Day 4 & 5 – the slip up – 30 days without alcohol

So. Day 4 we were having a little bonfire party. We had some friends over and they all came booze free which was really kind. Well, they had some booze in the car. So, I ended up having a few so they could have a few.

Not going to be too tough on myself here. Will just push on and add an extra week on and consider up to this point a bit of a warm-up.

I think the main takeaway here is… don’t just give up if you slip up. Just push on. Back on the horse and all that.


We then had a really nice family Sunday. I got up, took the kids swimming, we went to the cinema, popped and saw my family for a small fire and BBQ (and no beer for me) and then had a roast. I really did not miss the booze at all on Sunday. And we are just being more active for it.


I don’t want to avoid social activities entirely. But this was a bit early. And our historic bonfires have always been a bit of a big party. You just need to keep busy that first crucial weekend. So I will keep busy this weekend but hopefully, writing this on Tuesday (day 7), I am over the worst of it and can just keep busy and enjoy my green tea on the evenings!

Do you need a holiday to recover from your xmas holiday?

It’s day 1 after the Christmas break. My team at Bowler Hat, the digital marketing agency I manage all broke up on the 22nd of December and I broke up a little earlier on the 18th. We were all tired as we headed into the end of the year and ready for a break to recharge our batteries with a much needed break.

So, 16 days off for me and best part of two weeks for everyone else yet I have come to work to a room full of tired looking, dreary faces. This is not a terrible place to work. Not by a long shot. I also know that nobody is totally over the moon about returning after a holiday yet everyone looks more tired than when we broke up.

Frankly, I pretty much get where they are all coming from and feel like that myself. What is going wrong that a holiday is such a demotivating experience? Surely, we should all be rested and ready for another challenge without the toils and tribulations of work which is what makes us so tired after all – right?

You Booze you Lose

In my case I know there is one thing that contributes to this malaise – alcohol. Alcohol slowly but surely grinds me down. In the usual run of things this is not so bad but when we have a two week holiday with lots of socialising then soon enough I start to see a dip in my general mood and positivity.

Leave this long enough and I really see my edge go. I get grumpy. Tired. Just not operating with my usual zest for family, work, life etc.


Are we all in the same booze drenched boat?

I can’t talk for everyone but certainly, as we get older, and drinking at all activities becomes the norm then we are spending a lot of time not operating at 100%. I don’t even really mean the epic, never drinking again hangovers but more the insidious creep of just having four or so drinks every night.

100 days alcohol free

I have talked about this before and my thoughts that alcohol may well be affecting me in a negative way and I had toyed with the idea of doing a year of no booze.

I think that a year as a concept seems really daunting. I have done a month before and you do feel better but it is very much a willpower exercise. It is seemingly not long enough to change habits and educate. It’s a bit of a bell curve as you feel better and then start to wonder if anything is different. Life is still life after all. Certainly, at 40 changing habits that are 25 years in the making can’t be fixed in just over 25 days.

I think to really see if you can change habits and make an informed call on this you have to look at at least three months or 100 days. So, I am going to do three months with the thought of reviewing my thinking on booze then at three months in. Maybe I will do a year. Maybe I will commit to a new degree of moderation. Maybe I will hit the bottle! Who knows. But I will report on my progress here and keep you all in the loop.

Here’s to a happy and productive 2016.

Booze is a good thing – right?

I am 40 in five weeks time. The big four zero. Half of my life and what many consider the best half is done and dusted. Yet, I don’t really feel like that. I have a wife, three wonderful kids, a business – things are going well. I am a lucky man.

Yet, I grow ever more aware of how precious time is. The loss of a family member. My oldest child starting secondary school. My youngest heading toward their fourth birthday. Life is a series of moments – many of which are never to be repeated. My life is busy with work and every single spare moment away from that should be optimised to enjoy everything my family has to offer.

But unfortunately, every single moment is not like that. I am often tired and stressed. I work hard. I try to exercise consistently. I eat well and am focused on being well. In a life so busy I typically unwind with a drink. I reward myself for my days hard work with a drink. I maybe have a few more on Thursday, a few more than that Friday and probably even more on Saturday. I cap that off with a couple Sunday afternoon.

Celebrations and Rewards

Booze is woven into everything in our culture. When something great happens we celebrate with Champagne. For birthdays, new years and anything else worth celebrating we tend to celebrate with a drink. A party generally means lots of adults getting together to drink. As we grow up and we start to go out it usually involves alcohol. Booze is everywhere. But so are the hangovers.

Then as we get a bit older alcohol gets wired into our lives as our reward for a hard days work. The glass of wine after work. A few beers after work. The big night out.

Booze is a good thing – right?

Alcohol is everywhere but is it really the great friend it is held up to be in our culture? I tend to find that alcohol makes me snappy, grumpy, tired, sleepy, negative and just generally takes my edge off.

If I have a few drinks I tend to stay up that little bit later and don’t spring out of bed in the morning. Given that I have a gorgeous three year old who gets up early who it is an absolute joy to spend time with you would have thought that getting up would be a joy – and it is – if I have not had a drink the night before.

Everything in moderation

Moderation. Everything in moderation. I really have to call bullshit on that. Firstly, if something is bad for you it’s bad for you so moderation is not suitable for everything – heroin in moderation? Cigarettes in moderation? Of course, moderation with some foods and such may not be a deal breaker but it is certainly not helpful.

However, when it comes to booze moderation is very hard for many people, myself included. The drinking guidelines basically suggest one small drink for females and one larger drink for males per day. And that does not mean seven on one day – it has to be one per day or the supposed health benefits fall away pretty quickly.

My drinking tends to follow a regular pattern in that I will have a couple most week knights and then likely a few more Friday, a few more than that Saturday and then back down to a few on Sunday, Monday etc.

If I have one it always ends up being more than one – it reminds me of an old saying:

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

I know that I can’t moderate. Not to say everyone can’t as my wife does great and can happily open one bottle of sweet cider and often only drink half of it. I however can’t do that. As soon as I start I stop caring. I never drink to oblivion but one is not enough.

I have managed to stop for a month before and did a dry November last year but it soon creeps back up. I spent some time on a site that helps people who want to stop drinking called Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) that suggests a three month or twelve month period of abstinence – I only ever managed a month and then tried to do ‘moderation’ which never worked. Once it is back on the table it is too easy to say yes on that Thursday when you are tired, that Friday as it’s the start of the weekend and off we go again.

I do know from my time on HSM that I am not alone in these feelings and this is further backed up by seeing friends and relatives who are lost to booze and it to a large degree rules them – it’s not always so easy to get such perspectives on yourself.

Better, happier & more productive

The whole purpose of this site is how to be happy and healthy once we hit the bump in the road that is our fortieth birthday. So for various reasons I have come to the conclusion that I may well be better off without booze.

I appreciate that this instantly makes me part of the lunatic fringe but after 25 years or so of drinking I need to see if I really am just a tired, grumpy, snappy old git half the time or, as I suspect, alcohol is just not sitting all that well with me any more.

So, like all good scientists I am going to put my theory to the test and do a full year without alcohol. I will document how I get on along that journey here. My birthday is the 6th of December so I figure I will do a warm up five weeks or so now and then get stuck into a full year from the 6th December 2015 to the 6th December 2016.

I can then do a frank and honest evaluation of where I stand and possibly have another go at moderation – that will also be an interesting experiment given my previous failings with this.

There are a few key things I would like to identify during this process and in particular whether I am:

  • happier
  • more productive
  • a better husband
  • a better parent
  • fitter
  • leaner

I hope that some of you will follow my progress and welcome comments or even anyone who wants to join me on this crazy ride.


The Early Bird Doesn’t Drink the Worm


I don’t think it is any great surprise that it is easier to get up in the morning when you have not had a drink. What I am finding surprising is just how early I wake up and am ready to start they day when I have had a drink. In fact, this is something of a cumulative effect and it takes around three nights to really kick in and I am waking up about 5.30am.

90 Minutes for me

I am a happy and relatively healthy guy. I have a great wife and three wonderful kids. A job I mostly enjoy and a few hobbies like cycling, weightlifting, this blog etc. What I don’t have is any spare time.

What this means is things like this blog suffer. My exercise suffers. Doing things I enjoy like getting out on the bike suffers. If I cram these things into the weekend, which I often do that means my time with my family suffers.

I am time challenged. Work is largely to blame but I have to bring home the bacon. I can’t do a lot about that short term other than try to be more productive when I am at work.

So, with this 90 minutes there is just so much more I can do. I can go out on my bike, go for a run or an early morning walk, spend some time with my three year old if he gets up early, do my weights, write a blog post, meditate, read a book or just chill out and enjoy some good coffee. I could even get up early and play a video game on the consoles I get to watch the kids play on everyday.

For a man that does not feel that he has 9 minutes to win 90 minutes like this every day and so easily is just so much better than the time I would spend boozing.

You booze you lose

For various reasons I have come to the conclusion that alcohol is a largely negative factor in my life. I am 39 and think this has been bubbling up for a few years now. I don’t get smashed and argue with my wife and kids. I have not lost a job or anything like that. I score relatively low on the typical ‘are you a drunkard‘ questionnaires but they are largely ridiculous.

I am more of a few drinks every evening to wind down kind of guy. But, what this actually does is tend to keep me up. I am relaxed now so I will watch some crappy TV. Probably stay up that little bit later.

I will then have an less relaxing nights sleep. Maybe up a few times to go to the toilet. Maybe tossing and turning a bit. Waking up tired around 6.30am.

By the evening I get back home, tired, need to wind down and…. off we go again, few drinks, get relaxed and repeat the whole thing all over again. When the weekend rolls around the volume probably goes up a bit – start a bit earlier on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and increase the volume.

Why is this happening?

Without booze though this is a different story. I will tend to go to sleep earlier. l will certainly wake up earlier, usually around 5.30am and when I wake up I am pretty much awake and ready for action.

There is nothing magical here really, sleep is super important and without booze I get better and more restful sleep. I think we have all collectively numbed ourselves to just how much even a couple of drinks takes our edge off. For years I wanted to do just that but now I seem to be enjoying feeling sharp the next day.  I want to get up and feel good and be productive.

Early bird activities

I figure this wins me about 90 minutes per day. From around 5.30am to 7am when everyone else is still asleep. I don’t get much any time to myself with three kids of 11, 9 and 3 with varying requirements in terms of running around, homework etc so this space to just do something for myself is really rewarding.

Certainly, this is far more rewarding than the couple of drinks I would have as my reward for my days toil.

What I get from alcohol

So, my somewhat wonky thinking that has been in place for 20 years or so is that a drink is my reward. Something good. Something that helps me relax. But, in fact, if I analyse how it impacts my life – which I can only do whilst trying to remove it – it is anything but.

My couple of drinks on the evening habit that is similar to so, so many other folks is actually something holding me back. Something keeping me mentally subdued and sucking the joy out of many basic moments as I am tired, cranky, craving a drink or really, just not 100%.

Booze also makes me and keeps me fat. No doubt about that. I exercise. I have ran a bloody marathon. But, those booze calories that are likely somewhere between 3500 and 7000 a week can’t be discounted. Liquid calories are the worst anyway but cider. Jesus. Lovely cider.

If my drinking ramps up say for instance when we are on holiday I notice much more severe effects in terms of my thinking. Booze makes me dark. Dark thoughts. Increased anxiety. Lack of coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. I think this is always there but to a level you begin to feel is normal – it is just adult life, not the booze – right? Remove booze though and I am calmer, I cope better, have less anxiety and am just generally more present.

I have goals for my business, goals for my health, goals for my physical appearance and ultimately booze is that old friend who is holding you back. So really, it is no friend at all.

Ultimately, booze makes me fat, grumpy, stressed and anxious  – looking at it like that it is really not quite the reward I have held it up as for so many years.

Putting this into practice

So, here is a simple way to put this into practice for yourself. I think you will really need a month but a week would likely give you an indication. If the thought of a month without booze is just too scary (I get it 100%) then aim for a week.

You have to be careful not to tip your weeks worth of booze down your neck over the weekend here so I would say have a drink if you must on Friday and Saturday but keep it super moderate like three drinks max each night. Then, absolutely don’t drink Sunday. Try to get an early night on the Sunday around 9pm and see how early you wake on Monday.

Make a list of things you want to do this week and pin it on your fridge or some such and then work away at that list. You have like ten extra hours here and there is just so much you can do with that.

So, in summary

  • Don’t drink heavily over the preceding weekend
  • Get to bed early as you likely have some catching up to do
  • Wake naturally and get up
  • Have a list of specific goal for the week that you are working towards
  • Review at the end of the week.

Just imagine what you could do with an extra 90 minutes each day? That’s ten hours a week. What is it you want to achieve? That is time to do it. Write a book. Start a blog. Run a marathon. Lift weights and get jacked. Take life by the scruff of the neck, ditch alcohol for a few weeks, even if only in the week and see how you can be happier and more productive – oh, and comment here to let me know how you get on and to help keep me motivated”

My morning

This morning, I got up at 5:15am. Just woke up. Felt rested and ready for the day. This is stark contrast to being jolted out of bed by my alarm or my youngest being up and not being terribly happy about it most mornings around 6.30am. I have got up and written this blog post and am now off out to the garage to do some weights. I will be showered by 7am and off to work for an early start, feeling good and ready for action.