What 30 Days Sober Did For Me

lifestyle mindset Dec 02, 2019
Originally Written Apr 5, 2019 

Back in November 2018, I challenged myself to complete an entire month sober. No booze, no weed. And just to be clear, I don't consider either of those things to be a "problem" in my life. I use both in moderation and my party days are long gone. However, Hannah circa 2008 - 2014 is an ENTIRELY different story.

Let's go there for just a minute. I grew up in a very small town in the Kootenays where there wasn't a whole lot to do. I learned from the age of 16 onward that everything could be made more fun with a little help from Captain Morgan and the gang. We drank -- a LOT. I had a lot of fun, and I made a lot of mistakes. There were countless nights I can barely remember if not for the digital camera that always accompanied our drunken high school shenanigans. That lifestyle inevitably carried on when I moved to Calgary after graduating. There were no shortage of bars and clubs for an 18-year-old to explore, and working as a server I always had industry friends to party with. Any Earls girls out there? You know what I'm talking about. Those days were wild. 


Side note: I went on a stroll through memory lane to find some examples. I may have looked like a good time, but the caption from the middle photo literally reads: "Can't remember much after the fishbowl." Uhhh... 😳

 I may have been a "seasoned" drinker, but I was no stranger to a hangover. Oh, I spent many a-morning with my head glued to the Porcelain Throne, feeling like I got hit by a train. On more than one occasion, I had to pull over on my drive home from wherever I crashed the night before so I didn't puke in my car. Once, I got SO plastered at a staff party that I woke up the next day still drunk, 2 hours after I was supposed to start my shift at my other job. I was mortified, and luckily my boss gave me a break on that one. But I still didn't learn.

Each brutal hangover would lead me to that classic question: "Why do I do this to myself?!"

Which would lead me to the same conclusion: "I should probably stop drinking..."

 After a two month trip to Thailand, where I was probably drunk half the time but did have an amazing and life-changing experience... I returned to Calgary and decided I was sick of the city and who I had become there. So I moved back home for the summer to work at a Winery. Aside from banding ducks, it was one of the best jobs I ever had. I worked there for three years. But me being me, and my friends being home for the summer, I spent nearly every Saturday at work hungover. In the end, it actually ended up costing me that job. Did I think about the fact that maybe partying so much was having a negative impact on my life? Probably once or twice. Did I learn from it? Not yet.

How I probably spent a quarter of my time in Thailand. Nope, it wasn't the food...

Fast forward through a couple years of college. My friends were younger, my hangovers were somehow getting worse and I was slowly but surely becoming more responsible. I struggled to keep up with them and I realized that the entire day I had to spend recovering was no longer worth it. Going to work hungover sucked and I had assignments to do. The bars were getting old and I didn't know how to dance to this new-age mumble rap bullshit. I had better things to do, like stay home in my sweats and watch Netflix with my dog. And I guess that's when I realized I was just getting... old.

Alright fine, nowhere close. I was 23 and my priorities just changed. I met an amazing man and began to "settle down". We still enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine, drinking craft beer, and the annual "Thanks-Ginning" with friends (yes, it's exactly what it sounds like). But we opted for more nights in and after we moved away, we had more responsibilities, less opportunities to go out and honestly, we really didn't want to drop a hundred dollars on a night out just to feel like garbage the next day.

One of the many things that I love about my partner is that we challenge each other to grow and become the best version of ourselves. A couple of years ago, we started going to the gym together and focusing more on our health. However, in the last 8 months, we've gotten really serious about it. We wanted to see results. And in the course of that journey, we realized that some sacrifices needed to be made to reach those goals. We started learning about supplements and nutrition and what alcohol does to the body. I mean, I knew what it did to my body and it wasn't good. But I didn't realize how extensively it was hindering my progress until I actually cut it out.

And finally, we have circled back to the point of this post!

So, why a month? First off, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I realized that in the nearly 10 years I had been drinking, I had never gone more than a couple of weeks without. Yikes. And even though I had cut back on booze significantly, I needed to show my body who was boss. Second, I wanted to see what would happen if I stuck to my fitness plan and made healthier choices for an entire month straight. Not only for my body, but for my mind as well. And third, I hadn't seen the progress that I wanted in my business and I thought that maybe this would help with my self-discipline and motivation.

Why November? We actually intended to do Sober October, but we had a trip home for Thanks-Gin... I mean, Thanksgiving and we knew that it just wasn't realistic to abstain during the holidays. There were traditions to uphold with friends we hadn't seen in quite some time and family to visit. So November it was!

 Why booze and weed? Well, a couple of reasons there. I realized that despite its many therapeutic and beneficial effects when used responsibly, marijuana actually made me pretty lazy and was affecting my productivity. I was also finding myself using it as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of school and life. I smoked almost every evening to help me sleep, after a hard exam or when I didn't feel like doing what I was supposed to be doing... And then there's the munchies. I don't know about you, but I loooove snacks. So it just made sense to include both in this challenge and see how I fared.

The results...

The first week sucked, big time. I was so used to smoking before bed that my body was like... WTF are you doing?! I had a difficult time falling and staying asleep, woke up with night sweats several times, had the weirdest dreams and was tired and irritable. But once I got past that first week (and with a little help from my essential oils), I slept exceptionally well. I had vivid dreams, I woke up feeling energetic and had a newfound burst of motivation and creativity. On a side note, I learned that even though marijuana can make you sleepy, THC can impair deep (REM) sleep and decrease the overall quality of sleep. When regular users stop smoking, they often experience a "REM-rebound" which is why I got those vivid dreams.

I really didn't notice any cravings for alcohol. This is probably because we were only drinking maybe once or twice a month up to that point. The only time it was even a concern was when we took a trip to Kamloops. Usually we would meet up with a friend and visit over beers, so I was worried that we wouldn't be any fun. However, when I told Phil we weren't drinking, he said he hadn't been either! So we went out for Vietnamese, had good conversation, played a round of Catan and woke up feeling great for the trip home. There was the odd time I wished I could crack open a bottle of wine, but overall, it wasn't that bad. I certainly didn't feel like I was missing anything.

And honestly, how I felt at the end of that month was the best I had felt in years. Possibly ever. I lost about 10 pounds and my skin looked great. I had developed a consistent workout and self-care routine, and I looked forward to getting up in the morning to work towards my goals. I felt happy and confident when I looked in the mirror. I was making healthier choices overall. I learned how I dealt with stress and developed new ways to cope. I took back control of a habit that had taken control of me. And the best part? I wanted to keep it going.

I came out of this challenge with a renewed relationship with myself. I no longer find myself stopping by the liquor store after a difficult day, or packing a bowl when I needed to chill out. Now, I find that I can pace myself better and drink socially. I am aware of how too many glasses of wine will make me feel, and how that hangover will set me back in both my business and health goals. I still enjoy a drink on the patio and smoke up with friends on our game nights now and then. I will still visit craft breweries and drink over the holidays or when we go camping, and I'll probably experience a few more hangovers in my life because guess what?

It was never about giving it up. It was about finally learning the lessons.

That "Old Me" I told you about... she didn't care enough about herself enough to realize what was going on. I was caught up in trying to fill some sort of void. I was an empty vessel who felt more fun and easy-going and had an easier time talking to people when I wasn't sober. Let me tell you, looking through those old party pictures from 7+ years ago was a real eye-opener. I gained a LOT of weight between moving to Calgary and leaving it. I struggled with my acne and self-worth in general over those few years. I remained in turbulent relationships that were not serving me. I lost who I was and had no idea who I wanted to be.

It took that girl a long time to learn how to love herself. It took even longer to really dig that authentic self up from within, ask the tough questions and gain a sense of purpose and direction. I said earlier that I made lots of mistakes, but I will tell you that I don't regret a thing. We have to go through those experiences to learn the lessons, despite how long and painful they may be. We have to forgive ourselves in order to heal and grow into the amazing person we truly are. You are the only one who knows what is best for you. I encourage you to follow that inner voice, even if it might feel uncomfortable. Because in that truth, there is incredible freedom.

On the path to unconditional self-love.

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