monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking

Fitter at Forty.

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I turned 40 a few weeks ago and I’m feeling great. Earlier this year I set myself a goal of being fitter at 40 than I was at 20 and I think I smashed my goal! I can run further, run faster, lift more, my weight’s the same, my asthma is better, my blood pressure is the same, my cholesterol is perfect… All the body systems I have some control over are running fantastically!

This is not an angsty ‘teeth gnashing’ blog post – although I’m going to write about my experience drinking on my birthday.

I was in a social situation and accepted a glass of champagne. One lead to another – and then a few more. I didn’t drink nearly as much as I used to although it was still quite a lot – it was like when one of my moderate drinking friends has a big night.

So what did I learn from the experience?:
• It reminded of things I don’t like about drinking: holding my breath while snuggling in bed with my partner (so he wouldn’t smell my breath); waking up with a dry, claggy mouth and a blocked nose; having a mild hang-over; feeling lethargic all day. Generally I felt flat and a bit bleurghh.
• I still can’t moderate my drinking – after I started drinking I kept going until I was buzzed. It’s easier to turn the tap on and off than it is to reduce the flow.
• It wasn’t as good as I remembered. I let myself get pretty buzzy – but I stopped earlier than I used to. The warm, disoriented feeling wasn’t as pleasant as I remembered – and I was too aware and focused on observing the experience to actually enjoy it.
• Weirdly my alcohol tolerance was still quite high. I thought that my tolerance would have dropped after 10 months. It still took a similar amount of booze to get me drunk.
• I compartmentalised the incident and ‘got back on the wagon’ quite easily. The following day I just woke up and told myself that it happened because it was my 40th birthday – but  now it was over. I didn’t beat myself up or wallow in ‘I’m such a loser’ self-talk like I used to.

The last point is the nicest one. Sober days used to be a rare abnormality which I squeezed in between amongst my drinking routines.

In my (nearly) 10 months since I decided to stop drinking I’ve done a good job filling in the empty spaces which were left by alcohol. I’ve become really passionate about some things and created new sober routines. A practical example is running: I love feeling light, free and energetic while I’m running and the smug satisfaction afterwards. All my senses get activated – I’m outdoors looking at the world, paying attention to my breathing, feeling the impact in my legs, tuning in to my energy/stamina levels, having time out, thinking about my day…

Now that I’ve built new routines it’s easier to draw a line under an isolated drinking relapse. I used running as a specific example but it’s much broader than that. I generally feel clear-headed, get good night’s sleep, have a full tank of energy, am able to focus and stay in the moment, and I’m not getting that empty/anxious feeling. I also like the spare time which sobriety gives me.

I won’t pretend that it felt fun and a bit naughty to have a few drinks on my fortieth but I don’t have room in my life to keep drinking anymore. I’m just not willing to quit running.

One thought on “Fitter at Forty.

  1. I turned 40 at the end of last year and it felt good to know I was definitely in better shape than 30 and probably 20. I can relate to what you say too about Not Drinking being not only the new normal but the more desirable choice. It’s helpful to hear your tolerance hasn’t dropped after 10 months without. I’d heard the same is true even after years and I know in my heart the way I would treat alcohol hasn’t changed and doesn’t need to because my life is better without. Happy 40th!

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