Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Day I Stopped Drinking

ryanstavern

I should preface this piece by saying that I am not an alcoholic.

I exist in that weird limbo between being a casual drinker and an alcoholic. I don’t have a physical addiction to alcohol, and I didn’t drink to the point of getting drunk every day. But ever since I was legally able to drink, I would go through spurts where I’d have a few drinks a week, sometimes more than one a night, and would spend a lot of my weekends drunk and hungover. Stressful situations would lead me to drink either at home or at a bar or at a friend’s house party, providing a faux panacea and an unhealthy alternative to coping with said stress.

In early August, I was under a decent amount of stress due to some personal changes in my life. Good changes, mind you, but the process of reaching them proved to be very intense and very stressful. And when I get stressed, I drink. And when I drink, I eat. Alcohol and comfort food are my own personal match made in hell.

I had gotten back into a trend of eating, drinking and not being merry after a semi-successful month of working out again. Despite my persistent self-reassurance that I was happy, deep down I knew that I had started throwing away every ounce of physical and mental progress gained from working out and eating (slightly) better the month before.

And then I hit my own personal bottom.

Most people think of hitting bottom, in the scope of drug and alcohol addiction, as committing an act so embarrassing or destructive that it forces them to open their eyes and changing their ways. Nothing that extreme happened to me, thankfully, but I did undergo an intense physical wake-up call known as a splitting hangover.

I’ve been hungover before. Many times. Hell, I’ve had worse hangovers than the one I’m about to discuss. But this one was different. To this day, I still can’t quite explain what it was about it that told me, “Dude, you’re better than this.”

The day before, I got pretty drunk. I was bar hopping and chasing beer and tequila with decadent bar food, plus some donuts that I scarfed down as soon as I got back to my apartment. I don’t remember falling asleep. Hell, I don’t even remember why I got drunk, other than the fact that I could.

I woke up the next morning feeling like a guy who had three tall beers, a tequila cocktail, an undercooked burger, and 4 donuts the night before. The sunlight beating down on me from my bedroom window mocked me mercilessly. My own body mocked me. My stomach felt like I had swallowed a tiny uranium bomb. My head spun; it churned a dull, poisonous sensation throughout itself chastising me for my less than stellar life choices.

That day, I decided not to drink for a while.

I had entertained the notion of quitting drinking plenty of times before. I heard stories about people who felt, thought, and lived much better after limiting their social drinking. But what always stopped me was the fear of missing out, of not being able to socialize and hang out with friends and go on dates without the aid of a stiff drink. After all, I’m only young once, right? YOLO, as my fellow millennials say. You can quit drinking when you’re older. Just enjoy life, man.

The only problem? Drinking didn’t make me enjoy life. It dulled life. It dulled me. It made me even more of a physically and emotionally imbalanced person. It didn’t decrease my anxiety, it exacerbated it. It messed up my sleep patterns. It created a vicious circle of drinking (often hard liquor), making me hungry and thirsty for crap, buying greasy, salty comfort food and soda, finishing with some kind of dessert, passing out, and doing the same thing later that week. It sapped my daily energy. It made me unmotivated to go to work, to write, and to work out and eat right. Because if my diet isn’t good, then why bother working out, right?

Cut back to the morning of my brain and gut taking turns kicking my ass. I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized I had only two choices: (1) Do nothing, and continue to make half-assed attempts at eating better and limit my drinking, only to inevitably relapse, or (2) Commit to clean eating for a firm period of time, including NO drinking at all.

I don’t know what was different this time around. I had given myself that same ultimatum God knows how many times before, and always chose the first option out of complacency and a fear of self-improvement. Maybe it was fate or the stars aligning or just a spontaneous coordination with God and whatever forces at work internally and externally, but as of writing this, I have gone 31 days without a single drop of alcohol and a substantially improved diet and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In just over a month, I’ve noticed my skin is glowing, I think more sharply, I want to write more (hence the slightly more consistent blogging),I have a lot more energy and desire to work out, and therefore my body fat has significantly diminished. I’m still not at my goal body type yet, but I am in FAR better shape than I was a month ago. As for my weight, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t weigh myself much anymore. I may hop on at the end of the week just out of curiosity. In short, I feel pretty damn great.

Speaking of working out, in addition to the whole “no drinking” thing, I knew I had to get back on the ball with my diet and exercise, which suffered by proxy. I severely curbed my intake of processed food and sugar, replacing fast food with home-prepared meals and more green stuff, zero-nutrient sugary crap with dark chocolate almonds/berries and dried fruit, and soda (a lifelong addiction) with unsweetened green tea, the occasional tart cherry juice, and *GASP* … water!

I started working out one week later. I revisited Hip Hop Abs through Beachbody OnDemand, and decided to do the month 2 workouts to jumpstart my metabolism again. I eventually toyed with my schedule and added different workouts into the mix, but my calendar was a fantastic starting point just to get me moving again. I remembered that if my workouts were fun, I would be even more committed to leading a healthy lifestyle, and I was right. I’m following this modified four weeks of a Hip Hop Abs calendar with a CIZE/Les Mills OnDemand hybrid, and I cannot wait. Curbing my drinking for a while has given me so much energy and enthusiasm that I actually WANT to work out again. For real. I haven’t actively wanted to work out in so long that I forgot what it felt like.

To anyone reading this struggling with your diet or drinking, it’s important to realize that you are WORTH the change. Every bit of it. It is never too late to turn your life around and make a game plan. There are so many easy, healthy recipes out there (which I’ll also blog about), affordable and free workouts you can do at home, and of course, support groups for drug and alcohol addiction. My drinking dependence never got to the point where I needed those groups, but there is absolutely NO shame in reaching out to them if you need them. It’s one of the most beautiful and amazing things you could ever do for yourself.

No matter who you are, or how far gone you think you may be, you are worth living your life to its absolute fullest potential. When you honor your body and give it what it needs, you are honoring yourself. You are showing yourself the love and respect that you deserve. You are cultivating an incredible existence, and by overcoming those demons of food and drink, you aren’t just strengthening yourself, you’re inspiring those around you to potentially do the same thing.

Now let’s go out and kick some ass.

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