The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge: My Dad's Diary

This is a very strange blog post for me so here goes, let me introduce my dad! You can call him Matt.

When Pan Macmillan asked if I'd like to give the 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge a go, I had to email them back to say I'm one of those twenty-somethings that is teetotal. I'm a walking stereotype. Vegan, teetotal, into my green smoothies... BUT, I did have someone in mind for this particular challenge.

That's when I sent my dad a Whatsapp asking if he was interested in doing Dry January (again). I say again but I know for a fact that he's tried and failed on many occasion in previous years. This time, though, he was more than happy to use a book and we were both intrigued to see if it would help him surpass his previous record.

We caught up many times over the following weeks and together we wrote a diary to track thoughts/moods/progress and so on. It was actually a really nice reason to talk to my dad and I think we learnt a lot about each other. Here's the diary:

9th January - Day 3 (is it cheating if you start on 6th January?)

This is my third day alcohol free and I'm feeling positive and motivated. I've tried going alcohol free before but without the support of a book or resource. Having something that I know I'm going to read every day is inspiring me and it helps me to carry on. I feel like I'm on a programme rather than flying solo because there's a structure to what I'm doing.

So far the book has had some really thought-provoking sections and it gets you to think about why you're going alcohol free. I've done this for other things in life and it helps you commit, with pen and paper, to exactly what you're doing. 

Some of my reasons are personal but I'll include some of them here:

  1. I want to know what it's like - it sounds daft but I'll never know unless I try. I'll never know what it feels like to be alcohol free. I don't want to die not knowing.
  2. I want to create more time and I think going alcohol free will help me with that. I'll feel better rested because I'll sleep better and I might have more time in the mornings because I'll have more energy.
  3. With my sport, how do I go one step better? I've tried lots of things but not going alcohol free.

The book points out some things that are obvious and that you might have thought about before but haven't had at the front of your mind, such as thinking about the people around you. It's written in an anecdotal style and it reminds me of a magazine in many ways, which can be good but also means it's a little generic.

The one thing it's lacking at this stage is that it's a bit woolly on the science. It doesn't go into great detail. When I read books on performance, sport and nutrition, it tends to go into more detail and I like that because it helps me to get my head around it. This book is weak on the biology, the chemistry, the science, whatever's going on inside you and the effect on your body.

20th January - Day 14

I have never gone this long without alcohol before.

Week two has been interesting because I've been away with work socialising and eating meals out when I'd normally have a drink, but it wasn't a problem at all. The book asked me, 'what's the real reward, is it the alcohol or something else?' That made me realise, it's not the alcohol that I enjoy the most, it's the socialising part.

Tonight's the first big challenge because I'm going out with friends. It's a Saturday night and it's the first time I really would have to drink. I'm feeling pretty okay about it, I don't think I'll want to.

I thought I'd list some of the great things the book has taught me about up to this point:

  1. You get bored of drinking coffee or tea so you have to find a go-to drink. I tried some alcohol-free beers last weekend. There's some good ones and there's some stinkers. The one that I got that tasted okay was Cobra, but some are horrible. It's worth asking around and finding one that's not so bad. I've also been drinking sparkling water.
  2. If you are not drinking, leave on a high. It gets boring at the end as people get drunker and if you leave when the time is right, you will remember the night as a good one. 
  3. Embrace social occasions and I think when you're not drinking you become a better listener to your friends. It makes for better conversation.
  4. It also had a bit on memory working and how you remember an event by what happens at the end of it which was really interesting.

I am so much fresher, I get better quality sleep and I'm already noticing more energy, which is what the book promised. Last week I went out for a work event and I didn't drink but I didn't get to sleep until gone midnight. Usually I struggle with less than eight hours sleep. This night I had six and a half hours and I was fine the next day. 

30th January - Day 24

The book has got better as it's gone on. One of the things it talks about is mindfulness and I've always been interested to explore this more. The book gives you an introduction to it and I've really enjoyed that. It's a great part to add in for giving up alcohol. I'm now thinking that maybe I want to explore this more.

It's also become more philosophical, and asks you to challenge more of your beliefs which is interesting. You consider the things in life that pass you by, the things you can influence and it goes beyond alcohol. It's about having control over your own life and alcohol is only part of that.
In reality, the only way you can really control things in life is how you react to things. So the book has become more interesting to me. I think what it's teaching me is so not have an immediate emotional response but to make a conscious decision about how I want to respond. 

I've got to the point now where I've cracked the habit. I'm alcohol free. I'm not fussed about having a drink. I'm looking towards the future and I think I will drink on certain occasions but only when I want it, not out of habit. Who knows? I could slip back but right now I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything.

This book must be alright because it's helped me and I'm successful.

15th February - Day 40
I finished! I've hit 40 days alcohol free and I've really enjoyed this experience.

I'm going on holiday next week and I'll have a drink but my whole attitude will be different and I'll probably be drinking a lot less than I would've without this experience. I'm in control more and I enjoy the benefits of not feeling crap in the morning and having the choice when it comes to whether or not I want to drink.

I wanted to change the habit and I have. I'm fairly confident the weeknight drinking is gone. 

I've been out for meals twice, been out to watch rugby, been out with friends, it didn't bother me. I've deliberately put myself in those scenarios where it would be challenging but I breezed through them.

Well done Dad! I'm glad to see you go 40 days alcohol free and to have broken the habit. 

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing copies of the book!

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