parts of the world and experiences I wouldn’t have seriously considered before. (Seven-day silent meditation retreat, no problem! Well…)
My life is bigger.
Probably not a coincidence, but around the same time I gave up alcohol, I completely restarted my professional career from one in the sciences to a more creative field. Five years ago, my options seemed few, and now I’m limited only by the hours in the day. Because there’s less holding me back, there’s much more space to move forward. Opportunities seem to be present everywhere. Travelling has become less of a selfish pursuit of simply accumulating more countries. Now it’s more of a shared experience, of learning, of inspiring myself and connecting with others.
Sure, there’s the occasional pang for the experiences I’ll miss. I’m human.
My brain sends up random flares like, “I might want to go to Tokyo next year. Clearly, this will be impossible to do and not drink sake.”
It’s a little bit like having a fleeting thought about an old lover. For a brief moment, the fantasy, the “What if?”, is seductive.
“Don’t I deserve some fun? Let’s be exciting and a little dangerous!”
It’s also the perfect way to create a total dumpster fire out of this otherwise satisfying life I’m building.
My love of travel stems from life’s possibilities. Endless combinations of routes to plan, experiences I haven’t had, people I haven’t met, and future memories I’ve yet to make. It’s not such a sacrifice for me to skip a few cocktails when the payoff could be so much bigger, and bolder. When I finally put down that drink, I found that I held a nonstop ticket to the rest of my life, and I want to see where it goes.
Additional blog posts by Claire O’Brien can be found at her webiste the Virgin Colada.
The decision to cut alcohol out of your life will pay off huge dividends in 2019 and much longer. Trust me…
Happy New Years Eve! Breaking news… You don’t have to drink today. In fact, over the years, I’ve met several people whose sobriety date was December 31st. You can have a hangover on the first day of the year, or you can wake up feeling refreshed. It’s up to you.
Deep down inside, at the core evolutionary level, we arrive on this planet fully equipped to live a happy life without any external substances. Especially alcohol. Here are 12 reasons why sober is better and why it’s a good idea to get the new year started off right with the Best Sobriety Podcasts.
1. Look you’re best
In Café RE, I see before and after pics posted all the time and oh my goodness are the transformations incredible. Within 30-60 days of quitting drinking, you’ll have people pull you aside and say, what’s your secret? You must be eating at the new vegan restaurant next door and are sipping on pure kale juice? I want to be clear, this statement has nothing to do with shedding pounds. I’ve seen people go up to their beautiful healthy weights, I’ve seen the color of people’s skin change, I’ve seen smiles return to faces.
2. Feel your best
More important than looking your best (external), you’ll start to feel your best (internal). I remember when I was drinking, the first 10-20 seconds when I woke up in the morning were intimidating. I knew I was going to feel less than average. Upon waking, I was afraid to fully assess the amount of damage I had done to my central nervous system the night before. The most important catalyst to feeling your best starts with sleep. While drinking, there was no quality sleep. If I could summarize how I feel in sobriety with one word, that would be – rested.
3. Alcohol can fix things you didn’t know were broken
Within time, you’ll start to notice issues (internal and external) slowly begin to fade away. These could be health issues or turbulent relationships with loved ones or co-workers. I never was a long-distance runner. I didn’t think I had the genetics to do it. I would tell myself that I’m built for quick bursts, like a cheetah. In sobriety and my normal one to three mile runs turned into five, seven and even a twenty-three mile ridge run race at year 3 in sobriety.
4. Make the most of your time spent on this planet
Human beings are awake on average 15 hours and 30 minutes per day. Make all the hours great. I remember towards the tail end of my drinking, the first 6-8 hours of every day were blah, at best. I’d then turn a corner and say, okay, I’m starting to feel better. A couple hours later I’d say, I’m feeling good, today is a good day. Unfortunately, at that moment, I’d also say, let’s take a detour from the present moment and start drinking. No matter how many times I promised myself today would be different.
5. Build better relationships
The opposite of addiction is connection and while we’re drinking, we’re not connecting. We may think imprinting our ass on a bar stool for hours at a time helps us build lifelong friendships that will endure the test of time, but that’s not the case. Conversations without alcohol are always more enjoyable. They’re authentic. Also, when we quit drinking, it will become clear who we need to spend time with.
I had this feeling as a kid, and I think most of us had it at some time in our life, which was I can do anything if I put my mind to it. That feeling is better than any drink, drug, adrenaline rush, etc. In sobriety, you’ll find your inner voice saying things like, “I think I can do this,” which transitions into “I can do this,” to eventually, “I am doing this.” This state of mind was gone when I was drinking. Welcome back!
7. Less fear
The underlying level of fear in your life will drastically be reduced. You’ll be less afraid. You’ll stop making decisions based on fear. You’ll be more proactive in life instead of reactive. If we are always making decisions based on fear, we aren’t moving forward in life.
8. You’ll save a sh*&^t ton of money
According to my Recovery Elevator sobriety tracker, I have saved $37,486 since I quit drinking. This isn’t chump change found under a couch cushion. That’s a lot of money. This past April, I closed on a house on 1.5 acres outside of town. I’m surrounded by mountains, across the street is a 1,200-acre dairy farm, and the sunsets are epic. Down payment required for this house was, roughly the amount I’ve saved from drinking. This would have never happened if I was drinking.
9. You’ll be living in the present Moment
You’ll find yourself saying, what is this? This intangible presence that I can’t touch but I know is there. The thing that I’m hyper aware of that I never seemed to notice before. It must be the present moment. When we live in the present moment, depression (the past) and anxiety (the future) fade away. Why is the present moment so powerful? Because it’s all we have.
10. Avoid unnecessary disasters
You won’t be ruining your cousin Mindy’s wedding, or you won’t park a car in your neighbor’s pool. It seemed like once a year I did something I deeply regretted. At first, it was making an ass out myself at a party, but as the drinking progressed, the consequences became more catastrophic, like a DUI while driving to work in 2014. It’s nice to put substantial distance between me and those tragic events in life.
11. Create the future you want
I thought I could make the life I realized a reality while I was drinking, but that wasn’t the case. The grandiose goals and plans I projected in my future during my drunken states, never even reached a whiteboard when sober. As long as I was drinking, the tires of life were spinning in the sand and towards the tail end of my drinking, the tires were removed entirely. This is where sobriety gets exciting. The life transitions that I’ve seen take place are incredible. I met a guy named Patrick who attended the Peru trip and in sobriety, he has sold a portion of his shares in his restaurant group, purchased one of those “souped” up sprinter vans with Scandinavian interior finishes, bought like a 50 mountain ski pass and is living the life he’s always wanted to live. Anything is possible in sobriety.
12. You’ll start to make healthy memories
Within time, you’ll start to create new, fun and exciting memories. I’ll be honest, getting sober was a challenge, to say the least, but in the past four years, I’ve had some incredible memories and met some fantastic people. Several of these memories are from Recovery Elevator meet-ups. Some of them are epic sunrises with my standard poodle Ben. It’s also a compilation of the excellent smaller memories. It’s the little things that count!
I drank a lot of alcohol. Alcohol caused a lot of damage in my life. Was any of it good? Was I able to at least get some nutritional value from $14 beer night? Well, let’s take a look.
Alcoholic beverages primarily consist of water, pure alcohol (chemically known as ethanol), and variable amounts of sugars and carbohydrates; their content of other nutrients, proteins, vitamins, or minerals is usually insignificant. Because they provide almost no nutrients, alcoholic beverages are considered “empty calories.” It’s safe to say a Twinkie has more nutritional value than any alcoholic drink, and it’s common knowledge that Twinkies are terrible for us. The good news is none of us lack any dietary components by not drinking. Alcohol is still shit.
Let’s talk calories for a second. 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories compared to 4 calories per gram of proteins and carbs, and 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories. Again, those are 7 hollow calories because the body never uses them.
Let’s find out what these calories are doing to us over the long haul.
1 12 oz. can of beer = 154 calories. 1 glass of wine around 125 calories and 1 whiskey coke has 180. Let’s average the three and use 153 calories per drink. Let’s say we average 5 daily drinks which equates to 765 meaningless calories per day. 5,355 per week and 278,460 per year. 1 pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, so this is close to 80 pounds of excess garbage the body must deal with.
Another snippet to drive this point home, 1 pint of beer contains roughly the same number of calories as a slice of pizza. But it’s not even apples to apples, because even though the slice of pizza isn’t the healthiest option, the pizza still contains some vitamins, minerals, and calories the body can use for energy. A pint of beer, not so much. If we average 4 pints a day, this is 1,460 slices of pizza per year, and I hope there’s at least pineapple on that pizza. I know I just lost some readers with that pineapple comment.
The human body is impressive, but it does not digest the calories from alcohol efficiently. What does efficiently burn alcohol? That would-be machines, cars, airplanes, motorcycles, generators, you get the point. The metabolism of alcohol is a complex, multi-stage process that takes place mostly in the liver and kidneys, not in the intestines, where normal digestion occurs. More significant to the current discussion, alcohol is almost never fully metabolized, but instead excreted as acetic acid, because it’s a toxin that the body wants to get rid of. When we binge drink, some of this is permanently deposited in the brain and stored as acetaldehyde.
Let’s talk about timing and when these calories are burned.
Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat, explains Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of the book “The Hunger Fix.” The reason is that your body can’t store calories from alcohol for later use, the way it does with food calories. For example, when we consume something high in calories like a hamburger, the body will way say, whoa, this is a lot of calories, this is more than I can handle at this moment, I’ll save some of this for later. The body can’t do this with alcohol. So when you drink, your metabolic system must stop what it’s doing (like, say, burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze. “Drinking presses ‘pause’ on your metabolism, shoves away the other calories, and says, ‘Break me down first!'” Peeke explains. The result is that whatever you recently ate gets stored as fat. What’s worse: “Research has uncovered that alcohol especially decreases fat burn in the belly,” Peeke adds. “That’s why you never hear about ‘beer hips’ — you hear about a ‘beer belly.'”
Why do we get uncontrollable hunger when we drink?
Alcohol impairs inhibitory control, which leads people to eat more. There is evidence that alcohol can influence hormones tied to feeling full. For example, alcohol may inhibit the effects of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and other hormones that inhibit food intake. According to one study, neurons in the brain that are generally activated by actual starvation, causing an intense feeling of hunger, can be stimulated by alcohol. Bring it on 2 am Taco Bell run.
Let’s talk about a decreased appetite malnutrition.
Stay with me for a second. Over time, chronic alcohol abuse and alcoholism can take a severe toll on a person’s appetite and nutrition levels. Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines, and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. Also, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems. For example, folate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients, including glucose and sodium.
The NIAAA reports, “Even if nutrients are digested and absorbed, alcohol can prevent them from being fully utilized by altering their transport, storage, and excretion.”
After a while, the body, instead of working overdrive to properly digest what we consume, it hits the off switch on the appetite. I experienced this after about 10 months into owning my bar in Spain. At first, I would make a late-night stop at the pizza shop, but eventually, I found myself forcing calories into my body. I had entered the malnutrition phase of the addiction cycle. I found that it took about a week for my appetite to return once I quit drinking.