How it Works – the Benefits of Dryness

5520526753_af3a1610e7_oOf course there are Benefits from going alcohol free, or simply cutting back.

Check out this article on HuffPost – where they affirm the multitudes choosing January as the month to Go Dry, Go Easy, or dry out after an alcohol soaked X-mas season.

Some of you may be choosing to do this because you are following along on Ready to be Thirsty – our annual challenge to go booze free for a month.  Or you might do it on your own, or as inspired by one of the Dry January campaigns out there.  Whether you are trying to get healthy or trying to raise money for a good cause, there a big bunch of awesome benefits for making the attempt:

  • Recoup your liver – it takes time for tissues to heal, enzymes to rebuild
  • Better hydration – give your cells a non-alcoholic beverage!
  • Mental clarity – gee whiz, I can think my way through the fog…
  • Reduced calories – you’ll get slimmer if you cut alcohol intake and replace with veggies instead of sugar
  • Extra cash – less money on booze means more cash in your pocket
  • Better sleep – your rhythms improve without alcohol to mess them up
  • No hangovers!

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Photo by Reuben Ingber via Flickr. Creative Commons.  No changes. 

Resistance & Futility, Temptations & Miracles

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Yes, as we make our way through the month of January, and the Ready to be Thirsty challenge we might be dealing with a little thing called… temptation.

As you deal with that primal urge for your favorite beverage, you’ll be able to notice your triggers.  Why do I want this now?  What is it that I really want out of this experience? What is alcohol going to give me right now that I cannot seem to get on my own?

  • a buzz?
  • an escape…or relief?
  • a jolt of pleasure?
  • a heightened (or lessened) experience?
  • a burst of confidence or courage?
  • the freeing of my mind,thoughts, wit, humour, or inhibitions?
  • alleviation of boredom?
  • fulfillment of my habit?

Whatever it is, that moment is the time to gain insight.  And perhaps we can ponder how might still achieve that desire in an alcohol-free, or even healthy way.  Exercise.  A book.  A phone call to a friend.

After all, many persons who do the challenge report that they fill that temptation with unhealthy replacements:  like chips or carb-filled snacks. Greasy food.  Sugar.  An indulgent binge-watch of Desperate Housewives.

Our need for that hit of pleasure in our minds is strong indeed.

Can we learn from this temptation?  Can be stay on the path and honour our commitment?  And if we can’t, can we pick up the torch and try to once again stay on the course?   You knew you’d be Thirsty!

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Top photo by erika dot net via Flickr.  Creative Commons. No changes

Lower photo by sharyn morrow via Flickr.  Creative Commons. No changes

Thus begins the Long Walk…

Quick collection of photos taken on my holiday to Morocco from October 9th to 24th, 2010.

Thus begins our long walk through the driest of January’s with Ready to be Thirsty.  I imagine some of us are feeling pretty dusty and dried out already, only five days in and four of them weekdays ;0

Now, I know we probably had a drink or two on New Year’s Eve.  Maybe even bubbly wine in a tall glass.  And we celebrated life, laughed and smiled, and lived as large as we could.  If only for a few fleeting moments, we were as alive as possible…

That’s what Dec 31st is – a recognition of existence!  Look at us, we are still here….we survived, we can see a bit of the future, and we roughly anticipate being alive for another cycle ’round the sun.

Whoop whoop, let er’ rip!

But this year, some of us realized that we were going to go real easy, or even give up alcohol entirely for the month of January as a psycho-social experiment or experience.  And maybe that’s different for us, as this new year begins to unfold.

All of 2017 might be different because we made a Dry Month or Dry January one of our resolutions.  We said to ourselves that we were going to examine and maybe change our relationship with alcohol, if only by virtue of taking an extended sober, clarifying look.  This is interesting, because it taps into our great human need for resolve – our need and want for control.  Or at least the illusion of it, to foster and nurture our sense of well-being.  Yes, we can make decisions that matter.

And whether we ‘succeed’ or not, whether we can influence ourselves strongly enough to meet our goals….we will have learned something just in the attempt.  A metaphor for our entire lives, no?

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Photo by Maarten van Maanen via Flickr. Creative Commons.  No changes. 

The Dog is High on Life!

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Have you ever noticed that dogs are generally high on life?

There’s that joke where the dog keeps track of his daily activities, like a diary…and everything he does… is his favorite thing:

DOG DIARY

8:00 AM – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 AM – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 AM – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 AM – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM – Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

Meanwhile, the cat’s diary reads like the journal of a prisoner of war:

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets…

We could take a lesson from the average dog.  Yet as humans we do so much to escape from life, to cope with life, to deal with life.  And we spend a ridiculous amount of energy seeking out our favorite things…only to sometimes have contempt for those things when we finally get them.

Yet, if we lived and thought a little more like a dog, and found life to be more of a thrill than something to be endured, I bet you we would need a lot less alcohol. After all, many of us drink ritually… to de-stress, decompress or distract.

Maybe, just maybe, we could try to see why this is so, with a break this January, and go Dry, with Ready to be Thirsty.  Attempt to go alcohol-free, or merely cut back.  And!… find your favorite things.  Snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, hot chocolate, cooking, the company of others, whatever.

The dog days of winter are yours to discover.

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Photo by Ernst Grafenberg via Flickr.  Creative Commons.  No changes.

Dog/Cat joke as published by Funny 2

There’s No Road, That Ain’t a Hard Road

I was listening to a Sam Robert’s song this morning on CBC2, and I began to think about how I handled this past February in the Ready to be Thirsty challenge.   How I fell off that one time for the Superbowl, and how I cheated one time after that…on the 14th (with the wife, Valentine’s Day, watching Downton Abbey, of all things), and I felt terrible the next day…no lie.

I was remembering how hard it was to give up booze for the first couple weeks, and how I was tempted so intensely.  I think about how it’s not as difficult now, and how not drinking during the week has become the normal thing.

On the whole, I lost ten pounds and I often sleep better (well, for me).

Now the challenge is to manage consumption for the rest of the year.   There’s those pesky Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.   Yeah, that’s the goal I should be aiming for…in fact, I am pretty much already there.

But the temptations will come when the weather turns – opportunities to rejoice, to celebrate, to get carried away.  Campfires and camping and canoe trips and cajoling with friends in the backyard.  But even then, the challenge continues – to be a gregarious, mostly-sober host, and make a great time out of moderation.

Remember, especially when the company’s not the best, the conversation’s not the liveliest, the mood’s a little dark, or the plot of the movie’s a little dim…that there’s no road, that ain’t a hard road, that’s worth travelling on.

Bottom Dog Bites

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It’s a sad fact that alcohol connects with depression.  Or anxiety.  Or stress.   Sometimes we don’t just drink booze – we use it.

In the Ready to be Thirsty challenge, there is a conscious effort to keep our dry month efforts light, fun, engaging.  And if you are doing the challenge, you’ll know that it really is those things.  You really do learn about yourself and your patterns, triggers…your emotional alcohol reflexes.  Unfortunately for some of us, those reflexes include regular use of alcohol to soothe ourselves.  From work, life or stress.

We crawl into the tub with a glass of wine, we drink out in the garage, we work our way down to the pub instead of working out…to distract ourselves from troubling truths.  This is talked about with delicate precision in a recent article from the New York Times that discusses how men often handle depression with work-aholism, alcohol consumption and competitiveness.

Yet, depression is twice as common in women, and women are more vulnerable to alcohol’s effects then men are, due to their physiology.

From many studies we know that alcohol and depression are correlated. Often the depression precedes the overuse of alcohol, but they can and do reinforce each other.

And of course depression has a social stigma, like any mental illness.  We remain reluctant to talk about it, still.  This, despite the fact it grows more commonly diagnosed and understood in our culture.  Despite the fact that it affects our families, our friends, our neighbors, our children, ourselves.

Without any shame I can say that I, like many, have suffered with depression personally in the past.  In those times, I can say that it has affected or exacerbated my alcohol use.  Because, well, I’m a human being… and my health both mental and physical, fluctuates.  Good days and bad days -they happen to all of us.

But I can also honestly say that while I’ve been Thirsty this February, I have felt mentally strong or stronger, and a break from alcohol is recouping my mind as well as my liver.

 

Photo by Stewart Black via Flickr.  Creative Commons.  No Changes. 

Exactly how Thirsty ARE we?

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Sometimes, there are things that feel contradictory.  Sometimes, there is an awareness of irony.

To tell the truth, I was looking forward to the Ready to be Thirsty challenge. I was feeling low energy and overweight, and I wanted a chance to ‘dry out’.  In twelve days, I’ve already lost weight and I feel really good.  No kidding.

And there are a bunch of people out there doing the challenge at the same time, and we are working – individually, collectively – to stay alcohol-free for the month of February.

Yet, this morning read an article about wine in grocery stores from Martin Cohn in the Toronto Star, and I feel like the mountain grows taller as the climber is upon it.  Like trying to ice-skate uphill.  Like swimming a bunch of pineapples out to Hawaii.  Like an oil-field worker in Alberta, perhaps.

There’s no denying that alcohol is a business, and this is just another in a series of decisions to stimulate the alcohol industry and create growth in Ontario.  I don’t know – perhaps Ontarians are happy (or indifferent) to see beer and wine in grocery stores.  But we know that increased access equals increased consumption and harms and costs.  To the health care system.  To lives – you know, like…people, children, us.

It seems ironic to me that we can be working hard as individuals to control, or learn about our own alcohol consumption…and we have an industry working hard to shove alcohol to the top of the shopping list. Even though the risks of moderate to heavy consumption are massive, well-known and being broadcast farther.

Alcohol causes cancer.  So does tobacco.  If we were seeing the same work to expand access to cigarettes, there would be protests and outrage.

 

Photo by Robert Terrell via Flickr.  Creative Commons.  No changes.