What I Learned During Dry July

Short answer: Hangovers suck.


Here’s the long answer:

My head is pounding as I write this after my first night of enjoying some alcoholic beverages in 4 weeks. After a spring full of travel, family celebrations and concerts, July had some breathing room on the social calendar, so why not take a few weeks and get into trim, fighting shape? I googled Dry July. Apparently it’s a thing—in Australia where it’s the dead of winter. An Aussie version of the January ‘get sober, get in shape, get your life in order’ I attempt each year only to be thwarted by such malevolent forces as birthdays, Robbie Burns Day, and Thursday. But with the weather shit and the city’s best beaches closed because of flooding on the Toronto Islands, I was determined to test my will and also refill my wallet, which after a busy few months, was about as depleted as the enzymes in my liver.

I want to say the first week was the hardest, but that wasn’t exactly true. The cravings would come throughout the month in spurts: days off after labor-intensive temp gigs always had my body screaming for an ice cold beer. Game of Thrones on Sunday nights used to mean scotch. I had grown accustomed to pairing weekend meals with libations-anything grilled went with beer, as did sushi and pizza. Impossible to enjoy a steak without a full-bodied red wine. And those few actual hot, sunny days we’ve had this year were designed for beers on a patio. But I adjusted. I’ve always enjoyed soda water and lemon, but this month I must have spit out enough lemon seeds to grow my own damn orchard. My squash game improved from terrible to mediocre. Rising early after a late work night became tiresome but not impossible. I had a bit more energy it seemed. I still wanted a nap after lunch pretty much every day,but now I blame that on being 45 rather than Colt 45.

What surprised me was how easy it was to not drink in social situations. Dancing at a DJ friend’s regular club night was just as fun with a red bull sans Vodka. Sticking to iced tea (unsweetened when I could find it-not easy!) while meeting a friend for dinner went just fine, although I question the value of an almost $5 iced tea compared to barely more than that for a pint.  I discovered the times where I was truly fighting the urge to drink were usually occasions when I really had no reason to: home alone, somewhat bored, wanting something to make the ball game or Netflix show more interesting.

So after a month of self-enforced sobriety, I’ve saved a few bucks, and likely a few brain cells, but surprisingly only lost a few pounds-about 5 to be exact. I blame that on eating more carbs than usual, as well as July being fresh cherry season. I do feel sharper, more focused, and my shirts fit somewhat looser. I even managed to win this morning’s squash game despite the hangover. I’m not planning on giving up drinking altogether, but have learned that there’s something empowering about being self-disciplined enough to set boundaries for yourself and achieve something that seems difficult. But how difficult was it really? I mean, having done the grueling 60 day Insanity workout a few years ago, NOT doing something for 30 days seemed a hell of a lot easier than forcing myself to doing an hour long knee-destroying workout every day in my basement. I guess the takeaway here is if I am going to drink, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Now if you’ll excuse me, I do need something to cure this hangover and it’s almost 5 O’Clock.

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