I come from a family of alcoholics. My father has been dry for about 20 years. My one brother nearly died in the last year or so from complications with alcoholism, but has since received treatment and appears has turned the corner for good. My other brother found himself in the hospital about a month ago, dealing with acute health issues from obesity, with contributions from excessive alcohol consumption. He’s since getting treatment and is attending AA several times a week, and seems to have the right mentality to succeed. Though they’ve all had close calls during this time, and in many ways alcohol changed their lives (getting obese, was a contributing factor to divorce and job loss), they are lucky that they’ve (hopefully) address the situation all as relatively young men and can improve their lives going forward.
I myself have a very hard edged, stubborn personality with addictive tendencies. I try to channel my addictive tendencies to positive avenues, and over the years has resulted in jumping full tilt into endurance athletics; a short (1.5 years) intense bout with brazilian jiu jitsu; weightlifting and crossfit; and even self-improvement and excessive (or is it obsessive) learning about topics that interest me. For me, idle hands are the devil’s plaything. See, I too have found myself spiraling at times in my life toward alcohol dependency. While they may be offset to some degree by my other interests and goals, that addictive voice sometimes whispers in my ear.
For the last three years, I’ve taken January, and sometimes other months, off from drinking any alcoholic beverages. That means I don’t drink at Christmas parties for work (that usually get set in January), no work functions or family gatherings where these things are so common. As a result I have an opportunity to reset my body, my mind and my goals and to prioritize how I want to live my life on an annual (or semi-annual) basis. Maybe as a testament to my stubbornness or willpower, but stopping bad habits, like jumping into good ones, comes with little hesitation or difficulty for me (I’m a total Type A personality). It is usually very easy to simply stop (same with cigarettes back in the day) and focus on other things. That is the key though, finding other passions and breaking or replacing the habits associated with bad things. Realizing this is not the case for people who succumb to addiction (and I’ve seen it first hand), my heart goes out to those who struggle with overcoming these demons.
What I find after cleansing for any length of time is that I have much more energy and motivation to crush at life. Losing the empty calories too have allowed me to lean out from the holiday abdominal chub I put on, even while doing minimal amount of cardio exercise. It’s been fairly well documented that alcohol in excessive quantities also dulls testosterone production and impacts the secretion of growth hormones that are released while sleeping. Part of the reason is its impact on sleep. I’m still not a great sleeper (I am a notorious midnight snacker), and I’m not sure I’m sleeping any better than I was after imbibing, but regardless, I have much more energy as a teetotaler.
So for me, I plan to drink occasionally in social situations or enjoying a bottle of wine on a weekend night with my wife, but I am cognisant of the minor role it should have on life, and the problems that arise when it becomes a focal point. When we went out to my wife’s work holiday party, I drank club soda and lime and actually had the most fun out of any work party I had been to (primarily due to the company involved) while everyone else got bombed.
Alcoholism and dependency is no joke, and if you can’t easily go a month (or more… I am half thinking of continuing on with this experiment due to how good I feel and to more quickly reach my “look good naked and at the pool” goals) without drinking, you should consider what role it plays in your life and if changes should be made. If that sounds familiar, realize you aren’t alone and shouldn’t be ashamed to find help. The following are some good resources for you or a loved one, or if you simply want to learn more:
- Alcoholics Anonymous – www.aa.org
- Al-Anon/Alateen – www.al-anon.alateen.org/
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – www.samhsa.gov