So I gave up drinking for all of October.* A Sober October, if you will. And while I can’t say it was much fun, I can tell you it was damn productive.
I decided to do it for a couple of reasons:
- To see if I could do it; and
- To experience a month without hangovers.
*I do need to preface this piece with full disclosure that there was an unexpected event half way through October that only comes along every now and then in one’s life which necessitated me having several celebratory drinks. But more on that further below…
Anyone who lives or has lived in this 24-7 party we call London will agree that much of one’s social life revolves around drinking. And that can range from a glass of wine over a civilised dinner, to a cosy pub lunch/drinks, to a full-blown black-out inducing night out on the tiles (invariably involving tequila shots). Alcohol is hard to avoid in this crazy city.
These days I’m not a huge drinker, although cocktails – and champagne in particular – feature quite a lot in my social calendar. I also tend to think I’m hilarious and a charming party guest when I’ve had a couple of wines (this may or may not be the case IRL however).
The thing with drinking, though, is that as time goes on, the hangovers grow worse in their intensity and duration. Those two glasses of wine with dinner will result in me not being my usually bubbly and vivacious self the next day.
So at the outset of Oc-sober, I did find the prospect of a whole alcohol-free (i.e. fun-free) month quite daunting. What would I drink to enhance the whole dining experience when I’m out at fine restaurants with my boozehound friends? Water?! What would I sip whilst engrossed in a Netflix or two (or three or four)? Tea?!
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the whole experience. And I wish I could tell you that I found a whole range of alternative, wholesome activities which are just as social and fun as a few cocktails with my boozehounds. But I can’t. In a way, I approached the whole Dry-October thing the wrong way. Rather than looking up events of cultural interest and meet-up groups with healthy go-getter lifestyles, I stayed firmly within my comfort zone. And by “comfort zone” I mean my living room.
Yes, I pretty much curbed my social life, stayed home and got to work on my personal projects. It was not a barrel of laughs, but I did get a lot of work done. Waking up every day without a hangover or the general sluggishness that follows a drinks reception the previous night was revelatory. I threw back the duvet every morning – sometimes before dawn – opened the curtains and greeted the day with an annoyingly chipper “hello world!” attitude. I wrote for my blog, I got work done, I filled up my gratitude journal with so much goddam gratitude, I cleaned up after myself. It was wonderful.
I feel I should pause here and mention here that halfway through my dry October, there was a drinks reception held in my honour. I had resigned from my job of six years a few months earlier, and unexpectedly, while serving out my notice period, my replacement was able to start earlier than expected. So at relatively short notice, a farewell drinks party followed by an epic evening of karaoke was enjoyed by all, including myself. I figured that you don’t leave a job every day, and you can’t sing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” completely sober. So this milestone had to be observed with several glasses of champagne.
With that out in the open, I can say that the results of my sober October were all positive ones (other than the lack of social life). Science tells us that drinking alcohol before going to bed has a disruptive effect on our sleep. So by steering clear of it, I experienced all the benefits that a good night’s sleep brings: improved memory, sharpened attention, greater creativity, lower stress etc. I also lost a little bit of weight, as there was no hangover comfort eating (i.e. pizza). Evenings became my new productive-zone, as I wasn’t having a glass of wine which would usually signal time to put my feet up for the day.
Overall, although I was bored from a social perspective my sober October has reminded me of the benefits of abstaining from the cocktails. I’ve resolved to reduce my boozing, saving it only for the odd nights out with my boozehound friends who always make me laugh and who laugh at my jokes when I’m a little bit tipsy. You got to take them where you can get them after all.