Following all the overindulgence associated with the festive Christmas season, I decided that I would do a “Dry February,” where I would consume no alcohol for 28 days. Alcohol had really become a part of my regular routine. Tough day at work? Have a drink. Weather is gross outside? Have a drink. Trouble at home or at work? Have a drink. Making supper? Have a drink. Any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever, just have a drink, or two.
I have known others to undertake similar commitments. A dry January, February or Lent. I never understood why, nor did I have a desire to do so myself. I don’t know what changed, but certainly I did feel like it was getting out of hand.
A Lenten commitment would probably have made more sense. It is a time when we often deprive ourselves of something that brings pleasure. I gave up coffee for Lent one year; I’m not allowed to do that any more. Sometimes I’ve started a new, healthy or productive habit like a book study. Lent, however, is 6 weeks long and February only has 28 days, so February won out.
As I prepare to submit this column on the last day of dry February, I thought I would share some reflections on my fast.
It wasn’t as hard as I thought, but it was challenging. I did not feel physically deprived, but I discovered that I have been using alcohol to self medicate; to help with my anxiety and emotional regulation. While not shocking, I suppose, this discovery was a little unsettling. There were some days I didn’t miss it at all, but others where I really did miss having that drink while cooking supper or unwinding after a long day. I also felt extra irritable as a result and that was unpleasant for everyone around me as well.
I had hoped that I would start to feel differently, maybe better. I hoped I would sleep better, maybe lose a couple pounds, but I can honestly say those were not side effects of cutting out alcohol. As I don’t typically drink to excess, or just to “get drunk” I would not be in a steady state of hangover/recovery. And I found I was eating more, to fill the void, perhaps. I also hoped cutting out alcohol would help my tummy issues, however I don’t think it had a significant impact on that either.
Fasting isn’t supposed to be easy, and this one definitely was not. I did initially consider carrying on through Lent, but have ultimately decided against it. It was an interesting experience, and I feel that I did learn a lot about myself. I think, or I hope, that it has changed my relationship with alcohol for the better.
I never understood why fasting was important. But now I wonder if the point is to make you think about the choices you make, learn about yourself and grow as a person. If so, I think I did it right.