I'm Giving Up Alcohol For the Month of November
Who's with me? 🎉
Maybe it’s because my head hurts after spending this past weekend reveling with my 21-year-old son on his college campus (it was parent’s weekend). Maybe it’s because of the profound sorrow I feel after the horror of the attacks on innocent lives here at home and abroad.
For whatever reason, I am craving a clear head. I’m yearning for more brain space to process the grief all around us, plus the simultaneous pleasure and pain of witnessing your adult child exist in the world without you.
I love alcohol. It’s delicious and fun to drink. To me, a glass of wine or my favorite bourbon signals relaxation: a reward after a long day or an opportunity to celebrate a joyful moment with others. But alcohol comes with a cost. It impacts sleep, mood, anxiety, focus, and attention. It increases the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can affect our behavior and relationships with other people. It can lead to dangerous dependence and abuse.
By most standards, I don’t drink that much. However, I’ve found that a month without alcohol clears my mind. It invites calm. I am better able to trust my body and mind to work with me, and not against me.
It’s going to take more than sipping seltzer water to navigate November. My patients need me as they struggle with chronic conditions, winter viruses, and the physical and emotional toll of what’s happening in our world. My family needs me as we mourn the loss of a dear friend while celebrating family birthdays, my parents’ anniversary, and Thanksgiving.
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What do I need most? Myself, unadulterated.
Giving something up is hard when you don’t get something in return. So, I will remind myself that saying no to alcohol is saying yes to the inevitable improvement in my sleep, mood, and sense of agency. While I know I can’t change the pain and suffering in the world, this is one thing I can do to feel more in control of my health and wellbeing.
There’s no morality prize at the end of a sober November. But if you’re wondering if taking a month (or even a week or a day) off alcohol is something you’d benefit from, I suggest taking an honest look at alcohol’s effects on your:
sleep, eating habits, exercise routine, and relationships (behavioral health)
mood, anxiety, body image, self-esteem, sense of self-regulation (emotional health)
thoughts, judgment, impulsivity, focus, attention, memory (cognitive health)
headaches, blood pressure, pulse rate, heart rhythm, blood sugar, acid reflux, digestion, joint pains, neurological health, hot flashes, night sweats, sexual function (physical health)
blood pressure, body weight, BMI, hemoglobin, hormone levels, liver function, glucose, hemoglobin A1C (medical metrics)
Then ask yourself: What are the benefits of alcohol you can’t live without? (Note that there is no perfect answer to the question: How much alcohol is okay?)
If you are interested, please join me! Then tell me: what will you do with your clearer head?
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely my own. They do not reflect those of my employer, nor are they a substitute for advice from your personal physician.
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