Dry January Update #1

The Story So Far . . . 

On 1 January I began an experiment to abstain from alcohol for a month. Read the original blog entry here. So far it has worked.

I was inspired by an article I read from Refinery29 about a young woman called Elettra Wiedemann, who enthused: 

I have to tell you that you will feel SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN by the end of week two. I was sleeping so much better, my brain was firing on all cylinders, I was getting all my to-do lists done, my mood was sky-high, my PMS that month was so minor I almost didn’t notice it, my outlook on life was consistently positive, my energy levels were constant, I felt so clear-headed, and my skin was glowing.”

What can I say? It’s the end of Week One and my skin is glowing. Not only that, the chronic dry skin I have experienced in the last few years seems to have disappeared. As for the rest - well PMS isn’t really my thing so I can’t judge that, but I haven’t yet noticed any upsurge in brain energy, sleep quality, energy levels etc.  

And even if I did, would it be the absence of alcohol alone?

In an experiment, if you want to say for sure why something has changed, you alter only one thing at a time and keep everything else constant. 

I didn’t do that.

The Data: My Daily Updates

Here are my daily updates from the last week:

Day One: Arrived home from vacation. Poured half a bottle of wine down the sink. Now no wine in the house. Began using new water bottle - wine replacement #1. Another benefit of living alone - no one here to tempt me to drink.

Day Two: Went food shopping - didn't buy wine. Did buy roasted almonds as a pre-dinner treat - wine replacement #2.  Got past the critical 5pm 'time for wine' by going for a walk. Cooked & ate dinner accompanied by water only.

Day Three: First real "Why isn't there wine?" query from whatever part of my body or mind isn't really into abstention. I ignored it and it went away. If solitary wine drinking is so easy to stop, why have I taken so long to get to this point? 

Day Four: After a tricky and quite emotional negotiation with a family member I just said to myself "Now I want wine!" .  No wine - so sitting here with insight #1 - sometimes I use wine to damp down unpleasant feelings.  I suppose we all do. Do we?

Day Five: I didn't really intend these to be daily but further evidence today that I used wine to de-stress. Fought back  with a Tara Brach guided meditation I like  and honesty. 

Day Six: Cooked a nice dinner - chicken and lots of vegetables. Just before sitting down I got another "Why isn't there wine?" query. “Because there’s fresh chilled water” I replied - though not out loud.

Did the Lack of Alcohol Cause My Skin to Glow?

These updates reveal two additional changes that may be affecting my skin - the presence of more nuts in my diet - roasted almonds - and the water. Not the meditation - I usually do at least one a week.

But the water: I bought myself a 1 litre water bottle for Xmas and have used it [and another 1 litre bottle which sits chilling in the fridge for when I run out] to make sure I drink enough water during the day. I also directly substitute it for the wine - I often felt that my mild cravings for wine at 5pm were partly due to thirst.

I’d say I’m drinking about 2 litres a day, which is more straight water than I’ve probably ever drunk.  Of course wine, tea and coffee also contain water, and according to the Mayo Clinic, the diuretic effects of caffeine are quite mild, so it may be that the overall impact is not that different. But I think I'm also drinking less tea.

I dunno. I’m not so into the quantified self that I want to start measuring the number of litres of water I drink each day.  But if I really wanted to isolate the effects of alcohol I’d either reverse the conditions - bring back the wine and lose the nuts and the drink bottles - and see what happened - or eliminate just one of the new items at a time for a week and notice any changes.

Sorry to geek out on you like that but self-experimentation is a good skill to have if you want to make changes in your life and it can be critical sometimes to know exactly what causes what. This is the point where I should get all science jargon-y and say something like “and don’t forget: correlation isn’t causation!” - but I’m not going to do that*. 

I’m just going to say - sometimes one small change makes a huge difference, and sometimes it’s lots of little things, all together.  My philosophy is: whatever works, do more. 

* By the way - I get extra points for not using the word 'hydrate' in this blog.