So, you’ve completed a dry month this January, and you feel great!
As you mark the 31st of January off your calendar, February, spring, then summer and the rest of the year, heck, the decade, sprawls ahead of you… and a tiny spark of an idea ignites in your mind: just for the next week, just for Feb, or even just for today, what if I keep up this alcohol-free thing?
Reasons to continue your alcohol-free streak:
- Improved sleep
- More time to spend doing what you love
- Improved mental clarity
- Save money
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased confidence
Well, you wouldn’t be alone in joining the army of challengers that came before you in the quest to discover the huge benefits that await those of us curious enough, adventurous enough and brave enough to endeavour past the 28-day mark, and venture into 90-days-plus, to discover the real benefits that an AF body, mind and life has to offer.
So, what can you expect in the next stage of your alcohol-free timeline, should you choose to keep going on your journey past Dry Jan? There’s no one better to explain, than the very people who have embarked on the month+ journey themselves, the OYNB Challengers. Here are their real-life stories of when they started to feel the real alcohol-free benefits…
A return of unbounding confidence
“The first thing that springs to mind is the quality of sleep, heavenly, uninterrupted, divine sleep. It took a while to get there but my, the reward is so good I can't think of any words that do it justice. Secondly, confidence, it returned in leaps and bounds, I realised I do have things to contribute, I am witty, I can make people laugh and my opinions are worth hearing. Thirdly, people started to be friendly to me, the service I received in shops became better, I'm positive that this is because of my attitude towards them in the first place. Why did I continue? Why the bloody hell wouldn't I? There are no negatives to stopping drinking, AT ALL. The benefits are immense. I always used to strive to fit in and feel comfortable, who knew that all I needed to do was to quit the booze to make the right decisions about the people that I spend my time with. I remember writing one of my early posts in the Facebook group, saying I felt like how I imagine a blind person would feel if they suddenly woke up one day and could see again. Mind blowing. I’m so happy.”
“The first thing I noticed was TIME. It’s frightening how much time drinking takes up. Weekends last so much longer when you’re not nursing a hangover. Then in the evenings, there’s so much time to do stuff you love. After that, I noticed sleep and clarity a few weeks later. Then my fitness, skin, general sense of calm and contentment. That took a good few months. Why do I continue? Because everything, EVERYTHING is better without booze in your system.”
Calm after a storm
“About 4 months in, I realised that my life was no longer feeling like chaos. It took me that long to even notice the subtle changes. But once I realised it, I noticed that the choices I was making were aligned with my priorities around family. I stopped being so frantic about money, slowed down and wasn't feeling so extremely busy and overwhelmed, and probably greatest of all, I started taking a breath instead of just always reacting to whatever arose. I'm calmer, so my house is calmer.”
“I felt calm. I stopped being so anxious about everything. This happened very soon after I started. I could see the puffiness in my face going down, and my eye bags have disappeared. This happened within about 3 weeks, but I started to sleep better after about 2 months (however, I STILL get up in the night for a wee!). I began to notice I had a confidence within myself – a power, if you will – strength that I could rely on me. This had probably been growing from around week four, but I don’t think I acknowledged it for about 3 months. On day 85 I extended my 90-day challenge to 365. It was just a realisation that this felt RIGHT. I knew I was happier in myself. I haven’t stopped socialising. We go on lots of weekends away (in our narrow boat or in our caravan). I go to the local pub too, though not as often, but I have gained my evenings back as I am no longer incapable of dealing with things after a visit to a pub. I’m now at day 201!”
The small things become the big things
“The small things start to add up and at about the 120-140 day mark, I just realised I felt really happy and different. Sleep was incredible since about Day 50 and that was the most unexpected benefit. I had no idea sleep could be like that. But other things just all seem to click better – calmer, feeling more in control of life and its unexpected turns and twists, happier in general, ability to appreciate moments more, better conversations, better prioritisation, more productive round the house and at work. Better health, evident through my skin, stronger nails and hair. I have the ability to take a breath rather than instantly reacting to things. I continued on because of the benefits I was feeling. Since then I completed 365 days and then onto 15 months without a drop. I tried some alcohol in April this year out of curiosity, and have also had a few drinks on holiday in September. I’m very aware though of how the benefits are impacted so I continue to remain predominantly AF. Good luck!”
So, what does this tell us?
Quite clearly, some patterns emerge – the first thing these challengers seem to notice was the extra time they had to spend doing the things they loved. Then, improved sleep as a first major health benefit, felt between the 3 and 6 week mark. A sense of calm inner peace seems to be the next gift to arrive in the AF timeline, as our challengers lives become less chaotic with the absence of alcohol – and this differed, for some happening instantly, and for others arriving at around four months.
And then, from months two – three, confidence starting to return or grow in our challengers where it wasn’t before, where the culmination of better friendships, physical appearance and health, increased productivity, and gratitude over the previous weeks had built up. These trends are exciting and show a promise of what is to come on an extended break from alcohol in our lives, but the most exciting part is, despite these trends, each alcohol-free journey is unique and surprising, and the benefits which await you could be bigger than you had ever imagined. So if you are even a little curious to find out what might await you in an extended break from alcohol, why not continue past Dry January and see where you end up!