When I went to post this, I was all concerned because I couldn’t take the picture exactly as it had been taken before. We live in a new house. I had to get a new phone (hence, new camera) because our American phones wouldn’t work here. I cut my hair. This wasn’t exactly the same photo one year later.
And that’s true. It’s not the same. I posed in a room facing the same direction at the same time of day. I’m wearing the same thing. But I am not the same human, and life (thank goodness) isn’t conducted in a cold, calculated lab. It’s messy and changeable.
So as I go through the last year of my life and compare it to the years previous, it isn’t going to be an exact science. I’ll leave that up to the researchers of the world. This is what I’ve noticed is different in my sphere — my existence. The before and after is so staggering, I doubt my before-self would even believe it.
Of course this is an estimate. Anyone who knows anything about drinking knows that hangovers are a tricky beast, impossible to predict and unlikely to be cured quickly.
Although I wasn’t a heavy drinker before I quit, I will say that I’d have an extra glass or finish off the odd bottle occasionally during the week and most certainly on the weekends. And while I didn’t wake up feeling like I’d closed Brady’s in Seabright (or Mackenzies downtown Minneapolis), I certainly wasn’t chipper the next morning.
Waking up to what had already been a sunny morning, finishing breakfast around noon and popping Aleve was not how I wanted to spend my weekends. More often than not, that was the story. And the days during the week when I woke up with a dry mouth and the thought, I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine, pops into my head? Those weren’t the most productive either.
Now I seem to wake up most days around 6:30 a.m. without too much trouble. Even on the weekends I’m up around that time because I just love the stillness of the morning and having the whole day for my very own. It’s so wonderful to greet the dawn, write my morning pages and drink some coffee before Sante wakes up.
And by the time we’re finished with breakfast (which I actually enjoy instead of looking at as a way to mop up my hangover), most of the world is just getting out of bed. I love my clear head, and it loves me.
There are all sorts of things that booze does to your body. Not all of them are bad if you’re a match for the moderation thing. If you’re like me and can moderate but hate it and occasionally go overboard, the detrimental stuff can be scary to read.
Although I didn’t drink like what one might consider a derelict drunk, I certainly had in the past. And still tried to once in a while. My body let me know it did not like this in the form of aches and pains. Some made sense: my stomach didn’t like all that wine. Others, not so much: Why does the top of my head feel tender, like it was hit by a frying pan?
Over the past several years, I’ve gotten more and more into cooking and feeding myself good and whole foods and working out to give my body the treatment it deserves. It was something important to me, and here I was drinking in a way that didn’t honor that.
Since I’ve stopped, I’ve felt noticeably better in many ways. Of course, the hangover symptoms went away pretty quickly, although the dehydration took about a month, Now I can run several miles without complaint, where before I hated. every. minute.
My head no longer feels like I was attacked by something from the kitchen. And I’m sure I’ve lost weight — my body has been changing for the better. I’ve donated every single pair of pants I owned before I quit drinking, and many of the clothes I’ve bought since aren’t a good fit anymore either.
This is another instance of estimation. I kind of figured out how much I was drinking before I quit and how much the average bottle of wine or 6-pack of gluten-free beer cost. But it doesn’t really take into account going out for dinner or drinks, because we didn’t do that often.
It also doesn’t take into account the special things I would buy when we were celebrating or what I would bring to other people’s homes during dinner parties to make sure I didn’t look selfish whilst I drank a load of their wine.
Regardless, that’s still a ton of cash, which I’ve used to buy other yummy beverages, go on vacation (hello Venice!) and of course, buy myself treats.
I have simply never been good at giving myself treats. Yes, once a year I buy yarn to make myself something luxurious to celebrate my quitting smoking. But beyond that, I’m not good at spending money on myself.
One of the things that really helped me, especially when I first quit was giving myself little things as a reward. Like nice teas or a big piece of cake or a walk in the woods. While I don’t do it quite as often now, I still try to reward myself.
Like Friday I made cake that we’ve been eating all weekend. Last night I sat, knit, drank tea and listened to The Bubble Hour. And today I’m having brunch with the girls, and tomorrow I will be getting a 90-minute massage. That’s gonna be nice, and interesting because apparently they massage your boobs in Germany.
OK, so we’re not really corresponding by snail mail. And many of those 81 are either MIA or experimenting with moderation. But I’m psyched because when I started the 100 day challenge, I had no idea many months later that I’d be approached by Belle (the brilliant blogger behind the challenge and Tired of Thinking About Drinking) to help her out.
It came right when I had moved to Germany and was wondering how on earth I could volunteer a little of my time when I knew very little German. She asked if I’d like some sober penpals, and I thought, This could be where I can help. I think I have. And I’ve made some friends along the way.
Every Tuesday morning the recycling truck would drive down our tiny street and wake me up. It was about 6 a.m., far too early to be tossing everyone’s empties into a giant truck, but somehow the city was exempt from noise ordinances, so there it was.
I listened as it drove closer to our stop. I could hear it heave bins up into its claws and pour the contents into its massive belly, but it was always our bin that stood out. The crash of glass was very distinct. It was full of bottles, or at least that’s what it sounded like to me.
I would cringe and wonder who else had heard it. Had Sante? What about the neighbors? God what an exhausting way to start the day. These days I take my own glass bottles to the great glass gathering place every neighborhood has. That’s how Germany rolls. No weekly glass pick up. No weekly anything pick up really, unless you pay a bundle extra.
I probably walk to that area about once a month now, partially because they reuse the glass bottles my drinks and Sante’s beer come in, but mostly because the wine consumption in our house has gone way way down. This would’ve been a walk of shame for me a little more than a year ago. Now, it ain’t a thing.
Mental health is one of those things that can be a little harder to quantify, or really describe in pictures and numbers. When I saw this graphic and thought about my headspace before I stopped drinking, I could’ve checked off almost every single thing on that list.
I’ve written about it before, but since I’ve quit drinking, my depression has gone from serious to seriously manageable. While there were other things I did during the same time (upped my exercise and started meditation), I know that quitting booze definitely helped.
When I first thought about what I’d put in the after section, I figured some calm serene yogi or something, but I’m not that either. I’m a work in progress, and although most of those things don’t creep up on me anymore, I’d be lying if I said they were completely gone all the time.
In order to moderate and not act like a total lunatic, lunging for everything alcoholic in sight, I spent much of my time counting how many drinks I’d had, how long it’d been since my last one and if it was possible for me to have another. The math in my head was easily manipulated, and it took up way too much energy.
Since I stopped, I haven’t really given my drink consumption much thought beyond the occasional, Maybe another coffee isn’t so good, since I’m shaking like a leaf. This means I’m free to sit at the Biergarten and enjoy the view and more, importantly, the company.
Every bit of my attention is concentrated on what my friends are saying. My creative energy is being directed into the present moment. And sometimes I’m thinking just a little about pastry, but seriously not as much as I was wine.
Part of me didn’t want to include this, like somehow it doesn’t count because we moved to Europe, and I would’ve never traveled like this if I still lived in the U.S. Like it’s not a fair comparison or something.
But then I realized that it completely is fair to compare, because I doubt I would’ve ever been able to handle moving to another country, learning a new language and traveling like a gypsy if I had continued to drink. Duh.
Travel and seeing new culture is important to me, as evidenced by My (Nothing’s) Impossible List, but while I was drinking, I only visited five countries in 12 years. Now I’ve been traveling so much, I wrote an entire post on staying alcohol-free on vacation. I’m, like, an expert.
Honestly, sometimes I feel like my entire life was waiting for me to stop boozing, because as soon as I did, things just started falling into place. And they continue to. It’s almost comical how rad my life has become. The thing that blows me away is that this is only the first year.
I wrote awhile back (at 200 days) that I would revisit this decision once a year, around this time. Before I wrote this post, I was pretty certain the answer was to re-up for another year, but after looking this all over, I am completely sure. It’s not even a question.
The question is: What other amazing things are waiting for me? If not drinking started the domino effect, what’s next? I’ll just be chilling here, writing, living, doing my thing, patiently (well, most of the time) waiting for the Universe to show me what’s next.
What about you? How has not drinking changed your life? If you like this post and are interested in reading more, I suggest starting with my 100 day post, or just check out all my posts about not drinking and recovery.
Wondering if you should quit drinking? Check out my audio class here. In the 20 minute class, I’ll walk you through my simple test to tell you if you should take the 100 Day Challenge and tips on how to do it.